The Yellow Sofa’ by Jose Maria Eca de Queirós – “No Digressions, No Rhetoric – Everything is Interesting and Dramatic and Quickly Narrated”.


The Yellow Sofa’ by Jose Maria Eca de Queirós     (Sometime during the 1880s) – 112 pages                                                         Translated from the Portuguese by John Vetch

As ironic as it might seem, there are still new developments occurring in 19th century literature. There are almost-forgotten writers finally being rediscovered for the virtuosos that they really were. Perhaps the biggest recent development is the ascendancy of the Portuguese writer Jose Maria Eca de Queirós to the upper echelons of the literary world.

José Saramago, no slouch of a writer himself, called Eca de Queirós ‘ novel ‘The Maias’ “the greatest book by Portugal’s greatest novelist.”

Eca ought to be up there with Dickens, Balzac, and Tolstoy as one of the talismanic names of the nineteenth century.” – The London Observer

I am going to quote a long paragraph from V. S. Pritchett, because I believe it captures the essence of Eca de Queirós :

The making of this novel and indeed all the others, is the restless mingling of poetry, sharp realism and wit. Queirós is untouched by the drastic hatred of life that underlies Naturalism; he is sad rather than indignant that every human being is compromised; Indeed that enables him to present his characters from several points of view, and explore the unexpectedness of human nature.”

‘The Yellow Sofa’ was not published during Queirós lifetime. In 1925 his son found it in a desk among other miscellaneous writings, and his son had it published then. We almost lost a short masterpiece.

‘The Yellow Sofa’ is a novella that is a vivid thoughtful thorough argument against rash action. In Eca de Queirós’ own words, he wrote ‘The Yellow Sofa’ with “no digressions, no rhetoric – everything is interesting and dramatic and quickly narrated”. I won’t go into any of the details of the plot of ‘The Yellow Sofa’ because it is full of surprises, and I don’t want to spoil any of them for you.

One of the reasons I always enjoy reading Eca de Queirós is because I find his novels always upbeat. His main characters are strongly etched and always fascinating in their approach to their own situations.

In 2009, ‘The Yellow Sofa’ was turned into an opera by British composer Julian Philips and attracted wide critical notice.

‘The Yellow Sofa, being a novella, would be a great place to start to get to know this important yet delightful author.

Now with the epidemic lock down upon us, I may take the time to read Eca de Queiros’ 628-page masterpiece ‘The Maias’.


Grade:   A+



9 responses to this post.

  1. I may have to check out The Yellow Sofa – thank you! 😀



  2. Hmm. Intriguing. I’ve often been tempted to read this author. You make a compelling case to start with this novella.

    Liked by 1 person


    • Hi Tredynas Days,
      I don’t believe the reason Eca de Queirós left this novella unpublished was because he thought it was inferior. He wanted to include it in a larger work titled ‘Scenes of Portuguese Life’, which he did not complete.



  3. I like the sound of this…a recommendation by Saramago is impressive:)

    Liked by 1 person


  4. I have his The Relic, yet to read. Having read this I hope it’s not among the books (most of them) that got packed in storage in the attic for a house move that now won’t happen due to Corona Virus-enforced isolation…

    If it is it’ll be something to look forward to when all this is over. Upbeat can be hard to do in some ways but it is welcome when it’s done well.

    Liked by 1 person


    • Hi Max,
      I can understand your plight of having books in storage for a long time.

      The Relic’ was for me the gateway into the work of Eca de Queirós. I expect that ‘The Maias’ will be arriving shortly. I’ll probably need to write two articles on that novel since it is 628 pages long.



  5. […] about these, particularly the Malaparte. “The Yellow Sofa” was one I read about on Tony’s Book Blog and I loved the sound of it (and it’s slim…). “Paris Then and Now” is […]



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