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Day 1

The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas by Machado de Assis

Ch 1-10

March 8, 2021 by Larry Rohter

Right out of the gate, Machado de Assis (or just M) establishes his tone—arch and erudite, leavened with casual cynicism and droll self-mockery. But a playfulness with form is there too: very short chapters offer a hint of the amusing games to come.

In 1970, reading the dedication of these “posthumous memoirs” (PM) to the worm “that first gnawed at the cold flesh of my cadaver” made me squeamish and uneasy. A half century later, in the midst of a pandemic, it seems an appropriate memento mori.

“Why a duck?” the Marx Brothers asked. So why a talking, flying hippopotamus in Chapter VII? Why not a dragon or some specifically Brazilian beast, like a capybara or tapir? M seems here to be indulging a taste for the absurd, bizarre, and whimsical.

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