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The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas [Paperback]

Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 18 2003 Library of Latin America
Be aware that frankness is the prime virtue of a dead man, writes the narrator of The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas. But while he may be dead, he is surely one of the liveliest characters in fiction, a product of one of the most remarkable imaginations in all of literature, Brazil's greatest novelist of the nineteenth century, Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis. By turns flippant and profound, The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas is the story of an unheroic man with half-hearted political ambitions, a harebrained idea for curing the world of melancholy, and a thousand quixotic theories unleashed from beyond the grave. It is a novel that has influenced generations of Latin American writers but remains refreshingly and unforgettably unlike anything written before or after it. Newly translated by Gregory Rabassa and superbly edited by Enylton de Sa Rego and Gilberto Pinheiro Passos, this Library of Latin America edition brings to English-speaking readers a literary delight of the highest order.

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From Amazon

Fans of Latin American literature will be thrilled by Oxford University Press's new translations of works by 19th-century Brazilian author Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis. His novels are both heartbreaking and comic; his limning of a colonial Brazil in flux is both perceptive and remarkably modern. The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas is written as an autobiography, a chronicle of the erotic misadventures of its narrator, Brás Cubas--who happens to be dead. In pursuit of love and progeny, Cubas rejects the women who want him and aspires to the ones who reject him. In the end, he dies unloved and without heirs, yet he somehow manages to turn this bitter pill into a victory of sorts. What makes Memoirs stand up 100 years after the book was written is Machado's biting humor, brilliant prose, and profound understanding of all the vagaries of human behavior. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

A 19th-century classic of Brazilian literature, Machado de Assis's 1880 novel is written as a posthumously composed memoir (according to the fictional author Bras Cubas, a superior way of writing memoirs, since a dead writer can be frank about events). Bras Cubas's life is less interesting than the book's style and structure: 160 brief chapters in which Bras Cubas comments both on his life and the novel's composition. The fictional author was a politician, writer, and celebrity who has an affair with the wife of a friend. His sister wants him to marry a shy young woman, but she dies before the wedding. A school friend preaches the gospel of a new secular religion but never writes a long-anticipated book on the subject. Meanwhile, Bras Cubas is working on a poultice to relieve melancholy. With a masterful translation by Rabassa and a contextual foreword and afterword that tell us that the work anticipates Calvino and Garcia Marquez, this book is recommended for collections rich in Latin American and literary holdings. [This book is one of several new titles launching Oxford's "Library of Latin America" series, which will make available 40 works of fiction, poetry, history, and memoir that in most cases have never been translated into English.?Ed.]?Harold Augenbraum, Mercantile Lib. of New Yor.
-?Harold Augenbraum, Mercantile Lib. of New York
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A Joyful Masterpiece May 9 2004
Format:Paperback
Machado de Assis! What can a say??? I was born in Brazil after all. It is really a shame that my comrade and also a reviewer: Leonardo Motta, a disciple of David Hume and Sigismund (C.S. Lewis' satirical nickname of Freud in the "Pilgrim's Regress" ) previously said "Corruption, frustrated love, cheats: this is what this book is all about." . Well Mr., that's YOUR way of looking at things, YOUR world view. You sound just like Carl Sagan and all those skeptics who are skeptics about everything except THEIR OWN skepticism (and there lies the first contradiction). Well of coarse, this philosophical debate is out of the scope of this review.
Now, about Machado de Assis? what could I say. He was born into extreme poverty, his mother was sort of portuguese and his father sort of black (I apologize for my vocabulary limitations :-). Despite of all his health problems and the inferiority complex he had, (he was about 2.5/8 black - that meant prejudice expressed outward and inward) He came to be the greatest Brazilian writer of the 19th century. His writing style differs from the hall of fame writers such as Tolstoy, Dostoevsky (who could articule the complexity of human nature describing feelings that even I wasn't aware of their existence) in both prose and point of view (perspective). His works certainly stand on their own (just like Fernado Pessoa). That's why he is regarded as great and certainly he could easily cast shadow on all the Brazilian Mordenism writers when compared with them. And I really mean ALL!!!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Ahead of its time May 16 2003
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Although most people identify Brazilian literature with the vivid regionalism of Jorge Amado or (more recently) the mystical blabber of Paulo Coelho, Brazilian critics have long hailed Machado de Assis as the country's greatest writer and with good reason. This book is vivid proof of Machado's genius: deeply perceptive of human nature as in much of his work, but also radically innovative in style, displaying many traces of modernism some 30 - 40 years ahead of time. How else to characterize the chapter on the "Ancient Dialogue between Adam and Eve" (LV), written solely with punctuation? Or the one-sentence "useless" chapter (CXXXVI): "Unless I'm very much mistaken, I've just written an utterly useless chapter." The style is not without substance. Machado's trenchant insights on human nature and unabashed social criticism are brilliantly displayed in this work.
Machado's own view of the book was that it was too serious and deep for the frivolous and too playful and radical for the erudite readers of the time, and concluded in his usual pessimism that it would have "perhaps five" readers. Since the book continues to accumulate "fives and fives" of readers, perhaps humankind, like the flawed Brás Cubas, is also a "small winner" after all.
Factoid about the chapter size: As other reviewers noted, the book has numerous short chapters. One chief reason for this was that Machado was afflicted by epileptic attacks and could not write for extended periods.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A hilarious remembrance of things past Feb. 22 2001
Format:Hardcover
This excellent and extremely original novel marked the transition from Romanticism to an authentically Brazilian literature. Written in very short chapters, it is the autobiography dictated from his grave, of a wealthy bachelor, his love affairs, his rompy relationship with his family, his friendship with the extravagant philosopher Quincas Borba (the subject of another novel), his political ambitions and delusions and his -very- particular view of the world. The style is concise, sarcastic, hilarious, cynical and he's constantly sustaining a dialogue with the reader. In a way, it is a novel rewritten in every read, since it seems to be written by the author AND the reader.
This novel accurately portrays the enivronment of upper classes in Rio de Janeiro in the middle XIX century. But note that, despite being funny and comical, in the background there is always a tone of sadness and pessimism. It is an intelligent, bittersweet and excellent work of literary art. Read it and you'll be much rewarded.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Just to subdue the acolades Dec 28 2000
By "cued"
Format:Paperback
I sometimes wonder why a reviewer will trash a book in the presence of so many positive reviews. Maybe there are readers out there who just like to be contrarians for the sake of being contrarians. How dull. This book is so good, I wrote my college thesis on it. I cannot count the number of times I have read it over the years. Why all the fuss? First, I suppose in 2001 this book might seem tame and trite. Joyce, Proust, Mann, Faulkner, Woolf, Garcia Marquez, Cortazar, Pynchon, etc have already come and gone. Now days, it might seem totally uninteresting for a dead person to narrate a book, or for the author to purposely lie and mislead the reader, and for those readers who like their books "Serious" it might be annoying for the narrator to crack jokes, make fun of everyone, and otherwise disrupt the whole solemnity of reading a "great book." Bah humbug! This book was published in 1881, when the continentals were all reading and imitating Zola and the English speakers were all reading and imitating Henry James. This book amazingly snubs the whole "realist-naturalist" aesthetic. Why can't the narrator be a liar? Why does the narrator have to "show not tell?" From a historical point of view, Machado de Assis is impressively original and independent in his style, obviously influenced by those innocent and flabby 18th century English novels by Fielding and Sterne. But for those who inspect closely, there is even an amazing amount of social criticism going on in this book: Roberto Schwartz, a Brazilian critic, has analyzed Machado de Assis's books as social criticism extensively. For the interested, his writings might be worth a peak. Read more ›
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Wanna know about life after death? Wrong way!
The story begins by the end, literally,by showing the end of the narrator's life. From this moment on we are compelled to see how his life had been, his evaluations, regrets and... Read more
Published on March 8 2004 by Barbara Neves
3.0 out of 5 stars The first romance of Realism of Machado de Assis
Well I always thought that the critics of Machado de Assis were exaggerating his capability, mainly because the critics usually point that he focus more on the psychological... Read more
Published on March 17 2001 by Leonardo Motta
5.0 out of 5 stars A strange and wonderful book
"The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas" is a landmark of 19th century Brazilian fiction. The original Portuguese version by Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis has been... Read more
Published on Dec 3 2000 by Michael J. Mazza
5.0 out of 5 stars the brasilian humor and culture in the most fascinated way!
One of the best brasilian writers and this book may be his best work! It's brilliant the way Machado deal in the book with feelings,words and atitudes wich is so present in the... Read more
Published on Nov. 16 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the great books of western literature.
I cannot understand the review that claims not to have found a single interesting paragraph in a book that is dedicated to "The worm that first ate of my corpse's cold... Read more
Published on Sept. 30 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars A magnificent book
Machado de Assis is one of the most important brazilian authors, without a shadow of doubt. And Bras Cubas is Machado at his best, in a work that is ageless. Read more
Published on June 2 1999 by Daniel C. Sobral
2.0 out of 5 stars 200 hundred pages without a single captivating paragraph
Brazil have certainly produced fantastic writers, but I fail to miss to point of this book or what the author wanted to convey. Read more
Published on May 26 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars This one is great
This is great. By far better than Dom Casmurro, Brás Cubas is the ultimate watcher and critic of society. Read more
Published on Sept. 18 1998
5.0 out of 5 stars This is one of the best books I ever read.
I am a Brazilian professor and I read in English, Spanish, Italian and French. I rate this book with the best novels of Flaubert, Mann, Lampedusa, Dickens, Balzac and others. Read more
Published on March 1 1998 by pontal@correionet.com.br
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