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A publicação de 'Memórias póstumas de Brás Cubas' não só inaugura o Realismo no Brasil, como inicia a etapa mais complexa da obra de Machado de Assis. Com ela, aprofunda-se a sua análise da realidade e refina-se a sua linguagem, sendo considerada a obra que prenuncia algumas técnicas da literatura moderna.


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A publicação de 'Memórias póstumas de Brás Cubas' não só inaugura o Realismo no Brasil, como inicia a etapa mais complexa da obra de Machado de Assis. Com ela, aprofunda-se a sua análise da realidade e refina-se a sua linguagem, sendo considerada a obra que prenuncia algumas técnicas da literatura moderna.

30 review for Memórias póstumas de Brás Cubas

  1. 4 out of 5

    brian

    a sick chicken and the voluptuousness of misery we read an author and wonder 'how is it possible that this genius is not known?'... yes, only a species as cretinous as ours could ignore machado. along with carpentier and mutis, he takes the top 'what the fuck' spot. here are three reasons machado must be read, must not be forgotten: 1) as karen pointed out below: "18fucking80". yup. madman machado wrote a modernist masterpiece way back when. joyce and woolf? they don't have shit on machado. a sick chicken and the voluptuousness of misery we read an author and wonder 'how is it possible that this genius is not known?'... yes, only a species as cretinous as ours could ignore machado. along with carpentier and mutis, he takes the top 'what the fuck' spot. here are three reasons machado must be read, must not be forgotten: 1) as karen pointed out below: "18fucking80". yup. madman machado wrote a modernist masterpiece way back when. joyce and woolf? they don't have shit on machado. nothing. in this hysterical and darkdarkdark nuthouse you get the narrator's crazy drawings (i ripped out the pages and stuck 'em on the wall next to my desk), made-up words, demented philosophical systems, aphorisms, chapters that describe their own uselessness, chapters asking to be inserted within the text of other chapters, and wonderful sections in which the narrator commands us to disregard the text, that he's full of shit, that he's overwritten something to make it sound more literary. yeah. check out the entirety of chapter 45: "Sobs, tears, an improvised altar with saints and crucifix, black curtains on the walls, strips of black velvet framing an entrance, a man who came to dress the corpse, another man who took the measurements for the coffin; candelabra, the coffin on a table covered with gold-and-black silk with candles at the corners, invitations, guests who entered slowly with muffled step and pressed the hand of each member of the family, some of them sad, all of them serious and silent, priest, sacristan, prayers, sprinkling of holy water, the closing of the coffin with hammer and nails; six persons who removes the coffin from the table, lift it, carry it, with difficulty, down the stairs despite the cries, sobs, and new tears of the family, walk with it to the hearse, place it on the slab, strap it securely with leather thongs; the rolling of the hearse, the rolling of the carriages one by one… These are the notes that I took for a sad and commonplace chapter which I shall not write." 2) because all the modernist shit isn't there for it's own sake. it's in service of a wildly original and terrific book. and if it wasn't written by a black brazilian in the 19th century, but by a white 20 yr old in 2009, it'd still be great. (of course, there'd be a Machado backlash in which he'd be accused of gimmickry and unoriginality and being overly clever and blahblah) i don't laugh from books. i don't like funny books. machado forces me to take back both those statements. salman rushdie: 'the kind of humor that makes skulls smile.' check this exfuckingtraordinary excerpt, a veritable fuckfest of humor and tragedy: "'Tis good to be sad and say nothing'… I remember that I was sitting under a tamarind tree, with the poet's book open in my hands and my spirit as crestfallen as a sick chicken. I pressed my silent grief to my breast and experienced a curious feeling, something that might be called the voluptuousness of misery. Voluptuousness of misery. Memorize the phrase, reader; store it away, take it out and study it from time to time, and, if you do not succeed in understanding it, you may conclude that you have missed one of the most subtle emotions of which man is capable.'" ahhhh! headbashingly great stuff! 3) susan sontag. karen brissette. two tough chicks, one dead & one alive, who push the shit outta machado. woody allen is a machado fan. as is carlos fuentes, salman rushdie, javier marias, and harold bloom. and sontag's introduction is, as always, a must read. she makes the interesting point that latin america produced such far-seeing and interesting literature not merely because the dictatorships tyrannies and repressive regimes produced a literature of 'pressure', but because the latin americans were those who were most enamored by laurence sterne... damn. i've really gotta read tristam shandy. enough said. you know what to do.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Mike Puma

    “Do not mourn the dead. They know what they are doing.” ― Clarice Lispector, The Hour of the StarWith those lines, Lispector might have introduced this novel by her countryman. Told from the other side of the grave, we learn of the narrator’s small successes and small failures, ultimately balanced in the totality of things. Braz Cubas, the narrator, provides his autobiography, and his philosophy, with a gentle humor in a novel which anticipates the best of meta-fiction, breaking with a Romantic “Do not mourn the dead. They know what they are doing.” ― Clarice Lispector, The Hour of the StarWith those lines, Lispector might have introduced this novel by her countryman. Told from the other side of the grave, we learn of the narrator’s small successes and small failures, ultimately balanced in the totality of things. Braz Cubas, the narrator, provides his autobiography, and his philosophy, with a gentle humor in a novel which anticipates the best of meta-fiction, breaking with a Romantic literary tradition in South America and leaping into a Realism that feels contemporary.”Come, my great lecher, the voluptuousness of extinction awaits you.”Braz Cubas describes his romances and political aspirations with a detachment:The sharp and judicial eye of public opinion loses its power as soon as we enter the territory of death. I do not deny that it sometimes glances this way and examines and judges us, but we dead folk are not concerned about its judgment. You who still live, believe me, there is nothing in the world so monstrously vast as our indifference He constantly cajoles and engages the reader: ’Tis good to be sad and say nothing.’ When I read these words of Shakespeare, I felt within me an echo, a delicious echo. I remember sitting under a tamarind tree, with the poet’s book open in my hands and my spirit as crestfallen as a sick chicken. I pressed my silent grief to my breast and experienced a curious feeling, something that might be called the voluptuousness of misery. Voluptuousness of misery. Memorize this phrase, reader; store it away, take it out and study it from time to time, and, if you do not succeed in understanding it, you may conclude you have missed one of the most subtle emotions of which man is capable. He likens life to the constant revision of a book:Let Pascal say man is a thinking reed. He is wrong; man is a thinking erratum. Each period in life is a new edition that corrects the preceding one and that in turn will be corrected by the next, until publication of the definitive edition, which the publisher donates to the worms.He encourages the slow-reading, the consideration of his text by direct challenge: I am beginning to be sorry that I ever undertook to write this book. Not that it bores me; I have nothing else to do; indeed, it is a welcome distraction to eternity. But the book is tedious, it smells of the tomb, it has a rigor mortis about it; a serious fault, a yet a relatively small one, for the great defect of this book is you, reader. And the slow-reading, the thoughtful consideration pays off. Language. Camaraderie with the narrator (unreliable, and frequently unlikeable, as he is) wins us over. A constant source for highlighting and reflection. The best way to not be ‘the great defect’ is to read this one as the narrator reads himself. Savory. __________________________________ Imagine, if you will, this title said aloud, with an accent of one type or another: do you hear, “Epitaph for a Small Weiner?” I feel a certain amount of shame mentioning this, however the narrator does , on several occasions, express concern over his ‘small sword’ while Napoleon had a ‘large sword.’ Just something to think about, but not for all that long.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Garima

    ... this book is written with apathy, with the apathy of a man now freed of the brevity of the century, a supinely philosophical work, of an unequal philosophy, now austere, now playful, something that neither builds nor destroys, neither inflames nor cools, and, yet, it is more than a pastime and less than an apostolate. My Goodreads morning started on an emotional note today. I logged in and found a book recommendation by Ali, friendly comments from Dolors and Dustin, the surprised mention of ... this book is written with apathy, with the apathy of a man now freed of the brevity of the century, a supinely philosophical work, of an unequal philosophy, now austere, now playful, something that neither builds nor destroys, neither inflames nor cools, and, yet, it is more than a pastime and less than an apostolate. My Goodreads morning started on an emotional note today. I logged in and found a book recommendation by Ali, friendly comments from Dolors and Dustin, the surprised mention of my name in Manny’s review and lovely messages in the inbox. What more could I have asked for? The update feed however, presented a different and grim story altogether. A chilling reminder about the unfavorable direction this site is heading towards. A site which is of, by and for the readers. Good readers, Great readers, readers without whose recommendations and reviews, I wouldn’t be the reader, I’m today. Emotions surged up when I started imagining the what ifs scenarios and when you dedicate a huge chunk of your time to a virtual world, the happenings in that world whether positive or negative, affects you in incommensurable proportions. It’s affecting me too and I would like to extend my heartiest thanks to each and everyone who are raising their voice in protest and hope that whatever happens the good reader in you will persevere and find blissful solace in wonderful books. May I recommend The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas? Death is inevitable and melancholy is alright but what fun to have an everlasting smile pasted on your face while reading a book. Bras Cubas is dead but gifted us all these wonderful posthumous memoirs. Why Posthumous? Probably our narrator, a supposed alter-ego of our author was seeking a full-fledged creative freedom and wanted to break all the rules of writing that must be in practice during his time. The year was 1880 and Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis gave us this enchanting literary treat which surely holds the power to fascinate everyone of us in the present world of countless genres and sub-genres. He had no other philosophy. Nor did I. I'm not saying that the university hadn't taught me some philosophical truths. But I'd only memorized the formulas, the vocabulary, the skeleton. I treated them as I had Latin: I put three lines from Virgil in my pocket, two from Horace, and a dozen moral and political locutions for the needs of conversation. I treated them the way I treated history and jurisprudence. I picked up the phraseology of all things, the shell, the decoration ... The truth in his humor, the irony in his innocent expressions and the wisdom in his reckless way of living life (while he lived), will make you instantly fall in love with Cubas. He’s not perfect but he’s perfectly human. The writer in him finds a way of telling us his witty intentions without sticking to conventions as apparent in the following quotes: What looks like a simple inventory here are notes I'd taken for a sad and banal chapter that I won't write. I found in her a certain ethereal softness wedded to the polish of earthly forms—a vague expression and worthy of a chapter in which everything must be vague. Few tears, lots of laughs and random sighs - the life viewed from the other side of the grave is not sieved through the judgmental eyes of the people around us but comes across in an unadulterated form consists of memories collected, mistakes committed and admissions of guilt in the confession box of our hearts and in retrospect, the life appears to be beautiful. Cubas tells us that and that’s what we should tell ourselves while we are living. Believe me, remembering is the least evil. No one should trust present happiness, there's a drop of Cain's drivel in it. With the passing of time and the end of rapture, then, yes, then perhaps it's possible really to enjoy, because between these two illusions the better one is the one that's enjoyed without pain.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Aubrey

    The reader, like his fellows, doubtless prefers action to reflection, and doubtless he is wholly in the right. So we shall get to it. However, I must advise that this book is written leisurely, with the leisureliness of a man no longer troubled by the flight of time; that is a work supinely philosophical, but of a philosophy wanting in uniformity, now austere, now playful, a thing that neither edifies nor destroys, neither inflames nor chills, and that is at once more of a pastime and less than The reader, like his fellows, doubtless prefers action to reflection, and doubtless he is wholly in the right. So we shall get to it. However, I must advise that this book is written leisurely, with the leisureliness of a man no longer troubled by the flight of time; that is a work supinely philosophical, but of a philosophy wanting in uniformity, now austere, now playful, a thing that neither edifies nor destroys, neither inflames nor chills, and that is at once more of a pastime and less than a preachment. The more I read, the more I come to understand that the trait I admire most in authors is not so much a matter of elegant prose, complex plots, characters that leap off the pages and make their home in your heads when the last page has been turned and the story has ended. Those are all very entertaining in their own right, but clever is as clever does, and rarely provokes long-lasting admiration in my mind. What I prefer is a simple matter of trust, belief, faith even if that is the direction your theological tendencies swing. Faith of the author in themselves, but more importantly, enough faith in their audience to lead them without expounding, carry them along in the pages without tending to their every need and pandering to their every expectation. Some would disagree with me on that point. In fact, many would, all those folks who dislike books for "trying too hard" and "being too smart". Those who feel that the author did not adhere to the formula enough to guarantee formulaic enjoyment of the audience, and decry them for leading them out of their literary comfort zones and making them confront a strange beast of ink and paper. Oftentimes they look at this weird creature and see something of themselves inside it. Sometimes this bothers them. More frequently than you'd expect, this scares them. So what does this have to do with this book here, you ask? Good question. I haven't quite figured it out myself, actually. At least, not at this exact point in time, as I type down these words in the middle of a coffee shop, the book itself on my right and a list of its quotes on the left. That's why you're here. You're joining me on this journey, the goal of which is to find the purpose of conducting in the first place. Circular, no? But true. What this book achieves is an astounding thing in this current age, but even moreso when one takes into account the year of publication. 1880, two years after The Brothers Karamazov and four years before The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. If you asked me which is more closely related to this particular specimen, I'd have to say TBK. But only in terms of the wealth of philosophical content, the exacting and measured analysis of the human condition, the grappling with questions of success, reputation, and mortality. TBK tells you a story in a sonorous tone, preaches from the pulpit of its well-deserved yet greatly intimidating authorial presence. This book hops up on the stand, poses with hand on hip, says a few words in a serious tone, then quickly hops down and invites you to the back table to ruminate and reminisce over a few choice bottles of the finest vintages. There is a man behind the curtain, and he doesn't bother to pretend that he doesn't know that you know that he knows it's there. Instead, he welcomes you into his humble abode, and asks if you wish to hear a story. And trust me, reader, you really should say yes. Why? Why do we want to hear this story from this author, one who breaks off from all conventions in serving us what cannot at all be deemed a novel? One hundred and sixty bits and pieces of one, perhaps, but how could that possibly flow as strongly and as soothingly as a single entity, one that admittedly breaks off into chapters but ensures that each chapter is a well-rounded stepping stone to the next? Instead, we have this book, whose sections sometimes contain no more than a paragraph, a single sentence, even at some point a series of dots (or ellipses? Impossible to tell). How can a story possibly be told in such an erratic and incomprehensible fashion? Through conscientious and deliberate interaction of the author with his audience, who predicts their interests and invites them to go beyond them. Through knowledgeable understatement, conveying through simple events powerful ideas on life, love, and the death that the author supposedly composes in, without once feeling the need to paint an obvious map for the reader to jerk themselves around on. Through a measured and insightful eye on the actions of the main character, creating a man that dwells on deep thoughts without realization and dismisses them for frivolities and pleasure, yet is incontrovertibly shaped by the powerful undertow. A man who is both infuriatingly obtuse and startlingly sensitive, capable of both great cruelty and great understanding. A man who lived without effort, and died before making an effort. A man, now dead, writing of a life that he felt was lived without achieving any measure of great suffering, or amount of great joy. Perhaps he never did acquire those things he longed for so long in life. He did, however, find one thing: a small amount of truth in his life, one that reconciled his mortality with his visions of success, and contented him with living in constant and clear-sighted observation of himself and of others. The character may have never realized the beauty of his thoughts, the wonderful philosophies he drew from a privileged, yet empty living. I believe, however, that the author trusted us enough to discover those for ourselves. However much he played with us during the course of the pages, flattering our sensibilities while baffling our literary conventions, he trusted us to go through his pages and discover something on our own, for our own. That something, however small, is worth everything.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jr Bacdayan

    I would very much like to read this again in the afterlife preferably without the four cups of coffee galivanting through my nervous system. Thank you very much.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Vit Babenco

    “I wrote it with a playful pen and melancholy ink and it isn’t hard to foresee what can come out of that marriage. I might add that serious people will find some semblance of a normal novel, while frivolous people won’t find their usual one here. There it stands, deprived of the esteem of the serious and the love of the frivolous, the two main pillars of opinion.” Although The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas are written in a very frolicsome manner the book is abundant in precise and deep “I wrote it with a playful pen and melancholy ink and it isn’t hard to foresee what can come out of that marriage. I might add that serious people will find some semblance of a normal novel, while frivolous people won’t find their usual one here. There it stands, deprived of the esteem of the serious and the love of the frivolous, the two main pillars of opinion.” Although The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas are written in a very frolicsome manner the book is abundant in precise and deep observations of human nature. So the novel may even be considered as an earthy parable of existence. “I had a passion for ballyhoo, the limelight, fireworks. More modest people will censure me perhaps for this defect. I’m confident, however, that clever people will recognize this talent of mine. So my idea had two faces, like a medal, one turned toward the public and the other toward me. On one side philanthropy and profit, on the other a thirst for fame.” The narration goes as easy and sparkling as a flute of effervescent champagne and it is as much pleasant and inebriating too. “Men are worth something in different ways, and the surest one of all is being worthy in the opinion of other men.” We are what we are in the eyes of the others so do never forget to pull the wool over the other people's eyes… “Note that I’m not making a man a simple vehicle of Humanitas. He is vehicle, passenger, and coachman all at the same time. He is Humanitas itself in a reduced form. It follows from that that there is a need for him to worship himself.” If man couldn’t love himself nobody would love him.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Tony

    How could I not want to read this? First, there is the absolutely gorgeous jacket design, including this painting, Young Man with a Pen by Diego Rivera: Second, Mike Puma recommended this. Mike is the go-to guy for Latin American literature. And then, in an introduction (by Bras Cubas), the author announces that he has "adopted the free-form of a Sterne or a Xavier de Maistre" in the writing of these Memoirs. Well, saddle me up and call me Tristram. Machado de Assis has indeed captured Sterne, down How could I not want to read this? First, there is the absolutely gorgeous jacket design, including this painting, Young Man with a Pen by Diego Rivera: Second, Mike Puma recommended this. Mike is the go-to guy for Latin American literature. And then, in an introduction (by Bras Cubas), the author announces that he has "adopted the free-form of a Sterne or a Xavier de Maistre" in the writing of these Memoirs. Well, saddle me up and call me Tristram. Machado de Assis has indeed captured Sterne, down to the experimental font and digressions. He talks to the reader about what each is doing. Although, unlike Sterne, who delightfully talks to a female reader, Machado de Assis here chats with "the gentleman reading me." But our boy Tristram was well-intentioned, even likable. The World just befell him. Bras Cubas, conversely, is amoral, maybe immoral. He was a shitty kid and grew into a rather shitty grown-up. After his treatment of slaves, women in general, and family members, his late life cuckolding of a friend actually serves as his one vulnerable moment. I would recommend this to readers who liked that Sterne changed things, and want to know how writing changed as a result. Or if you're just wanting to finally read a Brazilian author. I liked this. I liked this, Mike! The writing was fine, but the effort did not live up to the promise of the book's beauty. Apropos of that nonsensical remark, here is the author's cogitation over a Bibliomaniac: The worst part is the absurdity. The man stays there, hunched over the page, a lens under his right eye, given over completely to the noble and wearing function of deciphering the absurdity. He's already promised himself to write a brief report in which he will relate the finding of the book and the discovery of the sublimity if there is to be one under that obscure phrase. In the end he discovers nothing and contents himself with ownership. He closes the book, looks at it, looks at it again, goes to the window and holds it up to the sun. A one-and-only copy. At that moment, passing under the window is a Caesar or a Cromwell on the path to power. He turns his back on him, closes the window, lies down on his hammock, and slowly thumbs through the book, lovingly, wallowing hard . . . A one-and-only copy! _____ _____ _____ _____ _____ *Seriously. Google Diego Rivera. Really amazing paintings. **I said at the beginning of this review that this is a beautifully designed book. The publishers were meticulous in making it so. How then, I ask no one in particular, is it possible that they allowed no fewer than 50 typos? Some were simple: HE instead of THE; THE instead of THEY; ME instead of MY. Something you trip over and immediately right yourself. Other obvious typos, however, made whole sentences incomprehensible.

  8. 5 out of 5

    MJ Nicholls

    This recentish GR sensation (among my friends—the rest of GR can take a hike) failed to please me beyond the 166p point. There is something about those ponderous nice-guy narrators who ruminate on the quotidian in occasionally profound ways that seems to set GR aflame. My qualms with the book have been expressed by Nate and Jimmy—simply that once the original-for-1880 self-commenting aspect and short-chapter structure is out of the way, the story and its telling are quirky but banal. Another This recentish GR sensation (among my friends—the rest of GR can take a hike) failed to please me beyond the 166p point. There is something about those ponderous nice-guy narrators who ruminate on the quotidian in occasionally profound ways that seems to set GR aflame. My qualms with the book have been expressed by Nate and Jimmy—simply that once the original-for-1880 self-commenting aspect and short-chapter structure is out of the way, the story and its telling are quirky but banal. Another lovestruck oaf waffling about how beautiful his angelic beautiful beauty is in all her gorgeosity, padded with otherwise amusing cerebral digressions and quotable bits, followed by MJ snoozing in his comfy king-size. My sincerest apologies to The Puma.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Luís C.

    One of the best works of Brazilian Literature. Immortal, like the author. Narrated in the first person, just at first surprises us when the author morbidly dedicates the book to the first worm biting cold of his body meat. This novel transcends his time and it is discovered in the first chapter that the narrator is dead, as he describes in grayish tones his own funeral procession. Free from the living condition, the author describes with ironic sarcasm the undressing of the folly and hypocrisy One of the best works of Brazilian Literature. Immortal, like the author. Narrated in the first person, just at first surprises us when the author morbidly dedicates the book to the first worm biting cold of his body meat. This novel transcends his time and it is discovered in the first chapter that the narrator is dead, as he describes in grayish tones his own funeral procession. Free from the living condition, the author describes with ironic sarcasm the undressing of the folly and hypocrisy that populate society. The book remains current, as such elements have not yet been revoked by modernity. Interesting characters are presented by this psychological radiograph of an era: Marcela, Spanish courtesan, youth love, which lasted 15 months and 11 short stories. Quincas Borba, a mad philosopher, a remarkable figure, who borrows a watch without saying so. After inheriting a fortune, he returns the clock to him but ends his days in complete hallucination. His father who wished to take him to politics, which in fact succeeded him, became a deputy without the least brilliance, sent him to Europe when he learned of the involvement with Marcela and the expenses she was making. He becomes a student who is unfit for studies. One point of the work was peppered his secret affair was with Virgilia, wife of the friend Lobo Neves. The child she hoped was from Brás Cubas, but dies before birth, a curse that separate the lovers. His sister Sabina arranges a bride to him, Eulalia, who dies with an epidemic. Uncle John is his favorite, pampers him since he was a child and teaches him anecdotes and malice. Noteworthy is the Chapter XI. The boy is father to the man, who created a true axiom, worthy of theses and literary, philosophical and psychological treatment. It was in the family context that it justified the eccentric adult that would become, finding in the domestic nest the origins of its optics regarding the life. Pessimist, Brás Cubas develops his thoughts in a random way, which makes the reading interesting, far from incomprehensible. The reader is invited to judge the events and facts narrated, within an ironic, morbid, lucid and captivating context. Brás Cubas does not pulp himself to scathing self-criticism. A loser, a loser is considered. He tried to create a plaster, as a final work, to relieve the pains of mankind. He dies of contracted pneumonia when he leaves home to patent the invention. The bourgeois suffers countless defeats and troubles in his life, a critique of the ideals of the time that conditioned the vain struggle for success and attachment to appearances. In his final reflection, full of irony, he states that his greatest glory was not having children and not having transmitted to no creature the legacy of his misery. Far from being depressing, to everything it suggests, the work shows a refined and refined humor, leading the reader to reflections that can teach him to value his own life.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    Every season of life is an edition that corrects the one before and which will also be corrected itself until the definitive edition, which the publisher gives to the worms gratis.This really speaks to me. because I've gone through like twenty editions of myself - not because of demand, just that previous ones were like riddled with typos. I've read de Assis before, and it's great to revisit his weird, modern style. Writing in the late 1800s, De Assis is the Pushkin of Brazil - the father of Every season of life is an edition that corrects the one before and which will also be corrected itself until the definitive edition, which the publisher gives to the worms gratis.This really speaks to me. because I've gone through like twenty editions of myself - not because of demand, just that previous ones were like riddled with typos. I've read de Assis before, and it's great to revisit his weird, modern style. Writing in the late 1800s, De Assis is the Pushkin of Brazil - the father of their literature. Traces of metafictional Borges and magical realism can be seen. He doesn't so much break the fourth wall as refuse to acknowledge its existence. His narrators, his world, the very idea that you're reading a book, are all unreliable. "And now watch the skill, the art with which I make the greatest transition in this book," he says, before making a totally awkward transition... Strip away the tricks and Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas - also known as Epitaph of a Small Winner - tells a small story. A guy leads an uneventful life. There's a love interest. Stars are crossed. The action is conventional. But you could say the same about Ulysses, and where would that get you? The book isn't about the story - it's about the book. It's narrated from beyond the grave. Bras Cubas rambles, aggrandizes himself, changes his mind. "Maybe I'll leave out the previous chapter," he says. "Among other reasons because in the last lines there's a phrase that's close to being nonsense." Then he singles you out - "seventy years from now, [you] leans over the previous page to see if [you] can discover the nonsense." I laughed because I'd just finished doing exactly that. I have no way of knowing if Bras Cubas actually did leave the previous chapter out. I like Dom Casmurro best; the actual plot engages me more. But who am I to say? "The main defect of this book is you, reader," Bras Cubas warns me. Maybe my next edition will do better.

  11. 5 out of 5

    K.D. Absolutely

    Strangely fascinating. I am no expert in literature and only started reading "serious" fiction works a couple of years back in my quest to read all those works included in 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die by Dr. Boxall. Therefore, at first, I did not know how to react to this kind of literary work. Some say it is a novel but the author, the Brazilian Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis (1839-1908) says that is is a memoir. However, a memoir is supposed to be fiction. But how could this be Strangely fascinating. I am no expert in literature and only started reading "serious" fiction works a couple of years back in my quest to read all those works included in 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die by Dr. Boxall. Therefore, at first, I did not know how to react to this kind of literary work. Some say it is a novel but the author, the Brazilian Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis (1839-1908) says that is is a memoir. However, a memoir is supposed to be fiction. But how could this be fiction if it was written by the protagonist, the Brazilian rich and indolent Bras Cubas after his death? Dead people cannot write a novel unless they can talk to a writer who will, in trance, tinker what they say on his keyboard for many, many creepy nights. De Assis made use of a dead narrator, Bras Cubas, so that he (De Assis) will have a freedom to say what he wants to say, free from the responsibilities of the living. Death offers him the indolence of eternity (p. 209). The fact of being already deceased allows Brás Cubas to sharply criticize the Brazilian society and reflect on his own disillusionment, with no sign of remorse or fear of retaliation. (p.52) But in death, what a difference! What a release! What freedom! Oh, how people can shake off their coverings, leave their spangles in the gutter, unbutton themselves, undecorate themselves, confess flatly what they were and what they've stopped being! Because, in short, there aren't anymore neighbors or friends or enemies or acquintances or strangers. There's no more audience. The gaze of public opinions, that sharp and judgmental gaze, losses its virtue the moment we tread the territory of death. I'm not saying that it doesn't reach here and examine and judge us, but we don't care about the examination or judgment. My dear living gentlemen and ladies, there's nothing as incommensurable as the disdain of the deceased. This however, is not an original idea. De Assis himself admitted that this style of freewheeling narrative was inspired by Laurence Sterne (1713-1768) particularly the latter's The Life and Opinions of Tristam Shandy. The Afterword of the edition (The Library of Latin American series) I have says that the De Assis's generation of Brazilian writers were greatly influenced by French earlier masters. This was during the middle 19th century when Brazil veered away from Portugal that was their main ally and greatly influenced their country prior to its opening to European countries. The setting is in Rio de Janeiro, during that period, i.e., mid 19th century. The novel opens with the actual interment of tne 64-y/o Bras Cubas who ironically died of pneumonia after discovering an antihypochodriacal poultice medicine. He started to tell his tale from childhood, through his series of failed love affairs, his attempt to become a politician, etc up to his eventual death. The book is divided into several short erratic chapters shifting in tone and style. My favorite is XXXI entitled The Black Butterfuly. The scene is after the death of Bras Cubas's mother and he was visited by a black butterfly. Bras is not superstitious so he strikes the poor butterfly with a towel while on top of his father's portrait with a towel. In the Philippines, we all believe that a butterfly or even a dragonfly, in whatever color, appearing after the death of a loved one is actually the soul of that person. I remember that a brown dragonfly stayed on the windshield of my car few days after the death of my father in September 1997. That dragonfly stayed there on top of my sideview mirror while I was traversing the lenght of the South Expressway (SLEX) not minding the strong wind and dusts. The unique use of erratic chapters shifting in tone and style in this realist novel that also uses surreal devices of metaphor and playful narrative construction (source: Wiki), at times can also be confusing. What is funny is that De Assis anticipated this by including a short chapter LXXI entitled The Defect of this Book I'm beginning to regret this book. Not that it bores me, I have nothing to do and, really, putting together a few meager chapters for that other world is always a task that distracts me from eternity a little. But the book is tedious, it has the smell of grave about it; it has a certain cadeveric contraction about it, a serious fault, insignificant to boot because the main defect of this book is you, reader. You're in a hurry to grow old and the book moves slowly. You love direct and continuous narration, a regular and fluid style, and this book and my style are like drunkards, they stagger left and right, they walk and stop, mumble, yell, cackle, shake their fists at the sky, stumble, and fall... And they do fall! Miserable leaves of cypress of death, you shall fall like any others, beautiful and brilliant as you are. And, if I had eyes, I would shed a nostalgic tear for you. This is the great adventure of death, which if it leaves no mouth with which to laugh, neither does it leave eyes with which to weep... You shall fail" If you don't find those lines strangely fascinating, I don't know what lines in any other book would have that impact to you. My edition of this book was published by The Library of Latin America. Their series of books makes available in translation major nineteen-century authors whose work has been neglected in the English-speaking world. I am thankful to The Library of Latin America for bringing De Assis available to English-only readers like me. I look forward to knowing more obscure Latin American writers like the brilliant Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis. Saludos, Senor De Assis!

  12. 5 out of 5

    David

    Posthumous memories What can you say about a book that starts with the funeral of the main character, Bras Cubas? He died on a Friday in August 1869 at the age of 74. He was happy that he was accompanied by eleven friends to the grave but it was raining. Darn. Cause of death? Pneumonia. But he was rich, prosperous and single. So it wasn’t all that bad. So why not write a book about his life? And what a tale. Although death seems to be a major topic, love is the main player. Bras Cubas has a thing Posthumous memories What can you say about a book that starts with the funeral of the main character, Bras Cubas? He died on a Friday in August 1869 at the age of 74. He was happy that he was accompanied by eleven friends to the grave but it was raining. Darn. Cause of death? Pneumonia. But he was rich, prosperous and single. So it wasn’t all that bad. So why not write a book about his life? And what a tale. Although death seems to be a major topic, love is the main player. Bras Cubas has a thing for women. The first girl enraged his father and sent him to school in Europe. He returns to his native Brazil where his father wants him to go into politics. But along the way he falls for a married man’s wife. After a near scandalous disaster, his sister sets him up with a young woman. But then things go awry. At one point in the book Bras Cubas ponders an epigraph and, likewise ponders his mortality (and maybe his own ethics). Oddly I recalled an epitaph from the fourth century BCE Greek poet Menander, whose famous advice “when you want to find out about yourself, walk by a cemetery and see how all the famous, powerful people fared?” Yep, a mid-life crisis in full bloom. He becomes involved with Quincas Borba,a philosopher who teaches him about Humanitism. However, Cubas has a very cynical point of view and seems to reject most everything. As he dies, he notes that he never passed on his misery to any children, because he had none. And that seems to be a good thing. Throughout the book Machado Assis makes all sort of literary comments. In fact, his love interest Virgilia begins when he spouts out the first words of Virgil’s Aeneid. There are political intrigues but I sadly know little of Brazil’s history. So it seems that our man, Bras Cubas seems to be at odds with things in the know. Is that bad? He does get through. Maybe a little shallow and at times, a bit of a goof. But he gets through. The inheritance sure helps. A very delightful but rather odd story. Thank you to my Portuguese friends for the recommendations. You were right, I did enjoy this tale.

  13. 4 out of 5

    El

    I have not read anything by Machado de Assis before, though I've been wanting to. He was a prolific author that, strangely, not a lot of people have heard about, and I'm not sure why. He wrote The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas in 1881, but if you picked this up without realizing that and just read it now, you would likely it think it had actually been written in the last fifty years. There's a freshness to his writing that holds up well today. I was nervous at first because I knew it was only I have not read anything by Machado de Assis before, though I've been wanting to. He was a prolific author that, strangely, not a lot of people have heard about, and I'm not sure why. He wrote The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas in 1881, but if you picked this up without realizing that and just read it now, you would likely it think it had actually been written in the last fifty years. There's a freshness to his writing that holds up well today. I was nervous at first because I knew it was only just a little over 200 pages but someone referenced the fact that there are 160 chapters. I couldn't imagine how that would work out. But it... does, it really does. Some of the chapters are extremely short, some really don't say anything at all, and some are referenced in later chapters as possibly removed, but we don't really know if that is the case in the final book or not. Basically Machado de Assis likes to play with his readers. It's a game to him, and he had the foresight to realize that we could be reading him far, far down the line. I mean, what's funnier than fucking with a bunch of futuristic dicks? I think that was his plan all along. The idea amused him. Also amusing to him, evidently, was telling the story from the point of view of a deceased character. This is another indication Machado de Assis was ahead of his time. I was reminded at times during this of Jose Saramago's Death with Interruptions which I read a few months ago. I would say Saramago was likely influenced by Machado de Assis, though the latter did it better in the late 19th century than Saramago did in the 21st. I will be reading more by Machado now. I especially want to read Quincas Borba since he was a character in this book, and I'm curious to see what Machado does with him ten years later.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ben Loory

    it's like a shorter, faster-moving, brazilian tristram shandy, filled with some really amazing metaphors (like the trapeze the man carries inside his head) and a really fun sense of hopeless melancholy. i kinda wish a little more *happened* in it, but i imagine braz cubas feels the same way. the translation is incredible. while it's not quite impossible to believe that this book was written in 1880 (tristram shandy of course was even crazier a hundred years earlier), it is impossible that this it's like a shorter, faster-moving, brazilian tristram shandy, filled with some really amazing metaphors (like the trapeze the man carries inside his head) and a really fun sense of hopeless melancholy. i kinda wish a little more *happened* in it, but i imagine braz cubas feels the same way. the translation is incredible. while it's not quite impossible to believe that this book was written in 1880 (tristram shandy of course was even crazier a hundred years earlier), it is impossible that this translation was done in 1952. someone oughtta give william grossman a conto. if ever i have read a timeless book, this is it. probably not the best section to quote after that, but hey, this here's my favorite: "But," you will say, "how can you reconstruct the truth as of that time and express it after so many years?" Ah, my indiscreet and grossly ignorant beloved, it is this very capacity that makes us masters of the earth, this capacity to restore the past and thus to prove the instability of our impressions and the vanity of our affections. Let Pascal say that man is a thinking reed. He is wrong; man is a thinking erratum. Each period in life is a new edition that corrects the preceding one and that in turn will be corrected by the next, until publication of the definitive edition, which the publisher donates to the worms.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    The trivial and the tragic, interwoven in a nest of gentlefolk.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly

    "Posthumous", not because it was published after the author's death, but because Bras Cubas wrote his memoirs after he died. This is a 19th century work so it's supposed to be the original. Problem is, it didn't come as new to me, having read before the 20th century bestseller "Lovely Bones" by Alice Sebold where a murdered girl narrates. There are similarities here with Machado de Assis' other masterpiece, "Dom Casmurro", both in the manner the narrators ended up (alone) and their principal "Posthumous", not because it was published after the author's death, but because Bras Cubas wrote his memoirs after he died. This is a 19th century work so it's supposed to be the original. Problem is, it didn't come as new to me, having read before the 20th century bestseller "Lovely Bones" by Alice Sebold where a murdered girl narrates. There are similarities here with Machado de Assis' other masterpiece, "Dom Casmurro", both in the manner the narrators ended up (alone) and their principal female protagonists (gloriously feminine, but flawed). I couldn't give this a similar 5-star rating, however, because of me. Machado de Assis himself said so. I am the defect of this book-- "(T)he main defect of this book is you, reader. You're in a hurry to grow old and the book moves slowly. You love direct and continuous narration, a regular and fluid style, and this book and my style are like drunkards, they stagger left and right, they walk and stop, mumble, yell, cackle, shake their fists at the sky, stumble, and fall..." Indeed, I like Machado de Assis when he's more coherent. And that's him in "Dom Casmurro."

  17. 4 out of 5

    Nate D

    This is the autobiography of a fictional dead writer -- not a writer who is dead, our narrator observes but a dead man who is writing, recounting his story from beyond the grave. That his story is so ordinary in its arc of 19th-century gentry romance and petty political aspiration just allows him to fill its margins with incisive observation, philosophizing both expansive and bitterly cynical, and darkly playful post-modern games -- chapters designed to explain other chapters or themselves, a This is the autobiography of a fictional dead writer -- not a writer who is dead, our narrator observes but a dead man who is writing, recounting his story from beyond the grave. That his story is so ordinary in its arc of 19th-century gentry romance and petty political aspiration just allows him to fill its margins with incisive observation, philosophizing both expansive and bitterly cynical, and darkly playful post-modern games -- chapters designed to explain other chapters or themselves, a chapter entirely blotted out, chapters that we are told have been removed from the book even within their own text, all designed to convey the story's vicissitudes all the more sharply. Wait, post-modernism? In 1880? In Brazil?! Yes. Machado de Assis was the son of a house painter and a washerwomen, born in 1839, and essentially a self-taught man of letters beyond the five years of public school (or its mid-19th century Brazilian equivalent). After some years of more time-typical romantic novels and stories, a period of illness gave him the urgency to break with any prior tradition to create Epitaph of a Small Winner, seemingly an attempt to capture the basic sadness of ordinary existence with grace and dry humor. And a level of formal innovation pretty much unsurpassed in its time, totally in service of his story. (Disclaimer: I've not read Tristam Shandy or Don Quixote, both of which I'm told have some of the same elements of pre-modern post-modernism). Admittedly, the actual story of this book is not so exciting. As I said before: pretty ordinary threads of romance and politics. And our posthumous narrator, who Assis seems to have made a full generation older than himself and a somewhat complacent inheritor of privilege and wealth, is far less interesting than Assis himself. But his voice -- Assis' voice coming through him -- is completely amazing, and gives the book all of its thrill and charm and perceptive power. (2.5 star story with a 4 star execution and 5 stars of literary ground-breakingness, perhaps)

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kim Lockhart

    This is one of the most underappreciated authors of all-time. Never heard of him? You are not alone. Even folks in South America, even in Brazil from which he hails, haven't heard of him. Who knows why. I would love to see anyone attempt this kind of novel structure, and come off so well. It's impossible to adequately describe this incredibly clever first person delivered "posthumous autobiography." There are many insights, both oblique and covert, and a multitude of lessons to glean. You don't This is one of the most underappreciated authors of all-time. Never heard of him? You are not alone. Even folks in South America, even in Brazil from which he hails, haven't heard of him. Who knows why. I would love to see anyone attempt this kind of novel structure, and come off so well. It's impossible to adequately describe this incredibly clever first person delivered "posthumous autobiography." There are many insights, both oblique and covert, and a multitude of lessons to glean. You don't have to have a MFA to understand everything, but a healthy familiarity with literature truly helps in catching every reference and quip. Among the lessons we learn: that most of us poor souls are shipwrecks on dry land, that we tend to worry about all the wrong things, that hope is man's consolation prize for being alive, but that we shouldn't borrow against that hope, ever. The main character, Braz Cubas, is opportunistic and unapologetically unprincipled. Even his one great act of altruism he does only hoping to garner favor. He has no sacred cows. He skewers romanticism, philosophy, politics, superstition, religion, and even garden-variety greed with sharp-witted pessimism, and he wallows in what he terms "voluptuous misery." Yet, far from being morose, he has a penchant for irony which is absolutely delightful, and provides him his greatest moments of schadenfreude. The author loves abrupt plot changes, and can go from waxing poetic, to berating the reader, to spouting off crass vignettes, such as: "Thus, the years passed away, but not her beauty, for she never had any." Machado is, above all, a writer writing to writers. His vehicle, the departed Braz Cubas writing his memoirs from beyond the grave, recalls a library of literary references directly, and more subtly, toys with literary devices. He seems particularly fond of reversing the fortunes of his characters, only to restore them later. The entire narrative is analogous to a cat batting about a ball, all while telling a story in spurts. The cat is not the least bit conflicted, and neither is the narrator of this story. The narrative is also stunningly modern. It's so ahead of its time, that you can easily forget it was written nearly 140 years ago. For instance, Braz Cubas seems to be highly evolved, regarding his late 19th century views on women. He even thinks women would make better diplomats than men. He relates concepts and situations which could (other than the use of horse-drawn carriages) fit neatly in any part of the 20th century . As an odd example, in the Pendulum chapter, with the coins of life being paid out one at a time, to death, I couldn't help but wonder if Machado foresaw Queen's "Another One Bites The Dust." His reference to "Another one gone . . . and another one gone . . ." was as if he channeled the rhythm, like he managed to glimpse the secrets of future popular culture. No matter how many times you were to read this, I bet you would find something you missed. English Professors could have a field day assigning students the job of finding examples of every literary device. It makes you wonder if he had a checklist. There's no question he had so much fun writing this, and hopefully generations will continue to enjoy the wit and craftsmanship of this unique treasure.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Scot

    Wow! The word "remarkable" tends to be overused, but trust me, this novel is assuredly remarkable. I was reading a blog in which Woody Allen praised it as one of five favorite books he'd pick to have if he had to choose, and I was intrigued. Woody selected a Brazilian novel I'm pretty sure I never heard of? From 1880? When I tracked it down I noted that Susan Sontag wrote the introduction for the first English translation in 1952 (the translation was done by William L. Grossman). With both Woody Wow! The word "remarkable" tends to be overused, but trust me, this novel is assuredly remarkable. I was reading a blog in which Woody Allen praised it as one of five favorite books he'd pick to have if he had to choose, and I was intrigued. Woody selected a Brazilian novel I'm pretty sure I never heard of? From 1880? When I tracked it down I noted that Susan Sontag wrote the introduction for the first English translation in 1952 (the translation was done by William L. Grossman). With both Woody Allen and Susan Sontag recommending this book so exuberantly, I had high expectations. I'm pleased to report that I wasn't disappointed. In Portuguese it is titled Memorias postumas de Bras Cubas, and it's a memoir written by a dead person, reflecting back on the life he lived. It is in a modern, or even post-modern style, that defies the conventions, literary traditions, and social niceties observed in its day. Its structure: Machado zooms through 160 chapters in 209 pages. He is a forerunner of Realism, and he is in turn romantic, cynical,and self-effacing, with a streak of strong satire throughout. I marvelled that a book like this was written in that time and place. Don't read this book to find gripping suspense or strong character development. Let the dead man tell you his story, in his own way and at his own speed. Savor the sensibility, the insights into the shared human condition, and how much of it can speak across centuries and continents, even while you get a playful appreciation of haute bourgeois life for mid-nineteenth century Brazilians. In a word: remarkable.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Nathan "N.R." Gaddis

    There comes a time in every country's literature when they discover fiction, the novel. Sure, they've had grand poetry and epic and travel accounts and maybe some grand memoirs previously. But fiction. Noveling. There's a thesis to be written about when it breaks out whether at the beginning or late or how and what precedes it. Brazil's literature discovered ficitoning with de Assis in the 19th century. One gets the feeling in the Usofa that we are being threatened with a post-fiction era. There comes a time in every country's literature when they discover fiction, the novel. Sure, they've had grand poetry and epic and travel accounts and maybe some grand memoirs previously. But fiction. Noveling. There's a thesis to be written about when it breaks out whether at the beginning or late or how and what precedes it. Brazil's literature discovered ficitoning with de Assis in the 19th century. One gets the feeling in the Usofa that we are being threatened with a post-fiction era. Reading from fiction's history, picking up these Posthumous Memoirs for instance, might help remind us what we are losing. {And don't forget that de Assis' short fictioning has also been made readily available to the English=reading public :: . The Collected Stories of Machado de Assis }

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jimmy

    If you stripped away the ahead-of-its-time narrative tics, the clever self-reflexive games, the subversive style, what you're left with is the heart of this book: the voice. I was less impressed with the stylistic trickery (and enough has been said about that, just read the other Goodreads reviews) than with the voice: often boastful, he still allows you to see all his faults and weaknesses. And though you see all his faults and weaknesses, he still comes across as extremely likeable. Though he If you stripped away the ahead-of-its-time narrative tics, the clever self-reflexive games, the subversive style, what you're left with is the heart of this book: the voice. I was less impressed with the stylistic trickery (and enough has been said about that, just read the other Goodreads reviews) than with the voice: often boastful, he still allows you to see all his faults and weaknesses. And though you see all his faults and weaknesses, he still comes across as extremely likeable. Though he slyly mocks himself and those around him, he never comes across as having any kind of social or political agenda. The voice is believable despite being a multitude of things: delusional, prideful, petty, insightful, pitiful, philosophical, mocking, cynical, naive, weary, serious etc. The story is basically one of impotence and mediocrity. Bras Cubas makes headway halfheartedly in all arenas of life, never fully achieving anything in the conventional sense that society deems as such. Though he was always at the brink of each of these accomplishments, he never acheives them: marriage, children, illustrious career. And we're better off for it, as readers, because we see that Bras Cubas really doesn't care for these societal expectations, much like this book doesn't care for fulfilling the narrative expectations of its readers. The book mirrors this mindframe: it goes in a million different directions, imparting various observations along the way without any kind of central thrust. I don't mean this in a bad way; in fact, its aimlessness is one of the things I liked most about it. There's an openness to it where it doesn't feel too controlled, too one-minded, and this is refreshing. On the negative side, it never feels completely satisfying either. There are moments of deep insight, and moments of humor, but a kind of constant withdrawal where it never reaches the heights of either. The wording was sometimes clunky too, but this could have been due to the translation. Also, the narrative devices he employs should be nothing new or shocking to a reader in the year 2011, though at the time I can see how it was. But since I'm reading it now and not in 1880, I felt a little annoyed that I was constantly expected to react to certain sections as if I were a maiden aunt (to borrow a phrasing from Manny) scandalized by its unconventional sexy form. To its credit, the cleverness is totally in line with the character's voice, so it didn't feel tacked-on, just slightly tacky in this day and age. PS - the preface by Enylton de Sa Rego is complete rubbish. Skip it. I haven't finished reading the Afterword by Gilberto Pinheiro Passos, but so far it's kinda rubbish too.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lesle

    The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas...what can I say. This is my first read of de Assis a South American author, very different from any read I have enjoyed before. I have never read a book with so much introduction. The narrator is writing his story of life after he dies! What I call his delirium while he is passing from one state to the next is humorous...riding a hippopotamus! Brás Cubas, is quite the person of drama, tells the story of his life once gone from birth to the complete circle of The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas...what can I say. This is my first read of de Assis a South American author, very different from any read I have enjoyed before. I have never read a book with so much introduction. The narrator is writing his story of life after he dies! What I call his delirium while he is passing from one state to the next is humorous...riding a hippopotamus! Brás Cubas, is quite the person of drama, tells the story of his life once gone from birth to the complete circle of human life. From his first kiss and love of the needy Marcela to her death, she was ugly and in poverty. The loss of his mother, after being abroad for schooling, was very hard on him, he was lost for quite a while. He finally found love with Virgilia who was married to Lobo Neves' who once was named President asked Cubas to join him as his Secretary. Politics seem to irritate him. His relationship with Dona Placida, he loved her dearly, helped him with his relationship with Virgilia. Dona was taken by a Con that married her and stripped her of her savings. When Dona passed he stated she had sneaked out the same way she had come into his life. When the time came he reflected, no real gain in his life, did not do well in politics or marriage. He did do well in wealth, slavery and an easy death. His last regret...no children. The author challenges ones normal story telling. The narrator kind of mocks his life by telling the story not in glorification of his life but in what really happens, sometimes less than perfect. I can see myself rereading this one!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Free download available at Project Gutenberg I made the proofing of this book for Free Literature and it will be published by Project Gutenberg.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lemar

    This book vaults into my top ten all time! Our deceased hero writes, "Perhaps I will frighten the reader with the frankness with which I expose myself and emphasize my mediocrity; notice that frankness is the first virtue of a deceased man." Right away the reader gets the drift that De Assis has deviated from the safe path, is a writer for our time, for all time. This s no solemn and studied glorious pageant of heroic deeds and romantic triumphs, instead we get something different, reality! Poor This book vaults into my top ten all time! Our deceased hero writes, "Perhaps I will frighten the reader with the frankness with which I expose myself and emphasize my mediocrity; notice that frankness is the first virtue of a deceased man." Right away the reader gets the drift that De Assis has deviated from the safe path, is a writer for our time, for all time. This s no solemn and studied glorious pageant of heroic deeds and romantic triumphs, instead we get something different, reality! Poor tired, boring old reality, still scaring away agents and publishers today. In this novel attention is paid and reality, the field through which we all make our way, is treated to the focus of a writer whose wisdom, humor, heart and honesty polishes to a luster a representation of how life feels. This is his genius, he conveys life on Earth in a way that will feel personally familiar to any person from any place or time and does it as vividly as our most celebrated authors depict unusual and remarkable events. A statement like that better be followed with some pretty good evidence. "I clutched my taciturn pain with a unique feeling, something that I could call a lust for annoyance. The voluptuousness of annoyance: note this expression, reader; guard it, examine it, and if you do not understand it, you may conclude that you ignore one of the subtlest sensations of the world and of that time." "Each season of life is an edition, which corrects the previous one, and that will be corrected also, until the definitive edition, that the publisher gives free to the worms." "The world was too narrow for Alexander; a roof slope is infinity for the swallows." At several points De Assis speaks directly to us, "the greatest defect of this book is you, reader. You are in a hurry to grow old, and the book walks slowly." "You love direct and fulsome storytelling, regular and fluent style, and this book, and my style are like a drunk, right and left, walk and stop, grumble, howl, laugh, threaten the sky, slip and fall... And you will fall!" I am clearly so excited to have found this gem, this friend, hidden from me in the Brazilian past. It is important to me to credit the deft, daring and spot on perfect new (2018) translation by Neil McArthur. It's worth tracking down this one. I highlighted so many passages my copy looks like a well worn tie-died shirt. I leave off with one more excerpt, "For truly there is only one misfortune; it is not to be born."

  25. 5 out of 5

    Andre

    Please, please, please read this book! It's hard to find words to describe how much I enjoyed this. Like most Brazilian literature books, I had some prejudice towards this one - people who read it said it was difficult to understand, fit for intellectuals. That fear kept me away from Machado de Assis until quite recently, but after reading Helena and finding that the author can be quite entertaining, I gave his most famous book a shot. Right on the first page I had the feeling I had discovered a Please, please, please read this book! It's hard to find words to describe how much I enjoyed this. Like most Brazilian literature books, I had some prejudice towards this one - people who read it said it was difficult to understand, fit for intellectuals. That fear kept me away from Machado de Assis until quite recently, but after reading Helena and finding that the author can be quite entertaining, I gave his most famous book a shot. Right on the first page I had the feeling I had discovered a treasure, one that was always under my nose. I was amazed and enchanted throughout the whole book. I was inspired, I read and savored every sentence and chapter, sometimes rereading the same thing a few times to grasp the full greatness of the text. It is not by any means a difficult read, it is nothing but fantastical, and unusual. Machado de Assis created an immortal character that has inspired and mystified people for over a century, and I'm glad I'm one of those people. Loaded with references from Shakespeare to Greek Mythology to philosophy, the book is intelligent, but full of humor and sarcasm that make it seem lighter than it is. As I read I understood why it is one of the most important books in Brazilian Literature, the one that launched the Realism genre and changed the way authors thought and wrote. It also paved the way for 20th century Latin American authors, and I dare say that if it wasn't for Machado de Assis, there wouldn't be Jorge Amado, Garcia Marquez or Cortazar. I have a feeling I just found my new favorite author.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Bob Newman

    "Lifelong Wastrel Kicks a Goal at Last" Brazil has produced a number of wonderful novels. I can name "Rebellion in the Backlands" by Euclides da Cunha, "The Devil to Pay in the Backlands" by João Guimaraes Rosa, "The Tent of Miracles" and "Gabriela; Clove and Cinnamon" by Jorge Amado, and "The Three Marias" by Rachel de Queiroz, but these are only a few. You have to add to this list at least a couple novels by J. M. Machado de Assis, Brazil's greatest writer of the 19th century, (he died in 1908) "Lifelong Wastrel Kicks a Goal at Last" Brazil has produced a number of wonderful novels. I can name "Rebellion in the Backlands" by Euclides da Cunha, "The Devil to Pay in the Backlands" by João Guimaraes Rosa, "The Tent of Miracles" and "Gabriela; Clove and Cinnamon" by Jorge Amado, and "The Three Marias" by Rachel de Queiroz, but these are only a few. You have to add to this list at least a couple novels by J. M. Machado de Assis, Brazil's greatest writer of the 19th century, (he died in 1908) and one of the greatest writing anywhere at that time. EPITAPH OF A SMALL WINNER would be on that list for sure. I can hear you say, "Can you really compare this fellow to writers like Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Balzac, Zola, Melville, Austen, or Eliot ?" My answer would be "yes" and "no". That's because I like definite answers. Sorry, just kidding. I would say "no" because Machado de Assis doesn't write like any of the others. His style is unique and his choice of perspective also. He is the opposite of a realist. He never hits you over the head with any serious descriptive narrative. His characters speak throughout. So, how could you compare him effectively with the others ? But, I would say "yes" because he is a master of subtle story telling, of wit, satire, and irony. This novel, like his others, does not resemble any other work. He is certainly among the greats. Braz Cubas, the narrator of the novel, is already dead when we meet him. So he has plenty of time to tell about his life. As he notes, "death does not age one"; he can afford to ramble a bit. What we receive, through his life story, is a satirized view of the indolence and lack of intellectual rigor of the Brazilian upper class of the time. We read the life of a man who did nothing at all in 64 years. Or almost nothing. He didn't study, he didn't work, he didn't marry, and he didn't have any direction. He became a parliamentary deputy through connections and did absolutely nothing while there. He enjoyed the physical pleasures of life, he envied others, he had ambitions that he did next to nothing to fulfill. He failed at nearly everything, then at last he croaked. The reason why he feels (from beyond the grave) that he wasn't such a loser after all is the author's final bit of irony. Machado de Assis employs his usual style---160 short chapters in 223 pages---with the title of each chapter used to spice up the progress of the novel, which in turn is full of irony, with, whimsy, and very clever writing, full of ingenious metaphors. You cannot say that this is a "page turner" in any conventional sense. It is rather philosophical, but as the author says, "a philosophy wanting in uniformity, now austere, now playful...." To quote from chapter 124, which is all of 9 lines long---"To hop from a character study to an epitaph may be realistic and even commonplace, but the reader probably would not have taken refuge in this book if he had not wished to escape the realistic and the commonplace." That is my recommendation to you. Escape both the realistic and the commonplace and read this book. You won't regret it.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lise Petrauskas

    I really liked this. I think it's going to be with me for awhile even though it was a little hard to keep going at times. It reminds me of reading Tristram Shandy. The enjoyment both authors take really shows in the their sentences and make them pleasurable to read, even thought there's not a lot of story there. Actually, I have by the time I got to the last twenty pages, I realized the storyline was utterly unimportant as were all of the other characters besides Brás Cubas. The honest, humorous I really liked this. I think it's going to be with me for awhile even though it was a little hard to keep going at times. It reminds me of reading Tristram Shandy. The enjoyment both authors take really shows in the their sentences and make them pleasurable to read, even thought there's not a lot of story there. Actually, I have by the time I got to the last twenty pages, I realized the storyline was utterly unimportant as were all of the other characters besides Brás Cubas. The honest, humorous gaze with which his character looks at himself reminds me of how Tolstoy writes about his characters. They see their own actions with wry self-disgust, and yet go on living and participating in their lives because the realizations are real, but fleeting. After Brás Cubas has an encounter with a friend down on his luck, he spends half a page feeling badly and coming up with a project to pull his friend out of penury. In the next chapter, he goes to see his mistress and forgets all about his good intentions. There's a lot of sarcasm and in that way, because it was written in the first person, it also reminds me of Notes from Underground—both are stories that are really about ideas, but the self examination, instead of having the vicious sarcasm and forward thrust of Notes, this book's ideas are leavened by the lightness of tone. Machado de Assis is playful and gentle compared with Dostoevsky. A late nineteenth century Brazilian hybrid of Lawrence Sterne, Tolstoy, and Dostoyevsky? I will definitely be reading more of Machado de Assis.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Beth Asma

    The alternate translation is "Epitaph of a Small Winner", but mine was "The Posthumous Memoirs...", an inaugural publication of OUP's Library of Latin America series. The autobiographical memoir is narrated by the protagonist Brás Cubas, a nineteenth-century, leisured Brazilian of Rio de Janeiro and a resident in timeless eternity. The day of his death opens the narrative. By chapters IX and X, the reader knows his ancestry and birth; whereupon, he continues with his life experiences, which The alternate translation is "Epitaph of a Small Winner", but mine was "The Posthumous Memoirs...", an inaugural publication of OUP's Library of Latin America series. The autobiographical memoir is narrated by the protagonist Brás Cubas, a nineteenth-century, leisured Brazilian of Rio de Janeiro and a resident in timeless eternity. The day of his death opens the narrative. By chapters IX and X, the reader knows his ancestry and birth; whereupon, he continues with his life experiences, which encounter some delightful characters. The Preface and Afterword provide insight into the author, the era, and the story. Some commentary mentions the postmodern affect of this older novel. I concur with that notion. The fresh lively expressions (perhaps due to the translator as well as the writer), the theme on life's inexorable passage, Cubas' erudition about literature and philosophy, the characters' activities, the still-present diseases and infections, the form--all these points converge on contemporaneity. Humor, probably the ironic kind, is evident in the pleasure, the quixotic philosophy, and the ever new.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Steven

    "You are alive: I wish you no other calamity." (18)It is difficult to believe/accept that this was written in 1880. There is a blurb on the front cover of my copy of David Foster Wallace's Oblivion, which I've always found particularly annoying and off-putting. Zadie Smith gushes: "A visionary, a craftsman, a comedian… He's so modern he's in a different time-space continuum from the rest of us. Goddamn him." If that can be said of DFW, then one can only imagine the superlatives that should be "You are alive: I wish you no other calamity." (18)It is difficult to believe/accept that this was written in 1880. There is a blurb on the front cover of my copy of David Foster Wallace's Oblivion, which I've always found particularly annoying and off-putting. Zadie Smith gushes: "A visionary, a craftsman, a comedian… He's so modern he's in a different time-space continuum from the rest of us. Goddamn him." If that can be said of DFW, then one can only imagine the superlatives that should be bestowed on De Assis after he wrote Epitaph of a Small Winner> at the end of the nineteenth century. Some of his novel could have been taken right out of DFW. Or out of Kurt Vonnegut, for that matter. They must have read Machado. To quote chapter 136: "And, if I am not greatly mistaken, I have just written an utterly unnecessary [review]." (188)

  30. 5 out of 5

    Czarny Pies

    This is a master comic work by a great comic. It is easily accessible to the American reader because American culture is so similar to Brazilian , both in the view having in the view of Claude Levi-Strauss arrived directly at decadence from barbarism bypassing civilization. Machado de Assis is the Mark Twain of Brazil. "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated," stated Twain. “Matamos o tempo, o tempo nos enterra” responds Machado de Assis. I have no idea what a European reader will make of This is a master comic work by a great comic. It is easily accessible to the American reader because American culture is so similar to Brazilian , both in the view having in the view of Claude Levi-Strauss arrived directly at decadence from barbarism bypassing civilization. Machado de Assis is the Mark Twain of Brazil. "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated," stated Twain. “Matamos o tempo, o tempo nos enterra” responds Machado de Assis. I have no idea what a European reader will make of this profoundly American book, but it is one of the funniest novels every to be written on this side of the Atlantic.

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