Category Archives: Artur Azevedo

From Portuguese: Estanislau’s Widow, by Artur Azevedo

(My translation of the short story A viúva do Estanislau, which was published in Contos ligeiros in 1974)

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A

after the death of her husband – poor Estanislau who’d been finally defeated by tuberculosis after a long and terrible struggle –,  it seemed that Adelaide would die as well. People said she loved her husband so much that she’d done everything possible to catch the same disease and lie near him in her grave. She got visibly thinner and everyone said that sooner or later God would grant her wish; but time, which smooths over and repairs everything, was stronger than the pain and, a year and a half later, Adelaide was rosier-cheeked and more beautiful than she’d ever been. Estanislau had left her destitute. The poor boy had not expected to have to put his things in order so soon or, to put it another way, had no way of preparing for the future. While he lived, nothing was lacking; after he died,  everything was lacking and Adelaide, who fortunately didn’t have children, accepted the hospitality offered by her parents. ‘Come and live with us again,’ the old couple said; ‘we’ll pretend you never married.’

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From Portuguese: Top Down, by Artur Azevedo

(My translation of the short story De cima para baixo)

 

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O

ne day the minister arrived in his office in a bad mood and immediately sent for the director general of the Secretariat.

The latter, as if propelled by an electric battery, promptly appeared before His Excellency, who received him with clenched fists.

“I’m furious!” the minister shouted. “I’ve just been humiliated in the presence of His Majesty the Emperor. And all because of you!”

Continue reading From Portuguese: Top Down, by Artur Azevedo

From Portuguese: The Prettiest Girl in Rio, by Artur Azevedo

(My translation of the short story A moça mais bonita do Rio de Janeiro, which was published in Contos cariocas in 1928.)

I

t was 1875. In a small house in the suburb of Engenho Novo lived the prettiest girl in Rio de Janeiro, together with her parents. Because she was born on the second of May, she’d been given the name of Mafalda at the baptismal font, simply because it was the feast of St Mafalda; but no one knew her by that name – ever since she’d been little, everyone in the house had called her Fadinha, a diminutive and corruption of Mafalda, meaning Little Fairy. And those three syllables suited her well because, when she was eighteen, she possessed all the charms that the faries have, or should have; and in her extraordinary beauty there really was something supernatural and magic.

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From Portuguese: Grandad Andrade, by Artur Azevedo

(My translation of the short story Vovó Andrade, which was published in Contos Cariocas in 1928)

H

e turned up one fine day at Mrs Eugênia’s lodging house, accompanied by three trunks and a small iron chest. He’d asked for the cheapest room and had haggled about the price of meals on the grounds that he was used to just one a day, and a very, very modest one at that.

No one knew whence the old man came, nor did he tell them, although he wasn’t exactly taciturn. He liked a chin-wag, but if some nosey parker asked personal questions all he’d do would be give them to understand, one way or another, that he’d had a hard life, had suffered a lot and had moved far from his home so that no one could remind him of the past.

All that was known was that he was called Andrade, was Portuguese and had emigrated, as a little child, to one of our provinces, where he’d lived for almost sixty years.

He didn’t allow anyone to come into his room: he dusted and swept it himself, spending hours and hours there on his own, with the door locked, opening and reorganising the chest and the trunks over and over again.

One of the guests, Braguinha, a book-keeper for an important firm, said he could hear the clink of gold coins in the old man’s room.

‘He’s like Uncle Gaspar in the The Chimes of Normandy,’ said this Braguinha with a conviction that transmitted itself to the other guests.

***

And he might well have been! Old Andrade’s clothes were threadbare, his hat was battered, his shoes were coming apart, and it was with a deep sigh that he paid his modest rent at the end of each month.

***

The landlady, who was a widow with three lovely sons, the oldest of them thirteen, also became convinced that old Andrade was an out-and-out miser; she’d probably have suggested he look for accommodation elsewhere, were it not that he’d shown himself unusually affectionate to the three boys right from the start, telling them highly entertaining stories. Who’s kind to my kids, my best friend is, as they say.

‘I love children,’ he’d say to Mrs Eugênia. ‘Which is no surprise, given that I’ve got no one in the whole wide world: I’m all on my own.’

‘Completely?’ Not one relative?..’

‘Not even relatively speaking, Mrs Eugênia! Death’s taken all my loved ones and left me all alone in this vale of tears.’

***

Barbosa, a middle-aged trader and a friend of Mrs Eugênia’s late husband, often visited her and – man of the world that he was – gave her practical advice. The gossips said it was something more than simple advice, but I don’t have any additional information on that point, nor is it important to the story.

The truth is that, after her husband’s death, Dona Eugênia had found herself in a tricky situation, and it was her late husband’s friend who’d provided the necessary capital for her to establish the lodging house, which was now prospering.

One day, Mrs Eugênia told him how the presence of the mysterious old man bothered her, and how she’d have sent him packing if he hadn’t been so friendly to the boys. Barbosa replied:

‘Send him packing?! What an idea! On the contrary: hold on to him. Good luck walked into your house the moment he turned up!’

‘Good luck?’

‘Yes, good luck! He’s old, miserly and without heirs… Send him packing?! What an idea! Be more than kind to him and make your boys love and respect him.’

Barbosa always had the last word in that house. A few days later, Mrs Eugênia offered old Andrade a bigger room for the same price – not only bigger, but more spacious, more airy, better furnished, with a sprung mattress and with two windows looking out on the garden.

What’s more, she more or less forced him to have two meals a day, like the other guests, and in the morning she sent him hot chocolate or café au lait, with biscuits.

The old man wept tears of gratitude, amazed – as he said – at so much kindness towards a poor, useless old devil who didn’t even have anywhere to drop dead.

With the skill of a diplomat, Mrs Eugênia managed to find out when the old man’s birthday was and, when the day arrived, he was given a present of new clothes and shoes. He no longer lacked for anything.

Seeing that the old man seemed to like him, and in the hope of being left something after his death, Braguinha, too, began being extra nice to him, giving him expensive cigars, interesting books, illustrated magazines etc.

But the old man didn’t change his solitary habits. No one entered his room, where he’d still spend hours and hours each day – opening and shutting the chest and the trunks.

One day, when he went to pay his rent to Mrs Eugênia, she said to him:

‘Please don’t be offended if I ask you to keep your money; you don’t need to pay anything at all; your rent’s not going to make me richer or poorer; all I want is for you to be like one of the family in this house.’

***

This situation lasted quite some time. Old Andrade was treated like a lord, nothing but the best.

He’d got to the stage of expressing his likes and desires, and the slightest hint was enough for either the widow or Braguinha to supply them.

But, on the advice of the prudent Barbosa, Braguinha was kept at a distance: he was a dangerous rival. Thanks to the efforts of the widow and Barbosa, the book-keeper found himself obliged to move. Nevertheless, he continued to visit the old man whenever he could, but it was difficult, given that the widow liked to keep her precious guest to herself.

***

Andrade had already been in the house for two years when, one night, finding himself alone with Mrs Eugênia, he said to her:

‘I’d like to tell you something, my dear protectress. I’m old – I could die at the drop of a hat…’

‘Don’t say that; you’ve got many years ahead of you!’

‘I always keep with me the key to an iron chest that’s in my room. The chest is ridiculous, a fantasy, because all I’ve got is four cents and some worthless bits and pieces. Anyhow, I want you to know that my will’s in that chest…’

‘Your will!’ said the lady; ‘but you don’t have anything to leave!’

‘That’s where you’re wrong, dear lady – in those trunks I’ve got lots of things – of no value, that’s true, but, if I passed away without making a will, they’d be seized by the Portuguese consulate and sold at public auction. That’s what I want to avoid, by making my own dispositions.’

This revelation caused the kindnesses heaped on the old man to be multiplied. They took him to the theatre, to parties, on walks; they filled him with quince jam and fine wine. The boys became accustomed to calling him ‘Grandad Andrade.’

And he became expensive. The only reason they didn’t provide a doctor and apothecary for him was that, being as healthy as a horse, he didn’t need them.

And he was still just as reticent about his past; there was still the same mystery about it; and there was still no way of getting him to tell.

***

Mrs Eugênia was beginning to get impatient.

‘That old fellow’s quite capable of outliving all of us!’

‘Patience; you’ll just have to put up with him; all it means is that his capital will be gaining interest,’ said Barbosa. ‘And, at his age, he can’t last much longer.’

And he didn’t.

On the very day when he’d been a guest of the house for five years, Grandad Andrade was struck dead by a stroke. To celebrate the fifth anniversary of their relationship, Mrs Eugênia had laid on a magnificent dinner, with plenty of wine – and he’d overdone it.

The boys, who were grown up now – the oldest was almost eighteen –, wept tears of real sadness. The widow was eager to open the chest and would have done so if the discrete Barbosa hadn’t stopped her.

‘Don’t touch anything. I’ll call the authorities.’

An official came from the consulate and opened the chest. What it contained was an envelope on which were written the words ‘My last will and testament,’ together with about three hundred thousand reais in Treasury notes and silver and gold coins, the ones Braguinha had heard clinking.

Two of the trunks were full of old metal, rags and other useless stuff, and the other one contained objects of some value: the clothes and other things that Grandad Andrade had been given as presents during his five years in the lodging house.

His last will and testament said:

‘Finding myself reduced, in my seventies, to penury, without family or friends, and after a whole life of work and ill fortune, I was faced with a choice between begging and suicide. I opted neither for the one nor the other: I moved away from my home, I pretended to be rich and miserly, two old trunks and an iron chest – the last relics of better times – being sufficient for that. Thanks to that ploy, I managed to get everything I lacked and more. Some will say I was a scoundrel; others, a philosopher. It’s all one to me.

‘In the chest you’ll find sufficient for my burial.’

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

The following biographical details have been translated from the Academia Brasileira de Letras website.

Artur Azevedo (A. Nabantino Gonçalves de A.), journalist and playwright, was born in São Luís in the State of Maranhão on 7 July 1855 and died in Rio de Janeiro on 22 October 1908. Alongside his brother Aluísio de Azevedo, he was one of the founders of the Brazilian Academy of Letters.

His parents were David Gonçalves de Azevedo, the Portuguese Vice-Consul in  São Luís, and Emília Amália Pinto de Magalhães, a courageous woman who, having separated from the trader to whom she had been married against her will, was already living out of wedlock with David Gonçalves when her children were born: three boys and two girls. They got married later on, after the death of her first husband, from yellow fever, in Rio de Janeiro. Artur was already showing a taste for the stage at eight years old, experimenting with adaptations of texts by authors like Joaquim Manuel de Macedo, and soon afterwards he began writing dramas that included roles for himself. Very early on, he began working in business and then he was employed in provincial administration, but was dismissed for publishing satires aimed at the authorities. At the same time, he was putting on his first comedies in the theatres of São Luís. When he was fifteen, he wrote Amor por anexins (Love through Proverbs), which was a great success, being staged more than a thousand times in the 19th Century. Having fallen out with the provincial government, he successfully sat a public examination for clerical posts in the Ministry of Finance, moving to Rio de Janeiro in 1873, where he got a job in the Ministry of Agriculture.

Initially he also taught Portuguese in the Pinheiro College. But it was in journalism that he was able to develop the activities that made him one of the greatest Brazilian playwrights and short-story writers. He founded literary publications, such as A Gazetinha, Vida Moderna and O Álbum. He collaborated, alongside Machado de Assis, on A Estação, and on the newspaper Novidades, where his colleagues were Alcindo Guanabara, Moreira Sampaio, Olavo Bilac and Coelho Neto. He was one of the great campaigners for the abolition of slavery, via his fiery newspaper articles, pieces in theatre magazines and works for the stage, such as O Liberato (The Freedman) and A família Salazar (The Salazar Family), which he wrote together with Urbano Duarte, and which was banned by the imperial censorship, being published later under the title O escravocrata (The Slave-owner). He wrote more than four thousand articles about artistic – mainly theatrical – events in the columns that appeared successively in O País (A Palestra [The Lecture]), in the Diário de Notícias (De Palanque [From the Rostrum]) and in A Notícia (O Teatro [The Theatre]). He had numerous pseudonyms: Elói o herói, Gavroche, Petrônio, Cosimo, Juvenal, Dorante, Frivolino, Batista o trocista, amongst others. From 1879 he edited the Revista do Teatro, alongside Lopes Cardoso. For more than thirty years, he kept up a campaign – eventually successful – for construction of the Municipal Theatre, but he was unable to attend its inauguration.

Although he had been writing short stories since 1871, it was only in 1889 that he resolved to collect some of them in a volume, called Contos possíveis (Possible Tales), which he dedicated to Machado de Assis, his colleague in the transport department, and one of his severest critics. In 1894 he published his second book of short stories, Contos fora de moda (Unfashionable Tales) and another two volumes, Contos cariocas (Rio Tales) and Vida alheia (Other People’s Lives), comprising stories he had written for various newspapers.

Both in his short stories and in his plays, he showed himself to be a great observer of the day-to-day life and habits of Rio de Janeiro. Courtships, marital infidelity, relationships within families, friendships, celebrations – whether festive or funereal –, everything that went on in the streets and in the houses provided subjects for his stories. In the theatre, he carried on from Martins Pena and França Júnior. His plays provide us with a documentary on the evolution of the quondam Brazilian capital. During his life, about a hundred of his plays, of various genres, and thirty of his translations and free adaptations from French plays were staged in Brazil and Portugal. He remains, today, the most permanent and expressive Brazilian playwright ever, in works such as A jóia (The Jewel), A capital federal (The Federal Capital), A almanjarra (The Wardrobe) and O mambembe (The Street Actor).

He also dedicated himself to poetry, where he was considered a representative of parnassianism, but simply on the chronological grounds of belonging to the generation of Alberto de Oliveira, Raimundo Correia and Olavo Bilac, who were all influenced by French poets such as Leconte de Lisle, Banville, Coppée and Heredia. But Artur Azevedo’s expansive and cheerful temperament actually had nothing in common with that school. A lyric and sentimental poet, his sonnets fall perfectly into the tradition of the Brazilian love sonnet.

Works: Carapuças, poetry (1871); Sonetos (1876); Um dia de finados, satire (1877); Contos possíveis (1889); Contos fora da moda (1894); Contos efêmeros (1897); Contos em verso (1898); Rimas, poetry (1909); Contos cariocas (1928); Vida alheia (1929); Histórias brejeiras, selected and prefaced by R. Magalhães Júnior (1962); Contos (1973).

Theatre: Amor por anexins (1872); A filha de Maria Angu (1876); Uma véspera de reis (1876); A jóia (1879); O escravocrata, in collaboration with Urbano Duarte (1884); A almanjarra (1888); A capital federal (1897); O retrato a óleo (1902); O dote (1907); O oráculo (1956); Teatro (1983).

Translator’s note:

Humberto de Campos wrote as follows in his preface to Azevedo’s Contos cariocas (1928):

He was the most popular short-story writer of his age and he is the one – of his generation – who is still remembered most fondly and with the most spontaneous admiration… His straightforwardness and good-humour has won him, and will continue to win him, the reputation of being the preeminent – and most affable – portraitist of Rio de Janeiro in its period of transition, i.e. in the period that saw the rise and fall of Ouvidor Street.

From Portuguese: Food and Drink, by Artur Azevedo

(My translation of the short story Comes e bebes, published in Contos cariocas in 1928)

W

hen he was young and free, i.e. some time before he definitively embarked upon life proper, so to speak, Dr Sesostris – not a medical doctor – had literary ambitions. (Nowadays he’s the father of a family, and a magistrate to boot.) His literary ambitions were all-encompassing: poetry, short stories, newspaper articles, novels and theatre.

It was the manuscript of his one and only play that gained him entry backstage and brought him into the presence of Rosalina who, at that time, was the first of our actresses in beauty, and the last in talent. This Rosalina, whom the impresario kept in the company purely on account of her physical virtues, had married an actor who, for his part, was kept in the company solely on account of being her husband.

To say she was a second Penelope when it comes to marital fidelity would be to flout the duty of truth I owe to the readers of my little stories, i.e. the bad-mouthers didn’t spare her, neither did the good-mouthers: more than one habitue of the theatre where she performed was pointed out as having sought, and obtained, her more intimate favours.

Having been invited by the impresario to read his play after the rehearsal one afternoon, Dr Sesostris sat himself down at a small table on the stage, surrounded by almost all the company – with Rosalina on his immediate right –, and opened the manuscript.

It was in the middle of the first act, and enveloped by a silence worthy of a tragedy, that the writer of this humorous piece felt a transference of heat from Rosalina’s left knee. This threw him off his stride so much that God only knows how the lad managed to finish reading that first act!

These equivocal – or, rather, unequivocal – manifestations continued during the second act, this time causing the doctor to come out in a cold sweat and to start trembling and making silly asides; as a result, the comical effect of the play – with respect both to situations and to dialogue – was lost. His audience, which was becoming more and more disgruntled and restless, attributed the reader’s discomfort to awestruck awareness that the work was being submitted to the judgement of so many artistic eminences.

It was not until the third act that Rosalina completed – with her little, admirably shod foot – the work of seduction she’d commenced with her knee.

Once the reading was over, and as soon as he heard those consoling words ‘the curtain falls,’ the impresario, who’d rudely interrupted the first two acts with loud yawns and had been away with the fairies during the third, woke up and said to the playwrite:

‘Well, a nice little comedy, Dr Sesostris… but not for my theatre… too refined, not ribald enough… That’s not to say I wouldn’t put it on… I will, but not till the theatre’s on a sounder footing. You’re very talented, Doctor: write another comedy, but make it saltier… plenty of cooking salt.’

‘Cooking salt?!’

‘Yes, cooking salt, Doctor! Table salt’s not going to make us even ten reais!’

Dr Sesostris, who had the inestimable good fortune of being only twenty-two years old, allowed the wool to be pulled over his eyes; but even if he’d had it put to him straight, why worry, when Rosalina – the beautiful Rosalina, so coveted of men – was there to make up for the dire struggles of this incipient author?

Once the impressario had finished recommending cooking salt to him, he turned round and fixed his eyes upon her – except she wasn’t there any more, having left without even saying goodbye…

From that point on, the young doctor started frequenting the theatre, especially Rosalina’s dressing-room; but there were no further manifestations of the knee and the foot, as if she wanted to warn him not to get his hopes up.

There was an old actor in the company who made himself out to be a big friend of Sesostris, thus gaining his confidence, and it was to him that the young man duly chose to unburden his heart, not omitting to mention how the actress had come on to him.

The old actor gave a malicious smile.

‘How can it be,’ asked the doctor, ‘that she’s changed her behaviour towards me so suddenly?’

‘Easy! you were presenting a comedy and she wanted to be the leading lady. As soon as she realised it wouldn’t be accepted, you were of no more significance than her first nightdress.’

‘You mean to say, if my comedy had been accepted…?’

‘If your comedy had been accepted, Rosalina would have been yours! And that’s the only way you’d have got her for free – she’s rather fond of money.’

Three months passed and, far from getting on to a sounder footing as hypothesised by the impresario, the theatre sank into one of those crises that are so common in our thespian life. After five or six flops, the audience fell away and the impressario stopped paying the artistes regularly. The situation was desperate.

Rosalina and her husband suffered just as much as the rest, and considered themselves lucky when they picked up the odd ten or twenty thousand reais by way of back pay.

Such was the state of affairs when, once more, the foot and the knee of the actress began to disturb the doctor’s peace of mind.

The old actor’s opinion hadn’t diminished her in the young man’s mind; a twenty-two-year old heart is blind to the defects of the woman for whom it beats, and even if, perchance, it decides to analyse those defects, it ends up finding them virtues.

One night, when he left her, Sesostris put a note into her hand. The note requested a meeting and told her he’d come to her dressing-room for the reply during the following night’s performance.

And so he did.

After seeing the hairdresser out, she said to her admirer: ‘Careful! Not a word about the message in the note.’

‘But… your reply?’

‘Just pretend… It’s there on the window… under the jug and dish… Make out you’re having a drink of water… Look! The dressing-room door’s open and there’s lots of people coming and going who wonder what you’re up to.’

So Sesostris pretended. He went to where the jug was, lifted the dish, found the note, put it in his pocket, talked – aloud – for a few moments, about the heat, all the empty seats etc. … and then left, anxious to read her reply.

In order to escape from prying eyes, he slipped into the gentlemen’s lavatory at the theatre and it was there – half-suffocated by ammonia fumes – that he read the following:

Doctor,

Before responding to your lovely message, I’d like to beg a great favour of you. As you know, the company owes us six weeks’ pay, the 15th is coming up and it’s highly likely we won’t get paid this time either, because the theatre’s not making any money. My husband and I, we’re on our uppers. Hard as it is for me to ask this, please send us, tomorrow, to our house, you know where it is, the items listed herewith, which we need for our larder. Forgive me for troubling you.

Your dear friend,

Rosalina

And there is was, attached as stated, a groceries-and-miscellaneous list: so many kilos of beans, so many kilos of dried meat etc. Nothing was missing: oil, macaroni, olives, wine, packets of candles, lamps, butter – you name it!

The next day a handcart arrived outside Rosalina’s door, carrying all that food and drink etc. Meanwhile, despite his tender years, Dr Sesostris had got the message: the stupid woman was best avoided.

TRANSLATOR’S NOTE

Translator’s note: The qualification about Dr Sesostris’s title – ‘not a medical doctor’ –, and which also applies to Dr Figueiredo in ‘Sabina,’ is mine. In Recordações do escrivão Isaías Caminha, Lima Barreto satirises, in the person of Caminha, what he saw as the exaggerated reverence accorded to the title of ‘Dr’ in Brazil:

Ah! Doctor! Doctor!.. It was a magic title, with a power and a reach that was multiple and multiform. It was a sort of sacred cloak, woven with a fine and almost invisible thread, but one that repulsed the elements, the evil eye and exorcisms […] Oh! To be a graduate, a ring upon my finger, an overcoat and a top hat, fat and inflated like the horned frog before it lets forth its drum-roll croak at the edge of the swamp; to walk like that through the streets, through the squares, down the highways, through the rooms, receiving compliments from right, left and centre: ‘How did it go, Doctor?’ ‘How are you, Doctor?’ It was the same as being super-human!..    

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

The following biographical details have been translated from the Academia Brasileira de Letras website.

Artur Azevedo (A. Nabantino Gonçalves de A.), journalist and playwright, was born in São Luís in the State of Maranhão on 7 July 1855 and died in Rio de Janeiro on 22 October 1908. Alongside his brother Aluísio de Azevedo, he was one of the founders of the Brazilian Academy of Letters.

His parents were David Gonçalves de Azevedo, the Portuguese Vice-Consul in  São Luís, and Emília Amália Pinto de Magalhães, a courageous woman who, having separated from the trader to whom she had been married against her will, was already living out of wedlock with David Gonçalves when her children were born: three boys and two girls. They got married later on, after the death of her first husband, from yellow fever, in Rio de Janeiro. Artur was already showing a taste for the stage at eight years old, experimenting with adaptations of texts by authors like Joaquim Manuel de Macedo, and soon afterwards he began writing dramas that included roles for himself. Very early on, he began working in business and then he was employed in provincial administration, but was dismissed for publishing satires aimed at the authorities. At the same time, he was putting on his first comedies in the theatres of São Luís. When he was fifteen, he wrote Amor por anexins (Love through Proverbs), which was a great success, being staged more than a thousand times in the 19th Century. Having fallen out with the provincial government, he successfully sat a public examination for clerical posts in the Ministry of Finance, moving to Rio de Janeiro in 1873, where he got a job in the Ministry of Agriculture.

Initially he also taught Portuguese in the Pinheiro College. But it was in journalism that he was able to develop the activities that made him one of the greatest Brazilian playwrights and short-story writers. He founded literary publications, such as A Gazetinha, Vida Moderna and O Álbum. He collaborated, alongside Machado de Assis, on A Estação, and on the newspaper Novidades, where his colleagues were Alcindo Guanabara, Moreira Sampaio, Olavo Bilac and Coelho Neto. He was one of the great campaigners for the abolition of slavery, via his fiery newspaper articles, pieces in theatre magazines and works for the stage, such as O Liberato (The Freedman) and A família Salazar (The Salazar Family), which he wrote together with Urbano Duarte, and which was banned by the imperial censorship, being published later under the title O escravocrata (The Slave-owner). He wrote more than four thousand articles about artistic – mainly theatrical – events in the columns that appeared successively in O País (A Palestra [The Lecture]), in the Diário de Notícias (De Palanque [From the Rostrum]) and in A Notícia (O Teatro [The Theatre]). He had numerous pseudonyms: Elói o herói, Gavroche, Petrônio, Cosimo, Juvenal, Dorante, Frivolino, Batista o trocista, amongst others. From 1879 he edited the Revista do Teatro, alongside Lopes Cardoso. For more than thirty years, he kept up a campaign – eventually successful – for construction of the Municipal Theatre, but he was unable to attend its inauguration.

Although he had been writing short stories since 1871, it was only in 1889 that he resolved to collect some of them in a volume, called Contos possíveis (Possible Tales), which he dedicated to Machado de Assis, his colleague in the transport department, and one of his severest critics. In 1894 he published his second book of short stories, Contos fora de moda (Unfashionable Tales) and another two volumes, Contos cariocas (Rio Tales) and Vida alheia (Other People’s Lives), comprising stories he had written for various newspapers.

Both in his short stories and in his plays, he showed himself to be a great observer of the day-to-day life and habits of Rio de Janeiro. Courtships, marital infidelity, relationships within families, friendships, celebrations – whether festive or funereal –, everything that went on in the streets and in the houses provided subjects for his stories. In the theatre, he carried on from Martins Pena and França Júnior. His plays provide us with a documentary on the evolution of the quondam Brazilian capital. During his life, about a hundred of his plays, of various genres, and thirty of his translations and free adaptations from French plays were staged in Brazil and Portugal. He remains, today, the most permanent and expressive Brazilian playwright ever, in works such as A jóia (The Jewel), A capital federal (The Federal Capital), A almanjarra (The Wardrobe) and O mambembe (The Street Actor).

He also dedicated himself to poetry, where he was considered a representative of parnassianism, but simply on the chronological grounds of belonging to the generation of Alberto de Oliveira, Raimundo Correia and Olavo Bilac, who were all influenced by French poets such as Leconte de Lisle, Banville, Coppée and Heredia. But Artur Azevedo’s expansive and cheerful temperament actually had nothing in common with that school. A lyric and sentimental poet, his sonnets fall perfectly into the tradition of the Brazilian love sonnet.

Works: Carapuças, poetry (1871); Sonetos (1876); Um dia de finados, satire (1877); Contos possíveis (1889); Contos fora da moda (1894); Contos efêmeros (1897); Contos em verso (1898); Rimas, poetry (1909); Contos cariocas (1928); Vida alheia (1929); Histórias brejeiras, selected and prefaced by R. Magalhães Júnior (1962); Contos (1973).

Theatre: Amor por anexins (1872); A filha de Maria Angu (1876); Uma véspera de reis (1876); A jóia (1879); O escravocrata, in collaboration with Urbano Duarte (1884); A almanjarra (1888); A capital federal (1897); O retrato a óleo (1902); O dote (1907); O oráculo (1956); Teatro (1983).

Translator’s note:

Humberto de Campos wrote as follows in his preface to Azevedo’s Contos cariocas (1928):

He was the most popular short-story writer of his age and he is the one – of his generation – who is still remembered most fondly and with the most spontaneous admiration… His straightforwardness and good-humour has won him, and will continue to win him, the reputation of being the preeminent – and most affable – portraitist of Rio de Janeiro in its period of transition, i.e. in the period that saw the rise and fall of Ouvidor Street.

From Portuguese: The Widow, by Artur Azevedo

(My translation of the short story A viúva)

T

hey were inseparable. Previously unacquainted, they’d met by chance one day. They’d exchanged a few words and felt attracted to each other by a strange, violent sympathy. After that, they never parted.

They had different occupations. The older one, Leopoldo Borges, was a book-keeper; the younger one, Epifânio Braga, a civil servant. Both of them bachelors and without family.

One day, one of them suggested living together, and the other accepted. They found a convenient first-floor apartment in Resende Street and both of them moved in, establishing a real communism in furniture, clothes and other everyday objects.

As if it had wanted to bring them together and blend one with the other, nature had given them the same physiques, the same heads, the same feet. Leopoldo would put on Epifânio’s shoes; Epifânio would wear Leopoldo’s hats. They both wore each other’s clothes, willy-nilly. There was not a single object that belonged to the one and not to the other. Everything belonged to both.

After they’d read the papers each morning, the two friends would have a cosy chat before lunch, which was cooked at home by a black man, who was butler and valet as well as cook. After lunch they’d go their separate ways, meeting up in the evening and dining together. After dinner each of them took a cigar from the same box, lit it and sat down by the window, where they remained chatting away until nightfall.

There was only one thing in which they differed: Leopoldo was a night bird, Epifânio a home bird. Leopoldo would leave the apartment and be out till midnight, often much later, and Epifânio would stay at home, reading or getting on with some office work. But he was discreet: he didn’t ask Leopoldo where he spent the night.

That’s how these two friends lived, in the most perfect harmony, renewing the heroic times of Pylades and Orestes, when one evening, looking out of the window, they saw, in the window of the house opposite, a beautiful woman who’d moved there the previous day.

‘We’ve got a new neighbour,’ said Leopoldo.

‘We have, and a very pretty one,’ Epifânio replied.

‘Who might she be?’

‘I don’t know.’

‘She’s not all that young.’

‘No, she must be over thirty.’

‘But she’s pretty.’

‘She certainly is.’

‘Do you think she’s with her family?’

‘Must be. Looks like it. A respectable lady.’

The next morning, the black man passed on, without having been asked, the information he’d gleaned from the stall down the way. The neighbour was called Mrs Henrique: she was the widow of a trader who used to run a china shop in Sete Street; she was living with a sister-in-law; she had a brother who worked at the Treasury and two sons at college in Friburgo.

Leopoldo seemed indifferent to the neighbour’s charms, but Epifânio began to take an interest in her, to the extent that he tried to catch sight of her whenever he could and that he felt something lacking if he left the apartment without seeing her.

One day, in the morning, he said ‘Hello’ to her, and she gave him a half-smile in return.

That half-smile, in which masculine conceit, to which Epifânio was not immune, caused him to discover a complete smile, stirred his emotions and, from that moment forward, the widow was all he thought of. He thought about her when he went to bed, he dreamt about her and, when he opened his eyes and got out of bed, he saw her even before he saw the daylight.

The poor boy envied Leopoldo his tranquillity – Leopoldo didn’t even remove his hat on meeting the widow. Embarrassed on account of his love – if that was what it was –, he didn’t dare say anything to his companion and did everything he could, in Leopoldo’s presence, to hide his feelings as far as was possible.

Because Leopoldo used to go out every night, it was mainly at night that Epifânio indulged himself in contemplating the widow. She’d go to the living room, on her own, sit down in front of the piano and play some works by Mendelsohn and Chopin. During that time, Epifânio, at the window, wouldn’t take his eyes off the pianist and, of course, that divine music helped to inflame still further the passion that had taken hold of him.

This lasted a month, with the civil servant feeling himself more and more attracted by the widow until, one night, he saw a man in the open window that looked out on the street. The man carefully closed the window.

Can you imagine how Epifânio felt when, by the light of the streetlamp, he realised that the man was Leopoldo.

TRANSLATOR’S NOTE

This story was ‘rediscovered’ by Mauro Rosso, an expert on writers of the Belle Époque in Rio de Janeiro. Before he included it in his 2009 book Contos de Arthur  Azevedo: os ‘efêmeros’ e inéditos (‘Ephemeral’ and Unpublished Short Stories by Arthur [the spelling varies] Azevedo), it had appeared only in the Correio da Manhã newspaper, in 1906. As Ricardo Oiticica points out in the introduction to the book, the circumstances of its publication in the newspaper were bizarre:

Azevedo sent a short story under a pseudonym to the Correio da Manhã – where he used to write a Sunday article – as part of a competition for his own job, given that the newspaper had decided to replace him. After being declared the winner, he revealed his identity and resigned…

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

The following biographical details have been translated from the Academia Brasileira de Letras website.

Artur Azevedo (A. Nabantino Gonçalves de A.), journalist and playwright, was born in São Luís in the State of Maranhão on 7 July 1855 and died in Rio de Janeiro on 22 October 1908. Alongside his brother Aluísio de Azevedo, he was one of the founders of the Brazilian Academy of Letters.

His parents were David Gonçalves de Azevedo, the Portuguese Vice-Consul in  São Luís, and Emília Amália Pinto de Magalhães, a courageous woman who, having separated from the trader to whom she had been married against her will, was already living out of wedlock with David Gonçalves when her children were born: three boys and two girls. They got married later on, after the death of her first husband, from yellow fever, in Rio de Janeiro. Artur was already showing a taste for the stage at eight years old, experimenting with adaptations of texts by authors like Joaquim Manuel de Macedo, and soon afterwards he began writing dramas that included roles for himself. Very early on, he began working in business and then he was employed in provincial administration, but was dismissed for publishing satires aimed at the authorities. At the same time, he was putting on his first comedies in the theatres of São Luís. When he was fifteen, he wrote Amor por anexins (Love through Proverbs), which was a great success, being staged more than a thousand times in the 19th Century. Having fallen out with the provincial government, he successfully sat a public examination for clerical posts in the Ministry of Finance, moving to Rio de Janeiro in 1873, where he got a job in the Ministry of Agriculture.

Initially he also taught Portuguese in the Pinheiro College. But it was in journalism that he was able to develop the activities that made him one of the greatest Brazilian playwrights and short-story writers. He founded literary publications, such as A Gazetinha, Vida Moderna and O Álbum. He collaborated, alongside Machado de Assis, on A Estação, and on the newspaper Novidades, where his colleagues were Alcindo Guanabara, Moreira Sampaio, Olavo Bilac and Coelho Neto. He was one of the great campaigners for the abolition of slavery, via his fiery newspaper articles, pieces in theatre magazines and works for the stage, such as O Liberato (The Freedman) and A família Salazar (The Salazar Family), which he wrote together with Urbano Duarte, and which was banned by the imperial censorship, being published later under the title O escravocrata (The Slave-owner). He wrote more than four thousand articles about artistic – mainly theatrical – events in the columns that appeared successively in O País (A Palestra [The Lecture]), in the Diário de Notícias (De Palanque [From the Rostrum]) and in A Notícia (O Teatro [The Theatre]). He had numerous pseudonyms: Elói o herói, Gavroche, Petrônio, Cosimo, Juvenal, Dorante, Frivolino, Batista o trocista, amongst others. From 1879 he edited the Revista do Teatro, alongside Lopes Cardoso. For more than thirty years, he kept up a campaign – eventually successful – for construction of the Municipal Theatre, but he was unable to attend its inauguration.

Although he had been writing short stories since 1871, it was only in 1889 that he resolved to collect some of them in a volume, called Contos possíveis (Possible Tales), which he dedicated to Machado de Assis, his colleague in the transport department, and one of his severest critics. In 1894 he published his second book of short stories, Contos fora de moda (Unfashionable Tales) and another two volumes, Contos cariocas (Rio Tales) and Vida alheia (Other People’s Lives), comprising stories he had written for various newspapers.

Both in his short stories and in his plays, he showed himself to be a great observer of the day-to-day life and habits of Rio de Janeiro. Courtships, marital infidelity, relationships within families, friendships, celebrations – whether festive or funereal –, everything that went on in the streets and in the houses provided subjects for his stories. In the theatre, he carried on from Martins Pena and França Júnior. His plays provide us with a documentary on the evolution of the quondam Brazilian capital. During his life, about a hundred of his plays, of various genres, and thirty of his translations and free adaptations from French plays were staged in Brazil and Portugal. He remains, today, the most permanent and expressive Brazilian playwright ever, in works such as A jóia (The Jewel), A capital federal (The Federal Capital), A almanjarra (The Wardrobe) and O mambembe (The Street Actor).

He also dedicated himself to poetry, where he was considered a representative of parnassianism, but simply on the chronological grounds of belonging to the generation of Alberto de Oliveira, Raimundo Correia and Olavo Bilac, who were all influenced by French poets such as Leconte de Lisle, Banville, Coppée and Heredia. But Artur Azevedo’s expansive and cheerful temperament actually had nothing in common with that school. A lyric and sentimental poet, his sonnets fall perfectly into the tradition of the Brazilian love sonnet.

Works: Carapuças, poetry (1871); Sonetos (1876); Um dia de finados, satire (1877); Contos possíveis (1889); Contos fora da moda (1894); Contos efêmeros (1897); Contos em verso (1898); Rimas, poetry (1909); Contos cariocas (1928); Vida alheia (1929); Histórias brejeiras, selected and prefaced by R. Magalhães Júnior (1962); Contos (1973).

Theatre: Amor por anexins (1872); A filha de Maria Angu (1876); Uma véspera de reis (1876); A jóia (1879); O escravocrata, in collaboration with Urbano Duarte (1884); A almanjarra (1888); A capital federal (1897); O retrato a óleo (1902); O dote (1907); O oráculo (1956); Teatro (1983).

Translator’s note:

Humberto de Campos wrote as follows in his preface to Azevedo’s Contos cariocas (1928):

He was the most popular short-story writer of his age and he is the one – of his generation – who is still remembered most fondly and with the most spontaneous admiration… His straightforwardness and good-humour has won him, and will continue to win him, the reputation of being the preeminent – and most affable – portraitist of Rio de Janeiro in its period of transition, i.e. in the period that saw the rise and fall of Ouvidor Street.