cover image The Yellow Sofa

The Yellow Sofa

Eca de Queiros, Jose Maria EA Queiros, Eca De Queiros. New Directions Publishing Corporation, $14.95 (128pp) ISBN 978-0-8112-1339-4

In a letter cited by the author's son in his introductory note, E a de Queiros (1846-1900) writes of a planned series of short novels ""which would be a reflection of contemporary life in Portugal."" He adds, ""the attraction of these tales is that there are no digressions, no rhetoric, no philosophizing: everything is interesting and dramatic, and quickly narrated."" Whether or not The Yellow Sofa was intended as one of these novels, the description fits. Godofredo da Concei ao Alves has a comfortable life: a beautiful wife, Lulu, and a good steady business in partnership with the handsome young gallant, Machado. Alves gets some vicarious pleasure from Machado's romantic escapades until he comes home to find his wife and partner entwined on his yellow sofa. Filled with what he supposes to be righteous outrage, he throws Lulu out and challenges Machado. But reality is an inconvenient intercessor. A duel seems honorable until one of his seconds urges him to make his will. He believes his wife's exile will redeem his home but now his morning shaving water is cold; his breakfast eggs are unpredictable; the cut-glass fruit bowl has a broken handle; and his linen is dirty. Alves is a romantic who likes his comforts and a man who is motivated by an almost interchangeable mix of generosity and cowardice. Most of all, in E a de Queiros's hands, he is a wonderful, gently mocking exemplar of bourgeois morality. (Nov.) FYI: Last year New Directions published E a de Queiros's The Illustrious House of Ramires, which was one of PW's Best Books for 1995.