The Yellow Sofa
by José Maria de Eça de Queirós
José Maria Eça de Queirós, the first great modern Portuguese novelist, wrote The Yellow Sofa with, as he said, “no digressions, no rhetoric,” where “everything is interesting and dramatic and quickly narrated.” The story, a terse and seamless spoof of Victorian bourgeois morals, concerns Godofredo Alves, a successful, buoyant businessman who returns home to find his wife “on the yellow damask sofa… leaning in abandon on the shoulder of a man…” The man is none other than Machado, his best friend and business partner. Godofredo struggles with the public need to defend his honor, and a stronger inner desire for forgiveness and domestic tranquillity. The Babel Guide to Portuguese Fiction notes, “The genius of this book is how Eça captures all the emotional fluctuations… and with such accuracy. The result is an enjoyable humorous novella that is simultaneously breathtakingly ironic.” The Yellow Sofa firmly establishes Eça de Queirós in the literary pantheon that includes Dickens, Flaubert, Balzac and Tolstoy.