The Last Will and Testament of Senor da Silva Araujo
By Germano Almeida (trans. Sheila Faria Glasier)
New Directions Publishing Corporation, 2004
General reading value: 2 /5
Armchair travel value: 3/5
Once again, I return from a longer than expected hiatus, having been wrapped up with the demands of thesis writing and placement work. As such, I have committed the ultimate blogging sin – waiting far too long after finishing a book to post my review such that the goings-on of Senor da Silva Araujo are now becoming a distant memory. Be that as it may, I am grabbing a small window of opportunity here to write a brief post about my response to this novel.
The book is structured around quite a clever plot device. The title character has died and his family and significant others have gathered around for the reading of his will. They are to find that Araujo has used his will, however, as an opportunity to provide a long and detailed autobiography in which he makes a number of surprising disclosures, the most significant of which being that he fathered an illegitimate daughter with his cleaning lady.
The shock of this is further amplified by the fact that he has left most of his wealth to this daughter who is now a grown woman. His nephew, who everyone, not the least of whom himself, believed would inherit all of Araujo’s wealth is only provided with a few small tokens, a pay-back for several grievances his uncle had with him which are detailed during the course of the novel.
The rest of the book traces Araujo’s life, describing how he became a self-made man of riches and also a man of considerable political and civil influence. It also describes his romantic dalliances (including the one that resulted in his daughter) none of which brought him everlasting love, marriage or other offspring.
Towards the end of the book, his daughter, having now learned the identity of her father – whom she did have some connection with prior to his death – further investigates parts of his life and in particular tries to track down the mysterious Adelia who Araujo described in his will as the love of his life and to whom he has also left a book. Through this investigation, the daughter, named Maria, comes to fill in many of the details of her father’s life including how he paid her mother a pension from the time of Maria’s conception to his death on the proviso that their romantic encounter and the product of it remain secret (hence the title of this blog post – I couldn’t help but be drawing comparisons to Arnie as I read!).
Particularly enjoyable for me, given my challenge, is that Araujo’s story is encompassed in descriptions of Cape Verde and the places he inhabited. He describes the natives of St. Vincente, for example, as the “most inauthentic” of Cape Verdeans due to his theory that because the island came to be populated by a conglomeration of those displaced from other islands, it was never able to form solid and lasting social values which, he claims, come from having a strong ancestral connection to the land. This was further compounded by the fact that just as the island began to perhaps form the germ of a culture, it became exposed to, and somewhat swallowed up by, America’s dominant culture. There are also descriptions of other islands as well as trade, politics and culture in Cape Verde all of which is interesting particularly as it seems much more infused with a Portuguese influence than an African one.
However, I have to conclude by saying that I found this novel a bit of bore and had to struggle to meet my usual rule of finishing whatever book I start. It has some amusing and interesting set scenes but perhaps because I found Araujo to be such a dislikeable character (though I don’t know that this is intended), I was not all that committed to finding out his entire life history.
As for my next post, well that may be a surprise as I am reading a number of books at the moment mainly because I am finding that I am enjoying flitting between several books at once rather than focusing solely on one. I am also reading some non-challenge fiction at the moment, including Madame Bovary wich I have utterly fallen in love with and can’t believe I took this long to read. Until next time then…
The Literary Nomad xx
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Area: 4,033 km2
Religion: Roman Catholic