Any reader who is unaware of the complexity and diversity of Eça de Queirós’s oeuvre or familiar primarily with the long-established mainstream perspective on his writings will likely be surprised by this story. St. Christopher is a hagiography, a life of a saint, that harbors themes and values apparently incompatible with the dominant meanings ascribed to the canonical Eça, stereotyped as his image has been by much literary history. After all, according to this stereotype, the author of The Crime of Father Amaro was a fierce critic of Roman Catholicism, the Church, religion, and religious sentiment. (…)
The sainthood exemplified by Christopher is thus not merely of a contemplative nature: he is a saint shaped by his devotion to the cause of the weakest, as demonstrated in the episode of the Jacquerie, the fourteenth-century peasant revolt against feudal authority and widespread poverty, which was especially harsh in France in the immediate aftermath of the Black Death pandemic. Joining the Jacques, Christopher has no qualms about resorting to violence in a battle in which his comrades are decimated. In the story, their movement seems to stand for a reaction to God’s silence or strange absence from an unjust world. Theirs is a God who appears alienated from the society of men and leaves up to the rebels the search for justice that is slow in coming. “And who knows?,” asks a mendicant friar; “Incomprehensible are the ways of Providence! Perhaps, to punish the castles, God might raise up in revolt an army from out of the hovels.” Finally, the rebellion also seems to spell out an answer to another question, formulated by Christopher himself: “Why could there not be the same hearth for everyone, the same bread?”
A saint on earth before ascending to Heaven, Eça’s Christopher represents, ultimately, a coherent culmination of another passage—that of the writer himself, guided by values from which he had never abstained. And although Eça de Queirós left his St. Christopher unpublished, the story contains a great deal of the passion for social justice and human solidarity that he nearly always inscribed on the horizon of his literary labors.
(C. Reis, “Notes on Sainthood in Eça de Queirós”, prefácio a Saint Christopher. Translated by Gregory Rabassa & Earl E. Fitz. Dartmouth, MA: Tagus Press, 2015).