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The Gift Of The Holy Cross

Leitão's novel brings alive the vanished world of colonial Goa, a hybrid creation of Portuguese Catholicism and the Hindu caste system.


Lino Leitão
Fiction, Novels
Date published
1 Nov 1999

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, Leitão writes passionately of a popular movement betrayed. Whilst the old world is marked by feudal oppression and superstitious ignorance, Leitão vividly, and often humorously, recreates the communal exuberance of Goan village life: feiras exploding with firecrackers, the dancing harmonies of the violin bandes, the aromas of roasting gram and sorpatel, the spectacles of the theatre and the processions of the saints. In the new world there is only a ruthless competitiveness in which the worst rise to the top.

Lino Leitão was born in Goa, resident in Uganda for some years and now lives in Canada. He is the author of three collections of short stories.

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Lino Leitão

Lino Leitão was born in Goa. He studied at Karnataka University in India and was involved in Goa’s freedom struggle against the Portuguese, which was brought to a premature end when India invaded Goa and annexed the territory in 1961. In the 1960s Leitão left India and settled in Uganda (as did the family of fellow Goan writer Peter Nazareth). There he worked as a teacher until the growing hostility towards and finally expulsion of South Asians by the government of Idi Amin drove him to settle in Canada. He currently lives in Quebec.

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