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The City and the Mountains, By Eça de Queíroz
Friday 31 October 2008
The Portuguese Dickens, Eça de Queíroz (who spent almost 15 years as consul in Newcastle and Bristol), left this last novel behind on his death in 1900. As timely now as then, it follows – with a smart balance of satire, irony and lyric grace – the progress of a rich brat who quits the city to find fulfilment in rural life.
Trustafarian Jacinto grows up in the stifling lap of luxury at 202 Champs-Elysées: an address to die for, and he almost does, smothered by the hi-tech gadgetry of the 1890s. Then, after a summons back to the family estate in Portugal, he leaves Paris for a radical makeover as nature-loving country gent. The narrator's wry tone, well caught in Margaret Jull Costa's translation, captures all the ambivalence of Jacinto's path as the retired decadent turns virtuous squire and grows "positively dull" as a result
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