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by Machado De Assis

ePub Epitaph of a Small Winner download
Machado De Assis
Trafalgar Square (May 29, 1997)
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1331 kb
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This is the posthumous memoir of Braz Cubas, a wealthy 19th-century Brazilian. Though the grave has given Cubas the distance to examine his rather undistinguished life, it has not dampened his sense of humour. Machado de Assis is the author of "Don Cosmurro" and "Philosopher or Dog?"
  • This book is an example of a genre woefully under-utilized: the posthumous memoir. As Bras Cubas reports, “I am a deceased writer not in the sense of one who has written and is now deceased, but in the sense of one who has died and is now writing” (5). If only this could happen more often. Just think of all the people who would almost unquestionably be more interesting from the other side of the grave than they are on this side. Kissinger springs to mind.

    (A little more seriously: can you think of other novels that use this device? I would love to make a list. Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad, with Penelope in Hades giving her side of the story, is the only one I know, though I’m sure that there are many more. If you think of one, could you respond in the comments?)

    “But in death, what a difference! what relief! what freedom! How glorious to throw away your cloak, to dump your spangles in a ditch, to unfold yourself, to strip off all your paint and ornaments, to confess plainly what you are and what you failed to be!” (57) This is the energy that inhabits the 160 very short chapters of this book, as Bras Cubas recounts, in extraordinary style, the rather ordinary life of a 19th century Brazilian aristocrat.

    When I first spotted this book, in the library of a monastery, I chose it because it seemed the most worldly book available. However, it is so relentless in stripping away human vanity, pretension and self-delusion that it nearly qualifies as a spiritual text.

    The book had grabbed my attention because I instantly loved its title. In fact, “Epitaph of a Small Winner” is actually the subtitle of the original novel. Although I noticed that other people disliked this translation, I found it pleasantly readable.

    That said, plenty of people over 35 are going to reject this book as soon as they open it for the simplest reason. This is obviously a reprint of a printing done in the Fifties – and it appears to have been done on a mimeograph machine from that period. Letters are fuzzy, blotchy and blurred. Unworthy of Farrar, Straus and Giroux!

    It seems condescending to applaud a 19th century book for being “modern”, but, I’m sorry, I can’t avoid it. This is a post-modern text, written in 1880, which may be a bigger trick than a memoir written from the grave. . . Fragmentation, a peculiar viewpoint, commentary on top of commentary – it is all so lively and so much fun. Fans of Rushdie or Saramago (or even Vonnegut or Murakami) will feel immediately at home.

    I loved this book both times I read it and I'm grateful it's in print. If it was in print we could actually easily read, that’d be even better.

  • Interesting because it was written so long ago -- a prototype of sorts. But, I had a tough time getting into it. If you like good fiction, try it for yourselves.

  • An acquaintance recommended Epitaph of a Small Winner to me, and (after investigating and learning that the novel is credited as a precursor to Marquez and Borges) I bought it without hesitation. Just after the book arrived, my acquaintance followed-up that his recommendation had been premature and that he was throwing the book into the To-Go pile. Since I already had the book, I figured I'd give it a try anyway. I found it to be an unqualified masterpiece (and apparently am in good company in that dept., not that one /needs/ Harold Bloom's and Woody Allen's endorsement). So I wanted to follow up with my acquaintance to let him know that I actually loved the book and appreciated the (technically cancelled) recommendation ... but it occurred to me that praising a reneged recommendation as a masterpiece might constitute unintentional upmanship, as in /I'm/ the one enlightened enough to recognize a masterpiece when I see one! Luckily, I sort of handled the delicateness of all this in advance -- when he initially cancelled the recommendation, I replied, "I'll decide here and now that I'll get better mileage out of the book than you did." So perhaps my prediction will soften any implied "you wouldn't know sh*t from Shinola," in that I formulated a prenuptial, if you will, and fulfilled my own contract.

  • I love the book that was originally written in Portuguese. This version in English is so great.

  • I purchased this book because it was recommended by Salman Rushdie. It is an 18th century Brazilian work that is reminiscent of Tristam Shandy. It is a short book with ultra-short chapters, and is a biting political, historical and psychological satire. A better translation of the title would have been The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas.

  • This book will make you reflect on your procrastination and productive rate. Also, it will make you believe Machado an unrivaled Brazilian novelist!

  • I bought this for my comparative literature class and I ended up loving it! Really wonderfully written. Would suggest to anyone!

  • One of the best books, I've ever read.