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Machado de Assis, continued

An update on my previous report on reading Machado de Assis.

I finished reading his longish short story O Alienista (The Psychiatrist) in the original and things seem to be falling into place -- by the end I was only having to spot-check against the English, rather than reading every paragraph in both languages.

That said, this exercise makes me acutely aware of the difference between comprehension and production. The more exposure I get to proper literary Portuguese the more doubtful I am that I'll ever get past my Portunhol baby talk. Plus I must be reinforcing any bad pronunciation habits I have by reading to myself without any feedback. A Machado de Assis book on tape, maybe? But cross-referencing it with the print version would be a bear. (Hmm -- a nicely synched audio+text+translation edition would be a great application for one of those MP3-capable PDAs...)

As for the story, it was great, maybe better than Epitaph. A brilliant European-educated psychiatrist settles in a small Brazilian city and opens its first mental hospital, then proceeds to lock up everyone who he thinks is crazy, with somewhat predictable but no less enjoyable results. It's hard not to impose 20th-century political comparisons on his authoritarianism, which makes me think that there must be equally clear 19th-century ones, if only I knew what they were.

books 2004.05.09 link