Have you often thought about what it would be like to die? How about to be somewhere beyond death with the capability to scribble down a memoir of your life? In Epitaph for A Small Winner, author Machado De Assis does just that as he introduces Braz Cubas, a man who has just died, and his stories of life, love, death, and whatever comes after it. gettysburg-campus-024

Winner is designed to be a satirical portrayal of the dynamics of life and death. Assis executes this wonderfully by introducing the rambling, yet always entertaining Cubas, a well-to-do citizen of Rio de Janeiro. Cubas tries his hand at politics, journalism and romance throughout his life, yet does not actually reflect on any of his actions until after he has passed on. While at first glance Cubas may seem like a shallow and unremarkable character, he reflects upon each portion of his life with both skepticism and a sense of amusement that shows his depth and dimension. One cannot help but enjoy his rantings, diagrams, and unstructured arguments of how life has played out for him. Not to mention, the realistic writing style makes one feel like they are communicating with the world beyond over a cup of coffee and a good book.

The language can get tricky at times, especially with the infusion of Spanish and Portuguese words throughout the book. Luckily the translator of my copy gave a short translation guide at the beginning of the text. The writing is fun, masterful, and can even seem like a stream of consciousness at points. I will caution readers: this story has some very low points.

Doodling and diagrams also dot the pages, lending even more personality to the story, an approach that I greatly enjoyed. Too often, great texts are made mediocre by the lack of understanding and relatability. Despite the fact that this book was penned over 100 years ago, Winner stands as a good read even in contemporary contexts.

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