cover image Dom Casmurro

Dom Casmurro

Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis, Joaquim Maria Machado De Assis. Peter Owen Publishers, $31.95 (216pp) ISBN 978-0-7206-0845-8

It's the simplest of stories: boy falls in love with girl next door, they grow up, marry and have a child. Enter jealousy, exit happiness and boy/narrator, Betinho, who goes on to write his magnum opus, the History of the Suburbs . However, Betinho has been promised since conception to the priesthood, a glitch that allows de Assis to describe a community so familiar with God that bargaining with Him is as common as haggling with the butcher. This upper- middle-class Brazilian society of the last century ( Dom Casmurro was first published in 1899) is the setting for Betinho's transformation from a coddled only child to the middle-aged Dom Casmurro, or Lord Taciturn. It is marked by his fantastic imagination, both comic (as when he consults with maggots who are eating books he needs for a dissertation) and tragic (evidence of his beloved wife's infidelity is circumstantial at best). Deftly translated, Dom Casmurro is a book full of humor, sweetness and a tender melancholy--a book that deserves to be read. (Aug.)