Eça de Queirós: the 19th century Portuguese master of social commentary

If you aren’t Portuguese, you’re probably not familiar with Eça de Queirós, whom some consider to be on the same literary level as Dickens or Balzac. Born in 1845, he is one of the authors young people have to study at school. Some come to love him and others to loathe him, as it’s usually the case with the authors who are required reading. In my case, he became one of my favourite Portuguese authors and one I believe that deserves to be better known.

Eça de Queirós can’t be categorised into one single literary movement. His first works showed characteristics of the Romanticism movement; in a second phase he adhered to Realism / Naturalism; and he was afterwards influenced by Impressionism and Symbolism. My favourite books by him are generally placed in the literary realism movement, and I dare say that this is the phase he’s most known for.

The literary realism movement, which in Portugal appeared around 1865/1870, intends to present reality as it is, describing it in the most objective and detailed way possible. The authors who followed this movement in the mid-19th century intended to portray the vices of society through symbolic characters, whose very existence serves to embody some major idea or aspect of society. And this is one of the reasons why I liked the novels that I read by Eça de Queirós so much. Continue reading