by Assis, Machado De
Like other great nineteenth-century novels - The Scarlet Letter, Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary - Machado de Assis's Dom Casmurro explores the themes of marriage and adultery. But what distinguishes Machado's novel from the realism of its contemporaries, and what makes it such a delightful discovery for English-speaking readers, is its eccentric and wildly unpredictable narrative style. Far from creating the illusion of an orderly fictional "reality, " Dom Casmurro is told by a narrator who is disruptively self-conscious, deeply subjective, and prone to all manner of marvelous digression. As he recounts the events of his life from the vantage of a lonely old age, Bento continually interrupts his story to reflect on the writing of it: he examines the aptness of an image or analogy, considers cutting out certain scenes before taking the manuscript to the printer, and engages in a running, and often hilarious, dialogue with the reader. But the novel is more than a performance of stylistic acrobatics. It is an ironic critique of Catholicism, in which God appears as a kind of divine accountant whose ledgers may be balanced in devious as well as pious ways. It is also a story about love and its obstacles, about deception and self-deception, and about the failure of memory to make life's beginning fit neatly into its end. First published in 1900, Dom Casmurro is one of the great unrecognized classics of the turn of the century by one of Brazil's greatest writers. Newly translated and edited by John Gledson, with an afterword by Joao Adolfo Hansen, this Library of Latin America edition is the only complete, unabridged, and annotated translation available of one of the most distinctive novels ofthe last century.
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