Alex's Reviews > Dom Casmurro

Dom Casmurro by Machado de Assis
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Dec 10, 10

bookshelves: 2010, reading-through-history, unreliable-narrators
Read in December, 2010

Machado de Assis is apparently Brazil's best-loved author and an antecedent of the magical realist style, and I'd never heard of him until this year. It's exciting when I find things like this. Well, that and a little humbling.

Dom Casmurro is a weird and wonderful book. It's about a lifelong love affair in which one person betrays the other; the mystery is who has done the betraying. The narrator doubles back on himself, loses track of his thoughts, lies both to us and to himself, and generally mucks everything up in a series of short,sharp chapters with titles like "Let us proceed to the chapter" and "Let us enter the chapter."

Early on, a minor character explains that life is an opera. Not metaphorically. Satan, "a young maestro with a great future," is cast out of the conservatory of heaven after rebelling, but not before stealing a cast-off libretto of God's. He turns it into a full opera and begs God to hear it. At last God relents, but refuses to have it played in heaven; instead, he creates this world as a special stage to hear Satan's composition - which, in the lonely fleshing out, has accidentally lost or distorted some of God's themes. "Indeed in some places the words go to the right and the music to the left...Certain motifs grow wearisome from repetition. There are obscure passages...and there are some who say that this is the beauty of the composition and keeps it from being monotonous." I can't do it justice; you'll have to read it for yourself. It's beautiful.

If your version comes with a foreward by Elizabeth Hardwick, do not read it. It spoils everything. Luckily, I've quit reading forewards beforehand for exactly this reason.

Heather suggested that Tolstoy's novella The Kreutzer Sonata would make a good companion read, so I obediently read that next; she was totally right. They go together perfectly.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by JSou (new)

JSou I'm reading Epitaph of a Small Winner right now and loving it. The writing style sounds similar, and you're right, it's stunning.


Alex Oh cool! Heather was just saying she's got that one waiting on her shelves.

I'm pretty psyched to have found out about this guy.


message 3: by Meghan (new)

Meghan Excellent review.


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