Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

"The Fortune Teller" by Joaquim Maria Macado de Assis (1885)

Joaquim Macado de Assis (1839 to 1908, Rio de Janeiro) is considered the first major Brazilian writer. I have previously posted on a couple of his short stories and was pleasantly surprised to find one of his stories in a forthcoming collection of short stories I was recently  given. Influenced by Balzac, his work is kind of a portrait of Second Empire society in Rio de Janeiro.  

"The Fortune Teller", translated by Issac Goldberg in 1929, is about a romantic triangle.  As the story opens Rita has just been to a fortune teller who told her that her lover Camillio will never leave her.  She is married to a very close friend of Camillo and he fears this  visit will get back to the husband. Camillo tells her fortune tellers just tell their clients what they want to hear, he scoffs at all forms of the then in rage spiritualism.  By accident he somehow winds up at the fortune teller and she tells him not to worry the husband will not find out about the affair.  To feel fully secure in this he goes to Rita's house (spoiler alert) and finds her husband has killed her.  He then shoots Camillo.

The "The Fortune Teller" turns on irony and the fun of seeing nasty rich people get their due.

If you have not yet read any Brazilian short stories, he is the writer you should start with.

Bio data on Joaquim Macado de Assis (complied from various sources)

 He was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1839 and died there in 1909.  He was a very productive writer in numerous genres, including the short story.   He had a great deal of literary influence in Brazil.   His father was a wall painter descended from slaves and his mother was a washer woman.    He was very lucky in that his parents were the servants of a wealthy Brazilian politician whose wife and brother in law became Assis's godparents.   Through desire and good luck he met people who taught him to read French and introduced him to the reading life.   He got a job as a tyopgrapher's assistant on a newspaper and soon began writing for the paper.  He also learned English.   Marrying into a family that did not approve of him because he was a mulatto, he got a government job and because of his high intelligence and self education began to rise up in the ranks.   He was a supporter of the Brazilian monarchy and on the establishment of the republic he began to write in a way that was seen as quite critical of Brazilian society.   He wrote several novels, over 200 short stories and a great deal of journalistic work.

You can download this and other older Brazilian short stories from Project Gutenburg 

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