CBR13Bingo – Pandemic
We learn in the opening section and introduction to this book that Machado de Assis has Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy in mind with this book, and that influence is clear throughout. The structure of this novel is not entirely novelistic, but instead is presented as a diary published after the death of our protagonist, Bras Cubas, who is a minor, failing lord who owns plantations in Brazil. And sometimes a lot happens and sometimes very little happens, as is the nature of life. He falls in and out of love, he almost gets married, but reminds us triumphantly that he has NOT married, and throughout we find him getting into different levels of “scrapes”. It’s not a Tom Jones kind of book, and even though he mentions Tristram Shandy, that comparison feels more structural to me. For example, there’s a lot of false starts and missteps in the writing that come across as the intimate musings of a diarist, and not the conscientious narrator of a novel. Personality and structure-wise, this book feels more in line with something like The Diary of Samuel Pepys.
Regardless, this novel was published in the 1880s and the language, through what I can guess is a solid translation by Margaret Jull Costa, feels alive and fresh here. What also makes this feel fresh is that while there might have only been a few limited influences and touchstones to compare this to, we have so so so many contemporary novels that are structured just like this. Kurt Vonnegut novel almost always take on this approach. This book is also fun and charming and funny throughout.