CXI (Re)leituras -- A Mão e a Luva, by Machado de Assis, comments by André Bandeira
Hand in Glove, could well be the translation. But the title of Machado de Assis' second novel, doesn't sneak the hand in the glove straight away, because he began publishing it in serials, on a newspaper, and he wanted -- as he did several times afterwards -- to suggest a thesis instead of putting it forward. The title is a thesis -- «rigid as a syllogism» -- and, as soon as it begins, it only has to be demonstrated, with the variations leading the reader to think he is about to pre-empt the conclusion, which inevitably comes out, conclusively. As a matter of fact, the final chapter is titled «Conclusion». And the conclusion reads as follows: the victory goes to the stronger, as later, in a more comic, probably desperate formulation, Machado de Assis said that «the potatoes belong to the victor». Who are the stronger? The self-restrained, deprived of romantic and childish illusions, not at all deprived of love, but deprived of that romantic love which gets too obsessed with love itself. In a sentence: those who look for love, never find it, because they tend to forget all the circumstances which foster love. And Love hasn't been sown, out of the limits of Paradise, just for weed around. Love serves other purposes such as survival, if not ambition, stubborness and even some caprice, which are characters secretly fighting to survive in the flood of Love, because they are not love-friendly. Guiomar -- who ends up confessing all these flaws, to her final fiancé -- is put at the beginning of the novel as the theme of a syllogism. She is chased by three suitors, Estêvão, Jorge and Luís. The first is the typical, clownish lover, of Romaticism, who goes on being rejected since the beginning, despite being the one, too, who finds the fox in the hole and who makes her run. The second, is the cousin of the pretended Guiomar, favored by her mother-in-law, a baroness who had put Guiomar in the place of her deceased daughter. But Jorge, if he has the advantage of being cold, as the thesis postulates about the cruelty of Love, still he is too much uninterested about everything. He is hand in glove with adversity, but, being born rich, he is distracted of all that really makes people run. Finally, Luís, who as the easier monossyllabic name, he is cold enough, for not expressing his love in public, nor even to himself, and has the mind busier with what makes a politician out of a lawyer. The thesis is so conspicuous now, that nobody dares to mention it. But, this very unromantic novel, full of wise and harsh assertions, discusses a syllogism which comes out of a hard settled Grand Premisse. Besides the three suitors, there are three women, the old baroness, who lost her child, the british chambermaid, Mrs. Oswald, and Guiomar, the young, stubborn (more than determined) beloved, who, being herself an orphan, and combining an attractive look with a cold mind, planned to be a teacher, just in case.But the marriage comes, decided among them, and Guiomar finds herself having an inclination in a boat which was set for sail by the older women. As the suitors follow the path of the obvious, the path turns curbed and pendular, and not all the monkeys hold their lianes. In a word: love is not what you feel, but what the object of love decides. Love is very, very much objective. Love belongs to the world of Object and all its chronicle. So, because the world of Object is so much beyond the world of the Subject, their intermitent contact makes the Subject spin away, thinking he is entering a new dimension where the dualism Subject/Object doesn't exist anymore. Better to keep itself as Subject, since Subjects don't exist but for the Object. Better existing than being loved, which is the real, uncertain bonus of that thing called «love». Better make a new syllogism, where the conclusion looms before it is deducted from the so much agressive premisses: all people love/you are «people»/you are «people» before you love.