Machado de Assis, Joaquim Maria

Machado de Assis, Joaquim Maria

(zhwäkēm` mərē`ə məshä`do͝o dĭ əsēz`), 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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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Machado de Assis, Joaquim Maria


Born June 21, 1839, in Rio de Janeiro; died there Sept. 29, 1908. Brazilian writer. The first president of the Brazilian Academy of Letters (founded in 1896).

Machado, a mulatto, was the son of a house painter; he had no formal education. From 1863 to 1866 he worked as a typesetter and proofreader and, during this time, published his first collections of poetry and plays. His novels Sunday (1872), The Hand and the Glove (1874), Vaya Garcia (1878) were written in a romantic style. He was the founder of critical realism in Brazilian literature. Machado de Assis was influenced by English and later by Russian realism. He introduced psychological character analysis into Brazilian literature. In his novel The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas (1881; translated into Russian as Notes From the Other World, 1968), he examined the social and psychological consequences of slaveholding. In Quincas Borba (1891) and Dom Casmurro (1899; Russian translation, 1961) he made a study of the relationships of people in petty provincial Brazilian society.

Machado de Assis held a pessimistic view of modern man; his characters’ lives always end in spiritual collapse. He proved himself a master of the realistic short story in the collections Undated History (1884) and Relics of an Old House (1906). His power as a realist became weaker in the novels Isaac and Jacob (1904) and Notes of Aires (1908). In his critical articles he emphasized the need for a distinctively national Brazilian literature.


Obras completas, 5th ed., vols. 1-31. Rio de Janeiro, 1944.
[Rasskazy.] In BraziVskie rasskazy. Moscow, 1959.
[Rasskazy.] In Pod nebom luzhnogo kresta. Moscow, 1968.


Miguel Pereira, L. Machado de Assis, 5th ed. Rio de Janeiro, 1955.
Sousa, J. Galante de. Fontes para o estudo de Machado de Assis. Rio de Janeiro, 1958.
Pereira, A. Machado de Assis. Rio de Janeiro, 1959.
Massa, J. M. Bibliographie descriptive, analytique et critique de Machado de Assis, vol. 4. Rio de Janeiro, 1965.
Griego, A. Viagem em torno a M. de Assis. Sao Paulo, 1969.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Machado de Assis, Joaquim Maria. Machado de Assis--do teatro: Textos criticos e escritos diversos.