A Snap of the Finger and Goodbye

15 Feb

Reading A Master on the Periphery of Capitalism following PMBC, I found myself questioning the style and motivation of Schwartz more than I did Machado de Assis. Relating back to Jeremy’s post, I find Schwartz’s viewpoint to narrow (with the Marxist lens) to do justice to the complexity (whether the stylistic choices de Assis made were affected or an attempt to relate deeper meaning) of PMBC. What Schwartz refers to as impudence, provocation, and profanation all seem to enhance the style of narration in PMBC, specifically of Cubas as a narrator. Such a character (one who has imagined having experienced the movement of time across centuries) would of course feel superior to the reader, and the dead would not find themselves so worried about the linear narration for the living. The interaction of the reader in this novel, and the aggressive style of the narration toward the reader (not only stating that he does not care if people enjoy his reading, but seemingly to challenge the readers enjoyment of his story as he tells it.

 

I found Schwartz to also be aggressive towards the reader- no room is left for interpretation of the story outside of the lens he is presenting, and he accuses the reader of potentially being complicit in allowing one of the largest paradoxes of the book (and, more significantly, of the Brazilian cognitive divide) to stand. In referring to the divide between being a slave trader and an religious, respected gentleman:

 

It’s true that they pay the price for this inconsistency on that moral front, but this has a more harmful effect on these moral standards themselves- mocked as being completely useless- than it does on them. Even so, the discrepancy cries out to heaven, and only some form of complicity will let it pass muster and escape protest- that same protest that will certainly be heard from those less well disposed to these characters, among whom the reader may well find himself. – Master pg 82

 

The reader is left to question whether they are among those who do not protest (or protest strongly enough) the moral and logical quandaries that de Assis has identified. Are the readers among those who mock the moral standards, even if they were simply unable to identify the inconsistency present? Cubas as a narrator draws attention to cultural absurdity through so many other layers of absurdity- the style of the narration, his own characteristics, that it is possible this large, seemingly glaring moral and cultural disconnect is drowned out by the other stylistic and personal inconsistencies the reader is exposed to.

 

I think the interpretation of PMBC cannot stand without examining authorial intent, which based on the irreverent nature of the narrator in the piece, would not care about Schwartz’s effort to place this work in his own favored lens, to dismiss the stylistic choices that seem designed to aggravate the reader, rather than to inform. After reading A Master, I feel as though anyone who strongly attempts to regulate and explain away de Assis’s choices may very well be a reader to whom he would give a snap of the finger and goodbye. 

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