Review From User :
I read Machado de Assis's Dom Casmurro so many years back that if it was not for its splendor I might have forgotten it, but a brief revist was enough to remind me why I fell perilously in love with it. One of Brazil's literature masterpieces without doubt.
Love, jealousy and betrayal are the central themes of Dom Casmurro. If it reminds you of Othello or Madame Bovary, you are not too far off the mark. But, at the same time, it could not be more different. The novel is a memoir told in the first person by Bento or Bentinho, aka Dom Casmurro, his story of enduring love affair with Capitu. The title character tells us of his younger self, his love, courtship, and marriage to a memorable and colorful Capitu.
"Lovers' language, give me an exact and poetic comparison to say what those eyes of Capitu were like. No image comes to mind that doesn't offend against the rules of good style, to say what they were and what they did to me. Undertow eyes Why not Undertow. That's the notion that the new expression put in my head. They held some kind of mysterious, active fluid, a force that dragged one in, like the undertow of a wave retreating from the shore on stormy days. So as not to be dragged in, I held onto anything around them, her ears, her arms, her hair spread about her shoulders; but as soon as I returned to the pupils of her eyes again, the wave emerging from them grew towards me, deep and dark, threatening to envelop me, draw me in and swallow me up."
As you have guessed, we get only his point of view, and the reader may well ask 'Did Capitu in fact betray Betinho' or 'How would she defend herself if she was here' However, we never hear her story, but only Bentinho's reminiscences. Bentinho love and suspicious nature fuels much of his story, but above all, the mystery is the essence of this masterpiece. Whether Bentinho actually was betrayed is pretty much beside the point. We get all his thoughts as they spew out on the page, as near and familiar as a stream of consciousness as we could imagine for a novel published in 1899. Indeed, Dom Casmurro could have been written yesterday.
The narrator goes ahead with his story and retraces himself, forgets his thoughts, lies both to us and himself, and generally confuses everything up in a series of short chapters (such as: 'The soul is full of mysteries'; 'Idea without legs and idea without arms ;' 'Hangover Eyes' and 'Shake your head, reader'). And the result is magnificent. Yes, Bentinho appears wicked, funny and loves to withhold his secrets just to reveal them when you least expect. Regardless, he leaves you breathless and almost yelling at him 'Come on, Bentinho, what did Capitu do to you Please, tell us!'
Despite the supposed betrayal, throughout the novel there is no doubt regarding their love,
"We stood there with heaven in us. Our hands united our nerves, and made of two creatures one-and that one a seraph. Our eyes continued to say infinite things, only the words in our mouths did not attempt to pass our lips; they returned to the heart, silently as they came...."
How can a book published in 1899 seem so contemporary in style and content That is one of Machado de Assis's merits. He is revealed here as a master novelist, as he shapes, manipulates, unites, betrays and ultimately disbands his small collection of characters with bold ease. At no point does he go too far or explain too much, leaving the reader to hesitate, question and argue with himself, and, in the end, the reader cannot help but feel compassionate towards Bentinho despite his lies or any truths.
Note: Read in Portuguese, although there is an English translation; quotes from Goodreads.
Some more quotes, for those who read Portuguese:
* "Mas a saudade Ã© isto mesmo; Ã© o passar e repassar das memÃ³rias antigas"
* "NÃ£o podia tirar os olhos daquela criatura de quatorze anos, alta, forte e cheia, apertada em um vestido de chita, meio desbotado. Os cabelos grossos, feitos em duas tranÃ§as, com as pontas atadas uma Ã outra, Ã moda do tempo, desciam-lhe pelas costas. Morena, olhos claros e grandes, nariz reto e comprido, tinha a boca fina e o queixo largo. As mÃ£os, a despeito de alguns ofÃcios rudes, eram curadas com amor, nÃ£o cheiravam a sabÃµes finos nem Ã¡guas de toucador, mas com Ã¡gua do poÃ§o e sabÃ£o comum trazia-as sem mÃ¡cula. CalÃ§ava sapatos de duraque, rasos e velhos, a que ela mesma dera alguns pontos."
* "Tinha entÃ£o pouco mais de dezessete... Aqui devia ser o meio do livro, mas a inexperiÃªncia fez-me ir atrÃ¡s da pena, e chego quase ao fim do papel, com o melhor da narraÃ§Ã£o por dizer. Agora nÃ£o hÃ¡ mais que levÃ¡-la a grandes pernadas, capÃtulo sobre capÃtulo, pouca emenda, pouca reflexÃ£o, tudo em resumo. JÃ¡ esta pÃ¡gina vale por meses, outras valerÃ£o por anos, e assim chegaremos ao fim. Um dos sacrifÃcios que faÃ§o a esta dura necessidade Ã© a anÃ¡lise das minhas emoÃ§Ãµes dos dezessete anos. NÃ£o sei se alguma vez tiveste dezessete anos. Se sim, deves saber que Ã© a idade em que a metade do homem e a metade do menino formam um sÃ³ curioso. Eu era um curiosÃssimo, diria o meu agregado JosÃ© Dias, e nÃ£o diria mal. O que essa qualidade superlativa me rendeu nÃ£o poderia nunca dizÃª-lo aqui, sem cair no erro que acabo de condenar; a anÃ¡lise das minhas emoÃ§Ãµes daquele tempo Ã© que entrava no meu plano. Posto que filho do seminÃ¡rio e de minha mÃ£e, sentia jÃ¡, debaixo do recolhimento casto, uns assomos de petulÃ¢ncia e de atrevimento; eram do sangue, mas eram tambÃ©m das moÃ§as que na rua ou da janela nÃ£o me deixavam viver sossegado. Achavam-me lindo, e diziam-mo; algumas queriam mirar de mais perto a minha beleza, e a vaidade Ã© um princÃpio de corrupÃ§Ã£o."
* "Nem eu, nem tu, nem ela, nem qualquer outra pessoa dessa histÃ³ria poderia responder mais, tÃ£o certo Ã© que o destino, como todos os dramaturgos, nÃ£o anuncia as peripÃ©cias nem o desfecho. Eles chegam a seu tempo, atÃ© que o pano cai, apagam-se as luzes, e os espectadores vÃ£o dormir. Nesse gÃªnero hÃ¡ porventura alguma coisa que reformar, e eu proporia, como ensaio, que as peÃ§as comeÃ§assem pelo fim. Otelo mataria a si e a DesdÃªmona no primeiro ato, os trÃªs seguintes seriam dados Ã aÃ§Ã£o lenta e decrescente do ciÃºme, e o Ãºltimo ficaria sÃ³ com cenas iniciais da ameaÃ§a aos turcos, as explicaÃ§Ãµes de Otelo e DesdÃªmona, e o bom conselho do fino lago: "Mete dinheiro na bolsa". Desta maneira, o espectador, por um lado, acharia no teatro a charada habitual que os periÃ³dicos lhe dÃ£o, porque os Ãºltimos atos explicam o desfecho do primeiro, espÃ©cie de conceito, e, por outro lado, ia para a cama com uma boa impressÃ£o de ternura e de amor:
Ela amou o que me afligira,
Eu amei a piedade dela."
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