The Posthumous Memoirs of Blase Kubash


from The Posthumous Memoirs of Blase Kubash

In 1880 the brilliant Brazilian novelist Machado de Assis published a novel titled THE POSTHUMOUS MEMOIRS OF BRAZ CUBAS.  It was a ground-breaking novel in terms of style since it dispatched all the prevailing rules dealing with “realistic” fiction absorbed by the European proponents, had a narrator who told the story of his life from the grave and became the founding novel on which all subsequent Latin American writers, including Borges and García Márquez, have paid homage. As a kind of homage to Machado myself, I have revivified his character of Braz Cubas and made him a Yankee, but with all the Latin  sensibility he had while he was Braz Cubas. The result is a story that draws upon his life as both Cubas and Kubash while maintaining the most important posture of all…that he still tells the story from the grave. 

The novel traces Kubash’s life from afterlife to death which would, of course, include his life after his life and the afterlife leading up to his rebirth.  It is, in fact, a novel that is bitter and sweet, tragic and comic, dark and light.  It is, in the end, a  bittersweet tragicomedy.



from The Posthumous Memoirs of Blase Kubash

Chapter 4

Ab Ovo

When you last left me, I was dead.  Still am.  Eternity does not change, only the links to eternity.  As a matter of fact the act of dying hasn’t changed at all since I was last dead in 1880.  The end remains the same, only the means have changed.  That is to say, the physical process of dying bears little resemblance to the prevailing conditions that contribute to the act of dying.  To die in 1880 was no different than to die in the year 2080 only the technological devices have changed.  Today, there are all sorts of medical gimmicks to keep us alive: antibiotics, heart-lung machines, fetal tissue implants, laser technology, golden platelets, telomerase ad astra, but the act of dying, the physiological and spiritual process is the same as when life began.  I know that to be a fact even though I wasn’t there when life began; but after all it couldn’t be otherwise.  Could it? But why begin a novel on such a morbid point.  After all, I’m already dead so why belabor it.

However, there have been a few new twists to the old plot of Brás Cubas about which I should enlighten the reader.  Before I died I returned to life.  I know that sounds a bit extraordinary, but it is fiction and as Coleridge once said…but that’s become a cliché, so let’s ignore what Coleridge said.  After all, Coleridge was a laudanum addict so how much credence can we give him?  A dram?  I’m digressing. Before the end of this novel I will tell you a bit about life after death.  About what to expect.  That is, unless you’ve been watching Hard Copy in which case nothing I have to say will be new.

But until that enlightening chapter I’d like to let you know that in over 200 years of being dead and alive and dead again I’ve discovered that people still tend to read the same way they die: traditionally. I mean if you didn’t like my Posthumous Memoirs in 1880 you probably won’t like these now. You’ll still complain they’re not novel, that they’re episodic, that they’re not thick enough or long enough; that they’re self-indulgent and all those other things that are said about these kind of novels which are not like, say, Balzac’s.  Well, Balzac is here and I’d just like to let him say a few words about this novel.  Honoré.

"Oui, merci, je voudrais dire le livre de Blase est merde, et…"

Thank you, Honoré Balzac.  As I said, a lot of people will think this is not a novel, that it’s merely another egoistic excuse to put my own life, or death, in perspective.  Well Joyce, who’s here as well, was about as egoistic a writer as I’ve ever known living or dead.  Right, James?

"Thanks eversore much, Pointcarried!  I can’t say if it’s the weight you strike me to the quick or that red mass I was looking at but at the present momentum, potential as I am, I’m seeing raying bogeys rings round me. Honours to you and may be commended for our exhibitiveness!  I’d love to take you for a bugaboo ride and plan funfer all if you’d only sit and be the ballasted bottle in the porker barrel.  You will deserve a rolypoly as long as from here to tomorrow.  And to tell with them driftbombs and bottom trailers!  If my maily was bag enough I’d send you a toxis!"

James is still a bit randy.  But what he says is absolutely, so for those of you who did not like my 1880 memoirs I suggest you close the book now.  If you’ve retained your receipt and the book spine isn’t broken, take it back!  Get credit for it!  Exchange it for one of those up-and-coming New Yorklish writers.  Or better yet, exchange it for Pope’s Dunciad.  Exchange it for anything, but whatever you do don’t read on.  Even dead I don’t think I could withstand the harsh criticism from Readers who, as in the past, have shown such a perspicacious reading of the last novel I was in. Or Joyce’s last novel.  Or Balzac’s for that matter.  I’ll allow Austen a few comments on the matter of novels, since I believe ’tis publick domain, right, Jane?

"Yes, novels; for I will not adopt that ungenerous and impolitic custom so common with novel-writers, of degrading by the contemptuous censure the very performances, to the number of which they are themselves adding–joining with their greatest enemies in bestowing the harshest epithets on such works, and scarcely ever permitting them to be read by their own heroine, who, if she accidentally take up a novel, is sure to turn over its insipid pages with disgust…"  Jane. "I cannot approve of it.  Let us leave it to reviewers to abuse such effusions of fancy at their leisure, and over every new novel to talk in threadbare strains of the trash with which the press now groans."  Jane.  "Let us not desert one another; we are an injured body.  Although our productions have afforded more extensive and unaffected pleasure than those of any other literary corporation in the world, no species of composition has been so much decried.  From pride, ignorance, or fashion, our foes are almost as many as our readers!"  Jane!  "Sorry, got a bit carried away."  So, in conclusion, dear Reader, for those of you interested in playing along, I eagerly await our meeting in the next chapter.  For those of you who have no interest in meeting me in the next chapter, I shall see you here sooner or later.

"Ou est la niege…"

Yes, François, yes.

To gain full insight into my death and discovery I suggest the Reader (re) read Chapter 1: "The Death of the Author" in my earlier posthumous work, The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas, which, for some God-awful reason, was ill-translated as Epitaph of a Small Winner.  I shan’t go into the reasons why I think the title distorts the true nature of the piece, let’s just leave it alone with the word, plumbaceous, a word which you may define at your leisure. Returning to the real purpose of this chapter…in my earlier memoir you will discover, in clear and present detail, my demise and death (due to an overdose of pneumonia which, of course, rendered me breathless, as breathless as Gregor Samsa) and the quick and sanctimonious burial thereafter. Coincidentally, as in all iterative works, I died again of pneumonia. One would think that after one died of pneumonia the first time one would be careful not to die from it again.  Yet none of us ever really learn from the past we merely reflect on the sanctions leveled against the levity of constant refrain, on the  one’s ways and, in my case, find a proper pulmonary specialist.  

Likewise, there were but few at the funeral even though the day was clear and crisp.  From my Kodak Moments I recall it as an October of vivid august color and there, in the tiny crowd huddled beneath the canopy of an autumn of stiffly blue horizons, was one in particular whom, as in books past, you will meet anon.  But for now I think it best to rediscover the links that brought me back here to the detritus and the soil of an earth that gave me life once before.