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The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  21,373 ratings  ·  1,184 reviews
Fans of Latin American literature will be thrilled by Oxford University Press's new translations of works by 19th-century Brazilian author Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis. His novels are both heartbreaking and comic; his limning of a colonial Brazil in flux is both perceptive and remarkably modern. The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas is written as an autobiography, a chron ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published December 10th 1998 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 1881)
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John_Dishwasher John_Dishwasher The Grossman translation is excellent. I mentioned him in my review before I even saw this question.

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The Artisan Geek
Reading this with my book club!! Woohoo! :D

I am so HYPE for this book. Read the introduction a while back as well as a short bio on Machado de Assis -- excited to jump into some more Brazilian lit :)

You can find me on
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Dec 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to brian by: karen
a sick chicken and the voluptuousness of misery

how is this genius is not known? at the top of the literary canon? only a species as cretinous as ours could ignore machado. along with carpentier and mutis, he takes the top 'what the fuck' spot.

top three reasons why machado must be read:

1) 1880! 18fucking80! madman machado wrote a modernist masterpiece way back when. gotdamn, he makes joyce look like a late Bloomer! in this hysterical and darkdarkdark nuthouse you get the narrator's crazy drawing

... this book is written with apathy, with the apathy of a man now freed of the brevity of the century, a supinely philosophical work, of an unequal philosophy, now austere, now playful, something that neither builds nor destroys, neither inflames nor cools, and, yet, it is more than a pastime and less than an apostolate.

My Goodreads morning started on an emotional note today. I logged in and found a book recommendation by Ali, friendly comments from Dolors and Dustin, the surprised mention of m
Jul 29, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: black-writers
Over the course of the last year, Machado de Assis has been recommended to me on my YouTube channel on five different occasions. It wasn't until the new shiny translation by Flora Thompson-DeVeaux though that I actually decided to pick up one of his books.

I read way too few South American lit and follow way too few South American reviewers (recommendations for both are always welcome!), so it's not a surprise that I hadn't heard of Machado de Assis before. Nonetheless, I felt somewhat guilty an
The reader, like his fellows, doubtless prefers action to reflection, and doubtless he is wholly in the right. So we shall get to it. However, I must advise that this book is written leisurely, with the leisureliness of a man no longer troubled by the flight of time; that is a work supinely philosophical, but of a philosophy wanting in uniformity, now austere, now playful, a thing that neither edifies nor destroys, neither inflames nor chills, and that is at once more of a pastime and less th
J.L.   Sutton
Jan 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"this book and my style are like drunkards, they stagger left and right, they walk and stop, mumble, yell, cackle, shake their fists at the sky, stumble, and fall …"

The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas – The Rookie Wood

Absolutely fantastic! Really my only complaint: Machado de Assis's Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas seemed to end abruptly, but maybe that's the way of fictional posthumous memoirs? I don't know. So much I loved about this book. A few things stand out: the chapter in which the narrator visits the centuries past and future riding on t
Vit Babenco
Nov 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
“I wrote it with a playful pen and melancholy ink and it isn’t hard to foresee what can come out of that marriage. I might add that serious people will find some semblance of a normal novel, while frivolous people won’t find their usual one here. There it stands, deprived of the esteem of the serious and the love of the frivolous, the two main pillars of opinion.”
Although The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas are written in a very frolicsome manner the book is abundant in precise and deep observa
Jr Bacdayan
Mar 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
I would very much like to read this again in the afterlife preferably without the four cups of coffee galivanting through my nervous system. Thank you very much.
Jun 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: translated
This is a novel lost in time.

I can hardly believe it was written 140 years ago. Were it not for the occasional mention of slaves and references to outmoded technology like stagecoaches, I would be none the wiser—in fact, with those still intact, I’d probably be more likely to believe this to be a popular historical fiction novel written in 2015 which the London Review of Books would have called “a work of brilliant tragicomedy” or somesuch. But no, Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis delivers this ge
Jun 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Astonishing novel published in 1881 but not at all dated. The narrator Bras Cubas is dead and addresses the reader to recount his life, starting from the end. Death is omnipresent in this book which is a disguised meditation on life, on the passage of time and the human comedy. Machado goes beyond the romantic melancholy and seriousness of these subjects through irony and humour. And above all, he demonstrates a jubilant formal inventiveness. The novel unrolls a more or less continuous thread, s ...more
David Katzman
Aug 27, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fun and charming, the Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas is a ground-breaking novel published in 1880 that feels in many ways like a precursor to more modern experimental stories. It’s witty like Oscar Wilde and digressive like Tristram Shandy. It’s an entertaining read with what I felt was a worthy theme running through it—the folly of all human desires.

And yet sometimes a small aspect of a book can leave a greater impact than the overall story itself. Amidst the clever asides and philosophical m
Jan 10, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Tony by: Mike Puma
Shelves: brazilian
How could I not want to read this?

First, there is the absolutely gorgeous jacket design, including this painting, Young Man with a Pen by Diego Rivera:

Second, Mike Puma recommended this. Mike is the go-to guy for Latin American literature.

And then, in an introduction (by Bras Cubas), the author announces that he has "adopted the free-form of a Sterne or a Xavier de Maistre" in the writing of these Memoirs.

Well, saddle me up and call me Tristram.

Machado de Assis has indeed captured Sterne, down t
Chris Via
Ever read a book and find it was exactly what you needed?
Review forthcoming in print and video.
MJ Nicholls
Nov 12, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to MJ by: Mike Puma
This recentish GR sensation (among my friends—the rest of GR can take a hike) failed to please me beyond the 166p point. There is something about those ponderous nice-guy narrators who ruminate on the quotidian in occasionally profound ways that seems to set GR aflame. My qualms with the book have been expressed by Nate and Jimmy—simply that once the original-for-1880 self-commenting aspect and short-chapter structure is out of the way, the story and its telling are quirky but banal. Another lov ...more
Nov 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015, rth-lifetime
Every season of life is an edition that corrects the one before and which will also be corrected itself until the definitive edition, which the publisher gives to the worms gratis.
This really speaks to me. because I've gone through like twenty editions of myself - not because of demand, just that previous ones were like riddled with typos.

I've read de Assis before, and it's great to revisit his weird, modern style. Writing in the late 1800s, De Assis is the Pushkin of Brazil - the father of thei
Jun 27, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this 1880 classic is how 'modern' it remains, after 140 years. It has been compared to Tristam Shandy due to the playfulness of the writing, and the quirky 'meta' elements, and that's certainly a propos. So while it is a fun and fairly quick read (yay for short chapters ... there are 160 of them over 324 pages, so few are over 3 pages, and several are a single paragraph!), my main complaint is that there really isn't much TO it, other than that sportiveness ...more
It is not often that I feel that I may have lost the point, but I have with this critically acclaimed novel. I was very much caught up with the clever wit and observations of the human experience after about a third of the way through but my mind then began to wander. A pity really as I know that the writings of de Assis have influenced writers such as David Ireland who I adore. Oh well.

Jun 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An ineffable literary journey.

To my gr friend who suggested this book to me:

Thank you, young lady. You may have half my years, but your IQ is at least fifty points higher than mine.

This book may have been like a dip in the pool for you, but for me it was as if I was dropped somewhere in the ocean with tumultuous waters and no land in sight.

The writer’s genius along with Erasmus, Seneca, and Schopenhauer’s breath throughout makes this story quite challenging.

I no longer need to stand on top of th
K.D. Absolutely
Aug 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommended to K.D. by: 501 Must Read Books; 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2010)
Strangely fascinating. I am no expert in literature and only started reading "serious" fiction works a couple of years back in my quest to read all those works included in 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die by Dr. Boxall.

Therefore, at first, I did not know how to react to this kind of literary work. Some say it is a novel but the author, the Brazilian Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis (1839-1908) says that is is a memoir. However, a memoir is supposed to be fiction. But how could this be ficti
Jun 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Posthumous memories

What can you say about a book that starts with the funeral of the main character, Bras Cubas? He died on a Friday in August 1869 at the age of 74. He was happy that he was accompanied by eleven friends to the grave but it was raining. Darn. Cause of death? Pneumonia. But he was rich, prosperous and single. So it wasn’t all that bad. So why not write a book about his life?

And what a tale. Although death seems to be a major topic, love is the main player.

Bras Cubas has a thing
Nov 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
I have not read anything by Machado de Assis before, though I've been wanting to. He was a prolific author that, strangely, not a lot of people have heard about, and I'm not sure why. He wrote The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas in 1881, but if you picked this up without realizing that and just read it now, you would likely it think it had actually been written in the last fifty years.

There's a freshness to his writing that holds up well today. I was nervous at first because I knew it was only
Mar 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The trivial and the tragic, interwoven in a nest of gentlefolk.
Nate D
Feb 14, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all of us small winners
Recommended to Nate D by: pre-modern postmodernism
This is the autobiography of a fictional dead writer -- not a writer who is dead, our narrator observes but a dead man who is writing, recounting his story from beyond the grave. That his story is so ordinary in its arc of 19th-century gentry romance and petty political aspiration just allows him to fill its margins with incisive observation, philosophizing both expansive and bitterly cynical, and darkly playful post-modern games -- chapters designed to explain other chapters or themselves, a ch ...more
Sarah Samir
Jul 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Each century brought its share of shadow and light, apathy and combat, truth and error, and its courtship of systems, new ideas, new illusions."


First time reading anything by Machado de Assis. This was my first time being introduced to the Brazilian Literature and that was with our book club.

This book is so funny and was written really well. Starting from the opposite way, Death.
The story of Brás Cubas and all encounters with humans through family, friendships, and even love.

I didn't like Vir
The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas...what can I say. This is my first read of de Assis a South American author, very different from any read I have enjoyed before. I have never read a book with so much introduction. The narrator is writing his story of life after he dies! What I call his delirium while he is passing from one state to the next is humorous...riding a hippopotamus!

Brás Cubas, is quite the person of drama, tells the story of his life once gone from birth to the complete circle of
Ben Loory
Mar 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Ben by: patty
it's like a shorter, faster-moving, brazilian tristram shandy, filled with some really amazing metaphors (like the trapeze the man carries inside his head) and a really fun sense of hopeless melancholy. i kinda wish a little more *happened* in it, but i imagine braz cubas feels the same way.

the translation is incredible. while it's not quite impossible to believe that this book was written in 1880 (tristram shandy of course was even crazier a hundred years earlier), it is impossible that this tr
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
"Posthumous", not because it was published after the author's death, but because Bras Cubas wrote his memoirs after he died. This is a 19th century work so it's supposed to be the original. Problem is, it didn't come as new to me, having read before the 20th century bestseller "Lovely Bones" by Alice Sebold where a murdered girl narrates.

There are similarities here with Machado de Assis' other masterpiece, "Dom Casmurro", both in the manner the narrators ended up (alone) and their principal fema
May 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow! The word "remarkable" tends to be overused, but trust me, this novel is assuredly remarkable. I was reading a blog in which Woody Allen praised it as one of five favorite books he'd pick to have if he had to choose, and I was intrigued. Woody selected a Brazilian novel I'm pretty sure I never heard of? From 1880?

When I tracked it down I noted that Susan Sontag wrote the introduction for the first English translation in 1952 (the translation was done by William L. Grossman). With both Woody
Kim Lockhart
May 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the most underappreciated authors of all-time. Never heard of him? You are not alone. Even folks in South America, even in Brazil from which he hails, haven't heard of him. Who knows why. I would love to see anyone attempt this kind of novel structure, and come off so well.

It's impossible to adequately describe this incredibly clever first person delivered "posthumous autobiography." There are many insights, both oblique and covert, and a multitude of lessons to glean. You don't
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Oct 23, 2013 added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Nathan "N.R." by: Aubrey & ALL of 20th cent literature
There comes a time in every country's literature when they discover fiction, the novel. Sure, they've had grand poetry and epic and travel accounts and maybe some grand memoirs previously. But fiction. Noveling. There's a thesis to be written about when it breaks out whether at the beginning or late or how and what precedes it. Brazil's literature discovered ficitoning with de Assis in the 19th century.

One gets the feeling in the Usofa that we are being threatened with a post-fiction era. Readin
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Goodreads Librari...: Change page count 1 9 Aug 22, 2020 03:02AM  
Reading 1001: The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas by Machado de Assis 3 30 Apr 30, 2020 02:40PM  
Never too Late to...: 2017 December: Translation: The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas 37 37 Dec 27, 2017 03:42PM  
just starting 2 46 Jun 15, 2012 06:32PM  
Obrigatório 1 32 Feb 20, 2008 08:59AM  

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Joaquim 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, playwright 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.

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