The Yellow Sofa by Jose Maria Eca de Queirós
Translated by John Vetch

Bookish blogs are *definitely* a dangerous thing to follow when you’re as susceptible as I am to suggestion! A case in point is this book; I read about it on Tony’s Book World back in March and was intrigued – especially as the author was very highly regarded by Jose Saramago! I’ve read a little Portugese literature but not much; so needless to say, I sent off for a copy….

Interestingly, as the foreword by the author’s son explains, the novella was never published during the author’s lifetime and was almost lost. Luckily, the son discovered the father’s work in his papers and the book survived, which is a relief because it’s a very entertaining tale of domestic drama! Our hero is Alves, a bourgeois and successful businessman who seems eternally cheerful and lives a contented life. However, one day, as his business partner is off somewhere pursuing a love affair, Alves decides he will go home early to surprise his wife; as indeed he does, but the surprise is not what he expects. Shockingly, his wife is lolling about on the yellow sofa in a white negligee with another man! Three guesses as to who that man is…

What follows is a rapid series of events, as Alves, shocked to the core, tries to decide how to respond. Should he send his wife home to her father, or to a convent? Should he challenge his rival to a duel? Should he just commit suicide? A wave of conflicting emotions roll over him, and the friends he consults aren’t necessarily the most help. I shall say no more about the plot, because it’s a novella and I don’t want to spoil it; but poor Alves really does go through the emotional wringer.

“The Yellow Sofa” was a short and very entertaining read. Alves really does suffer, and he seems to be taken for a ride by most of the other characters. Despite his anger and grief, and his wish to undertake some dramatic act, at heart he’s simply a cuckolded man desperately wanting to get back to normal life. His friends talks about their affairs constantly, and yet Alves cannot comprehend this; as of course behind every affair there is a husband suffering like him. It’s an interesting take on the morals of the time, and the action moves quickly; as quickly as Alves’ changes of mood and mind!

Outdoors, the July day was sweltering, scorching the paving stones; but here in the office where the sun never penetrated, in the shadow of the high buildings opposite, there was a coolness; the green blinds were drawn, making it shady; and the varnish of the two desks – his own and his colleague’s – the rug that covered the floor, the well-brushed green repp of the armchairs, a gilt moulding which framed a view of Luanda, the glaze of a large wall map – everything had an air of tidiness, of orderliness, which made things restful and cooler.

I do enjoy reading a new author and Eca de Queirós is definitely one of whom I want to seek out more. His writing is very atmospheric, conjuring the mood and location beautifully, and there was plenty of sly humour in the book. So thank you to Tony for pointing me in the direction of “The Yellow Sofa” which I really enjoyed; a perfect short read while I was havering between chunky books! 😀