XCIX - (Re)leituras -- Dom Casmurro, by Machado de Assis - comments by André Bandeira
This is the consumate masterpiece of Machado de Assis, published in 1899, when the author had reached the top of his career. The plot departs with a well-to-do Bento, a «carioca» (indigenous to Rio de Janeiro), who manages to drop out from the Seminary, where his widowed mother, by fulfilling a vow, wanted him to stay and become priest. He succeeds in marrying his early love, a not so well-to-do neighbour, called Capitolina or Capitu. But he drops out of the Seminary at the same time as his best friend and colleague, Escobar, with whom he shared the same defective plans. Later in time, both of them, already married and doing well, mingle together, with their own young families. After a lot of toiling and longuing, Bento gets a son, Ezequiel, but, as if there was always a serpent gliding into the green grass of Paradise, he begins feeling some erotical involvement with his best friend's wife. In the meantime, his best friend happens to drown accidentally while in a daring swim in the Summer sea. That is when Bento begins to reckon in his adolescent son, all the traits of his deceased best friend. Burning in jealousy and self-inculpation, he flirts with Shakespeare's Othelo, plans to commit suicide, and almost transforms it, by the irony of circumstances, in the young Ezequiel's assassination. There are, though, no victims, but a dramatic clarification takes place with with his wife, and each one, fall apart for the rest of their lives. His wife leaves with her son, for Europe, she dies there, despite pounding a shower of reconciliatory letters, and the son, who turned himself into an archeologist, dies in Egypt, in the following. Everybody dies, except Bento, who remains to tell the story. As a matter of fact a young friend, Manduca, had died with leper, incidentally, before all characters, while still exchanging letters with a reluctant Bento, on international Politics, as if there was no day after, for him, than the daily news. On the other hand, one never gets to know whether Ezequiel was the son of Bento, or the son of Escobar. Machado de Assis, purportedely leaves us in doubt. We end up adding the reader's doubt to the one of the narrator. Why that? Machado de Assis deals once more with death, just to warn us not to answer to Pilates' questioning on Jesus, about Truth. Escobar had been described, before, as a loveable and creeping seductive character who, however, had no manly consistency. He was conjecturally the God of Love, Afrodithus, who crossed the oceans under the yoke of slavery and who whined for rut, on the beaches of human wreck. He didn't even survived in the consistency of his unproven offspring. As it happened with Manduca, the leperous, dying under a ragged and coloured blanket, the Past rots, and rots fast. We just exist for the light. Besides light there is nothing and Bento's stubborn quest for the roots of his own stubborness -- as the fatal Egypt's archeology of Ezequiel, who was nobody's son looking for a definite ancestry -- that is a self-defeating illusion. We'll never know for sure whether our children are really ours, neither whether our wives conceived them for us, out of compassion, with some thought on us, sometimes. All of us are children of something which never stops, and, since it never stops, it never began. Better not accelerate the rot, while trying to dance at the step of Eros and Thanatos, who are too gigantic, too old, and too inhumane for caring about our human grinings. In the shadow of their feet, better to be merciful and peaceful. All our investigations never leave us more than with the itching dew of irony on our emaciated face.