CXXXV (Re)leituras -- Memorial de Aires, by Machado de Assis, comments by André Bandeira

This is a Memoir of a retired diplomat, who -- according to his own words -- decided to retire in order to believe in the capabality of others of being sincere. He also states, at a certain point, that he doesn't have neither the wearinesses of office, nor the hopes of being promoted. Again, Machado de Assis, who, this time, writes his Memoir as a diary, confronts us with the weight of death, or, in other words, he depicts the resilient presence of death in a life which is withering away. At a certain point, he conjecturates that dead have the strength of fighting the living, who, in he following, never fully cast them away. The plot is difficult to follow, once it is fragmented in annotations, comments, entries. In the end, one sees that there was a widow, Fidélia, who never really managed to overcome the attachment she has to her deceased husband. She is named Fidélia, as the protagonist of Beethoven's Opera. One sees that the narrator, Aires, cherishes the hope of marrying to er but, finally, it is a young doctor, devoted to Politics, and a good man, who takes the prize. He just takes note of that, he retreats with no feeling of jealousy, whatsoever. He is an old man, young people have the right of loving each other and being happy. He even helps as a confident and a kind of oracle interpreter. His own fantasies just blow away, as anacronic fallen leaves in the spring wind. The final scene depicts two oldmen, among his acquaintances, who wait for him, as some previously deceased friends, lining up on the receiving bank of the river of death. They try to smile and exhibit some contentment. According to the ending, they try to get some consolation from the memory of themselves, as two images looking at each other on a mirror. It is a very pessimistic book, albeit some kind of philosophy prevailis in it. Machado de Assis is this high civil servant who reached glory in Literature and who never travelled away from the capital, farther than 120 Kms. He was a man who liked to seat at one peer of Rio's port an stare at the open sea. He was hard-working, early riser but distant and meticulous in human approach, as his language testifies. Still his phantasies and sensitive heart emerged very clearly in the fluence of the language, alongside the narrative.He sees death coming along and he wants to close his reflection with some embedded conclusions and an inherent wit where everything tends to corroborate the inevitable end. His maxims just make the ending lighter, running faster to the aim before this one has been really attained. They find some life and variety in the considerations which raise and fall in a narrowing final room. In the conclusion they are symbolized by the two oldmen, a kind of twins who populate, in a way, the final desolation, with some stupid irony. That's it: there is no beyond. There is just a duty to be followed till the very end. There is no final scene. There is only the one-before-the-last scene. All this novel is an eulogy of the final power of death in pulverize everything.But before reaching that state, the presence of death, the widowhood's rules, the contrast between fresh flowers and tombs, all of them set the pace of time and keep us wonderfully tied up as Machado de Assis, the child of a former slave, wanted to see a whole epoch and a society he managed to master. He was really the «old witch of Cosme Velho» and, besides being competent, he was just delighted in exerting his power. Maybe he got all his life, sick, because of that but he was to primitive in his worldview. Life casts all these kind of compensations: Machado de Assis was primitive in his feelings. So life gave him a superb writing in order to conceal his feelings. A man cannot throw hell over the society of his time without some elegance, otherwise he would be totally burned out by that very hell. That is why we tend to differentiate Beauty and Good. In an ongoing calvary, they are, indeed, different concepts.

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