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The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas (1880)

by Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
973218,858 (4.35)41
  1. 10
    Zeno's Conscience by Italo Svevo (fspyck, StevenTX)
    fspyck: Ik vond er eenzelfde terughoudenheid in, Machado de Assis is misschien wat grimmiger, en speelt nog meer met vorm en intertekstualiteit, Svevo is ietwat hilarischer
  2. 00
    Quincas Borba by Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis (hrjunior)
  3. 00
    The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne (StevenTX)
  4. 01
    Memoirs of a Militia Sergeant by Manuel Antônio de Almeida (Anonymous user)
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» See also 41 mentions

English (16)  Spanish (2)  Portuguese (2)  Dutch (1)  All languages (21)
Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
Second reading. ( )
  William345 | Jun 11, 2014 |
What a romp! Who new a posthumous memoir could be so wonderful? Our narrator, Bras Cubas, the dead one, finally makes his mark in the world by inventing the posthumous memoir. According to Susan Sontag, in the introduction, this occurs in counterpoint to "Tristram Shandy" speaking to his audience before birth. (I need to read that novel) Finally, Cubas can heave his eternal sigh of relief by achieving a worthy epitaph. His life was pretty typical, full of love, envy, profound delusions, a touch of intrigue, a variety of failures, petty maneuvering, and embarrassing moments. So what the heck, is it so much to ask for an eternal sigh of relief now and then? I think not! ( )
  hemlokgang | Feb 23, 2014 |
What a curious book this is! It seems a melding of Victorian novels where the author feels free to address the reader at some length and of post-modern writing with all its consciousness of the artifice of writing. Written in 1880, it is all the more remarkable for the modern voice it has, modern in the style and the thoughts.

What I think Machado does particularly well is to combine his criticism of weak-willed, selfish man so well with a liking for him, all this while writing as Braz Cubas, someone who keeps justifying his poor behaviour. Then, of course, there’s further originality in the structure with the short chapters and the book not told entirely in chronological order though the disadvantage of the structure of this book for me is that there is no build-up and I found the last part comparatively uninvolving with its focus on ‘humanitism’. Still, some parts really appealed to me such as the well-known chapter consisting just of punctuation marks. After all, the sort of inanities people falling in love say to each other don’t need to be recorded and it makes the exclamation marks gradually building up carry with levity all the tone and ardour of their conversation.

I’ve actually had this book sitting on my shelves for perhaps twelve months so I can’t remember where I read about it. Initially, wrongly of course, I had been put off by the ugly cover of 24 skulls with one of them laughing, no doubt mirroring Rushie’s appraisal of the book: ‘The kind of humour that makes skulls laugh’ but while Rushdie was witty with this allusion to the dead narrator, the drabness of the cover really was uninviting.

Braz Cubas’ remorse at having given a muleteer a fraction of the amount he was going to give him for saving his life (because the muleteer was still delighted by the amount he was given) demonstrates the way Machado lays bare human meanness while at the same time creating some humour at the expense of the narrator. His warped reasoning that the muleteer was just ‘an instrument of Providence’ is amusingly condemnatory. As the narrator says, ‘I prefer jolly chapters’. The same warped reasoning is employed a number of times in order to show how self-justifying we are when catering for ourselves, Cubas’ abuse of the virtuous Dona Placida being another case in point.

Machado’s attitude towards slavery reveals a man of his time, though. The references to them are usually demeaning, not I think because Machado wants us to remain critical of his narrator but because it’s a non-issue for him (though I’ve since read that he was in favour of Abolition). So, Cubas worries a little during his affair with Virgilia about ‘the household slaves, who found in gossip about us a sort of revenge for their servile condition’. In fact, Machado has a freed slave mercilessly beating a slave he’d acquired as if to show their lack of humanity. ( )
  evening | Dec 26, 2013 |
The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas is a playful, metafictional novel that immediately brings to mind Laurence Sterne's Tristam Shandy. It is "Posthumous" for the simple reason that to write his whole life's story, a man must wait until he is dead so the story is complete. He begins by telling us of his death in his native Brazil, in 1869, at the age of 64--a childless bachelor, so we know ahead of time the fruitless outcome of the love affairs which will dominate his memoirs.

Going back to his beginnings, Brás Cubas describes his ancestry--how he manages to be rich enough never to have to work in his life--and his spoiled childhood. Brás is barely grown before he is squandering a fortune on trinkets for a favorite prostitute. His indulgent father, finally losing patience with him, sends Brás to Europe to finish his education. Returning after having barely eked out a degree, he refuses a career in politics and the marriage his father has arranged to the beautiful Virgília. But then, as soon as Virgília has been wed to someone else, Brás falls madly in love with her.

Brás Cubas, in short, is a no-account dandy whose life is noteworthy only for the trouble he causes those who persistently care for him. His life history would be a dreary novel, except that the novel isn't so much about Brás as about the story itself. The narrator regularly steps back from the narrative to address the reader as audience, accomplice, or adversary. At one point he laments:

"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 the grave about it; it has a certain cadaveric contraction about it, a serious fault, insignificant to boot because the main defect of the 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..."

He describes his book very well. There are chapters with typographical flourishes such as dialogue consisting of nothing but punctuation marks, a chapter with a title and no text, and chapters that are simply brief soliloquies. Sometimes Brás pats himself on the back, saying things like "By God, that's a good way to end a chapter!" At another point he suddenly interrupts himself to go back and clarify something from several chapters earlier, closing with "Good Lord! Do I have to explain everything?"

The result is a delightful little satirical novel with all its moving parts fully exposed and vividly painted so reader and author can have a good laugh at one another. ( )
3 vote StevenTX | Oct 29, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Joaquim Maria Machado de Assisprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
de Sá Rego, EnyltonPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Frisch, ShariDrawingssecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Grossman, William L.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Passos, Gilberto PinheiroAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rabassa, GregoryTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Willemsen, AugustTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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AO VERME
QUE
PRIMEIRO ROEU AS FRIAS
CARNES
DO MEU CADÁVER
DEDICO,
COMO SAUDOSA LEMBRANÇA,
ESTAS
MEMÓRIAS PÓSTUMAS
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"Que Stendhal confessasse haver escrito um de seus livros para cem leitores, coisa é que admira e consterna. O que não admira, nem provavelmente consternará é se este outro livro não tiver os cem leitores de Stendhal, nem cinquenta, nem vinte e, quando muito, dez. Dez? Talvez cinco."
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0195101707, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:57:14 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

"New translation of Machado's famous novel is for the most part faithful and readable. However, work has occasional odd errors and omissions, and fails to give sufficient attention to Machado's rhythm and syntax. Given Rabassa's vast experience as a translator, it is hard not to suspect that carelessness and haste explain the mistakes and lapses. Also poorly edited and inadequately proofread"--Handbook of Latin American Studies, v. 58.… (more)

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