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Monday: June 16, 2008

Quotation of the Day

Filed under: — site admin @ 10:23 PM UTC

One of three rivals in love, from a Brazilian novel set in the 1850s:
(Note: the aunt and the baroness are one and the same.)

He was a young man of about twenty-five or twenty-six. His name was Jorge. He wasn’t ugly, but artifice had ruined a little the work of nature on him. Too much attention sickens the plant, said the poet, and this maxim is not only applicable to poetry but to man as well. Jorge had a fine brown mustache, groomed and cared for with excessive dedication. His clear and lively eyes would have been more attractive if he hadn’t moved them with an affectation which was sometimes feminine. The same can be said of his manners, which would have been easy and natural if they hadn’t been so studied and measured. His words came out slow and calculated, as if to make felt all their author’s liberality. He didn’t say them like most people; each syllable was, so to speak, caressed, making it possible to see after a few minutes that he was making the entire beauty of the expression consist in this elongation of the word. His ideas could be evaluated by his manner of expressing them; they were empty, in reality, but they carried a ring of gravity which made one want to go out and amuse his ear with light and trivial things.

These were Jorge’s visible defects. There were others, and of these, the worst was a mortal sin, the seventh. The good name his father had left him and his aunt’s influence could have served him well in some good civil profession; but he preferred to vegetate uselessly, living off the wealth he had inherited from his parents, and off the hopes he had of the baroness. He had no other occupation.

Despite the defects in him, he had good qualities; he knew how to be loyal, he was generous and incapable of low deed, and he had a sincere love for his old aunt.

(Machado de Assis, The Hand & the Glove, tr. Albert I. Bagby, Jr., chapter 7)

In the second paragraph, “deadly sin” would be a better translation than “mortal sin”. I wonder who the poet of the fourth sentence is. Horace is a more likely source than most, but the words don’t ring a bell. Then again, an English translation of a Portuguese sentence translating or alluding to a Latin poet wouldn’t, necessarily.

1 Comment »

  1. I was surprised to see this since I’ve recently read a couple of books by Eça de Queirós and wanted to explore more literature from the Portuguese. What little I’ve read about Machado I know he loved Shakespeare and Milton, but while the quote sounds familiar I can’t place it either.

    Comment by Chrees — Tuesday: June 17, 2008 @ 5:03 PM UTC

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