Machado de Assis, Joaquim Maria (zhwäkēmˈ mərēˈə məshäˈdŏ dĭ əsēzˈ) [key], 1839–1908, Brazilian novelist, b. Rio de Janeiro. The grandson of African slaves, he was educated by a priest and became a typesetter, a proofreader, and finally a journalist. His poetry, plays, and short stories were well received, but his reputation as the greatest of Brazilian writers rests upon his realistic novels. His major novels are Memórias póstumas de Brás Cubas (1881, tr. Epitaph of a Small Winner, 1952, The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas, 1998), Quincas Borba (1891, tr. Philosopher or Dog?, 1954, 1998), and Dom Casmurro (1900, tr. 1953, 1998). They are distinguished by psychological insight, a lack of illusions, a profound awareness of social conditions, and a dark humor, and their objective attitude stands in sharp contrast to the prevalent romantic tendency of the time. His pessimistic view of life is impelled by irony and a profound cynicism.
See studies by H. Caldwell (1970) and J. Gledson (1984).
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