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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Yellow Sofa

José Maria Eça de Queirós

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To purchase The Yellow Sofa

Title: The Yellow Sofa
Author: José Maria de Eça de Queirós
Genre: Novel
Written: (1925)
Length: 112 pages
Original in: Portuguese
Availability: The Yellow Sofa - US
The Yellow Sofa - UK
The Yellow Sofa - Canada
Alves et Cie - France
Alves und Co. - Deutschland
  • Portuguese title: Alves & Cia.
  • Translated by John Vetch (1993)
  • With an Introduction by José Maria d'Eça de Queirós -- Eça's son -- from 1925
  • Poruguese original first published posthumously in 1925
  • Previously also published in an English translation by Robert M. Fedorcheck, as Alves e Cº.

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Our Assessment:

B : fine, small study of bourgeois life and its discontents

See our review for fuller assessment.

  • "A typical case of faulty transmission is that of Alves & Ca., a novella probably written during the autumn of 1887 but not published until long after Eça's death in 1900. (...) Evidently it was not so much Eça's saturnine irony which displeased his son José Maria, who released Alves & Ca. in 1925, as the apparent stylistic imperfections of the autograph manuscript. Accordingly he set out not merely to correct, but to improve the text on almost every one of its 120 pages. Eça's semi-colons and dashes were either changed into commas or else silently removed, the syntax and grammatical structure of sentences were rearranged, and José Maria saw nothing wrong with interpolating additional adjectives in order to intensify the tone at certain points in the story." - Jonathan Keates, Times Literary Supplement (17/10/1997)

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The complete review's Review:

       At the centre of The Yellow Sofa is Godfredo Alves. At the beginning he is happy enough with his life: "naturally indolent", his business is a success, his marriage to Lulu comfortable. He works together with an altogether different sort of fellow, Machado, who "provided the commercial shrewdness, energy, decisiveness, broad ideas, the business flair".
       The ladies like Machado, and he likes them: he's had three affairs Alves knows of since they became partners. Arriving at the office one day Alves finds Machado is out -- tending to an affair, rather than business, he knows. Deciding then to pay an unexpected visit to his own house -- it's his anniversary, which he and his wife seemed to have forgotten -- Alves of course stumbles onto Lulu in Machado's arms (on the yellow sofa).
       It's an unpleasant situation, and Alves isn't sure how -- beyond outrage -- to act. He confronts his wife and has his father-in-law take her in, to get her out of his sight. But he also feels the need to regain his honour, and contemplates duelling Machado.
       The story follows his half-hearted efforts, the advice of his friends, the semi-confrontations. Nobody really wants anyone to get shot over this, and everyone looks out for their own hide. Alves doesn't want to back down, but all of his ideas eventually strike even him as fairly preposterous.
       Deep down Alves just wants everything to return back to the comfortable, normal situation of before -- and that, eventually, is what he achieves. The fun is in the twists and squirming, and the way the characters act with one another -- each trying to make the most out of the situation and to smooth things over by turning a blind eye to the truth. It's an amusing tale of a weak-willed but sympathetic man trying to make the best of a situation that's beyond his capacity.
       A nice, small portrait of Portuguese bourgeois life, The Yellow Sofa is a fine little story, but it does feel very light -- a satire of the gentlest sort.

       Note that this work was first published posthumously, and that Eça's son, José Maria d'Eça de Queirós, apparently meddled extensively with the manuscript; see, for example, Jonathan Keates' comments above

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The Yellow Sofa: Reviews: José Maria de Eça de Queirós: Other books by Eça de Queiróz under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Portuguese author José Maria de Eça de Queirós lived 1845 to 1900.

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© 2003-2021 the complete review

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