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October 5: Eça de Queiroz on Portugal's essence

One of the most heart-warming views of 19th century Portugal came from one of the country's great writers and sharpest critics, Eça de Queiroz. In The Illustrious House of Ramires, we meet a charming, self-doubting nobleman, the last of a feudal lineage going back to the 10th century. His family has risen and collapsed with the fortunes of Portugal. In the writings of Queiroz, we learn about a reluctant heir in the Ramires line, but we also learn about Portugal:

"You may laugh, but I point out the similarities:  That everything of Gonçalo’s--his weakness, his sweetness, his generosity--his immense generosity…[his] explosions of enthusiasm that disappear immediately in smoke…[his] persistence, and his stubbornness when he gets an idea…His  awkwardness, and his constant disasters in business, [his] sentiments of honor, and his scruples, so puerile, is it not true?  [He has an] imagination that always leads to exaggeration to the point of lying! And at the same time he has that practical spirit… His virtuousness, his ability to understand… [his] constant belief in a miracle of old, that sweeps away all difficulties…His vanity, his ability to give his arm in the street to a beggar… [his] base of melancholy despite the patina of being so conversational, so charming. And that horrible lack of confidence in himself, that one day disappears when he decides to be a hero… Do you know who he reminds me of?





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