Quincas Borba (Library of Latin America) Paperback – 1 Jan 1998
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About the Author
Gregory Rabassa is the preeminent American translator of Spanish and Portuguese, whose works include One Hundred Years of Solitude and The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas. Celso Favaretto teaches at the University of Sao Paulo. David T. Haberly teaches at the University of Virginia."
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"Quincas Borba" tells the story of Rubiao, who inherits a fortune, as well as a pet dog, from the eccentric philosopher Quincas Borba. Curiously, the dog is also named Quincas Borba. The novel follows Rubiao as he attempts to find love and fulfillment in 19th century Brazil.
The novel contains many ironic comments on the craft of writing itself, and examines the political, sexual, and economic complexities of Rubiao's world. The author's writing is peppered with intriguing cultural allusions: Poe, Shakespeare's "Othello," Homer, Mozart, Kant, Dante's "Inferno," and more.
"Quincas Borba" is an effective mix of comedy and tragedy. Machado de Assis writes with both insight into and compassion for the human condition. Those interested in 19th century literature, Latin American studies, or the development of the novel should definitely read this book.
Quincas Borba hasn't found a niche in the 'canon' of classics for most anglophone readers, despite the efforts of Harold Bloom, the great canonizer. This recent translation by Gregory Rabassa should open the way to greater recognition. It's fluid and idiomatic in English, and it captures much of the quirky originality of Machado's prose style. Don't look for a well-ordered logical narrative. The author hops in and out of the narrative frame at will. If there's a convention of story-telling, Machado aims to break it. He's sly, elusive/allusive, satirical/sardonic, and insistently mocking, both of his fictive characters and of you the reader. He dances circles around us, sticks out his tongue at our expectations, yet remains as endearing as a mischievous street urchin.
And in fact he was born a mischievous street urchin, a colored child in the slums of a Brazilian city. His life was a unpredictable, almost fanciful, as the tale of Rubião, the chief character of this novel. Rubião has reached early middle age as a lackadaisical school teacher in the province of Minas. By chance, he befriends an eccentric 'philosopher' named Quincas Borba, who instructs him that "to the victor belong the potatoes." When Borba dies, Rubião inherits a vast fortune and a dog, also named Quincas Borba, who may or may not possess the spirit of the philosopher. The new millionaire moves to Rio, falls absurdly in love, suffers obsessions, innocently squanders his wealth with the help of friends ...
... and no one he meets fares much better in terms of rational self interest. Humans delude themselves if they think they are more sensible than dogs. They're whimsical victims of their own sentiments.