Monday, 8 March 2010

Literary Cleanup, book #3




O Mistério da Estrada de Sintra – Eça de Queiróz*/Ramalho Ortigão

First off, note that I only scanned the cover of the book I read because I like to have the exact covers I had on these posts. Also, there's the collection of short stories I mentioned. Funnily enough, at 160 pages, this is the longest one. Onwards!


Eça de Queiróz is one of the most notable portuguese writers, if not the most popular novelist. Up until now, I had only read Os Maias, which is required at most high schools, and everybody will tell you what a pain it is to read Os Maias. Those people obviously have no concept of pain. Real pain is Viagens na Minha Terra, and I like Almeida Garrett, so there. The thing is, his writing is incredibly descriptive and sometimes one does feel as if there hasn't been any story for the last 20 pages, just endless accounts of furniture smelling like the first cherry blossoms and women also smelling like something pleasant (and erotic). It says on the tin on the preface that he and Ramalho Ortigão quite hate this book and only published it because they feel that no writer should hide even their most terrible work. Of course, upon reading this, I thought “how pleasant that you say you hate it, that it's below you, but you'll still welcome the money it will make”. Anyway, I really enjoyed this one. And perhaps that is so because it is quite different from his style (I can't speak for Ramalho Ortigão, though); you see, the whole book is comprised of letters that were sent to a newspaper, giving the idea that this story actually happened. And reading each letter, you are caught, enticed by this odd mystery and immediately want to read the next chapter (or letter, in this case). This is the mark of a good mystery/thriller. If it excites your mind, then the pacing is right and your story is indeed intriguing. I quite enjoyed seeing it unravel, little by little, even though I sort of guessed what happened after I read the third (or was it the 4th?) letter.
If you are not a big crime/mystery novel person, you should at least know that it is quite easy to read. It even made me want to change up my reading order so I could get to some more portuguese novelists instead of jumping right onto Neil Gaiman or something of the sort.
A friend of mine mentioned this has a movie, so if you're not willing to try the novel, at least consider the movie, since, as I understand, it has a interesting take on the events.


Excerpt:

Não obstante a disposição em que me achava de ceder da luta e de entrar no trem, perguntei em alemão ao meu amigo se ele era de opinião que resistíssemos ou que nos rendêssemos.
- Rendam-se, rendam-se para nos poupar algum tempo que nos é precioso! - disse gravemente um dos desconhecidos. - Por quem são, acompanhem-nos! Um dia saberão por que motivo lhes saímos ao caminho, mascarados. Damos-lhe a nossa palavra de que amanhã estarão nas suas casas, em Lisboa. Os cavalos ficarão em Sintra daqui a duas horas.
Depois de uma breve relutância, que eu contribuí para desvanecer, o meu companheiro apeou-se e entrou no cupé. Eu segui-o.

*I've always spelled his name that way.

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