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Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas: A Novel (Hardcover)

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"Is it possible that the most modern, most startlingly avant-garde novel to appear this year was originally published in 1881?" –Parul Sehgal, New York Times


Machado de Assis’s classic novel, the precursor of Latin American fiction, is finally rendered as a stunningly relevant work for twenty-first-century readers.


“I passed away at two o’clock in the afternoon on a Friday in August in 1869, in my beautiful mansion in the Catumbi district of the city.” So begins Machado de Assis’s Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas, told eerily from beyond the grave. First appearing in Brazil in 1881, this remarkably experimental novel was never intended by its author to be a popular “run-of-the-mill-novel.”

Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis, the son of a mulatto father and a washerwoman, and the grandson of freed slaves, was not, originally, expecting literary encomiums in his lifetime, especially not for Brás Cubas. And yet, his prodigious output of novels, plays, and stories would influence generations of South American writers. Now, with this coruscating new translation of one of his most compelling novels, esteemed translators Margaret Jull Costa and Robin Patterson reveal a pivotal moment in Machado’s career, as his flights of the surreal became his literary hallmark.


In eloquent, contemporary prose, Costa and Patterson breathe new life into the dynamic character of Brás Cubas and reveal the vivid, tempestuous Rio de Janeiro of his time. The recently deceased Cubas narrates his life story, admitting glibly: “I am not so much a writer who has died, as a dead man who has decided to write.” His life, therefore, is relayed out of order, beginning with his funeral, and then stepping back to offer “a brief genealogical sketch.” An enigmatic, amusing and frequently insufferable anti-hero, Cubas describes his childhood spent tormenting household slaves and meddling cheekily in adult affairs, through his bachelor years navigating his own torrid affairs, up to his final days obsessing over nonsensical poultices.


Fantastical in structure and enthralling in tone, Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas is a deeply human story of a somber life—how much of it reflects the author’s own personality we will never know. At once a work of uproarious mockery and great sympathy, this is Machado de Assis at his most pathbreaking: an incisive observer of the human condition, and a founding father of modernist fiction.



About the Author


Machado De Assis (1839–1908), the grandson of ex-slaves, was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He is the groundbreaking author of such novels as Quincas Borba and The Alienist, as well as The Collected Stories of Machado de Assis.

Award-winning translator Margaret Jull Costa lives in England.

Award-winning translator Robin Patterson lives in England.

Praise For…


A Playful Masterpiece That Expanded the Novel’s Possibilities.... Is it possible that the most modern, most startlingly avant-garde novel to appear this year was originally published in 1881? Margaret Jull Costa and Robin Patterson, who translated the monumental 2018 edition of Machado’s 'Collected Stories', offer little historical context, only sparse notes. Their book is unadorned, and often better for it, where the common reader is concerned. We encounter the novel not as a relic, encrusted with renown and analysis, much revered and much handled, but in all its freshness and truculent refusal of fiction’s tropes. Jull Costa and Patterson also offer the superior translation. The language is honed and specific, effortless yet charged with feeling.
— Parul Sehgal

One of [De Assis'] most celebrated works, The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas, is being rejuvenated this summer with a new translation by Margaret Jull Costa and Robin Patterson. When first published in 1881, the book breathed new life into Brazilian literature. The new translation feels even fresher.... When it comes to translating Portuguese literature, one cannot find a more qualified translator than Margaret Jull Costa.... The most a reader can ask for is that the translation brings out the irony, wit, and playfulness of Machado de Assis’s prose. In that respect, this new translation by the duo is sure to impress.

— Pradeep Niroula

A great ironist, a tragic comedian. . . . In his books, in their most comic moments, he underlines the suffering by making us laugh.
— Philip Roth

The greatest writer ever produced in Latin America.
— Susan Sontag

The supreme black literary artist to date.
— Harold Bloom
Product Details
ISBN: 9781631495328
ISBN-10: 1631495321
Publisher: Liveright
Publication Date: June 16th, 2020
Pages: 256
Language: English