Carlos is the talented heir to a notable family in fin-de-siecle Lisbon. He aspires to serve his fellow man in his chosen profession of medicine, in the arts and in politics. But he enters a society affected by powerful international influences - French intellectual developments, English trading practices - that trouble and frustrate him and in the end he is reduced to a kind of spiritual helplessness. Carlos' good intentions decline, amiably, into dilettantism; his passionate love affair itself begins to suffer a devastating constraint. "The Maias" tells a compelling story of characters whose lives become as real and engrossing as any in Flaubert, Balzac or Dickens. This is his masterpiece, a novel of intellectual depth, historical compassion and great wit. Hailed as a masterpiece in the Paris of Flaubert, Balzac and Zola, this remains Eca's most popular novel.
Eca de Queiros (1845-1900) was Portugal's greatest nineteenth-century novelist. His works brilliantly evoke, and condemn, the rapidly changing society of his time. He travelled widely as a diplomat and, though he considered himself an apostle of Naturalist Realism, he is at heart an ironist, with the severity and compassion of Stendhal.