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The Illustrious House of Ramires
     

The Illustrious House of Ramires

by Eca de Queiros, Anne Stevens (Translator), V. S. Pritchett (Introduction)
 

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"Eça de Queiros (1845-1900) ought to be," as the London Observer stated, "up there with Balzac, Dickens, and Tolstoy as one of the talismanic names of the nineteenth century." His superlative penultimate novel, The Illustrious House of Ramires (1900) centers on Gonçalo Ramires, heir to the most noble family of Portugal. Gonçalo, charming but

Overview

"Eça de Queiros (1845-1900) ought to be," as the London Observer stated, "up there with Balzac, Dickens, and Tolstoy as one of the talismanic names of the nineteenth century." His superlative penultimate novel, The Illustrious House of Ramires (1900) centers on Gonçalo Ramires, heir to the most noble family of Portugal. Gonçalo, charming but disastrously effete, muddles through his life while writing a historical novel based on the heroic deeds of his ancestors. "The record of their valour is ironically counterpointed by his own chicanery. A combination of Don Quixote and Walter Mitty, he is continually humiliated [but he] is at the same time kindhearted .... Ironic comedy is the keynote of the novel .... Eça de Queiros has justly been compared with Flaubert and Stendhal."(The London Spectator)

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Slyly funny and richly detailed, this reissue of Quieros's long out-of-print book makes for a delicious introduction to Portugal's greatest novelist. First published in 1900, the year of Quieros's death, it portrays Goncalo Mendes Ramires, the latest in an aristocratic family that predates even the kings of Portugal. In the isolation of the gloomy ancient tower of Santa Ireneia, Goncalo rehearses the feats of derring-do of an uninterrupted line of ancestors whose most recent contribution is himself, ``a graduate who had failed his third year examinations at university.'' Hoping to win some small scholarly reputation and thus secure a political future in the capital, Goncalo sets out to portray (a la Walter Scott), the adventures of one such ancestor. Installments recording the haughty courage and cruelty of his medieval forefather, Tructesindo Ramires, contrast with Goncalo's rather banausic existence, his cowardice, his small acts of noblesse oblige and his questionable apotheosis. Quieros's luxurious prose lends itself well to both the subtle irony of his morality play and the beauty of a decrepit Portuguese estate with its autumn sun, wilting flowers, faded portraits and other reminders of a bloody and powerful past. (May)
Library Journal
De Queiroz (1845-1900) ranks among Portugal's greatest novelists. Published toward the end of his life, this novel uses the title character, Gonalo Mendes Ramires, to portray the ins and outs of 19th-century Portuguese society. For large foreign fiction collections.
Harold Bloom
“A writer of genius.”
V. S. Pritchett
“His excellent prose glides through real experience and private dream in a manner that is leading on toward the achievements of Proust.”
London Observer
“Eça de Queirós ought to be up there with Balzac, Dickens, and Tolstoy as one of the talismanic names of the nineteenth century.”
Michael Dirda - Washington Post Book World
“A writer of mesmerizing literary power. We should be grateful for such blessings.”
Lorin Stein - The Paris Review
“The plot is full of surprises... It’s rare to find such a thrilling portrait of the writer at work. (...) José Maria de Eça de Queirós, where have you been all my life?”
Scott Esposito
“Eça de Queirós was a god, and this is a translation by another deity (Margaret Jull Costa), so make sure to take a look.”
Kirkus Reviews
2017-02-21
Late, reflective work by de Queirós (1845-1900), widely considered Portugal's greatest novelist.Writing at the height of Portugal's overseas empire, de Queirós traces the life of a man who is a touch too proud of his ancestors, so much so that he reminds an emissary of the king himself, "My ancestors had a house in Treixedo long before there were any kings of Portugal, long before there was a Portugal." By the end of the book, we are given to understand that Gonçalo Mendes Ramires, who quixotically likes to call himself the Nobleman of the Tower, is himself a metonym for the Portuguese nation in all its bumbling glory: "His generosity, his thoughtlessness, his chaotic business dealings, his truly honorable feelings, his scruples, which can seem almost childish"—and that's to say nothing of a certain shlemielishness that doesn't quite hold up well by comparison to the illustrious ancestors he reminds himself of daily, enshrined in the portraits and books with which Gonçalo surrounds himself in his teetering family home. He's a bit more self-aware than Cervantes' great hero, but we are assured that Gonçalo, however much he might like to have fought along his ancestor Tructesindo, would not have fit in well. Still, Gonçalo manages to make something of himself as the story spins out, having gone from callous reactionary to somewhat technocratic African colonialist and having finally finished the long book about his noble house that occupies much of his waking time. This is very much a 19th-century novel, unhurried and richly observed; while it can be a little fusty, de Queirós, who has been likened to Flaubert, turns in elegantly poetic prose: "When I was fighting the Moors, a physician once told me that a woman is like a soothing, scented breeze, but one that leaves everything tangled and confused." A touch long but with never a wasted word. Fans of Vargas Llosa and Saramago will find a kindred spirit in these pages.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780811212649
Publisher:
New Directions Publishing Corporation
Publication date:
05/17/1994
Series:
Revived Modern Classic Series
Pages:
324
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet the Author

One of the leading intellectuals of the "Generation of 1870," José Maria de Eça de Queirós
(1845-1900) wrote twenty books, founded literary reviews, and for most of his life also worked as a diplomat, in Havana, London, and Paris.

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