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Day 5

The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas by Machado de Assis

Ch 59-77

March 12, 2021 by Larry Rohter

To me, LXVIII is the single most lacerating and psychologically profound chapter of PM. We see the trauma and suffering of enslavement being transmitted onwards, even after emancipation. And BC’s cynical misinterpretation compounds the tragedy.

With “Wide Sargasso Sea” and “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” in mind, I’ve sometimes wondered why no Brazilian novelist has yet rewritten PM from Prudêncio’s point of view. Chutzpah would be required, but it would be a book well worth reading.

Dona Plácida, BC’s go-between with Virgília, is a curious figure. Everyone else in PM is either from the elite or enslaved; she is the only representative of the white working class, and her life too is benighted. 19th-century Brazil was like that.

Does M ever reveal the hand he is playing? In LXXI, he seems to: “This book and my style are like drunkards, they veer right and left, stop and go.” But he also reproaches the reader as “this book’s greatest flaw.” (Critics get a comeuppance in CXXXVIII)

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