Machado de Assis in Translation: Race, Slavery, and History


Thursday, November 19, 2020, 5:00pm to 6:30pm

Event Poster

A shared reading of The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas with Flora Thomson-DeVeaux and Sidney Chalhoub

This event is virtual. To register, click here.

This event will be held in English, but simultaneous translation will be offered to Portuguese.

Speakers: Flora Thompson-Deveaux, PhD, translator and research director at Radio Novelo and Sidney Chalhoub, Professor of History and African and African-American Studies at Harvard University

Built upon an elliptic, witty realism, Machado de Assis’ The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas is considered the quintessential portrait of Brazilian late XIX century. Its narrator, Brás Cubas, an heir and dilettante from Rio de Janeiro, crafts his recollections directly from the otherworld, from where he can write while being excused from any social inhibitions, and conventions. Dedicated to “the worm that first gnawed at the cold flesh” of his cadaver, the book is divided into short chapters, some of them quite experimental – one consisting only of a sequence of dots, another skipped for pure spectral playfulness.

Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis is a writer of labyrinths where writers such as Susan Sontag, Phillip Roth, and José Saramago have delved into. Brazil’s upper crust mentality, haunted by the dusk of slavery, obsessed with cosmopolitanism while still primordially colonial and racist, are in the epicenter of Assis’ prose. The multiple crossroads of this narration will be explored by two scholars who have dedicated their researches to learning hidden pathways of The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas. This event will thus host a two-folded dialogue in which chapters will be randomly chosen and analyzed by Professor Sidney Chalhoub, author of Machado de Assis, Historiador (2003), and Flora Thomson-DeVeaux’s, PhD, who has recently translated the book, now published as a part of Penguin Classics collection. DeVeaux’s careful devotion to the text will meet Chalhoub’s encounters with a Machado from the archives. 


About the speakers:

Flora Thomson-DeVeaux is a writer, translator, and researcher. She received her BA in Spanish and Portuguese (SPO) from Princeton in 2013. She defended her Ph.D. dissertation titled "Toward a New Translation of Memórias Póstumas de Brás Cubas” at Brown University in 2018 and is currently the research coordinator of Rádio Novelo in Rio de Janeiro. Thomson's translation of Machado's The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas was recently published as part of the Penguin Classics series.

Professor of History and African and African American Studies at Harvard University, and a faculty affiliate of the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, Sidney Chalhoub is the author of seminal and original studies on the social history of Rio de Janeiro: Trabalho, Lar e Botequim (1986), on working-class culture in the early twentieth century; Visões da Liberdade (1990), on the last decades of slavery in the city; and Cidade Febril (1996), on tenements and epidemics in the second half of the nineteenth century. A close reader and enthusiast of Machado de Assis, Chalhoub is also the author of Machado de Assis, Historiador (2003), a book about the literature and political ideas inside the writer’s poetics. Chalhoub taught at the University of Campinas (UNICAMP) for thirty years, where he formed a generation of scholars who have deeply influenced the field of social history of Brazil in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with emphasis on the history of slavery, race, and public health.

Event organized by Prof. Josiah Blackmore, Ana Laura Malmaceda, Eduarda Araujo, João Marcos Copertino, Omar Salomão