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Memórias Póstumas De Brás Cubas (2005)

Memórias Póstumas de Brás Cubas (2005)

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4.21 of 5 Votes: 4
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0850515025 (ISBN13: 9780850515022)
luso-brazilian books

About book Memórias Póstumas De Brás Cubas (2005)

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!

a sick chicken and the voluptuousness of miserywe 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.

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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.

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.

Borges’in en bilinen sözlerinden biridir, “Her yazar kendi öncelini yaratır,” der. Buna benzer başka bir şey de söylemiş olabilir ama manası aşağı yukarı budur. Machado de Assis de bize bu romanıyla Laurence Sterne’i hatırlatıyor. Şayet Cabrera Infante’yi Machado de Assis’den daha önce okumuş olmasaydım, onun da “Kapanda Üç Kaplan” romanını yazarken Assis’den fazlasıyla etkilenmiş olduğunu söyleyebilirdim. Fakat ne yazık ki, Türkçe ilk baskısı 2003 yılında İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları tarafından yapılan bu önemli romanı ıskalamışım. Geç de olsa, geçtiğimiz yılsonuna doğru Jaguar Kitap’ın çıkardığı ikinci baskısından okuyabildim. Romanın orijinal adı, “Bras Cubas’ın Ölümünden Sonraki Hatıraları”, fakat çevirmen yerinde bir kararla daha ilgi çekici bir ad bulmuş bu romana. Laurence Sterne’in “Tristram Shandy Bir Beyefendi’nin Hayatı ve Görüşleri” adlı romanı, deneysel edebiyatın sadece ilk örneği değil, bu türün zirvelerinden de biridir. Assis’in romanı için aynı şeyleri söyleyemesek de Sterne’de rastladığımız, bizde Oğuz Atay’da gördüğümüz mizah yüklü “lafazanlığın” yanı sıra Assis zaman zaman anlatısının içine duygusallığı ve felsefeyi de katan üslubuyla kendisine dünya edebiyatında gerçekten haklı bir yer edinmiş. Bir yazarı bir tek eseriyle değerlendirmek kuşkusuz sağlıklı değil. Ancak bu roman da sanırım Süskind’in “Koku”su türünden istisnalardan biri. Susan Sontag’ın, Assis'i Latin Amerika’nın çıkardığı en büyük yazar olarak değerlendirmesine katılamasam da “Mezarımdan Yazıyorum”un özgün ve yazıldığı dönem için oldukça yaratıcı ve yenilikçi bir roman olduğunu söyleyebilirim; keyifle okudum. Machado de Assis’in hayal gücü, tıpkı romanın başlarındaki bir benzetmede olduğu gibi yaşadığı zamanı ve coğrafyayı adeta umursamadan uçup gidiyor: “Ve onun hayal gücü –ünlü bir seyyahın, zamanı ve kalıntıları umursamadan İlissos’tan Afrika kıyılarına göçerken gördüğü leylekler gibi-, o ânın yalnızlığını aşıp her daim genç bir Afrika’nın kıyılarına uçtu.”Machado de Assis’in, sınır tanımaz düş gücüne bir güzel benzerlik de romanın sonlarına doğru gelmiş:“Bilinen dünya, İskender için fazla küçükmüş; bir damın saçaklarıysa bir kırlangıç için sonsuzluk demektir!” Alıntılar:Machado de Assis, Mezarımdan Yazıyorum, (çev. Ertuğ Altınay, Jaguar Kitap, İstanbul, 2013), s. 12-151.
—Hakan Yaman

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