Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Booking a trip to Goa 1 - Jacob and Dulce

The December issue of See Goa carried my review of 6 books on Goa. I am including these reviews, one book per blog post (for easy reading). Happy Reading!

Booking a Trip to Goa
– jason keith fernandes

For those of you who are familiar to Goa, you will know that the Goan is always complaining that both Goa and the Goan are so keenly misunderstood. They will protest that in fact Goa is much more than the beach, and that the label of sun, surf and sand is but one small part of a larger, rich cultural mosaic. The next time you get down to Goa for that do-nothing-all-weekend holiday, do yourself and the Goan a favour: pick up one of the following books to get inside the workings of its society!

Jacob and Dulce

Written originally in Portuguese and only recently translated into English, Jacob and Dulce is perhaps the one book that must grace the bookshelf of every literate Goan or Goalover. The book, Originally presented to the world as short sketches that appeared in the newspaper, O Ultramar, in the 1890s, is a sharp and caustic take on the Goan society of the turn of the 19th century. Some Goans will insist that the social critique made in the 1890s hold good even today. Penned by one Francisco João da Costa under the pen name Gip, the book is set in the mythical Goan town of Breda. It documents the lives of Jacob, a young scion of a family of some means, and his wife Dona Dulce, and through the story of their wedding and life captures the workings of the world of the upper-caste Goan Catholic elite.

Given that da Costa was from Margao, and that the book captured a slice of urban life, many at the time of its publication were convinced that the book was a thinly veiled story of Margao. Persisting with this idea has its benefits, as it allows us the pleasure of actually recreating the life of those pretty homes around the Travessa of the Holy Spirit Church in that city.

Gip was not kind to his society though and lashed out against the vapid lives filled with (in his opinion) meaningless rituals that marked the existence of the social world of Jacob and Dulce. It is because he was attempting to critique his society right down to its very detail that Jacob and Dulce provides us a sharp sketch of what it meant to be this kind of Goan Catholic at the turn of the 19th century. Unlike the writings of later and contemporary writers, Gip was not afflicted by nostalgia and the desire to embellish, and this in itself makes for refreshing reading.

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