Title: Memórias Póstumas de Brás Cubas (The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas)
Author: Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis
Genre: Classic (Brazilian Literature), 1881
This book is one of the biggest classics of Brazilian Literature, an inspiration to almost all of the contemporary writer, and pretty much singular. The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas, as the title suggests, is a collection of memoirs done by the author, Bras Cubas, but it's not a typical one. He writes not from his life, but beyond it: he's telling it from his grave. And it makes for a really interesting story because, as he says it himself, "frankness is the prime virtue of a dead man." Because he is dead and thus has no obligation with the living, Cubas is able to tell his story with every little gory detail and every thought he thinks is pertinent, no matter who it is he's talking about. It is the portrayal of an image driven society written in a story most captivating, be it regarding the author's failed romances, be it regarding his shoddy, badly thought out theories. It is an unforgettable novel, for sure.
It's style is, by itself, already considered unparalleled. Written in first person with choppy, erratic progression - "the style of the drunk" - it is the perfect reflection of the character, with his half-hearted political ambitions, lack of deep, passionate drive, quixotic theories and usual disinterest. It is an example of psychological realism, as the narrative serves to point out, although indirectly, the not-so-interesting nature of the human psyche and its flaws and characteristics. It is oftentimes funny, specially when it comes to criticizing the work of Romantics (and he does it quite openly), but the irony is always present, be it as acid criticism or as a theory, always pointing out flaws and weird behavior. The tone can be mundane or deep, depends on the chapter and on the interpretations done to them.
The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas is one literary masterpiece that should be read more than once, that is for sure. It can be a light read or a deep read (I did the second one, as it is for school and we've been working with it for more than a month) and it is definitely enjoyable, in spite of the unusual style of prose and the year it was written. The language, although a bit old, is not complicated. I had fun working with this book, although it left a somewhat bitter taste over because Machado de Assis is a pessimist and it reflects on the novel as a whole. It didn't stop me from liking it, though.