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The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  16,859 ratings  ·  759 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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  • Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas by Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis
    Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas: A Novel
    Release date: Jun 16, 2020
    "Is it possible that the most modern, most startlingly avant-garde novel to appear this year was originally published in 1881?" – Parul Sehgal on "Pos ...more

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    Availability: 100 copies available, 566 people requesting

    Giveaway dates: Jun 21 - Jul 14, 2020

    Countries available: U.S.

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    John_Dishwasher The Grossman translation is excellent. I mentioned him in my review before I even saw this question.

    Community Reviews

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    Start your review of The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas
    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
    Mike Puma
    Mar 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

    “Do not mourn the dead. They know what they are doing.”
    ― Clarice Lispector, The Hour of the Star

    With those lines, Lispector might have introduced this novel by her countryman. Told from the other side of the grave, we learn of the narrator’s small successes and small failures, ultimately balanced in the totality of things. Braz Cubas, the narrator, provides his autobiography, and his philosophy, with a gentle humor in a novel which anticipates the best of meta-fiction, breaking with a Romantic


    ... 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
    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
    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.
    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
    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
    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
    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.
    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
    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
    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
    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
    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
    Apr 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    Here we have a self-ironical narrator who is hyper-aware of the artifice in his storytelling, virtually mocking it as he continually refers to and exposes the underlying components of his narrative. For example: “Observe now with what skill, with what art, I make the biggest transition in this book.” Or, “These are notes for a sad and commonplace chapter which I shall not write.” This happens all the way through and is lots of fun.

    I think the cheeky voice has thematic implications which reinforc
    Oct 21, 2011 rated it liked it
    If you stripped away the ahead-of-its-time narrative tics, the clever self-reflexive games, the subversive style, what you're left with is the heart of this book: the voice.

    I was less impressed with the stylistic trickery (and enough has been said about that, just read the other Goodreads reviews) than with the voice: often boastful, he still allows you to see all his faults and weaknesses. And though you see all his faults and weaknesses, he still comes across as extremely likeable. Though he
    Free download available at Project Gutenberg

    I made the proofing of this book for Free Literature and it will be published by Project Gutenberg.
    Jul 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    This book vaults into my top ten all time! Our deceased hero writes, "Perhaps I will frighten the reader with the frankness with which I expose myself and emphasize my mediocrity; notice that frankness is the first virtue of a deceased man." Right away the reader gets the drift that De Assis has deviated from the safe path, is a writer for our time, for all time. This s no solemn and studied glorious pageant of heroic deeds and romantic triumphs, instead we get something different, reality! Poor ...more
    Feb 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    Please, please, please read this book!

    It's hard to find words to describe how much I enjoyed this. Like most Brazilian literature books, I had some prejudice towards this one - people who read it said it was difficult to understand, fit for intellectuals. That fear kept me away from Machado de Assis until quite recently, but after reading Helena and finding that the author can be quite entertaining, I gave his most famous book a shot.

    Right on the first page I had the feeling I had discovered a
    "You are alive: I wish you no other calamity." (18)
    It is difficult to believe/accept that this was written in 1880. There is a blurb on the front cover of my copy of David Foster Wallace's Oblivion, which I've always found particularly annoying and off-putting. Zadie Smith gushes: "A visionary, a craftsman, a comedian… He's so modern he's in a different time-space continuum from the rest of us. Goddamn him." If that can be said of DFW, then one can only imagine the superlatives that should be be
    ἀρχαῖος (arkhaîos)
    Jun 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
    Shelves: fiction
    An inspired literary work in the best sense. Brás Cubas is a very modern hero who could be alive, or dead, today. This book should be on every literate reader's short list of favourite books.
    Bob Newman
    Feb 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    "Lifelong Wastrel Kicks a Goal at Last"

    Brazil has produced a number of wonderful novels. I can name "Rebellion in the Backlands" by Euclides da Cunha, "The Devil to Pay in the Backlands" by João Guimaraes Rosa, "The Tent of Miracles" and "Gabriela; Clove and Cinnamon" by Jorge Amado, and "The Three Marias" by Rachel de Queiroz, but these are only a few. You have to add to this list at least a couple novels by J. M. Machado de Assis, Brazil's greatest writer of the 19th century, (he died in 1908)
    Lise Petrauskas
    I really liked this. I think it's going to be with me for awhile even though it was a little hard to keep going at times. It reminds me of reading Tristram Shandy. The enjoyment both authors take really shows in the their sentences and make them pleasurable to read, even thought there's not a lot of story there. Actually, I have by the time I got to the last twenty pages, I realized the storyline was utterly unimportant as were all of the other characters besides Brás Cubas.

    The honest, humorous
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    Reading 1001: The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas by Machado de Assis 3 23 Apr 30, 2020 02:40PM  
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    just starting 2 43 Jun 15, 2012 06:32PM  
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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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