Title: Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas Author: Machado De Assis
Translated from the Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa and Robin Patterson
Genre: Classics, Literary Fiction, Magic Realism
Source: The Boxwalla
A memoir that is being written from the grave. Quite a plot, I say! Also, the man is deplorable. So, as a reader you are kind of happy that he is dead and long gone. Yet, you have his “memoirs” with you. So, you read them and find them witty, real, ironical, and also giving some clarity to readers on how this sort of led the movement of modernist fiction.
This book is strange. But for those who have read Dozakhnama, it is quite alright to understand how things can be communicated from beyond the grave. Might I also say that this book was originally published in 1881, so yes, it is ground-breaking in that sense.
I loved Assis’s writing. The inequalities of the Brazilian society conveyed through the character of Brás Cubas is understandable and needed, but it does make you uncomfortable as a reader. The character has no self-awareness, he does what he pleases, he has zero regrets, is highly privileged, and to be honest reminded me of some men I know in the twenty-first century.
The writing is hilarious in most parts, and yet the profundity is not lost. The plot isn’t compelling. There is no story as such and yet you cannot help but turn the pages. The translation by Margaret Jull Costa and Robin Patterson is spot on – so much so that all the nuances came through, and yes there were italicized words and footnotes, but they added to the plot.
We learn about the man, the life he has lived, the (mis) adventures, and more, and somehow there were times I wanted to just fling the book across the book but also enjoyed it a lot that I didn’t. Brás Cubas is a simple man with extravagant need for attention and pleasures, and it somehow fits in – all of the nihilism and weird sense of debauchery and depravity.