The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas
Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis
Machado de Assis is not only Brazil’s most celebrated writer but also a writer of world stature, who has been championed by the likes of Philip Roth, Susan Sontag, Allen Ginsberg, John Updike and Salman Rushdie. In his masterpiece, the 1881 novel The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas (also translated as Epitaph of a Small Winner), the ghost of a decadent and disagreeable aristocrat decides to write his memoir. He dedicates it to the worms gnawing at his corpse and tells of his failed romances and half-hearted political ambitions, serves up hare-brained philosophies and complains with gusto from the depths of his grave.
Wildly imaginative, wickedly witty and ahead of its time, the novel has been compared to works by Cervantes, Sterne, Joyce, Nabokov, Borges and Calvino, and has influenced generations of writers around the world.
Acclaim for Flora Thomson-DeVeaux's Translation of The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas "Highly entertaining . . . A fresh, lively translation . . . Machado deserves wider familiarity among English readers, and this is a fine place to start reading him." --Kirkus Reviews, starred review "Brilliantly idiosyncratic . . . Cubas endows every episode with scintillating digressions on history and literature along with gentle mockery of his own hypocrisy and pretensions. Thomson-DeVeaux's limpid translation captures the charm and immediacy of de Assis. . . . His masterpiece reads like the best of dreams." --Publishers Weekly, starred review "A glittering masterwork and an unmitigated joy to read . . . One of the wittiest, most playful, and . . . most alive and ageless books ever written . . . It is wholly original and unlike anything other than the many books that came after it and seem to have knowingly or not borrowed from it. . . . This translation . . . is a glorious gift to the world, because it sparkles, because it sings, because it's very funny and manages to capture Machado's inimitable tone, at once mordant and wistful, self-lacerating and romantic." --Dave Eggers, from the Foreword "Not only are the endnotes impressively accurate and useful for foreign readers, but also the translation does honor to Machado de Assis's style as it keeps an eye out for multiple layers of meaning and slippery descriptions, respecting the contours of a novel that, even as it feigns nonchalance, is in fact stunningly profound. . . . Thomson-DeVeaux is able to preserve the elegance, humor, sincerity, and roguishness of this masterpiece of Brazilian literature." --Pedro Meira Monteiro, Princeton University "Thomson-DeVeaux's version flows better than any of the other translations and deals quite skillfully with some of the challenging nuances of the original. . . . An obvious difference between Thomson-DeVeaux's translation and the previously published versions is the extensive apparatus of notes, which give very valuable cultural, historical, and literary information and will make the translation a valuable resource not just for those who must read the novel in English, but also for those with a reading knowledge of Portuguese." --Paul Dixon, Purdue University "Thomson-DeVeaux's translation keeps Machado de Assis's ambiguity in English and is thus much closer to his actual writing than previous translations. . . . And it respects a 'secret' of Machado's literature--to wit, both its colloquial diction and the ability to produce virtually endless possible interpretations resorting to a disconcerting 'simplicity' in his writing manners. . . . Thomson-DeVeaux has succeeded with unparalleled elegance and precision." --Joao Cezar de Castro Rocha, Rio de Janeiro State University Acclaim for The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas "One of those thrillingly original, radically skeptical books that will always impress readers with the force of private discovery." --Susan Sontag "A masterpiece of Epicurean irony." --The New York Times "One of those books which we call definitive. It is there, complete, done: a study of ironic disillusionment couched in the most delicate suavity of despair." --The New York Times Book Review "A tour de force of surprising modernity compared with the grim realism of the time. The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas displays a distinct voice--quiet, friendly, even cozy, yet full of wit and inventiveness. Cervantes comes to mind as a comparison, though the voice of Laurence Sterne (whom Machado acknowledges) can also be heard. . . . This is the language of visions spoken by a rogue who is trying to bedazzle and deceive the reader." --The Wall Street Journal "Belongs to a long line of brilliantly odd and (relatively) outrageous works like Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy and Xavier de Maistre's Voyage Around My Room . . . A very great novel indeed." --The Nation Acclaim for Machado de Assis "The supreme black literary artist to date." --Harold Bloom "The greatest writer ever produced in Latin America." --Susan Sontag "Another Kafka." --Allen Ginsberg "A great ironist, a tragic comedian . . . In his books, in their most comic moments, he underlines the suffering by making us laugh." --Philip Roth "A writer a hundred years ahead of his time . . . If Borges is the writer who made Garcia Marquez possible, then it is no exaggeration to say that Machado de Assis is the writer who made Borges possible." --Salman Rushdie "A master." --John Updike "Machado is a miracle. . . . The most brilliant star in the sky of nineteenth-century Iberian-American novels." --Carlos Fuentes "One of the few writers who not only received a state funeral, but actually deserved it." --Louis de Bernieres "The creator of a tremendous oeuvre and an inimitable sense of humor." --Jose Saramago "A great writer who chose to use deadly humor where it would be least expected to convey his acute powers of observation and his penetrating insights into psychology. In superbly funny books he described the abnormalities of alienation, perversion, domination, cruelty and madness. He deconstructed empire with a thoroughness and an esthetic equilibrium that place him in a class by himself." --The New York Times "One of the world's great writers." --The New York Review of Books "Machado de Assis wrote some of the most deliriously adventurous fiction of the last century." --Lingua Franca "No satirist, not even Swift, is less merciful in his exposure of the pretentiousness and the hypocrisy that lurk in the average good man and woman. Machado, in his deceptively amiable way, is terrifying." --The New Republic "Machado de Assis . . . is held by many to be not only Brazil's greatest writer but on a par with Henry James, Flaubert and Hardy [with] his enchantingly digressive style, sly humour and merciless exposure of hypocrisy and pretentiousness." --The Guardian
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