One of the key classics of Portuguese literature, by an author compared to Proust, Flaubert, Stendhal, Dickens, Balzac, and Tolstoy.
Eca de Queiros was Portugal's greatest nineteenth-century novelist, whose works brilliantly evoke--and condemn--the rapidly changing society of his times. The Maias (1888) depicts the declining fortunes of a landowning family over three generations as they are gradually undermined by hypocrisy, complacency, and sexual license. With a vivid, comprehensive portrayal of nineteenth-century Portuguese politics and social history, Eca creates a kind of comedie humaine that, despite the force of its social satire and its damning critique of the Portugal from which he had exiled himself, is a supreme work of humor and irony.
The author was a diplomat who traveled widely, and although he claimed to be an apostle of naturalist realism, he reveals with detached irony the lethargy and decadence of his native land. The book initially attracted attention through its account of an incestuous romance, yet today we can see this as just one element in a novel whose compelling story, depth of thought, and compassion make it one of Europe's great literary masterpieces.
"A restless mingling of poetry, sharp realism and wit . . . his excellent prose glides through real experience and private dream in a manner that is leading on toward the achievements of Proust." --V. S. Pritchett