To the Dogs
Domício Coutinho Duke – O cachorro Padre (Recife, Brasil: Bagaço, 1998), translated from the Portuguese by Clifford Landers as Duke, the Dog Priest (Los Angeles: Green Integer, 2009)
Translated from the Portuguese by Clotilde Wilson as Philosopher or Dog? (Quincas Borba)
(New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Noonday Press, 1954)
From the very beginning pages of Duke, the Dog Priest the reader is thrown into a debate underlying the absurdity of Brazilian author Domício Coutinho’s premise: for his novel fabulously purports to be the tale of a dog who desired to become a priest—or a least to learn Latin. Most American readers—readers who have encountered few twentieth-century native examples of this genre within the confines of “serious fiction” outside of works such as John Hawkes’ Sweet William and The Frog, Tom La Farge’s The Crimson Bears, and a handful of other works—may quietly put down this book, send for their children, or read on in the hopes of encountering a lightweight fantasy. Americans have no great literary tradition of animal characters as do the Japanese, for example, with books such as I Am a Cat, or the Brazilians, well acquainted with their early classic—to which this work makes reference—Quincas Borba, Machado de Assis’s story of a philosopher dog.
Reprinted from The New Review of Literature, V, no. 1 (Fall 2007)
Copyright ©2007 by Douglas Messerli
Copyright ©2009 by Douglas Messerli