The posthumous memoirs of Bras Cubas by Joaquim Maria Machado De Assis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The posthumous memoirs of Bras Cubas by Joaquim Maria Machado De Assis

Brazilian fiction

Original title – Memorias Posthumas de Braz Cubas

Translator – Gregory Rabassa

Source – personal copy

I always like adding depth to the blog some older writers from around the world.So here I review the second book on the blog from the Brazilain writer Machado De Assis He managed a successful career as a Bureaucrat as well as become a successful writer first with poetry then a series of novels it was when this book came out that he became a really well known in Lit circles in Brazil. The book followed the death of a friend that left him melancholic and thinking about death.

For some time I debated over whether I should start these memoirs at the beginning or at the end, that is, whether I shuld put my birth of my death in first place. Since common usage would call for beginning with birth, two considerations led me to adopt a different method: the first is that i am not exactly a write who is dead but a dead man who is a writer, for whom the grave was a second cradle, the second is that the writing be more distinctive and novel in that way. Moses, who also wrote about his death,didn’t place it at the opening but at the close: a radical differecne between this book and the Pentateuch.

The opening lines explain the choice of style for the book

 

This is a strange book as it is the memoirs of a dead man that he wrote after he died he tells us this early on in the book. As we follow Bra Cubas life as he tells us in a quirky style of short chapters that vignettes of his life from his childhood onwards. but he was a spoilt rich child maybe this explains why his life is never quite right. He also abused the slaves his family had at the time. He then goes on to study law. His wilder years before he settles   Sleeping and falling in love with a prostitute that all the boys loved at the time. He also deals with his mother’s death and ends up in Rio. This is where he starts to meet Virgilia a woman that is the love of his life they never quite get it there she marries someone else he decides to become involved in politics. But he is a man that always sees his world as half empty and his relationships and life all reflect this so when he re-meets Virgilia and they see each other things still don’t go his way. His political career grows but he then is out of favor and starts a pape as a  member of the opposition.

Virgilia ? But, then, was it the same lady who some year later ….? The very same. It was precisely the lady who was to be present during my last days in 1869 and who before, long before, had played a ample part in my most intimate sensations. At that time she was only fifteen or sixteen years old. She was possibly the most daring creatureof our race and, certainly, the most wilful.I shan’t say that she was already first in beauty, ahead of the other girls of the time, because this isn’t a novel, where the author gilds reality and close his eyes to feckles and pimles.

I liove this description of the love of his life .

This is an amazing book for the time it mixes the absurd style of a book like Lawrence Sterne’s Tristam Shandy another fictional biography. De Assis said he was influenced by this book and also the French masterpiece journey around my room by Zavier De Maistre which is another unusual and unique book in style.  But he also mixes realist lit of the day from the likes of Zola and Dickens which showed the world warts and all. We are given this view of the world  Bra Cubas gives of Brazil he grew up in. It captures the wide range of people in Brazil from those nameless slaves to Bra Cubas and those he sees go above him in his life in the upper reaches of Brazilian life. Bra Cubas is  a man that is a normal man, not a hero never really successful in fact in a lot of ways he is a man that things never quite pan out failed romances the sense that he is maybe marked for his younger days in later life. I liked this much more than the other book by De Assis I read a few years ago I see in this how well read he was it is said he read in five languages and you can see what an influence he was for the Latin American writers that followed him. Borges for example in the short choppy chapters that could each be like the small gems  of short stories  that Borges did so well. Have you read De Assis ?

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