‘The Mandarin’ by Eça de Queiroz, translated by Margaret Jull Costa

An exuberant and cutting work of fantasy from one of the greats of Portuguese fiction, ‘The Mandarin’ is a no holds barred account of human weakness, in which nobody escapes censure and everybody is flawed. With the mere tinkling of a bell, Teodoro magically brings about the death of a wealthy mandarin, gaining his riches in the process. Predictably, wealth isn’t all its cracked up to be. What prevents this story from becoming tediously moralistic is that there is not a character within its pages left untouched by money and greed. All are found wanting – including the reader.

First published in 1880. Translation in The Mandarin and Other Stories, Dedalus, 2018