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We do not usually need an antonym for posthumous. When someone mentions Bob’s child or Bob’s novel, we naturally assume the child was born, and the novel published, during Bob’s lifetime. But imagine the following dialogue:

Customer: I’m looking for a book by Machado de Assis, The memoirs of Bras Cubas.

Bookshop assistant: You mean The posthumous memoirs of Bras Cubas?

Customer: Exactly. Actually I don’t think he wrote any [antonym of posthumous] memoirs of Bras Cubas.

Merriam-Webster gives ante mortem as an antonym for posthumous. But it looks as though ante mortem is used mainly in connection with forensic activities and inspection of slaughterhouses.

So how suitably can ante mortem fill the antonym-of-posthumous space above? Is there an alternative?

I'm asking the parallel question in SE Portuguese Language. It's all in Portuguese though.

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Hi, Jacinto. Your last link doesn't show anything. – Rathony Jan 8 at 17:18
@Rathony Thanks for letting me know. I've fixed it now. – Jacinto Jan 8 at 17:21
"Living" memoirs? – Mark Hubbard Jan 8 at 18:10
@MarkHubbard I've thought of that. You tell me whether it works. I googled it up, but didn't feel very reassured by what I found. – Jacinto Jan 8 at 18:14
articles.courant.com/2010-07-12/features/… Great article, and prefectly relevant. – Tim Ward Jan 8 at 19:29

Ante mortem is more clinical and is a better antonym for post mortem. "Prehumous" is a neologism, but it goes beyond just the opposite and indicates "too early". If there is an actual antonym, it wouldn't be very well known; so, for comprehension, I would just say, "I don't think he published any memoirs during his lifetime." ("Published" is better, because if he didn't write them, they can't be his memoirs.)

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In my sample sentence, "he" is the real writer, Machado de Assis, but it is the fictional Bras Cubas' memoirs. I can't remember how the character manages to write his memoir from the grave. – Jacinto Jan 8 at 18:23
Yea, I caught that afterwards. In the example you gave, the response is intended to be humorous --in which case I'd say it rolls better if the customer says (channeling Groucho Marx), "Well, I don't think he would've written his posthumous memoirs while he was still alive." It's a surreal example, so anything goes! – Matt Jan 8 at 20:11
i don't see anything wrong with prehumous. even if it's not common, you could use it and still be understood (which is all that matters in most contexts), i think. – sgroves Jan 8 at 20:59

I think "living memoirs" works well in your example (on several levels), but I've up-voted Brian Donovan's answer (nonposthumous) as likely to be more applicable under general circumstances.

From Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Posthumous_Memoirs_of_Bras_Cubas

"The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas (Portuguese: Memorias Posthumas de Braz Cubas, modern spelling Memórias Póstumas de Brás Cubas), often subtitled as the Epitaph of a Small Winner, is a novel by the Brazilian writer Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis.

"Published in 1881, the novel has a unique style of short, erratic chapters shifting in tone and style. Instead of the clear and logical construction of a normal nineteenth-century realist novel, the novel makes use of surreal devices of metaphor and playful narrative construction. It is considered the first romance of the realist movement in Brazil.

"Plot introduction: The novel is narrated by the dead protagonist Brás Cubas, who tells his own life story from beyond the grave, noting his mistakes and failed romances.

"The fact of being already deceased allows Brás Cubas to sharply criticize the Brazilian society and reflect on his own disillusionment, with no sign of remorse or fear of retaliation. Brás Cubas dedicates his book to the first worm that gnawed his cold body: "To the worm who first gnawed on the cold flesh of my corpse, I dedicate with fond remembrance these Posthumous Memoirs" (Portuguese: Ao verme que primeiro roeu as frias carnes do meu cadáver dedico com saudosa lembrança estas Memórias Póstumas). Cubas decides to tell his story starting from the end (the passage of his death, caused by pneumonia), then taking "the greatest leap in this story", proceeding to tell the story of his life since his childhood.

"The novel is also connected to another Machado de Assis work, Quincas Borba, which features a character from the Memoirs (as a secondary character, despite the novel's name), but other works of the author are hinted in chapter titles. It is a novel recalled as a major influence by many post-modern writers, such as John Barth or Donald Barthelme, as well as Brazilian writers in the 20th century."

See also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Machado_de_Assis


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This is quite a good overview of the novel. But why do “living memoirs” work well in my example? Will it be understood as published during the man’s lifetime? Or will people think that the memoirs are somehow alive? On a side note, I’ve just finished Dom Casmurro by the same author, and I liked it a lot better than the Memoirs. – Jacinto Jan 8 at 19:05
Yes, "as published during the man's lifetime." Today, many celebrities publish "living memoirs" (absurdly, some even while still in their 20s). Also, since it is the title of a work of surrealist fiction, it would simply be fun to respond by saying, "Exactly. Actually I don’t think he wrote any living memoirs of Bras Cubas." (All credit for the overview goes to Wikipedia's contributors.) – Mark Hubbard Jan 8 at 19:19
So you mean nonposthumous might be better if we're talking of awards, children, fame, rather than memoirs? – Jacinto Jan 8 at 19:29
Yes, exactly. Especially fictional memoirs. – Mark Hubbard Jan 8 at 19:33
By the way, your fluency in English is astoundingly good. Is Brazilian Portuguese your first or second language? I'm envious of your skill. :-) – Mark Hubbard Jan 8 at 19:55

Dictionary.com lists nonposthumous as a related form s.v. posthumous, and that would do quite nicely and naturally in your proposed exchange.

share|improve this answer
It is readily understood, but is it actually used? – Jacinto Jan 8 at 18:50
Like you said, there's rarely a need for such a word. You may not find anything "actually used" and might just have to settle for "readily understood". – Yee-Lum Jan 8 at 19:07
@Yee-Lum "Living memoirs" has been used. See Mark's answer. But nobody you think a "living child" would be a "nonposthumous child". – Jacinto Jan 8 at 20:44

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