The Crime of Father Amaro Author:Jose Maria Eca de Queiros, Margaret Jull Costa (Translator) Eça de Queirós's novel, The Crime of Father Amaro is a lurid satire of clerical corruption in a town in Portugal (Leira) during the period before and after the 1871 Paris Commune. At the start, a priest physically explodes after a fish supper while guests at a birthday celebration are "wildly dancing a polka." ... more »Young Father Amaro (whose name means "bitter" in Portuguese) arrives in Leira and soon lusts after—and is lusted after by—budding Amélia, dewy-lipped, devout daughter of São Joaneira who has taken in Father Amaro as a lodger.
What ensues is a secret love affair amidst a host of compelling minor characters: Canon Dias, glutton and São Joaneira's lover; Dona Maria da Assunção, a wealthy widow with a roomful of religious images, agog at any hint of sex; João Eduardo, repressed atheist, free-thinker and suitor to Amélia; Father Brito, "the strongest and most stupid priest in the diocese;" the administrator of the municipal council who spies at a neighbor's wife through binoculars for hours every day. Eça's incisive critique flies like a shattering mirror, jabbing everything from the hypocrisy of a rich and powerful Church, to the provincialism of men and women in Portuguese society of the time, to the ineptness of politics or science as antidotes to the town's ills.
What lurks within Eça's narrative is a religion of tolerance, wisdom, and equality nearly forgotten. Margaret Jull Costa has rendered an exquisite translation and provides an informative introduction to a story that truly spans all ages.« less
In The Crime of Father Amaro, nineteenth-century Portuguese writer José Maria Eça de Queirós delivers a broad critique of the corruption and hypocrisy of the entire society. Father Amaro is a young, handsome priest assigned to the parish in the small city of Leiria. He and the religiously devout daughter Amélia of the house where he is a lodger fall for each other, amid many other improper goings-on among those who claim moral and social propriety. Although it did not inspire me to read with any urgency, I was content to let the story unfold with with unflinching unsentimentality and masterful juxtapositions of events and phrases. It must have been extremely controversial when it first came out, just like the 2002 Mexican film adaptation staring Gael García Bernal. Another good read off the list of 1001 books you must read before you die.