Machado de Assis

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Machado de Assis (Brazil, 1839)

"Memorias Postumas de Bras Cubas/ Epitaph of a Small Winner" (1881) +

synopsis forthcoming

"Quincas Borba/ Philosopher or Dog?" (1891) +

synopsis forthcoming

"Dom Casmurro" (1899) +

The book pretends to be a memoir written by a man who came to be known as Dom Casmurro. He lives alone with a servant. At the age of 15 Bentinho was destined to become a priest. His father had been a plantation owner who one day hired an omeopatic doctor, Jose Dias, to look after the health of his slaves. His father died when Bentinho was eleven, but Jose Dias remained to live with his family. The other people in the house were also widowed like his mom: uncle Cosme and cousin Justina. His mother, Dona Gloria, had sold the plantation but kept living in the same house where she had lived with his father. She always wore black. His mother had vowed to God that if she had a boy she would send him to the seminary to become a priest. God gave her a boy and now Dona Gloria was sending Bento to the seminary against his will. His best friend was Capitolina or Capitu, a 14-year-old girl, daughter of their humble neighbor Padua, who had once contemplated suicide after losing his job. Jose Dias had warned his mother than the two teenagers were alone too often while Bento was eavesdropping. Capitu told Bento that his best bet was to make an alliance with Jose Dias and hope that he would convince his mother not to send him to the seminary. The two teenagers finally kissed and promises each other eternal love. However, Bento began to have the first fits of jealousy. Jose was willing to help because he was dreaming of traveling to Europe and saw Bento as the ideal traveling buddy. The father who welcomed Bento to the seminary also provided indirectly a way to get out of there: he mentioned to his mother and to Justina that one could withdraw if the "call" was not there. Bento tried to talk to his mother but she was inflexible: she owed Bento's priesthood to God who had given her the son she had wanted so badly. Jose suggested a new strategy: cough and pretend to be sick. Capitu followed a different strategy: she ingratiated Bento's mother to the point that Dona Gloria couldn't live without Capitu and began to secretely realize that she could have been a perfect daughter-in-law. Sancha was a widower who only lives for his daughter Sinhazinha, who was Capitu's best friend. Once in the seminary, Bento's jealousy got worse and Capitu felt insulted. At the seminary his best friend was Escobar, who shared his desire not to become a priest. Finally, Jose Dias arranged for Bento to leave the seminary and travel to Rome to ask for a papal absolution. Escobar too left the seminary. He became a successful businessman and marries Sancha, Capitu's best friend. Bento studied law. After graduating and while starting a profitable business, he married Capitu. He still had fits of jealousy despite the delivery of his first son, Ezekiel. The two couples remained close friends until one day Bento found himself attracted to Sancha and felt that she was reciprocating. All of this simply because they had touched each other's hand accidentally. He could not dispel the thought, no matter how repellent he found it to contemplate adultery with his best friend's wife, who happened to be his wife's best friend too. However, tragedy struck: Escobar died and Sancha returned to her family. Bento's jealousy took a dangerous course when one day Capitu mentioned that their son Ezekiel had Escobar's eyes. Suddenly Bento became obsessed with the suspicion that Ezekiel might be Escobar's son. Bento started noticing more and more similar traits and eventually started seeing in his son the image of the dead friend. After attending a performance of Othello, in which the protagonist kills his innocent wife, Bento prepared to commit suicide. Then he almost served the poison to his little son. Finally he confronted Capitu. She was shocked to hear the accusation that she had cheated on him but accepted to divorce him. They delt with the matter discreetly: she simply traveled to Switzerland with Ezekiel and never returned. Bento's mother died, Jose Dias died, and eventually Capitu too died. Ezekiel came to visit Bento. Bento had ambivalent feelings for him, still believing him to be the son of his best friend. Ezekiel died of typhoid fever in the Middle East. Bento remained convinced of having been the victim of adultery, but there is no proof.

"Esau e Jaco" (1904)

synopsis forthcoming
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