My rating: 3 stars
Symbolic characters are an integral part of the novels written by Eça de Queirós. In A Capital, To the Capital in the English translation, the Portuguese author used them to criticise the high society of Lisbon from the 19th century. Although the book features a couple of great moments of irony and social commentary, I was never fully enthralled by the ordeals of the main character, Artur Corvelo, which were to an extent self-inflicted.
At the beginning of the novel, 23-year-old Artur is at the train station in Ovar, the town where he grew up, looking for his grandfather, who was supposed to be on its way to Lisbon. He didn’t find him, though. Then the narrator goes back in time, and we learn what happened in Artur’s life up until that moment. His parents had sent him to Coimbra to attend university. While there he spent most of his time engaged in philosophical and literary discussions. After the death of his parents, he lacked the financial means to continue his studies.
He left Coimbra and moved to the house of his aunts in Oliveira de Azeméis. But he quickly grew bored. He missed the conversations that he had with his friends and lacked the inspiration to write poems as he used to do. Life there was tedious. While his desire was to become a poet, he ended up accepting a job at a pharmacy in order to earn some money. He didn’t give up on his dream, though. He showed some of his work to Rabecaz, whom had lived in Lisbon. He believed that Artur should go live in the capital, since he would certainly achieve notoriety there. Continue reading