Eça de Queirós, José Maria de

or José Maria de Eça de Queiroz

born Nov. 25, 1845, Póvoa do Varzim, Port.
died Aug. 16, 1900, Paris, France

Portuguese novelist.

The illegitimate son of a magistrate, he began a career in law but turned to writing; later he held several diplomatic posts. He was associated with the Generation of '70, a group of intellectuals committed to social and artistic reform. His novels, in which he introduced naturalism and realism to Portuguese fiction, include The Sin of Father Amaro (1876), Cousin Bazilio (1878), and his masterpiece, The Maias (1888), a satire exploring the consequences of decadence in Portuguese society. He is often considered his country's greatest novelist.

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▪ Portuguese novelist
Queirós also spelled  Queiroz  
born Nov. 25, 1845, Póvoa do Varzim, Port.
died Aug. 16, 1900, Paris, Fr.

      novelist committed to social reform who introduced naturalism and realism to Portugal. He is often considered to be the greatest Portuguese novelist and is certainly the leading 19th-century Portuguese novelist.

      The illegitimate son of a prominent magistrate, Eça de Queirós received his degree in law in 1866 from the University of Coimbra and then settled in Lisbon. There his father helped the young man make a start in the legal profession. Eça de Queirós' real interest lay in literature, however, and soon his short stories—ironic, fantastic, macabre, and often gratuitously shocking—and essays on a wide variety of subjects began to appear in the Gazeta de Portugal.

      By 1871 he had become closely associated with a group of rebellious Portuguese intellectuals committed to social and artistic reform and known as the Generation of '70. Eça de Queirós denounced contemporary Portuguese literature as unoriginal and hypocritical.

      He served as consul, first in Havana (1872–74), then in England—in Newcastle upon Tyne (1874–79) and in Bristol (1879–88). During this time he wrote the novels for which he is best remembered, attempting to bring about social reform in Portugal through literature by exposing what he held to be the evils and the absurdities of the traditional social order. His first novel, O Crime do Padre Amaro (1876; The Sin of Father Amaro), describes the destructive effects of celibacy on a priest of weak character and the dangers of fanaticism in a provincial Portuguese town. A biting satire on the romantic ideal of passion and its tragic consequences appears in his next novel, O Primo Basílio (1878; Cousin Bazilio).

      Caustic satire characterizes the novel that is generally considered Eça de Queirós' masterpiece, Os Maias (1888; The Maias), a detailed depiction of upper middle-class and aristocratic Portuguese society. Its theme is the degeneration of a traditional family whose last offspring are led into a series of tangled sexual relationships by the actions of their parents, who are symbols of the decadence of Portuguese society.

      His last novels are sentimental, unlike his earlier work. A Cidade e as Serras (1901; The City and the Mountains) extols the beauty of the Portuguese countryside and the joys of rural life. Eça de Queirós was appointed consul in Paris in 1888, where he served until his death.

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Universalium. 2010.

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