O alienista

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For the Caleb Carr novel, see The Alienist.
"The Psychiatrist"
Author Machado de Assis
Original title "O alienista"
Translator William L. Grossman
Country Brazil
Language Brazilian Portuguese
Genre(s) Novella, satire
Published in Papéis avulsos
Publication type Anthology
Media type Print
Publication date (1881–)1882
Published in English 1963

"O alienista" (translated "The Psychiatrist" then "The Alienist") is a satiric novella written by Brazilian author Machado de Assis (1839–1908). The story ran in Rio de Janeiro's newspaper A Estação (from 15 October 1881 to 15 March 1882), then was published in 1882 as part of his short-story collection Papéis avulsos ("Single Papers"). An English translation was published in 1963. In 1970, the story was adapted into the comedy film The Alienist.

Plot summary[edit]

Published a year after Machado's first major novel, Memórias Póstumas de Brás Cubas, "The Psychiatrist" follows the scientific efforts of Dr. Simon Bacamarte (Simão Bacamarte in the original – "bacarmarte" being Portuguese for "blunderbuss", an old scattershot gun). Bacamarte, a Brazil-born Portuguese (when Brazil was a colony), is a prominent physician whose obsession for discovering a universal method to treat and consequently cure pathologic disturbs drives inhabitants of the small Brazilian town of Itaguaí to fear, conspiracy, and revolutionary attempts.

Chapters 1–4

In a short space of time, Bacamarte's newly opened asylum, popularly named "the Green House" (Casa Verde), passes to take inside of its walls not only mentally ill patients but also healthy citizens who, according to the doctor's diagnoses, are about to develop some sort of mental illness.

Chapters 5–10

Porfírio, the town's barber, indicts Bacamarte for his corruptive influence over the Municipal Council, which since the beginning approved the experiments taken place at the Green House, "the Bastille of human Knowledge". A revolt and council change ensues, but the new regime propose an alliance to the alienist, until being toppled back to the original council.

Chapters 11–12

This gives pause to Bacamarte, who changes his tack and decides that balanced people are a small minority, and thus the anomaly that should be cured: the modest, the loyal, the wise, the patient, etc., are admitted to be scientifically disequilibrated according to his new theory.

Chapter 13

After they all have been "cured" and discharged, Bacamarte eventually considers that he's the most well-balanced person of the village and locks himself alone into the asylum, where he dies seventeen months later. The village concludes that he was the only madman from day one. "Be that as it may, his funeral was conducted with great pomp and rare solemnity."

English editions[edit]

See also[edit]


References[edit]

  1. ^ Table of contents at Google Books

External links[edit]

Reviews