Um vasto prazer, quieto e profundo

Eliane Robert Moraes


The description of the torture of a rat, in the short story “A causa secreta” by Machado de Assis, can seem timid in comparison to the scenes of torment narrated by the Marquis de Sade. However, a close reading reveals the essential conditions for an outbreak of a mysterious form of pleasure that is normally associated with the character of the “sadist”. Such a reading becomes even more surprising on the discovery that the protagonist’s sadism assumes much more realistic contours than the unconceivable images of cruelty presented by Sade. This article intends to compare the two authors, proposing a dialogue between an aesthetic dimension (realism) and an ethic one (the evil), in order to offer an interpretation of the story by Machado de Assis.


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