PUBLISHERS OF LITERARY FICTION SINCE 1983
A classic in its native Portugal,this English translation of Queiroz's posthumous novel tells the story of Jacinto, a 30-something Parisian who makes a tortuous train journey through France and Spain to his homeland only to find all his possessions have disappeared in transit. A story of magic and satire unfolds.
The Portuguese Dickens, Eça de Queíroz (who spent almost 15 years as consul in Newcastle and Bristol), left this last novel behind on his death in 1900. As timely now as then, it follows – with a smart balance of satire, irony and lyric grace – the progress of a rich brat who quits the city to find fulfilment in rural life.
Trustafarian Jacinto grows up in the stifling lap of luxury at 202 Champs-Elysées: an address to die for, and he almost does, smothered by the hi-tech gadgetry of the 1890s. Then, after a summons back to the family estate in Portugal, he leaves Paris for a radical makeover as nature-loving country gent. The narrator's wry tone, well caught in Margaret Jull Costa's translation, captures all the ambivalence of Jacinto's path as the retired decadent turns virtuous squire and grows "positively dull" as a result.
Margaret Jull Costa is an inexhaustibly versatile translator.
For a more positive spin on Portugal, try his posthumous romance The City and the Mountains, which is set between Paris (affluent, yet vacuous) and the Douro valley (impoverished, yet enchanting).