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Gift of the Holy Cross, The by Lino Leitao


Leitao’s novel brings alive the vanished world of colonial Goa, a hybrid creation of Portuguese Catholicism and the Hindu caste system. From its beginnings in village rivalries, fought out by the bulls of neighbouring Cavelossim and Carmona, the sleeping dragon of Goan nationalism awakes. But when the Goan people rise up against their Portuguese masters, their victory is hollow. The fruits of their struggle are plucked by the new commercial elite and their distinctive culture is swamped as Goa is annexed by India.

Focusing on the tragic figure of Mario Jaques, a village leader who wants to preserve the best of the old world in the new, but who is isolated by his own confusions and swept away by social forces beyond his control, Leitao writes passionately of a popular movement betrayed.

Whilst the old world is marked by feudal oppression and superstitious ignorance, Leitao vividly, and often humorously, recreates the communal exuberance of Goan village life. In the new world there is only ruthless competitiveness in which the worst rise to the top.

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Peepal Tree Press

Leeds, England