Dom Casmurro Chapter 1


One evening on my way home to Engenho Novo from town I met a young fellow on the Central Line train. He lived in the neighbourhood, and I knew him vaguely by sight. He greeted me, sat down beside me, talked about one thing and another and ended up reciting poetry. The journey was short, and his verses may not have been altogether bad. But it happened that I was tired, and I dozed off once or twice, causing him to break off his reading and put his verses back in his pocket.

‘Don’t stop,’ I said, waking up.

‘I’ve finished,’ he muttered.

‘They’re very good.’

I saw him make as if to take them from his pocket again, but it was only a gesture; he was offended. Next day he began calling me names and finished up nicknaming me ‘Lord Taciturn’. The neighbours, who don’t like my quiet retiring habits, seized upon the nickname, which finally stuck. Not that this worried me. I told the story to some friends in town, and for fun they began calling me that, too, some even in letters: ‘Lord Taciturn, I’m coming to dine with you on Sunday.’ ‘I’m going to Petropolis, Lord Taciturn; that same house in RenĂ¢nia. Drag yourself from that den of yours in Engenho Novo and come and spend a fortnight with me.’ ‘My dear Lord Taciturn, don’t think I’m letting you off the theatre tomorrow. Come and spend the night in town. I’ll provide the box, tea and a bed; the only thing I can’t provide is feminine company.’

Don’t bother to look it up in the dictionary. ‘Taciturn’ is used in the most usual sense of a man who says little and keeps to himself. ‘Lord’ is ironic, to endow me with aristocratic airs. All because I happened to doze off! Anyway I couldn’t find a better title for my story, and if I can’t think of one before the end of the book I’ll keep to this. My poet on the train will know that I bear him no ill will. And with a little imagination, since the title is his, he may come to think the book is his, too. There are books that owe no more to their authors; others even less.