The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas

BOOK: The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas
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THE POSTHUMOUS MEMOIRS OF
BRÁS CUBAS

LIBRARY OF LATIN AMERICA

 

General Editor
Jean Franco

 

Series Editor for Brazil
Richard Graham, with the assistance of Alfredo Bosi

 

Editorial Board
Antonio Cornejo Polar
Tulio Halperín Donghi
Iván jaksi
Naomi Lindstrom
Eduardo Lozano
Francine Masiello

 

THE POSTHUMOUS MEMOIRS OF
BRÁS CUBAS

A Novel by
JOAQUIM MARIA MACHADO DE ASSIS

 

Translated from the Portuguese by
G
REGORY
R
ABASSA

 

W
ITH A
F
OREWORD BY
E
NYLTON DE
S
Á
R
EGO

 

A
ND AN
A
FTERWORD BY
G
ILBERTO
P
INHEIRO
P
ASSOS

 

Oxford University Press

 

Oxford New York
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Copyright © 1997 by Oxford University Press

 

First Published by Oxford University Press, Inc., 1997

 

First issued as an Oxford University Press paperback, 1998

 

Oxford is a registered trademark of Oxford University Press

 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced,
stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means,
electronic, mechanical, photocopying recording, or otherwise,
without the prior permission of Oxford University Press.

 

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Machado de Assis, 1839-1908.
[Memórias póstumas de Brás Cubas, English]
The posthumous memoirs of Brás Cubas / by Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis:
translated by Gregory Rabassa: with a foreword by Enylton de Sá Rego
and an afterword by Gilberto Pinheiro Passos.
p. cm. — (Library of Latin America)
ISBN 0-19-510170-7 (Pbk)
I. Rabassa, Gregory. II. Title. III. Series.
PQ9697.M18M513 1997
869.3—dc20 96-44125

 

1 3 5 7 9 1 0 8 6 4 2
Printed in the United States of America

 
Contents
 

Series Editors’ Introduction

 

Preface
E
NYLTON DE
S
Á
R
EGO

 

The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas
J
OAQUIM
M
ARIA
M
ACHADO DE
A
SSIS

 

Afterword
G
ILBERTO
P
INHEIRO
P
ASSOS

 
Series Editors’ General Introduction
 

The Library of Latin America series makes available in translation major nineteenth-century authors whose work has been neglected in the English-speaking world. The titles for the translations from the Spanish and Portuguese were suggested by an editorial committee that included Jean Franco (general editor responsible for works in Spanish), Richard Graham (series editor responsible for works in Portuguese), Tulio Halperín Donghi (at the University of California, Berkeley), Iván jaksi
(at the University of Notre Dame), Naomi Lindstrom (at the University of Texas at Austin), Francine Masiello (at the University of California, Berkeley), and Eduardo Lozano of the Library at the University of Pittsburgh. The late Antonio Cornejo Polar of the University of California, Berkeley, was also one of the founding members of the committee. The translations have been funded thanks to the generosity of the Lampadia Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

During the period of national formation between 1810 and into the early years of the twentieth century, the new nations of Latin America fashioned their identities, drew up constitutions, engaged in bitter struggles over territory, and debated questions of education, government, ethnicity, and culture. This was a unique period unlike the process of nation formation in Europe and one which should be more familiar than it is to students of comparative politics, history, and literature.

The image of the nation was envisioned by the lettered classes—a minority
in countries in which indigenous, mestizo, black, or mulatto peasants and slaves predominated—although there were also alternative nationalisms at the grassroots level. The cultural elite were well educated in European thought and letters, but as statesmen, journalists, poets, and academics, they confronted the problem of the racial and linguistic heterogeneity of the continent and the difficulties of integrating the population into a modern nation-state. Some of the writers whose works will be translated in the Library of Latin America series played leading roles in politics. Fray Servando Teresa de Mier, a friar who translated Rousseau’s
The Social Contract
and was one of the most: colorful characters of the independence period, was faced with imprisonment and expulsion from Mexico for his heterodox beliefs; on his return, after independence, he was elected to the congress. Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, exiled from his native Argentina under the presidency of Rosas, wrote
Facundo: Civilización y barbarie
, a stinging denunciation of that government. He returned after Rosas’ overthrow and was elected president in 1868. Andrés Bello was born in Venezuela, lived in London where he published poetry during the independence period, settled in Chile where he founded the University, wrote his grammar of the Spanish language, and drew up the country’s legal code.

These post-independence intelligentsia were not simply dreaming castles in the air, but vitally contributed to the founding of nations and the shaping of culture. The advantage of hindsight may make us aware of problems they themselves did not foresee, but this should not affect our assessment of their truly astonishing energies and achievements. It is still surprising that the writing of Andrés Bello, who contributed fundamental works to so many different fields, has never been translated into English. Although there is a recent translation of Sarmiento’s celebrated
Facundo
, there is no translation of his memoirs,
Recuerdos de provincia (Provincial Recollections)
. The predominance of memoirs in the Library of Latin America series is no accident—many of these offer entertaining insights into a vast and complex continent.

Nor have we neglected the novel. The series includes new translations of the outstanding Brazilian writer Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis’ work, including
Dom Casmurro
and
The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas
. There is no reason why other novels and writers who are not so well known outside Latin America—the Peruvian novelist Clorinda Matto de Turner’s
Aves sin nido
, Nataniel Aguirre’s
Juan de la Rosa
, José de Alencar’s
Iracema
, Juana Manuela Gorriti’s short stories—should not be read with as much interest as the political novels of Anthony Trollope.

A series on nineteenth-century Latin America cannot, however, be limited to literary genres such as the novel, the poem, and the short story. The literature of independent Latin America was eclectic and strongly influenced by the periodical press newly liberated from scrutiny by colonial authorities and the Inquisition. Newspapers were miscellanies of fiction, essays, poems, and translations from all manner of European writing. The novels written on the eve of Mexican Independence by José Joaquín Fernández de Lizardi included disquisitions on secular education and law, and denunciations of the evils of gaming and idleness. Other works, such as a well-known poem by Andrés Bello, “Ode to Tropical Agriculture,” and novels such as
Amalia
by José Mármol and the Bolivian Nataniel Aguirre’s
Juan de la Rosa
, were openly partisan. By the end of the century, sophisticated scholars were beginning to address the history of their countries, as did João Capistrano de Abreu in his
Capítulos de história colonial
.

It is often in memoirs such as those by Fray Servando Teresa de Mier or Sarmiento that we find the descriptions of everyday life that in Europe were incorporated into the realist novel. Latin American literature at this time was seen largely as a pedagogical tool, a “light” alternative to speeches, sermons, and philosophical tracts—though, in fact, especially in the early part of the century, even the readership for novels was quite small because of the high rate of illiteracy. Nevertheless, the vigorous orally transmitted culture of the gaucho and the urban underclasses became the linguistic repertoire of some of the most interesting nineteenth-century writers—most notably José Hernández, author of the “gauchesque” poem “Martín Fierro,” which enjoyed an unparalleled popularity. But for many writers the task was not to appropriate popular language but to civilize, and their literary works were strongly influenced by the high style of political oratory.

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