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Cousin Bazilio by Eça de Queirós
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Cousin Bazilio (original 1878; edition 1953)

by Eça de Queirós

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262243,510 (3.96)4
Member:christiguc
Title:Cousin Bazilio
Authors:Eça de Queirós
Info:Manchester : Carcanet in association with the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, 1992, c1953.
Collections:Your library, To read
Rating:
Tags:fiction, male author, portuguese, portugal, lisbon, carcanet press, bookshelf15, tbr

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O Primo Basílio by Eça de Queirós (1878)

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Complicated nineteenth-century adultery novel in the same quality of Flaubert, Madame Bovary, or Alas Clarín, La Regenta.
  hbergander | Dec 12, 2011 |
(spoilers)

The plot of this book is a pretty standard 19th c. one – unhappy wife cheats, misery ensues. The book also satirizes smug bourgeois society by showing the hypocrisy and behavior of the friends and neighbors of the married couple. All this is pretty unremarkable, but the focus on the servants in the families differentiates this novel from others with the same storyline. The relationship between Luisa and her maid Juliana is well-characterized but rather horrifying.

Luisa is a happy but empty-headed wife who, in true 19th fashion, has been somewhat corrupted by novels depicting love as an exciting torment. Her own marriage to Jorge is happy and loving but rather superficial. When he leaves on a business trip for several months, she quickly becomes lonely and bored. Her cousin and first love Bazilio returns and proceeds to seduce her. Bazilio is clearly a selfish rake, but he talks a good game and Luisa thinks he loves her and can’t live without her. Juliana quickly discovers her affair and begins blackmailing her.

While the author depicts Luisa’s initial ennui and unhappiness once Bazilio starts taking her for granted, the best part of the fallout is the unhappy relationship between Luisa and Juliana, the maid. Juliana is bitter and cruel when she has a little power – seemingly unsympathetic. But at first the reader is inclined to feel bad for her. The author describes her background – shuffled from situation to situation, having to deal with annoying children and selfish mistresses, Juliana lives an unhappy life. Unlike the genial cook Joana, she has no one to love her, and her illness means that she’ll likely soon die in poverty since she has no value as a servant.

Though Juliana is ugly and old and labors all day and Luisa is bored and satisfied, they are oppressed by the same system. Juliana’s drudgery makes Luisa’s life possible. The closeness of their relationship is reflected in the secret they both have to keep. It also shows the true state of their relationship – normally the servant is expected to make the household run but must stay invisible. Here, Juliana has forced herself into Luisa’s life – Luisa can’t just replace her as Jorge suggests at one point. The relationship comes to seem like an abusive one – full of hatred and tension at multiple points, but neither can leave it. Both are also afraid of Luisa’s husband and their lives both revolve around men. Comeuppance happens for both when a man exposes their treachery.

As in many books that deal with adultery - hypocrisy and double standards at every level. Wives are expected to be paragons of virtue – Jorge says in a hypothetical situation that an adulterous wife deserves death, but cheats on Luisa when he’s gone. Her affair, however, would make her a pariah in society while her husband boasts of his affair to his best friend. While wives have to be monogamous, servants are expected to be sexually available to wealthy men (unless they are old and unattractive like Juliana). Some of their friends use their servants in this way while preaching morality. Even Jorge’s best friend Sebastiao – who is virtuous and helpful – has absorbed this idea. He puts Luisa on a pedestal though other women are expendable.

Luisa’s death occurs at the end of the book – lots of those 19th c. adultery books end with the heroine’s death. But it’s not suicide and it’s mostly Jorge’s fault. Luisa is not out and out immoral – she believed she was in love, and is perhaps excusable (to a 19th c audience) because she’s stereotypically silly and easily led astray (Sebastiao should have intervened). After, she feels genuinely guilty and still loves her husband – possibly even more than before. Jorge’s unhappiness at the end contrasts with his earlier rigid views.

A number of colorful side characters enliven the plot and also show bourgeois snobbery and hypocrisy. Luiza’s childhood friend Leopoldina further illustrates the double standard – she’s married, but has multiple lovers. She is not acceptable in good society, but men who do the same are. Other friends include an old spinster who is madly in love with another of their acquaintances but has to hide it, Jorge’s bitter friend and doctor, the servant-chasing counselor who is pedantic and dull but also engaged in an affair with his maid and keeps pornographic tracts in his bedside table. There are also a lot of servant characters – nice to see the different kinds of interactions between Juliana and other servants, the woman who runs the employment agency. ( )
1 vote DieFledermaus | Nov 21, 2011 |
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» Add other authors (21 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Eça de Queirósprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Campbell, RoyTranslatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Tinham dado onze horas no «cuco» da sala de jantar.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Jorge e Luísa casam-se sem que haja uma afeição profunda entre os dois. Não bastasse isso, falta a eles um mínimo de amadurecimento, principalmente para Luísa, uma moça fútil, que recebeu uma educação viciosa. O autor mostra a lenta deformação do caráter de Luísa sob o efeito de leituras e músicas sentimentais. Eça de Queirós, como bom realista, faz uma crítica severa a um tipo de arte que visava não só emocionar o leitor ou ouvinte como também afastá-lo da realidade, para encerrá-lo num mundo ilusório, de sonhos.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0850515122, Paperback)

O Primo Basílio, is Queirós' criticism of the bourgeoisie in Lisbon during his life. Luísa and Jorge's marriage is apparently happy, but while Jorge lives far away on business, Basílio, a handsome and cynical bon vivant who once dated Luísa, returns and seduces her. But Luísa's traitorous maid, Juliana, intercepts a letter between the two, and blackmail's Luísa. On his return, Jorge suspects nothing, and even though Juliana dies in an attempt to imprison her, Luísa falls ill from her guilt and dies, after confessing her adultery.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:26:50 -0400)

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