The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas
Where most novels are concerned with plot and characters, this one is all about structure. The narrative is a chronicle, of sorts, and through its realism and satire, it's impossible not to think that Machado de Assis is poking fun at(1) the very form he is seeking to embrace. There are many themes at the crux(2) of this work, not least of which is time, and how it relates to the deterioration of people, places, customs, and things. We are instructed to understand that even that which brings us joy is only temporary.
The narrator describes Virgilia as "the great sin of his youth." It was when she came into his life, he says, that his delirium began. Although Machado de Assis lived in a time when Romanticism in literature was the style du jour, the naturalistic, even sardonic(3) brush with which he paints his characters and scenes is refreshing for its very distinctiveness. Unlike Eça de Queiroz, whom he has been compared to on more than one occasion, Machado tends to parody the melodramatic genre, making light of romance, and treating love scenes with as much sincerity as if they were part of a theatrical skit.
The key to why this book works so well is that it's a parody of everything it represents. In spite of all the subtexts and literary allusions, it's worth reading strictly for its satire, as well as for its exceptional prose. It isn't difficult to see why this is considered to be a landmark novel in the history of Brazilian literature. Never has Machado more deftly(4) conveyed his realization of the vanity of all existence than he does in The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas.
Disponível em: <http://www.worldliteratureforum.com/forum/showthread.php/10589-Machado-de-Assis-The-Posthumous-Memoirs-Of-Bras-Cubas>. Acesso em: 7 fev. 2011. (Adaptado).
(1) Poke fun at: to say unkind things about somebody/something in order to make other people laugh at them.
(2) Crux: the most important or difficult part of a problem or an issue.
(3) Sardonic: showing that you think that you are better than other people and do not take them seriously.
(4) Deftly: skillfully.
OXFORD ADVANCED LEARNER’S DICTIONARY. 6. ed. Oxford University Press, 2000.
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