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Dom Casmurro by Joaquim Maria Machado De Assis. New York. 1953. Noonday Press. Translated from the Portuguese by Helen Caldwell. 283 pages. hardcover. Cover: Format by Sidney Solomon.

 

dom casmurro noondayFROM THE PUBLISHER - 

 

Considered by many Machado’s greatest work, DOM CASMURRO is a novel of love and suspected betrayal. It traces the flowering and destruction of a childhood romance. In Portuguese, casmurro means a morose, tight-lipped man, withdrawn within himself. Bento Santiago, hero and narrator of this novel, is such a person, ironically called ‘Dom Casmurro’ by his friends. The darkness and shadows of the present dissipate as Bento sketches his memories of youth. We are introduced to his childhood friend Capitu, (with her beautiful hair and ‘her eyes like the tide’) and we see her change from playmate to sweetheart. The dilemma of young love is made poignant through the efforts of the young people to resist Bento’s mother’s intention to make him a priest. The quarrels, the desire for each other, so clumsy and youthful, the complex evasion of adult watchfulness, are described so adroitly that the reader feels his own life being told. But Bento’s tragedy is already implicit in these apparently idyllic moments. He is a man born to be deceived or to deceive himself. The startlingly original denouement of this novel permits either interpretation. Those who read DOM CASMURRO will not easily forget it.

 

 

 

 

 

Assis Joaquim Maria Machado DeJoaquim Maria Machado de Assis, often known as Machado de Assis, Machado, or Bruxo do Cosme Velho, (June 21, 1839, Rio de Janeiro-September 29, 1908, Rio de Janeiro) was a Brazilian novelist, poet and short-story writer. He is widely regarded as the most important writer of Brazilian literature. However, he did not gain widespread popularity outside Brazil in his own lifetime. Machado’s works had a great influence on Brazilian literary schools of the late 19th century and 20th century. José Saramago, Carlos Fuentes, Susan Sontag and Harold Bloom are among his admirers and Bloom calls him ‘the supreme black literary artist to date.’ Son of Francisco José de Assis (a mulatto housepainter, descendent of freed slaves) and Maria Leopoldina Machado de Assis (a Portuguese washerwoman), Machado de Assis lost both his mother and his only sister at an early age. Machado is said to have learned to write by himself, and he used to take classes for free will. He learned to speak French first and English later, both fluently. He started to work for newspapers in Rio de Janeiro, where he published his first works and met established writers such as Joaquim Manuel de Macedo. Machado de Assis married Carolina Xavier de Novais, a Portuguese descendant of a noble family. Soon the writer got a public job and this stability permitted him to write his best works. Machado de Assis began by writing popular novels which sold well, much in the late style of José de Alencar. His style changed in the 1880s, and it is for the sceptical, ironic, comedic but ultimately pessimistic works he wrote after this that he is remembered: the first novel in his ‘new style’ was Epitaph for a Small Winner, known in the new Gregory Rabassa translation as The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas (a literal translation of the original title, Memórias Póstumas de Brás Cubas). In their brilliant comedy and ironic playfulness, these resemble in some ways the contemporary works of George Meredith in the United Kingdom, and Eça de Queirós in Portugal, but Machado de Assis’ work has a far bleaker emotional undertone. Machado’s work has also been compared with Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy. Machado de Assis could speak English fluently and translated many works of William Shakespeare and other English writers into Portuguese. His work contains numerous allusions to Shakespearean plays, John Milton and influences from Sterne and Meredith. He is also known as a master of the short story, having written classics of the genre in the Portuguese language, such as O Alienista, Missa do Galo, ‘A Cartomante’ and ‘A Igreja do Diabo.’ Along with other writers and intellectuals, Machado de Assis founded the Brazilian Academy of Letters in 1896 and was its president from 1897 to 1908, when he died.

 

Caldwell HelenThe Translator, HELEN CALDWELL, is a member of the Department of Classics of the University of California. Her varied career includes such positions as lecturer on Anthropology for the Los Angeles Board of Education and dancer with Michio Ito and Company. She was awarded first prize in a translation contest sponsored by Mademoiselle in conjunction with the Committee on Cultural Relations with Latin America and the Pan-American Union. Format by Sidney Solomon.

 

 

 

 

 

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