setembro 13, 2008
One evening just lately, as I was coming back from town to Engenho Novo on the Central line train, I met a young man from this neighborhood, whom I know by sight: enough to raise my hat to him. He greeted me, sat down next to me, started talking about the moon and ministerial comings and goings, and ended up reciting some of his verses. The journey was short, and it may be that the verses were not entirely bad. But it so happened that I was tired, and closed my eyes three or four times; enough for him to interrupt the reading and put his poems back in his pocket.
"Go on," I said waking up.
"I've finished," he murmured.
"They're very nice."
I saw him make a move to take them out again, but it was no more than a move: he was put out. Next day, he started calling me insulting names, and ended up nicknaming me Dom Casmurro. The neighbors, who dislike my quiet, reclusive habits, gave currency to the nickname, and in the end it stuck. Not that I got upset. I told the story to some of my friends in town, and they call me it too for fun, some in letters: "Dom Casmurro, I'm coming to dine with you on Sunday." "I'm going to Petropolis, Dom Casmurro; it's the same house in Renania; see if you can't drag yourself away from your lair in Engenho Novo, and come and spend a couple of weeks with me." "My dear Dom Casmurro, don't think I'm letting you off the theater tomorrow. Come and spend the night in town; I'll give you a box, tea, and a bed; the only thing I can't give you is a girl."
Don't look it up in dictionaries. In this case, Casmurro doesn't have the meaning they give, but the one the common people give it, of a quiet person who keeps himself to himself. The Dom was ironic, to accuse me of aristocratic pretensions. All because I nodded off! Still, I couldn't find a better title for my narrative; if I can't find another before I finish the book, I'll keep this one. My poet on the train will find out that I bear him no ill will. And with a little effort, since the title is his, he can think the whole work is. There are books that only owe that to their authors: some not even that much.
Machado de Assis, in Dom Casmurro
First page of Dom Casmurro < New York Times files.
by Beto Palaio