Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis, a black writer of the NINETEENTH century considered to be one of the large feathers of the brazilian literature, has been the rage in the united States. The English translation of one of his works sold out in 24 hours coinciding with the protests, anti-racist by the death of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer.
“Posthumous memories of Brás Cubas” (1881), which tells of the loves and misadventures of a man who died in a Brazil still slave-holding, was re-released by Penguin Classics on June 2 in the united States, and the next day, the largest chains of books in the country were left without copies. “In one week, was already in its third edition,” explains an amazed Flora Thomson-DeVeaux, the translator. The editorial, which does not disclose its spins, it considers that the fact that is has been exhausted is a success.
From his home in Rio de Janeiro, Thomson-DeVeaux considered it premature to relate the excellent sales with the surge of outrage over the death of Floyd, which occurred in the past may 25 in Minneapolis. The translator prefers to wait to see the response of the readers in order to “remake the way” and “understand why” Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis (1839-1908) “had this success in this time of social tensions on account of racism.
Praised by big names like Susan Sontag, Woody Allen or Philip Roth, the brazilian writer had been impacted until now to “a select group of people” outside of Brazil, and had been kept at the margin of a “massification”, despite the fact that his work is circulating on the English language from more than 70 years ago.
The first contact of Thomson-DeVeaux with the original version of “Memories posthumous Brás Cubas” was on the university when it was still inconceivable to her, the idea of devoting five years of his life to translate the work into his doctoral dissertation for Brown University. “The first time I read it I laughed a lot, I found it very fun and very surprising”, as “every time I passed the page was something completely unexpected,” he recalls. However, as it was digging into reading, “there emerged a fund not only perverse”, but rather “pain behind the jokes”. “I went through a phase in which I was unable to laugh with the novel”, because “it was sad” by the “social tragedies” that are invoked in it to portray critically the society, rio de janeiro of the NINETEENTH century.
In the work of Machado de Assis is not only figures appear representatives of the elite of brazil, but also characters belonging to the world of slavery (Brazil abolished it in 1888, the last country in America). “I tried to reflect in the notes to the end of the book all the context of this slave society”, says the translator, who notes that it is also “perfectly possible to enjoy the book without this counterbalance social-historical”.
To Thomson-DeVeaux, one of the scenes more clear to illustrate that “laugh pain” takes place after the death of the father of Bras, when the main character and his sister discuss to divide the properties of its parent. In this dialog, the Bras discovers that the slave with the one who wanted to stay had been freed by his father before his death. “Placed at the same level to the human being and of money. Are cosificados. When you think that it is a non-white men that wrote it, you feel a kick in the stomach: What did he to write this?”, question the translator.
The color of your skin
In recent years, the skin color of Machado de Assis was a source of untold discussions. Some experts and activists of the black movement, criticized the racism would have made them white your figure throughout the story. In 2019 it became viral a picture of the writer with a complexion of brown, considerably darker than that until then he had worn their traditional black and white photography.
“The bleaching Machado is a historical fact,” says Thomson, who recalls that the writer “was registered as white when he died”, a sample of “these particularities of the brazilian society”, the country that currently more than half of its 210 million are of african descent.
Born in the capital fluminense, the son of a wall painter and a washerwoman Portuguese, Machado de Assis, he cultivated the novel, the short story, drama, poetry, and criticism. Of self-training, among her best known works, and “Memorias posthumous Brás Cubas”, also listed sometimes as “Quincas Borba” (1891), “Dom Casmurro” (1899), “Esau and Jaco” (1904) and “Memorial de Aires” (1908). .