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Day 7

The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas by Machado de Assis

Ch 99-122

March 14, 2021 by Larry Rohter

The elite’s obsession with status and the regard of others comes sharply into focus today. Besides chapters on “salutary effects of public opinion,” we have a scene in which Nhã-Loló’s father reveals lower-class origins through his love of cockfights.

Just to be clear, by calling BC’s last marriage prospect Nhã-Loló, M deliberately infantilizes her. It’s a nickname an enslaved nanny would give her charge, and we learn the girl’s real name only after death. Until then, she is just “Cotrim’s niece.”

The “half-dozen maxims” and bon mots in CXIX seem to be meant merely as throwaways, indicators of BC’s fundamental shallowness. But one stands out as a pithy summation of the trajectory of BC’s life & of the novel itself: “We kill time; time buries us.”

A historical note: the Hotel Pharoux, where BC spends so much time in his declining years, was a real place. Rio’s first modern hotel, founded in 1816 by a French exile, it closed only in 1959, & during its long zenith was often painted or photographed.

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