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Papéis Avulsos
J.M. Machado de Assis
publisher: , 1882

translated as:
The Psychiatrist and Other Stories
publisher: Querido, Amsterdam, 1963
translation: William L. Grossman / Helen Caldwell

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This selection of twelve of the best of Machado de Assis’s short stories (he wrote altogether almost two hundred), is headed by "The Psychiatrist". This is in fact one of his most important works, running to some 50 pages, and less a short story than a comic philosophical tale in the style of Swift or Voltaire. It is set in the last years of Portuguese rule in Brazil, in Itaguaí, a small town not far from Rio de Janeiro. The central character is a doctor, Simão Bacamarte, who decides to carry out a large scale experiment in the town, to define the frontiers of madness: predictably, the results are comic and perverse, ending up with Simão deciding that he himself is the only mad person in the town. On the way, a number of minor charcaters, like Simão’s wife, whose exclusive diet of "the wonderful Itaguaí pork" fails in its object of making her pregnant, or the psychiatrist’s cowardly side-kick, Crispim Soares, make this a comment on human nature in various of its aspects, including the political.

From the same collection, Loose leaves, published in 1882, comes "The Mirror", another typical mixture of comedy and philosophy: this time it is the essence of human beings, the "soul" which
is the subject. Jacobina is made Second Lieutenant in the (more decorative than useful) National Guard, and, with a handsome uniform. However, in a typical reversal, it turns out that, when he is alone, isolated from others’ flattery, it is not his sense of his own identity that saves him, so much as this uniform, without which he would disappear into the mirror. Two other stories, "Education of a Stuffed Shirt" and ‘Final Request’, are taken from this, the most comic and fantastic of Machado’s collections.

Other stories, in a more realist vein, show Machado’s awareness of the brutal side of human nature: "The Secret Heart" is a study of sadism, climaxing in an unforgettable sense of cruelty wreaked on a mouse. "The Rod of Justice" and "Father versus Mother" show this in the context of slavery — they concentrate on figures who are poor, but free, and whose tight, tense situation induces them to vent their frustration on those beneath them, the slaves, with dreadful consequences. His sympathetic and intelligent treatment of women is beautifully displayed in "A Woman’s Arms", "Admiral’s Night", and "Midnight Mass", the latter a classic of unreliable narration. (www.babelguides.com)

bookweb from:
Lezen&Cetera, Pieter Steinz
 
ON MACHADO'S BOOKSHELF

The Red and the Black
Stendhal, 1830
The rise and fall of Julian Sorel. Born into peasantry, he connives his way into aristocratic circles, but his powers of seduction lead to his downfall when he commits a crime of passion.

Iracema
José Martiniano de Alencar, 1865
Set in the sixteenth century, Iracema is an extremely romantic portrayal of a doomed love between a Portuguese soldier and an Indian maiden.

Gulliver's Travels
Jonathan Swift, 1726
In this 18th-century satire, Gulliver's adventures in Lilliput, Brobdingnag, Laputa and in the country of the Houyhnhnms, expose the absurdity and hypocrisy of intellectuals and governments the world over.

Jacques the Fatalist and his Master
Denis Diderot, 1796
Jacques the Fatalist is Diderot's answer to the problem of existence. If human beings are determined by their genes and their environment, how can they claim to be free to want or do anything?

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman
Laurence Sterne, 1759-1767
Part novel, part digression, this gloriously disordered narrative interweaves the birth and life of the unfortunate 'hero' Tristram Shandy, the eccentric philosophy of his father Walter, the amours and military obsessions of Uncle Toby, and a host of other characters.

A Journey Around My Room
Xavier de Maistre, 1794
Confined to his quarters for 42 days as punishment for dueling, the French soldier Xavier de Maistre (1763-1852) decides to undertake a journey around his room.

Cousin Basilio
José Maria Eça de Queirós, 1878
A Flaubertian study of a middle-class Lisbon family. The novel has been praised for its female characters: the romantic and sensual (and happily married) Luiza, who falls in love with her cousin Basilio; and Luiza's servant, Juliana, embittered and virginal, who scorns her.

BOOKS BY J.M. MACHADO DE ASSIS:

The Psychiatrist and Other Stories
1882
Humorous tales on the cutting edge of illusion and reality.

WHAT TO READ AFTER MACHADO'S STORIES?

BRAZILIAN CLASSICS
Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands
Jorge Amado, 1966
Dona Flor' s husband may have been a gambler and womanizer, but when he dies all she remembers is his lovemaking. A new marriage does not bring the erotic love she longs for. So when her first husband appears naked at the foot of her bed, eager to reclaim his conjugal rights, it is hard to resist.

Rebellion in the Backlands
Euclides da Cunha, 1902
Examining the brutal campaign against religious mystic Antonio Conselheiro and his rebels, this work is an account of the resistance of the backland natives at the seige of Canudos in 1896-1897, and a treatise on the geography, climatology and anthropology of Brazil's back countries and peoples.

São Bernardo
Graciliano Ramos, 1934
The rise and fall of an illiterate Brazilian peasant-turned-capitalist.

The Devil to Pay in the Backlands
João Guimaraes Rosa, 1956
Riobaldo, a man who has long been a bandit travelling the interior or Brazil, tells the story of his life and love to an unknown listener.

FIREWORKS AND PITFALLS
Zeno's Conscience
Italo Svevo, 1923
A neurotic old man looks back over his life, exploring his motives and trying to make sense of things.

Fictions
Jorges Luis Borges, 1935/ 1944 / 1949
This is a collection of Borges's fiction, translated and gathered into a single volume. From his 1935 debut with The Universal History of Iniquity, through the influential collections Ficciones and The Aleph, to his final work from the 1980s, Shakespeare Memory.

[Zes novellen]
J.M.A. Biesheuvel, 1972-1985; 2002
Six novellas.

MACHADO'S 'COUSINS'
The Voices of the Dead
Autran Dourado, 1967
The reclusive life of a woman, last in line of a Brazilian family of landowners, is disrupted by the arrival of a stranger.

Sergeant Getulio
João Ubaldo Ribeiro, 1971
In the backlands of Brazil, Sergeant Getulio, a hired gunman capable of terrible brutality and brilliant primitive philosophy, seeks to fulfill his bosses orders: to capture a political enemy and deliver him up for retribution.

SLICE OF LIFE - WITH A TWIST
The Turn of the Screw
Henry James, 1898
The narrator is a young governess, sent off to a country house to take charge of two orphaned children. She finds a pleasant house and a comfortable housekeeper, while the children are beautiful and charming. But she soon begins to feel the presence of intense evil.

Dubliners
James Joyce, 1914
Fifteen stories about ordinary people, trapped in their everyday lives.

[Contos fluminenses]
1870

Helena
1876

[Histórias Sem Data]
1884

Epitaph for a Small Winner
1891

Philosopher or Dog?
1891
The rich and eccentric philosopher Quincas Borbas names his dog after himself because he knows his pet will outlive him. Quincas does die first, leaving his fortune to his dim-witted friend Rube, provided that he takes care of the dog. Rube is hardly prepared for the life that awaits him.

Dom Casmurro
1899

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The Ledge
editor-in-chief: Stacey Knecht, info@the-ledge.com
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