Tag Archives: Margaret Jull Costa

Read 223 of 2021. Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas by Machado De Assis. Translated from the Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa and Robin Patterson.

Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas by Machado De Assis

Title: Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas Author: Machado De Assis
Translated from the Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa and Robin Patterson
Publisher: Liveright
ISBN: 978-1324090502
Genre: Classics, Literary Fiction, Magic Realism
Pages: 256
Source: The Boxwalla
Rating: 5/5

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.

Mac’s Problem by Enrique Vila-Matas. Translated from the Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa and Sophie Hughes.

Mac's Problem by Enrique Vila-MatasTitle: Mac’s Problem
Author: Enrique Vila-Matas
Translated from the Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa and Sophie Hughes
Publisher: New Directions Publishing
ISBN: 978-0811227322
Genre: Literary Fiction, Translation
Pages: 224
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

This book was a treat. At almost every level – the plot, writing, characters, pacing of the novel, and the fact that a master such as Vila-Matas has written it, only adds to its wonder. The idea of life imitating art and vice-versa has always been a personal favourite, and then to find one of the few novels whose premise is seeped in it is a thing of joy to read and contemplate about.

At the heart of this novel is Mac, who is unemployed and dependent on his wife’s earnings. Being an avid reader and beyond, he decides to maintain a diary at the age of sixty. His wife who is dyslexic thinks he is wasting his time. A chance encounter with a neighbour – a successful author of a collection of stories, Mac decides that he will improvise his neighbour’s stories, which are in turn narrated by a ventriloquist who has lost the knack of speaking in different voices. The book then takes a strange turn and only gets stranger as you go along, with art imitating life or vice-versa.

Mac’s Problem is a book that had me in from the first page. Again, it is not an easy read, but there is something to it – the concept of a diary, and then someone’s short stories, and how they become personal after a while, and the paranoia that takes over. Vila-Matas’ writing is full of literary references, and stellar prose if anything. It is also quite funny in a lot of places – I am sure that was intentional.

The book does drag and something about it being two-dimensional worked so much for me. It takes time to get to the actual plot perhaps but if you persist, you will be massively rewarded in the end. A must-read if you ask me.

Vampire in Love: Stories by Enrique Vila-Matas. Translated by Margaret Jull Costa

Vampire in Love by Enrique Vila-Matas Title: Vampire in Love: Stories
Author: Enrique Vila-Matas
Translated by Margarey Jull Costa
Publisher: Speaking Tiger
ISBN: 978-9386338822
Genre: Literary Fiction, Short Stories
Pages: 272
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 Stars

I love long-winding stories, so much to the point that if the author rambles sometimes, I am okay with that as well. Maybe that is also because of the style of the writer. There is something to it which doesn’t let go of the reader. Enrique Vila-Matas is one such writer whose works have always eluded me – left me hanging for more and made me not want to make sense of them as well – because the stories and books he has written are enough. He is one of those authors who should just keep writing. Nothing else really matters. Maybe I am praising him too highly, but don’t go by what I am saying. Read him. No matter place to start than his short stories and this collection titled, “Vampire in Love” is just what the doctor prescribed.

“Vampire in Love” is a collection of stories that are mostly absurd but also fantastical and profound. It takes a lot of time to get into this collection, but once you do, it will have you by your throat and not let go. Vila-Matas creates a world within each story that can be books in itself but it is best when it isn’t. When the stories leave you wanting more and you don’t get it.

The stories are a ​matter of fact and to the point, so don’t be alarmed if your imagination isn’t soaring boundless. The thing to remember is the craft and the emotion each story will generate (because that it will). From empathizing with an effeminate barber who falls in love with an innocent choirboy to a lonely ophthalmologist, Vila-Matas’ characters are regular people and yet they aren’t. “Vampire in Love” is a collection which isn’t for all and yet I would urge you to read it, only to test your boundaries as a reader.