Dom Casmurro Chapter 59


There are certain memories that do not rest until the pen or the tongue expresses them. Someone in ancient times wrote that he loathed a companion with a good recall. Life is filled with such companions, and I perhaps am one of them, though I demonstrate proof of having a poor memory by the fact that the name of that author has gone from me right now; but I know he lived a very long time ago.

No, no, my memory is not good. On the contrary, it is com parable to a man who has lived in numerous lodgings without retaining either faces or names but merely scattered details. If a man passes his life in the same family house with its constancy of furnishings and customs, people and affections, everything is engraved on his mind through continuity and repetition. How I envy those who have not forgotten the colour of their first pair of trousers! I am not sure of the colour of those I wore yesterday. I can only say they were not yellow, because I detest that colour – but even this may be forgetfulness and confusion. And rather forgetfulness than confusion! I will explain myself. There is no way of emending a confused book, but everything may be supplied in the case of books with omissions. For my part, when I read one of the latter type I am not bothered. What I do, on arriving at the end, is to shut my eyes and evoke all the elements I did not find in it. How many delightful ideas come to me then! What profound reflections! The rivers, mountains and churches I did not find on the written page now appear to me with their waters, their trees, their altars; and the generals draw swords that never left their scabbards, and the trumpets sound the notes that slept in the metal, and everything proceeds with a new liveliness and soul.

The fact is, everything is to be found outside a book that has gaps, gentle reader. This is the way I fill in other’s lacunae; in the same way you may fill in mine.