de Assis_The Alienist.pdf - Copyright THE ALIENIST by Machado de Assis First appeared in the journal A Estao(Rio de Janeiro in 1881 and was collected in

de Assis_The Alienist.pdf - Copyright THE ALIENIST by...

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Copyright THE ALIENIST by Machado de Assis First appeared in the journal A Estação (Rio de Janeiro) in 1881 and was collected in the volume Papéis Avulsos in 1882 © 2012 Melville House Publishing First Melville House printing: June 2012 Melville House Publishing 145 Plymouth Street Brooklyn, NY 11201 ISBN: 978-1-61219-107-2 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data: A catalog record is available from the Library of Congress
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I. How Itaguai Acquired a Madhouse Th e chronicles of Itaguai relate that in remote times a certain physician of noble birth, Simão Bacamarte, lived there and that he was one of the greatest doctors in all Brazil, Portugal, and the Spains. He had studied for many years in both Padua and Coimbra. When, at the age of thirty- four, he announced his decision to return to Brazil and his home town of Itaguai, the King of Portugal tried to dissuade him; he o ff ered Bacamarte his choice between the Presidency of Coimbra University and the office of Chief Expediter of Government Affairs. The doctor politely declined. “Science,” he told His Majesty, “is my only office; Itaguai, my universe.” He took up residence there and dedicated himself to the theory and practice of medicine. He alternated therapy with study and research; he demonstrated theorems with poultices. In his fortieth year Bacamarte married the widow of a circuit judge. Her name was Dona Evarista da Costa e Mascarenhas, and she was neither beautiful nor charming. One of his uncles, an outspoken man, asked him why he had not selected a more attractive woman. Th e doctor replied that Dona Evarista enjoyed perfect digestion, excellent eyesight, and normal blood pressure; she had had no serious illnesses and her urinalysis was negative. It was likely she would give him healthy, robust children. If, in addition to her physiological accomplishments, Dona Evarista possessed a face composed of features neither individually pretty nor mutually compatible, he thanked God for it, for he would not be tempted to sacri fi ce his scienti fi c pursuits to the contemplation of his wife’s attractions. But Dona Evarista failed to satisfy her husband’s expectations. She produced no robust children and, for that matter, no puny ones either. Th e scienti fi c temperament is by nature patient; Bacamarte waited three, four, five years. At the end of this period he began an exhaustive study of sterility. He reread the works of all the authorities (including the Arabian), sent inquiries to the Italian and German universities, and fi nally recommended a special diet. But Dona Evarista, nourished almost exclusively on succulent Itaguai pork, paid no heed; and to this lack of wifely submissiveness—understandable but regrettable—we owe the total extinction of the Bacamartian dynasty.
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