Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis

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Out of the sighs of one generation are kneaded the hopes of the next.

Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis (June 21, 1839September 29, 1908) was a Brazilian writer most famous for his innovative novels and short stories, though he was also a poet, dramatist and translator. Generally acclaimed as the greatest figure in Brazilian literature, he founded the Brazilian Academy of Letters and served as its first president.

Quotes[edit]

  • Entendia que há larga ponderação de males e bens, e que a arte de viver consiste em tirar o maior bem do maior mal.
    • He felt that there is a loose balance of good and evil, and that the art of living consists in getting the greatest good out of the greatest evil.
    • Iaiá Garcia (1878) ch. 3; Albert I. Bagby, Jr. (trans.) Iaiá Garcia (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1977) p. 23.
  • A vida...é uma enorme loteria; os prêmios são poucos, os malogrados inúmeros, e com os suspiros de uma geração é que se amassam as esperanças de outra. Isto é a vida.
    • Life…is an enormous lottery: the prizes are few, the failures innumerable. Out of the sighs of one generation are kneaded the hopes of the next. That's life.
    • "Teoria do medalhão" (1881), first collected in Papéis avulses (1882); Jack Schmitt and Lorie Ishimatsu (trans.) The Devil's Church, and Other Stories (London: Grafton, 1987) p. 113.
  • A melhor definição do amor não vale um beijo de moça namorada.
    • The best definition of love in the world is not worth one kiss from the girl you love.
    • "O Espelho", from Papéis avulses (1882); William L. Grossman and Helen Caldwell (trans.) The Psychiatrist, and Other Stories (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966) p. 60.
  • Creio até que o coração dela ensinou-me alguma coisa, embora noviço, ou por isso mesmo. Nesta matéria desaprende-se com o uso e o ignorante é que é douto.
    • I even thought her heart taught me something, in spite of its inexperience, or perhaps precisely because of it, for in matters of love one unlearns with practice, and the novice is the learned one.
    • "Primas de Sapucaia!" (1883), first collected in Histórias sem data (1884); Jack Schmitt and Lorie Ishimatsu (trans.) The Devil's Church, and Other Stories (London: Grafton, 1987) p. 19.
  • O maior pecado, depois do pecado, é a publicação do pecado.
    • The greatest sin, after the initial sin, is its publication.
    • Quincas Borba (1891) ch. 32; Clotilde Wilson (trans.) Philosopher or Dog? (New York: Noonday Press, 1954) p. 41.

Dom Casmurro (1899)[edit]

English quotations and page-numbers are from Helen Caldwell (trans.) Dom Casmurro (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971).
  • A imaginação foi a companheira de toda a minha existência, viva, rápida, inquieta, alguma vez tímida e amiga de empacar, as mais delas capaz de engolir campanhas e campanhas, correndo.
    • Imagination has been the companion of my whole existence – lively, swift, restless, at times timid and balky, most often ready to devour plain upon plain in its course.
    • Ch. 40, p. 98.
  • Quantas intenções viciosas há assim que embarcam, a meio caminho, numa frase inocente e pura! Chega a fazer suspeitar que a mentira é muita vez tão involuntária como a transpiração.
    • How many wicked intentions climb aboard a pure and innocent phrase, after it is already on its way! It is enough to make one suspect that lying is, many a time, as involuntary as breathing.
    • Ch. 41, p. 100.
  • O destino não é só dramaturgo, é também o seu próprio contra-regra, isto é, designa a entrada dos personagens em cena, dá-lhes as cartas e outros objetos, e executa dentro os sinais correspondentes ao diálogo, uma trovoada, um carro, um tiro.
    • Destiny is not only a dramatist, it is also its own stage manager. That is, it sets the entrances of the characters on scene, gives them letters and other objects, and produces the off-stage noises to go with the dialogue: thunder, a carriage, a shot.
    • Ch. 73, pp. 159-60.
  • Tudo acaba, leitor; é um velho truísmo, a que se pode acrescentar que nem tudo o que dura muito tempo. Esta segunda parte não acha crentes fáceis, ao contrário, a idéia de que um castelo de vento dura mais que o mesmo vento de que é feito, dificilmente se despegará da cabeça, e é bom que seja assim, para que se não perca o costume daquelas construções quase eternas.
    • Everything comes to an end, reader. It is an old truism to which may be added that not everything that lasts, lasts for long. This latter part is not readily admitted; on the contrary the idea that an air castle lasts longer than the very air of which it is made is hard to get out of a person's head, and this is fortunate, otherwise the custom of making those almost eternal constructions might be lost.
    • Ch. 118, p. 235
  • A vida é tão bela que a mesma idéia da morte precisa de vir primeiro a ela, antes de se ver cumprida.
    • Life is so beautiful that even the idea of death must be born before it can be realized.
    • Ch. 133, p. 255

As Memórias Póstumas de Brás Cubas (1881)[edit]

English quotations and page-numbers are from Gregory Rabassa (trans.) The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999).
  • Algum tempo hesitei se devia abrir estas memórias pelo princípio ou pelo fim, isto é, se poria em primeiro lugar o meu nascimento ou a minha morte. Suposto o uso vulgar seja começar pelo nascimento, duas considerações me levaram a adotar diferente método: a primeira é que eu não sou propriamente um autor defunto mas um defunto autor, para quem a campa foi outro berço; a segunda é que o escrito ficaria assim mais galante e mais novo. Moisés, que também contou a sua morte, não a pôs no intróito, mas no cabo: diferença radical entre este livro e o Pentateuco.
    • For some time I debated over whether I should start these memoirs at the beginning or at the end, that is, whether I should put my birth or my death in first place. Since common usage would call for beginning with birth, two considerations led me to adopt a different method: the first is that I am not exactly a writer who is dead but a dead man who is a writer, for whom the grave was a second cradle; the second is that the writing would be more distinctive and novel in that way. Moses, who also wrote about his death, didn't place it at the opening but at the close: a radical difference between this book and the Pentateuch.
    • Ch. 1 (opening words), p. 7.
  • Homem é…uma errata pensante, isso sim. Cada estação da vida é uma edição, que corrige a anterior, e que será corrigida também, até a edição definitiva, que o editor da de graça aos vermes.
    • Man is...a thinking erratum, that's what he is. Every season of life is an edition that corrects the one before and which will also be corrected itself until the definitive edition, which the publisher gives to the worms gratis.
    • Ch. 27, p. 57.
  • Verdadeiramente há só uma desgraça: é não nascer.
    • There is truly only one misfortune: that of not being born.
    • Ch. 117, p. 162.
  • Gosto dos epitáfios; eles são, entre a gente civilizada, uma expressão daquele pio e secreto egoísmo que induz o homem a arrancar à morte um farrapo ao menos da sombra que passou.
    • Besides, I like epitaphs. Among civilized people they're an expression of that pious and secret selfishness that induces us to pull out of death a shred at least of the shade that has passed on.
    • Ch. 151, p. 196.

Quotes about de Assis[edit]

  • Years ago I read a man named Machado de Assis who wrote a book called Dom Casmurro. Machado de Assis is a South American writer — black father, Portuguese mother — writing in 1865, say. I thought the book was very nice. Then I went back and read the book and said, Hmm. I didn’t realize all that was in that book. Then I read it again, and again, and I came to the conclusion that what Machado de Assis had done for me was almost a trick: he had beckoned me onto the beach to watch a sunset. And I had watched the sunset with pleasure. When I turned around to come back in I found that the tide had come in over my head. That’s when I decided to write.
  • The supreme black literary artist to date.
    • Harold Bloom, in Genius : A Mosaic of One Hundred Exemplary Creative Minds (New York: Warner, 2002) p. 674
  • Machado de Assis is a kind of miracle, another demonstration of the autonomy of literary genius in regard to time and place, politics and religion.
    • Harold Bloom, in Genius : A Mosaic of One Hundred Exemplary Creative Minds (New York: Warner, 2002) p. 675
  • Machado de Assis is almost certainly the greatest of all Portuguese-language novelists. He is also a novelist far ahead of his time. There is little in the twentieth-century novel that his subtle, ingenious and sardonic technical procedures do not anticipate. His style – elegant, cool, always restrained – is unsurpassed in the Portuguese language.
  • The greatest author ever produced in Latin America.
    • Susan Sontag, in "Afterlives: The Case of Machado de Assis", in New Yorker (7 May 1990)

External links[edit]

Media related to Machado de Assis at Wikimedia Commons