QUINCAS BORBA by Joaquim Machado de Assis


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A graceful new translation of a major (1891) novel by the master ironist (1839—1908) who remains Brazil’s greatest writer of fiction. “Quincas Borba” denotes not only the eponymous (possibly mad) “philosopher” whose credo of “Humanit°sm” disastrously misleads his disciple Rubi—o, but also Borbas’s dog (and namesake)—in which form Rubi—o believes his mentor’s soul is reincarnated. Further complications are provided by an unreliable narrator who second-guesses his own storytelling strategies, and by an unstable fictive environment where dogs who are philosophers coexist with flowers that converse. Machado’s tricky narrative keeps collapsing under the reader’s feet, as the ambitious Rubi—o’s star-crossed pursuit of sex, power, and fame incarnates 19th-century Brazil’s precipitous embrace of European culture while simultaneously—and hilariously—illustrating the vanity of human wishes. A great, teasing, profoundly entertaining book: An unforgettable portrayal of a materially oriented Don Quixote that’s also that rarity in any literature—a genuinely philosophical novel.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-19-510681-4
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1998