Dom Casmurro Chapter 68


Few would have the courage to confess the thought that came to me in the Rua de Matacavalos, but my intention is to confess everything of importance to my story. Montaigne wrote of himself: Ces ne sont pas mes gestes que j’écris; c’est moi, c’est mon essence. Now, there is only one way to write one’s very essence, and that is to include everything, the good and the bad. That is what I am doing in so far as I remember whatever is pertinent to the creation or re-creation of myself. For example, now that I have confessed a sin, nothing would please me more than to relate some fine action of mine at that time, if I could remember one; but I can’t remember any. I’ll postpone it until I find a better opportunity.

You will lose nothing by waiting, my friend; just the opposite. Not only are good deeds good on any occasion but, according to a theory I have, both sins and virtues are equally possible and probable. It amounts to this: everyone is born with a certain number of each, united as if by matrimony so that one compensates for the other. Whenever one of these spouses is stronger than the other it alone rules the individual, but he, by not having practised a certain virtue or committed a certain sin, cannot thereby claim to be entirely free of its mate. The general rule, however, is to practise both simultaneously, to the advantage of the person concerned and frequently to the greater glory of heaven and earth. It is a pity that I cannot illustrate this with one or two interesting examples, but there is no time.

As far as I am concerned, what is certain is that I was born with a few of these married couples, and naturally they are still with me. Here in Engenho it has happened that, suffering one night with a bad headache, I wished one of the Central Line trains would blow up out of earshot and block the line for several hours even though someone might be killed; and the next day I missed my train on the same line because I had gone back to give my walking-stick to a blind man who was without one. Voilà mes gestes, voilà mon essence.