Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Cousin Bazilio—written while Eça de Queiróz was in Great Britain on consular duty, which gave him a more objective view of his own country—presents a vivid portrait of the inert and boring society of old-fashioned Lisbon, which nourishes ennui, dreams, and illusions. The novel also offers a bitter and cynical expose of the then-current patriotic and religious cant, as well as a devastating condemnation of the romantic idea of passion. Luiza and Bazilio share a bond of blood and memories of a youthful attachment. In her eyes, he is exotic and exciting. Though he is her only surviving relative, he destroys her instead of protecting her. Both lovers are aroused by the hint of incest mingled with adultery. Like Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary (1857) and Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina (1875-1877), Cousin Bazilio portrays the themes of seduction and adultery, sin and punishment.