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The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas

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This was wonderful. 


Really hard to believe this was published in 1881. It really does feel like it could have been written today (in terms of tone and humour). I guess because so many of us associate 19th century literature with the British and Russian greats. Their bombastic and proper style kind of sets a tone for what you begin to expect of literature from that era but the Brazilian style presumably kicks against that without being very familiar to us. Books like this were so hard to find in the pre-internet days. They've found a new audience now.


The story is told by a Bras Cubas after he dies. He begins by describing his funeral before telling us his life story. It's not an especially epic story. He just lives, loves, works, and often fails. There's not much more to him. Because that's what life is for most of us. It's more the humour and darkness of the book that make his story interesting. He rejects his marriage match then, once she marries someone else, begins an affair with her. But that's about as interesting as his life gets. Then, as promised, he dies. He takes comfort in having no children, specifically in the idea of not forcing the misery of life onto another. 


The chapters are very short, some only a paragraph long. Some chapters are blank. Some are merely an opportunity to speak directly to the reader (or to the critic as he does in one short chapter). I was always of the opinion that people like Joyce invented the modern novel, but again, it seems clear that isn't the case. This book certainly qualifies.



Edited by hux
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