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The Yellow Sofa


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A compassionate tale of marriage, manners, and betrayal, from the Portuguese master

José Maria Eça de Queirós, the first great modern Portuguese novelist, wrote The Yellow Sofa with (in his own words) “no digressions, no rhetoric,” creating a book where “everything is interesting and dramatic and quickly narrated.” The story, a terse and seamless spoof of Victorian bourgeois morals, concerns a successful businessman who returns home to find his wife “on the yellow damask sofa, leaning in abandon on the shoulder of a man.” The man is none other than his best friend and business partner. While struggling with the need to defend his honor, he fights a stronger inner desire for domestic tranquility and forgiveness. The Yellow Sofa firmly establishes Eça de Queirós in the literary pantheon that includes Dickens, Flaubert, Balzac, and Tolstoy.


“His excellent prose glides through real experience and private dream in a manner that is leading on toward the achievements of Proust.” — V. S. Pritchett

“Eça de Queirós is far greater than my own dear master, Flaubert.” — Émile Zola

“A wonderful, gently mocking exemplar of bourgeois morality.” — Publishers Weekly

“Portugal’s greatest novelist.” — José Saramago