This is the final novel of one of the most innovative, comic Brazilian writers of this century. It takes the form of an anonymous high school science teacher's journal about an unpublished novel written by his deceased lover, a young woman named Julia Marquezim Enone. Her novel's central character, Maria da Franca, is a destitute and mentally unstable woman at odds with the Brazilian social welfare system, from which she is trying to claim benefits for time spent in a psychiatric hospital. The journal represents the science teacher's attempt to understand Julia's novel and, in the process, Julia herself and the relationship they once shared. Rather than providing him with comfort and a better understanding of his beloved, the teacher's explorations create an ever-widening circle of questions and fears about himself, her, and finally any attempt to understand anything about anyone. But the narrator's failures become the reader's comic delights. Reminiscent of Flann O'Brien, Manuel Puig, and Laurence Sterne, with this novel Osman Lins takes his rightful place among the major figures of twentieth-century fiction.
Library Journal (10/01/1995):
The works of Lins, a prize-winning Brazilian writer who died in 1978, are now appearing in English. This, his final novel, is a story within a story, based on a legend. The narrator is a teacher who keeps a diary as he analyzes the unpublished novel of Julia Enone, the woman he loves, who was killed by a truck. The main character of her book is an impoverished, mentally ill woman, Maria de Franca, who struggles with the social system and knows the story of a Grecian woman who slips in and out of jail. There are discourses on the literary medium, social issues, history, and the love that the narrator still feels for Julia. Visions of Maria's mental illness make the flavor surreal. The complexity of the plot--replete with references to historical events and works of literature--and literary devices like lists of words make this a challenging book to read. Primarily for academic libraries.--Ann Irvine, Montgomery Cty. P.L., Md.
Publishers Weekly (10/30/1995):
The final novel by Brazilian author Lins, best known for his novel Avolovara, The Queen of the Prisons of Greece is sublime; a must-read for serious writers and readers alike. Completed two years before his death in 1978 and set in mid-1970s Brazil, it is written in the form of a diary kept by an anonymous narrator in order to better understand the unpublished novel of--and his relationship to--his recently deceased lover, Julia Marquezim Enone. Her novel details the attempts of heroine Maria de Fran a to get benefits from Brazil's antagonistic welfare system after spending time in a mental institution, and the narrator's determined analysis of Julia's manuscript draws the reader into a mimetic funhouse of exciting, intentional confusions. In Lins's novel, the distinctions between authors and characters, between maniacally obsessive fictions and what they supposedly represent, are so fuzzy that it becomes impossible for the reader to tell what is real, including the integrity of text. Ultimately signifying that the concepts of truth and understanding are the cruelest of lies, The Queen of the Prisons of Greece proves Lins to be an author worthy of the canonization he deserves--if only for his ability to challenge and stimulate the mind. (Dec.)