Medalism and Napoleonism of Imagination

El Lissitzky, Cover from Komitet po bor'be s bezrabotitsei (Committee to Combat Unemployment), 1919


Considerations on the theory and practice of careerism in Machado's mature tales

To Flora Thomson-DeVeaux
(in homage to the machadiana translation)

“Locket theory — dialogue”, by loose papers, is a theory of careerism.[1] Such obviousness, however, cannot hide the novelties it carries. The first is that it is a theory of careerism sponsored by a father families. Janjão reaches the age of majority, and the father, after the celebratory dinner and before they fall into bed, reveals a smiling horizon to him, endowed as the son is, right off the bat, with “a few policies” and a diploma (a bachelor’s degree, presumably). if).

In possession of such basic breeches, the young man could be whatever he wanted, deputy, magistrate, journalist, farmer, industrialist, merchant, writer, artist, whatever he was, in the footsteps of Napoleon and his career open to talent, which , as we know, rises from barefoot to emperor.

The cautious father, however, aware that “life is a lottery”, as he expressly says, or that the son is a beast, as he openly insinuates, recommends a reserve office, in the event of not triggering the choice(s) ): the craft of medallion, with the aim of escaping “common obscurity”.

Here is the recipe, in a brief extract, that the master prescribes: moderation, gravity (body), repression of ideas, in the unfortunate case of having them, (by means of a “debilitating regime”, based on rhetoric, including parliamentary, games, such as flip-flops, dominoes, whist, billiards, pasmatorios to avoid loneliness, “workshop of ideas”, of frequenting bookstores only mundanely) scant vocabulary, ready-made phrases and the like, ostensive and perfunctory scientificity, systematic self-promotion, public life for its own sake, with petty pronouncements or, in other words, preference, abstruse, “metaphysical”, no imagination, no philosophy, irony — no way! just “our good friendly joke, plump, round, frank”.

This office imposes two movements on the suitors, that of identity (with everyone) and, paradoxically, through it, that of distinction (from everyone). That is, once identity is achieved, based on the “difficult art of thinking about what is thought”, the movement begins to distinguish oneself from one's peers (without differentiating oneself, the most important thing) through the medium of oneself, tiny but efficient, aereperennius, in the eagerness to escape destiny seems to be reserved for peripheral beings.

Complete or incomplete, the identity defines the corresponding types of medallionism: the complete, with its seriousness of body and its intellectual indigence, in the style of Janjão, and the incomplete, more ungrateful, for demanding the inhuman, immense effort, to suffer the eventual ideas.

With complete medalhonism, we come across the first level of criticism, of social satire, and sometimes embarrassing social satire, through the brazen exploitation of ridicule, — but the most superficial of them: against the grain of the Napoleonic century, strained by the “tension of arrivism”,[2] the career could even be opened in Brazil, yes, but due to the lack of talent, the jajões of life.

Interestingly, at the same time, a classic of national historiography, whose first edition dates from 1884, in a bright and dark X-ray of our slave-owning capitalism, seems to contradict Janjão's master. Instead of an open country, Joaquim Nabuco diagnoses a “closed country”, a society “walled” to all national talents, and in practically all fields that the master of Janjão declines.[3]

Machado error?

The second level of criticism, however, puts things back in place, with literature and history confirming each other, and Machado preceding his abolitionist friend. Deeper, he recognizes that there is nothing left for the national talent but the medallion career, that the career in truth has nothing to substitute, it is the first and only. Complete medallion, like Janjão, or incomplete medallion, like Machado, whose well-known boredom with controversy may be nothing more than the medallion art of stifling ideas that insist on erupting, there is no way out for anyone who wants to escape the mass grave of anonymity.[4]

The biggest novelty of Machado's theory of career advancement consists in the type of social climbing that the father prescribes: a careerism sui generis, singular, a career in the Brazilian style. Because careerism that is careerism, careerism that (despised) itself, that is — bourgeois careerism, speaks openly about money, enrichment, class ascension, in short. Just think of Stendhal, Balzac...

And speaking of the abundant novelist, I suspect that our Machado may have been inspired, perverse as he was, by certain pages of the lost illusions, when Vautrin, disguised as the Spanish canon Carlos Herrera, and bumping into Lucien de Rubempré on the side of the road and suicide, after his failure in Paris, from where he returned to the province indebted and demoralized, teaches his young pupil “courses” on how to shoot in life at any cost.[5]

My suspicion stems from a few clues: the common doctrinal disposition to theorize, cynically? honestly? around the ambition and the means of realizing it; in a dialogic way; of the paternal and filial relationship that is created between them, with Vautrin addressing the ambitious young man as “my son”, for a certain ambiguous word in French — “father” (father/priest), and whose recurrence may also have helped to awaken Machado's perversity, inducing him to play, in the midst of a patriarchal regime, a figure in a venerable rule, a shrewd and slutty adviser.

We are aware of the difficulty in proving sources, a difficulty that is even more accentuated when the writer is called Machado de Assis, either because of the vast culture, implicitly and explicitly mobilized throughout his work, or because of the allusive style, able to trigger all sorts of relationships. Many of Machado's sources are therefore cryptic, there is no doubt about it. At the same time, there is no doubt that Machado also addressed certain fashionable literary issues, as he did with the romantic theme of the regenerated prostitute in “Singular ocurrence”,[6] its Stories without Date.

Another theme, from Eça to Dostoyevsky, also seems to have awakened Machado's perversity. According to Ronai,[7] the theme of the death of the Chinese mandarin would have been launched by Balzac, more precisely in a passage fromthe father Goriot, in a dialogue between Rastignac, on the verge of giving in to the Mephistophelian Vautrin, and his boarding-house friend Bianchon, a standard-bearer of virtue. In it Rastignac (the prototype of the upstart) recalls a page by Rousseau in which the philosopher asks the reader if he would have the courage to get rich, without leaving Paris, by killing an old Chinese mandarin...

Undertaking long researches, always according to Balzac's erudite, and which I only briefly summarize, researches in which several variants were considered, even without the picturesque figure of the Chinese mandarin, it was discovered that the motto, due to Balzac's slip or misdirection , did not belong to Rousseau. The closest variant, which featured a Chinese, appeared in another Christian, Chateaubriand. The author ofThe genius of Christianity, in fact, he used the question in order to prove the “reality of consciousness”.[8]

The “reality of conscience”, however, as we know, blew something else to Machado; he whispered to her that, in order to get rich and be at peace with her, he didn't need to kill just for the thought, and to no one unknown, and in such distant lands; It struck him that one could go nearby, to a village in the interior, like Procópio, the improvised “nurse”, kill perfectly well with both hands a local “mandarin”, like Coronel Felisberto, and, once in possession of the inheritance, smothering the increasingly feeble cries of conscience.

Truth be told in favor of Machado's perverse genius who, paying homage to sincere Christians such as Rousseau, Chateaubriand, Balzac, at the end of the story he evoked, slightly updated, the “divine Sermon on the Mount: — Blessed are those who possess, because they will be comforted!”[9]

Sources aside, possible, probable, real or imaginary, believable or incredible, what Balzac's passages offer is a canonical, classic, typical example of bourgeois upstart. There is no shadow zone, half words, half-terms, half-light, half-tones, veiled truths, chiaroscuro of dubious consciences. There, people talk bluntly, they talk crudely about class ascension, about money, the magic word that, as we know, puts the whole Human Comedy.[10]

Already our arrivism symptomatically avoids the nefarious word; apart from “some policies”, a kind of minimum savings necessary for the race for medals, the subject is no longer touched on, and for a simple reason: the goal of our careerism is to accumulate fame, escaping peripheral obscurity; what sets it apart, rather than the auri fames, of the bourgeois “hunger for gold”, is the famous “name seat” of our Brás Cubas.[11]

For no other reason, Machado's theory of arrivism makes a notorious attenuation of tone and theme, and so decisive is it in the face of Balzac's theory of arrivism, that we can speak of desatanization, such is the passage from the criminal to the common, from the monstrous to the domestic, from the fantastic to the commonplace, from the shocking to the ridiculous. In a sentence, such is the passage from “lost illusions” to realized illusions.

In place of Mephistophelian temptations, in place of the dialogue between a diabolical priest and an angelic poet, in place of a society revolutionized by capital, and in whose eye of the hurricane reigns the vertiginous figure of Vautrin,[12] new characters steal the show. On our stage, or rather, in the living room, in the recesses of the home, we find a noble society, in whose niche a figure of a zealous father invites his son to listen to a one-hour lecture on the most promising career in the country, the career of medallion, — lecture naturally in tune with the environment, without example of blows, violence, homicides, without bloody “courses” or masters who smell of sulfur.

And if we believe in the suggestive power of images, there are no more contrasting and revealing allegories of social life: in Balzac, life as a “game”, presuming rules and equality between players, presupposes the bourgeois revolution; and life as a “lottery” in Machado announces the fatality of fortune in a society of slaveholding and capitalist regime, governed by liberal-clientelism, of personal dependence and lordly whim, of “ideas out of place”, in short.[13]

Therefore, it is not sustainable to interpret as a typical example of bourgeois striving, as Faoro wants,[14] our medallionism, an ascension, paradox aside, and which is not ours, belongs to the country — a horizontal ascension, a kind of manorial pursuit, a pursuit that, instead of changing class, invests in changing state, quality , from obscure to clear, an upstart that respects the “naked reality” of a kingdom still enslaving, against which “there is no planger, nor curse”.

The double and paradoxical movement of medallionism, of identity and distinction, should not deceive us, it follows a single direction and calls into question society as a whole. It is the third level of Machado's structural and radical critique.

If not, let's see, how is the individual in the Brazilian-style career path, aware that both evoke the bourgeois order?

The divided individual that we are, half bourgeois and half noble, bourgeois lord, is deflated, de-individualized to the maximum, and at the same time suffers, symmetrically and proportionally, a notable hyperinflation, but whose result is far, paradoxically, from re-individualizing him.

Medallion, not because it individualizes itself, but precisely because it de-individualizes itself, because it merges with the social being, — the foreground is now occupied by the background, by the social order, of which the medallion itself is a shining emblem, an order that does not can be questioned under any circumstances, neither departure nor arrival. The individual should not cry or curse the apparent injustice (let us remember the imperative of social conformism disguised as biblical fatalism in the opening of the story) nor should he cultivate irony, “proper of skeptics and abusers” (let us remember, closing the theory, the praise of the pun).

In contrast to the opposition of the individual to society, typical of the classical bourgeois order, its revolt, its social nonconformity, our theory of arrivism enshrines the pleasurable fusion between one and the other. How to conceive in our historical framework, imagine, that final, glacial apotheosis that Balzac paints, when Rastignac, from the top of Père-Lachaise, after burying his father Goriot and youthful illusions, challenges Parisian society?

If this is the social order and this is the unique job, if the medallion shines in the midst of such an obscure order, but if it is this obscure order that leaps to the foreground, when making the emblem that is hers, our medallion, shine, or, In other words, if the distinction does not mean disidentification, on the contrary, if it is a matter of its supreme expression, of its own identity elevated to a glorious medal, — figure and background mingling, in the end, Machado's structural, radical criticism , obviously goes far beyond medalhonism and its followers, reaching the very society that cultivates and worships it.

But far be it from us to lose hope in the country's modernization! Our diabolical (dialectical?) writer shortly afterwards printed a chronicle, oh, ambrosia of ambrosias! in which it justifies medallionism from a modern, advanced, democratic point of view! Mediocrity has its rights after all:[15] “The living are what my friend Valentine designates by the name of medallions. First of all, there are still a certain number of good, strong and enlightened spirits who do not deserve such a designation. Secondly, if the medallions are numerous, I ask my friend: — Aren't they also children of God? So because a man is mediocre, he cannot have ambitions and must be condemned to spend his days in obscurity?”

It seems to me that my friend's idea is of the same family as that of Plato, Renan and Schopenhauer, an aristocratic form of government, composed of superior men, cultured and elevated spirits, and us who were going to dig the earth. No! A thousand times no! Democracy did not waste its blood in the destruction of other aristocracies, to end up in the hands of a fierce oligarchy, more intolerable than all, because nobles by birth did not know how to make epigrams, and we mediocre and medallions would suffer at the hands of Freitas and Alencares , not to mention the living.”


Marked the distinctiveness of our theory and its “thirst to be nominated”, the practice of careerism has the same particular character, appropriate to a “closed country”, or open only to medalhonism, — the Napoleonism of imagination.

"The program"[16] narrates the struggles of a poor bachelor to escape his obscure condition, inspired by the old schoolmaster Pinch, in whose sermons, as regular as snuff, he warned of the need to enter life “with a program in hand”.

After trying, following the saying whose, the most diverse careers, literature, science, politics, marriage, the judiciary itself, ends up a rural lawyer, with a wife and children to support. At the age of 53, on one of his trips to Rio, Romualdo meets his old clerk Fernandes, the only one, besides him, to believe in the program, until he gave up and tried his luck in Paraná, — he meets the good and gullible Fernandes absolutely transfigured. Business had worked out and he was coming to the Court to claim a commendation.

One can naturally understand Romualdo's astonishment and his discouraged reflections on his way back to the fields. He who entered life with a program... and Fernandes who ended up a Commander!

The delightful characterization of Rangel, “the diplomat”,[17] in a story of the same name several stories, defines the nature of the practice of our manorial pursuit: “I imagined doing everything, kidnapping women and destroying cities. More than once he was, with himself, Minister of State, and he was full of courtesies and decrees. He went so far as to proclaim himself Emperor one day, December 2nd,[18] on the way back from the stop at Largo do Paço; he imagined for this a revolution, in which he shed some blood, a little, and a beneficent dictatorship, in which he only avenged some small clerk's annoyances. Outside, however, it was peaceful and discreet.”

Saint John's Night of 1854, in those good days of the Conciliation,[19] of the glory of the Empire, and two border parties, or rather, a small family party, very Brazilian, never remedied, and a lady reception in a sumptuous mansion, sharing both, in a very Brazilian way, the same street.

The diplomatic said, thanks to his polite, presumptuous manners, is in love with the daughter of the owner of the modest house and, after months of hesitation, promises himself to deliver his declaration of love in a letter, that same June night, without fail. .

It goes without saying that his fate was decreed, his and ours, with all that was left for us to do was follow his last amorous campaign, and his certain defeat; to see him with letter in hand, fearful, missing occasion after occasion, until he unfortunately saw the personified Occasion, Queirós (from the Greek kairos, “opportune time”, “favorable moment”, “opportunity”), the one who will not lose her, and snatch his beloved away, letting go of him as usual, piling dream after dream; seeing him at his last opportunity, almost glued to Joaninha, still not spreading his wings, playing lotto, in that natural and sensual intimacy that springs from family relationships, feeling his body sting with physical proximity, with her “almost brushing his ear through his lips”, and the occasion ineluctably taking leave and ineluctably succumbing to his vocation, grabbing her by the waist and throwing himself into the “eternal waltz of the chimeras”; to see him leave the party like someone leaving a funeral and arrive home with him and with him almost bury us sobbing in the pillow — from which, moreover, our Napoleonic hero never seems to have taken his head.

Trying hard, like Romualdo, or not trying at all, like Rangel, the fact is that fantasy prevails in both, and the “itch of greatness” easily leads to the outbursts of imagination, whence our typical Napoleonism, whose expression, as we have seen, is practically coined by Machado when characterizing both the diplomatic and the programmatic: “Napoleon made a crown with his sword, ten crowns. Not only would he, Romualdo, be the husband of one of those beautiful ladies he had seen go up to the balls, but he would also own the car that used to bring them. Literature, science, politics, none of these branches did not have a special line. Romualdo felt quite fit for a multitude of functions and applications, and he found it stingy to concentrate on one particular thing. It was too much to govern men or to write Hamlet; but why would he not gather his soul both glories, why would he not be a Pitt or a Shakespeare, obeyed and admired? Romualdo had the same idea, in other words. With his gaze fixed in the air, and a certain wrinkle on his forehead, he anticipated all these victories, from the first poetic tenth to the car of Minister of State. He was handsome, strong, young, resolute, fit, ambitious, and he came to say to the world with the moral energy of those who are strong: room for me! place for me, and the best!”

The dream of grandeur, however, can take on different forms. The story "Sales",[20] for example, it presents another of the versions of imagination napoleonism, this entrepreneurial one.

The central character, who gives the story its name, conceives plan after plan, but without carrying out any of them. His Napoleonic career began at the age of 19, in 1854, at that fabulous time of the Conciliation, the heyday of the Empire, and Machado's youth, Machadinho's times, and when he must have recognized an infinity of young Napoleons like him, including ours. Sales, who soon had a visionary idea, precocious of a century, to move the capital of Brazil to the interior.

In 1859, at the age of 25, he presented a plan to a sugar mill owner from Pernambuco, and a not very flashy mill, apparently, amazed that he was left with the project, something linked to the production of sugar through a “very simple mechanism”. Having won over the plantation owner and his daughter, he marries her and comes to the Court, pretexting an urgent business and giving birth to a dazzling new idea, a fish company to supply the city during Holy Week, a plan that founders when the government rejects the statutes from the company.

Shortly afterwards, on the occasion of a witty phrase said to his wife, a “lace pardon”, who had fought with him for business madness, he immediately thinks of a “lace industry”, an idea that leads him to spend seven months in Europe … in studies. Forgetting why he had traveled, he returned with one more of his “vast, brilliant conceptions”, a “superb plan”, probably inspired by the Haussmannization of Paris, “nothing less than razing the buildings in Campo da Aclamação and replacing them by public buildings of marble”.

Impoverished, his wife's entire dowry having been eaten up in so many economic adventures, he then dies of a heart injury, not without first conceiving the ultimate idea, born during the sacrament of extreme unction, the founding of a church, — an idea equally more than a century early.

The question is unavoidable: would Sales be saved if his plans were to take off?

Trusting in Nabuco and his “closed country” and in Jorge Caldeira, who focused on the Napoleonic career of the Baron of Mauá, luck of an out-of-place businessman,[21] which had begun to build its empire around 1850 and twenty years later began to see it crumble, parallel to the empire of its enemy, d. Pedro II, the answer is neither simple nor automatic, but tends, we believe, to the negative.

Various is the form of our badge of the practice of arrivism, including even the Napoleonism of imagination — alien.

This seems to us the case of “Um erradio”,[22] its Collapsed Pages, Elisiário, the “erradio”, whose story is told to his wife by Tosta, a friend since his youth and an unrestrained admirer, is the typical genius without work. The erradio's shrine was in a house of students, much younger, where he was usually worshiped and where the narrator saw him for the first time. Before entering, he glossed over the motto given by one of the officiants, whose deceitful irony we become aware of throughout the story: “It could wrap the world / Elisiário's oops”.

Tosta, one of those wrapped up, had become a sort of secretary and disciple of the Latin and Mathematics professor, secretary without work and disciple without direction, as the “great man” started and never concluded any of his intellectual projects, drama, poetry, ethnology… This “waterfall of ideas”, as the admirer calls it in passing, turns one day suddenly, after a good amount of time has disappeared, into an almost actual watershed of tears; he arrives at the narrator's house in tears, declaring himself married, and unhappily married, out of gratitude, to his protector's daughter.

His wife Cintinha, another of the great ones if not the biggest of the wrapped up ones, enjoyed excessive admiration for her father's protégé, a true “intellectual passion” since she was 18 years old, the same age at which the narrator met him. Thinking to save him from the riotous life, saving his genius from inevitable dissolution, she then conceives the marriage.

A year later, Tosta sees him again and starts to visit his house… Where's the high talent? Elisiário is changed; he missed the oops, and the rest is guessed; he loses all the divine eloquence that sheltered the “vast cheerful frock coat”, and this despite the protests, the untiring encouragement of the pair of faithful devotees.

The genius of the erratic is like that, contradicting women's expectations, sterilized by order — domestic order, it is true, but also aided by a social order still alien to so-called free work, to the regular, methodical, constant effort of the bourgeois universe, still a slave-owning, manorial order, in which work was infamous, in which the nobleman was only allowed, at most, the activity worthy of the occupation.

In such a “closed country”, open only to the safe career of medallions, where work does not even bring symbolic compensation, reactions can achieve the most bizarre clothes possible.

I tell you that, printed for the first and only time in News Gazette of 25/3/1886, considered practically lost by Galante de Sousa,[23] miraculously resurfaced in an edition of The Globe in 1991, and published in a book five years later, it lives up to those wonderful “works of chance”, according to the title of the good presentation by Davi Arrigucci Jr., — “Terpsichore” snatches the palm of the most extravagant national Napoleonism, the Napoleonism of ephemeral imagination.[24]

An authentic masterpiece of Machado's ingenuity, the short story tells the story of a poor couple, Porfírio and Glória, on the verge of poverty, owing six months of rent, threatened with eviction by the landlord, and with no one to turn to, who the godfather of marriage had grown tired of playing the “couple of crazy people”, always prone to extravagances, especially he, the husband, who had already given, without any recourse, an amazing wedding party, — the story of a couple, in short, who, in such a situation extreme, hit the jackpot on a lottery ticket and end up foolishly blowing it? another crash party.

With Porfírio surprised in bed by his wife, awake, his eyes fixed on the wall and on the debt, the story is divided into two parts. In the first, the narrator summarizes the suggestive encounter of the couple, when the husband, medusa by the dance muse, Terpsichore, incarnated in the woman, “saw her polka […] and fixed her with the eyes of a satyr, accompanied her in her quick movements , graceful, sensual, a mixture of a swan and a goat”, courtship, the untimely choice of house, the wedding and the ball, the joys and excesses of conjugal drunkenness, and the prowl, quickening the pace, of misery, until arriving at that morning another day of carpentry in the workshop, to which Porfírio seemed condemned, and we found him awake in bed, his eyes fixed on the wall and on the debt.

The second part exposes the vain attempts to escape the situation of penury until the moment Porfírio takes the winning ticket and, contrary to common sense, as a good spirit contrary to capitalist ethics, consumes all the money in yet another memorable party.

Once the prize was won, it was necessary to win the woman, who advised, once the debts were paid, to put the rest of the money in the Caixa, “for some need”. Her husband's campaign, to which he has been ceding ground, from the "silk dress" to the domestic "pagoda", was in its Napoleonic, grandiose way, playing with time, attacking and retreating and charging back a week later, varying wisely from tone and argument, from affectionate to energetic, from energetic to medical, — it's even bad to live like this! from the doctor to the pious — what would God think of such ingratitude? Wouldn't it even be a sin to stop celebrating a grace received? from the pious to the materialistic-metaphysical—what did they get out of life? and he gave it to the staff — that he was still out in the open, walking the streets, but she, poor thing, was just work and more work!

The woman convinced, the next step was taken without fanfare, perhaps under the influence of preparations (the narrator still gives her the benefit of the doubt), from the familiar "dinner" to the "raucous party", from "fever" to "delirium". ”.

And if the party symbolically makes one think of a bonfire, going out like it, slowly, to resist only in the ashes of memory, light and (in)effaceable, in that bonfire burns above all the future of the couple, a future, if not prosperous, at least our petty historical picture, at least remedied: “It took three, four, five hours. At five there was a third of the people, the old imperial guard, which Porfírio commanded, multiplying, tie by his side, sweating profusely, fixing some flowers here, snatching a child there who had fallen asleep in a corner and going to take him away. to the alcove, sprawled with others. And he'd come right back clapping his hands, shouting that they didn't get cold, that a day wasn't days, that there was time to sleep at home. Then the ophiclid rumbled something, while the last candles expired inside the glass sleeves and in the sconces.”

What strikes in the short story, the absolute disregard for the future, for the bourgeois temporal dimension, this Napoleonism almost in reverse, so ephemeral, so fleeting, this “thirst for the name” even if only for a day, a night, but do, assimilating “this golden ray, like a splendid hiatus in the old night of work without truce”, a night so arduous, so ancient, that the narrator, contrary to his habits, seems not to insist on any time marking, — which shocks in “Terpsichore”, in this immemorial dance of poverty, a good part of our poor people seem to continue to share the same feeling.

What shocks even today, and even more, is that perhaps this porphyry “delirium” is the only “golden ray” — and rightly so, in a world where work, the “relentless work” that the poor know so well , it doesn't really pay off, neither symbolically nor materially.


Our imagination Napoleons, whether they were made of “daydreaming, indolence and affectation”, in the style of the “diplomatic”, whether they were made of daydreaming, impotence and action, in the style of the “programmatic”, whether they were made only of daydreaming and indolence, like the “ erradio” and the businessman out of place, were unaware of the uniqueness of Brazilian material and ideological life, and could only fail in a “closed country”, of slave capitalism.

Just following Janjão's father's recipe to the letter, they wouldn't become nobody, rather, they would become Nobody, with a capital letter, just like the exemplary destiny of our horizontal, lordly career, that of Fulano, from the homonymous story by undated stories, born dark and died glorious.[25]

Fulano Beltrão, name and surname of Janjão-Nobody, was a quiet and reserved man, sullen and obscure, who, from one hour to the next, changes entirely. He is dead, aged 60, and the narrator, a close friend, tells us his story, while waiting for the opening of the will. The turnaround of Fulano Beltrão, the narrator credits the family intimate news, in a printed newspaper article, anonymous but praising the future medallion for the passage of his 40 years, “good father, good husband, punctual friend, worthy citizen, soul raised and pure”.

Fulano's trajectory will describe the movement that distinguishes the medallion, that movement of distinction in search of a nominee, which supposes, in turn, the movement of identity, that orgasmic fusion with the social body.

Dazzled by the discovery of the press, especially with the manorial use of yet another invention of modern civilization, Fulano Beltrão began to give publicity to all his acts almost daily — that “blonde and lordly lady”, whatever they were, as recommended by the master of Janjão, from improvements to churches, helps those suffering from natural or social cataclysms, passing through the noblest public causes, patriotic dances, even the most intimate, such as the death of his wife and his own illness.

This is how, publicizing himself completely, Fulano Beltrão achieves that adorable and distinct indistinctness that distinguishes the medallion, pontificating as “the adjective of these opaque meetings”, arriving in a short time to that supreme substantivated adjective that Janjão’s father talks about: “the odoriferous…", "O aniled", "O helpful", "O news e succulent... "

When he finally expired, he was the portrait of the complete medallion, lacking only this very thing, — the medallion, literally, to crown his brilliant career. According to the list of donations, he providentially bequeathed a good amount, “to serve as the beginning of a public subscription destined to erect a statue to Pedro Álvares Cabral. “Cabral, says the will, cannot be forgotten by Brazilians, he was the forerunner of our empire”. He recommends that the statue be made of bronze, with four medallions on the pedestal, namely, the portrait of Bishop Coutinho, president of the Constituent Assembly, that of Gonzaga, head of the mining conspiracy, and that of two citizens of the present generation “notable for their patriotism and liberality” at the choice of the commission, which he himself appointed to carry out the task”.

Whether it comes true, I don't know; We lack the perseverance of the fund's founder. Given, however, that the commission performs its task, and that this American sun still sees the statue of Cabral rise, it is our honor that he contemplates in one of the medallions the portrait of my late friend. Don't you think so?”

It's ridiculous... don't you think? But was there another way out?

In his own way, like Cabral, Fulano discovered Brazil.

*Airton Paschoa is a writer, author, among other books, of see ships (Nankin, 2007).

Apart from one or another more mature conclusion, the article reproduces, in general lines and in a smaller point, a dissertation defended 25 years ago: “Theory and practice of career advancement in mature tales by Machado de Assis”, Faculty of Philosophy, Letters and Human Sciences from the University of São Paulo (FFLCH/USP), 1996.


ASSIS, Machado de. Complete work, 3 v., 6th ed. Rio de Janeiro: Nova Aguilar, 1986 (1st ed. 1959).

____. undated stories. Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte: Garnier, 1989.

____. Collapsed Pages. Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte: Garnier, 1990.

____. Tales: an anthology, 2 v. Selection, introduction and notes by John Gledson. Sao Paulo, Co. of Letters, 1998.

____. The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas. Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte: Livraria Garnier, 1988.

­­­____. Terpsichore. São Paulo: Boitempo, 1996.

BALZAC, Honore de. the lost illusions:The Human Comedy 7: studies of customs / scenes of private life. Trans. Ernesto Pelanda and Mario Quintana. 3rd ed. São Paulo: Globo, 2013 (1st ed. from 1948-1955, with several reprints).

_____. the father Goriot: The Human Comedy 4: studies of customs / scenes of private life. Trans. Gomes da Silveira and Vidal de Oliveira. 3rd ed. São Paulo: Globo, 2012 (1st ed. from 1946-1955, with several reprints).

CALDEIRA, Jorge. Mauá: businessman of the Empire. Sao Paulo: Cia. of Letters, 1995.

CANDID, Antonio. One dimension among others. In: ____. Light brigade and other writings. São Paulo: Editora Unesp, 1992, p. 187-196.

FAORO, Raymundo Faoro. Machado de Assis: the pyramid and the trapeze. 3rd ed. Rio de Janeiro: Globo, 1988 (1st edition, 1974).

FARIA, Joao Roberto Faria. Unique theatrical occurrence. USP Magazine, Sao Paulo, no. 10, 1991, p. 161-166.

NABUCO, Joaquim. Abolitionism. 5th ed. Petrópolis: Voices, 1988 (1st edition, 1884).

RONAI, Paul. Balzac and the Human Comedy. 4th ed. São Paulo: Globo, 2012 (1st edition, 1947).

SCHWARZ, Robert. To the winner the potatoes: literary form and social process at the beginning of the Brazilian novel. 2nd ed. São Paulo: Two Cities, 1981 (1st ed. 1977).

_____. A Master on the Periphery of Capitalism: Machado de Assis. São Paulo: Two Cities, 1990.

SOUSA, Galante de. Bibliography of Machado de Assis. Rio de Janeiro: National Book Institute, 1955.


[1]VIEW Theory and practice of career advancement in mature short stories by Machado de Assis, SP, e-galaxia, 2021. [Soon, in the best stores in the business, at the customer's choice, in digital or printed version. We recommend purchasing both… by way of comparison.]

[2] Antonio Candido, “One dimension among others [of Stendhal]”, in Light Brigade and Other Writings (São Paulo, Unesp, 1992, p. 190).

[3] “It means the country is closed in all directions; that many avenues that could offer a livelihood to men of talent, but without mercantile qualities, such as literature, science, the press, the teaching profession, are still nothing more than alleys, and others, in which practical men, of industrial tendencies , could prosper, are due to lack of credit, or the narrowness of trade, or the rudimentary structure of our economic life, other so many walled doors” (“Social and political influences of slavery”, Abolitionism, Petrópolis, Vozes, 1988, 5th ed., p. 131).

[4] Dating back to 1863, his medallion debut, at the age of 24, when he was invited by the Ministry of the Empire to occupy a position that had been held by José de Alencar, as theatrical censor, and his fixation at the age of 28, in 1867, when he received the title of knight of the Order of the Rose, we can say, within the framework of his theory, that such "early morning" also attests to his genius.

[5] “History Course for the Use of the Ambitious by a Disciple of Machiavelli” and “Moral Course by a Disciple of RP Escobar”, chapters 32 and 33 of the last part ofthe lost illusions (p. 743-754), in the edition of Balzac: The Human Comedy 7, now a classic in the language, by Paulo Rónai. And let it be said in passing that the Reverend Father Escobar named a character Machado who is still talked about today…

[6] João Roberto Faria, “Singular Theatrical Occurrence” (USP Magazine No. 10, Jun/July/Aug/1991, p. 161-166). The story was published in News Gazette of 30/5/1883, and the book in the following year.

[7] Paulo Ronai, Balzac and the Human Comedy, 4th ed. (São Paulo, Globo, 2012, 1st ed., 1947).

[8]  “O conscience! are you just a phantom of the imagination or the fear of the punishment of men? I interrogate myself; I ask myself: if you could, for a single wish, kill a man in China and inherit his fortune in Europe, being sure nothing would ever be known, would you consent to carry out that wish?” And he concludes: “However much I exaggerate my poverty, however much I mitigate this homicide, supposing that, by my vote, the Chinese dies instantly and without pain, that he has no heirs, that by his natural death his assets would go to the State. ; however much I attribute advanced age to him, plus torture, ailments and heartbreaks; however much I tell myself that thus death is a deliverance which it itself begs for and which will not wait long—despite these subterfuges, I hear in the depths of my heart a voice that so loudly cries out against the mere thought of such a desire that I cannot doubt, for an instant, the reality of consciousness'” (apoud Ronai, Balzac and the Human Comedy, P. 66-67).

[9] “The nurse” (Tales: an anthology, v. 2, p. 208) was published on 13/7/1884 in News Gazette under the title of “Intimate things”, and there are variants, in addition to the name, in relation to what came to appear in the Several Stories, 1896 (Galante de Sousa, on. cit., P. 553).

[10] “The July Monarchy [1830-1848] is a period of glorious prosperity, a flourishing time for all industrial and commercial enterprises. Money dominates all public and private life: everything bows before it, everything serves it, everything is prostituted—exactly, or almost, as Balzac described it.It is true that the dominion of capital does not begin now, but hitherto the possession of money had been only one of the means by which a man was able to gain a position for himself in France, though it was not the most refined method nor even the best. more efficient. Now, on the other hand, all rights, all power, all capacity, were suddenly expressed in terms of money. To be understood, everything had to be reduced to this common denominator." (Arnold Hauser, Social history of art and literature; part VII, “Naturalism and Impressionism”; chap. 1 “The generation of 1830”, p. 734-735, emphasis added).

[11] The “named thirst” is one of the multiple manifestations of Volubility, the “ostensive form” of Machado’s universe discovered and explored by Roberto Schwarz (To the winner the potatoes: literary form and social process at the beginning of the Brazilian novel. 2nd ed. São Paulo: Two Cities, 1981, and A Master on the Periphery of Capitalism: Machado de Assis. São Paulo: Two Cities, 1990). Insofar as there is eventually any convincing, the article owes itself to the interpretative scheme of the great critic, who definitively removed from the hands of the right, one of the greatest writers of the XNUMXs in the West, if not the greatest.

[12] “Vautrin initiator and corrupter, indeed, Vautrin discoverer of the secrets of the world and career theorist [...] The difference, however, between eighteenth-century Cynics and Vautrin is immense. The overall attitude, the vocabulary itself, may be similar, but the content, the orientation, the meaning, the perspective, are from another universe. Firstly, because Vautrin speaks from within a post-revolutionary universe, after the triumph of the Enlightenment, reason and equality, after the great effort to rationalize and clarify social relations that the French Revolution had proposed and that had been thought she must be. (...) Vautrin's speech and action in the very heart of the liberal world are another romantic sign of what became the world born of the Revolution. It is absolutely impossible to place the society before 1789 and the society of 1819 on the same plane, from the point of view of the history of mentalities and subjective reactions. Neither Vautrin, nor Rastignac, [nor Lucien de Rubempré, our man tempted by Vautrin disguised as a priest] Nor can anyone in 1819 think of social life in the same terms as before 1789. (...) Balzac historicized a moral theme without precise roots. First of all, exploring it, highlighting it in a historical context that necessarily gives it a new resonance. Afterwards, he did even better: he treated it explicitly in historical and accurate references. Vautrin's references, in fact, his justifications are constantly historical, political, and his history, his politics, are not those of rhetoric (Hannibal Caesar, the great men on whom Montaigne is still reasoning), but those brutal, immediate, of the men of a generation: Napoleon, Talleyrand, Villèle, Manuel, La Fayette (…). Vautrin does not discuss or reason in an eternal that only concerns men of culture. He reasons and discusses against the background of a recent and ongoing experience, lived and understood as historical and political. Not only the world, but the modern world, the only one known to millions of men, was made like this. (...) Vautrin speaks for everyone and addresses everyone, because he calls into question the very foundations of the new world. // [...] Vautrin will speak from within an open world, feverish, a world in expansion, which allows everything to everyone. Vautrin is inconceivable apart from the great plebeian pressure following the capitalist revolution that shattered the cadres of noble and parliamentary society. A Corsican lieutenant becomes Emperor. (...) But only the Revolution and its consequences,the economic, social and cultural explosion that it triggered or made possible and which was then consolidated with the return of peace and the end of imperial restrictions, were able to give all their meaning to the theories of careerism and ambition [...] Vautrin expresses a general law, that of every new society[...] Vautrin is at the center of the Comédie Humaine […] This is why Vautrin, far from being just an 'affair' […] acquires grandeur and stature. Vautrin is a moment of historical and social development: by reaching the epic, he is one of the greatest figures of the XNUMXth century novel.”(Pierre Barberis, le Père Goriot by Balzac, P. 61-64; translation and emphasis added).

[13] Black, on. cit., To the winner the potatoes.

[14] View by Raymundo Faoro Machado de Assis: the pyramid and the trapeze, 1974 (Rio de Janeiro, Globo, 1988, 3rd ed.).

[15] See chronicle, dated 16/12/1883, from the series “Balas de estala” by News Gazettein Complete work, 3 v., 1st edition of 1959 (Rio de Janeiro, Nova Aguilar, 1986, 6th illustrated printing, p. 425-6), or in R. Magalhães Júnior, Machado de Assis: chronicles by Lélio (Rio de Janeiro: Ediouro, s/d, p. 37-8).

[16] Published inThe station in 1882/1883, was not collected in a book by Machado (see “Outros contos” of Complete work, edition Nova Aguilar, v. 2, p. 908).

[17] Published in News Gazette of 29/10/1886, is part of the Several Stories, from 1896 (Tales: an anthology, v. 2, p. 243).

[18] Day of birth of D. Pedro II, notes John Gledson in the best anthology we have (on. cit., P. 245), among whose many virtues, emerge the pertinent historical annotation and the observance of Machado's punctuation, classic in its elegance and expressiveness, restoring it from the predatory action of writing manuals and clueless editors, of vast and nefarious influence in the country of illiterate tradition. [Truth be said, however, in reparation to the functional illiterates: to trust these retinas so fatigued that the oven will soon toast, God willing, erasing for all time certain opinions that the rejected article received, nor professors of Letters of good universities seem to know punctuation other than this manual, in fact overpunctuation, so excessive, square, straight, symmetrical, neurotic, muffled, sterile, authentic power condom, inimical to living language... unless we pierce it with dash blows, — sign deleted from our punctuation, on purpose, replaced by a hyphen, or a dash, alas! probably given birth to gain a measly millimeter. And that this is a poet's freshness, that the hyphen or dash can well represent the dash — comma! Why not a little sign just representing everyone? I vote for the final point.]

[19] Inform the studious patients of our 1846th century — let Gledson say so! that the Conciliation between liberals and conservatives, politically stabilizing the Empire, began in 1853, reached its peak in 1856, with the cabinet of the Marquis of Paraná, and went into decline in XNUMX.

[20] Not collected in a book by Machado, it came out in News Gazette of 30/5/1887 (Complete work, v. 2, p. 1.072).

[21]Maua: businessman of the Empire (São Paulo, Cia. das Letras, 1995).

[22] Originally published n'The station, of the same year (Collapsed Pages, P. 27).

[23] Galante de Sousa, on. cit., P. 581.

[24]Terpsichore: Machado de Assis (São Paulo: Boitempo, 1996).

[25] The story was published in News Gazette in the same year as the book, 1884 (undated stories, P. 115).


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