Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis Additional Biography

Biography

Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis (muh-SHAH-dew dee ah-SEES) was born to a Portuguese mother from the Azores and a mulatto house painter from Rio de Janeiro. Though Brazil is often said to be a country without racism, some of Machado’s critics attribute the pessimism evident in his works to feelings of inferiority about his mixed-race heritage; it is also sometimes attributed to his physical ailments, particularly the epilepsy so little understood in his day. His novels reveal what some call “smiling, bitter pessimism,” and others, “sad, bitter irony.”

Machado de Assis began his literary career as a poet in the transition period between Romanticism and Brazilian Parnassianism, which was less objective and impersonal than the French prototype. He also wrote plays and excellent short stories. His first three novels, beginning with Resurreicão (resurrection) in 1872, though in the Romantic vein, betray a realistic author intent on suppressing emotion. His first great success was The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas, whose supposed author beyond the grave wrote “with the pen of jesting and the ink of melancholy” to prove that nothing leads to nothing. Philosopher or Dog? introduces Machado de Assis’s only really virtuous character, and he is a madman. In this work the administrator of the estate of a wealthy Rio philosopher learns that nothing is permanent except the affection of the dog that was the rich man’s...

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Biography

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

A lifelong resident of Rio de Janeiro, Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis was the son of a Portuguese mother and a mulatto father. Despite humble origins, epilepsy, and a speech defect, this self-taught intellectual not only attained the highest civil service position open to him but also founded the Brazilian Academy of Letters and served as its president until his death in 1908. While still living, Machado de Assis saw himself acknowledged as Brazil’s greatest writer.

Biography

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis was born on June 21, 1839, and was baptized on November 13, 1839, in the Senhora do Livramento (Our Lady of Deliverance) Chapel of the Church of Saint Rita in Rio de Janeiro. His father, Francisco Joze de Assis, was a native of Rio de Janeiro, and his mother, Maria Leopoldina Machado de Assis, came from São Miguel in the Azores. She was Portuguese, then, and not black, as had been reported prior to the discovery of the baptismal record. Other parish registries later revealed that the author’s father was a mulatto born of freed slaves from Rio de Janeiro. The registries revealed other facts about the Assis family, including those given on the death certificates of Machado de Assis’s younger...

(The entire section is 1537 words.)

Biography

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis (muh-SHAH-dew dee ah-SEES) was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on June 21, 1839. Growing up in very limited circumstances, he nonetheless became his country’s greatest writer. His father, Francisco José de Assis, was a mulatto who made a living painting houses and doing odd jobs; his mother, Maria Leopoldina Machado de Assis, was of Portuguese descent. They lived in a favela (slum), and his mother died while he was still a boy. His father remarried, and his stepmother made sure that “Machadinho” (little Machado) went to elementary school, the only formal education he had. The boy had a fragile build, stuttered, and was subject to epileptic fits. Nonetheless, he was resolute in pursuit...

(The entire section is 629 words.)

Biography

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

The sustaining theme in the work of Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis is the nature of love and the destabilizing consequences of egotism. While initially treating this theme within the context of Romantic comedy and bourgeois society, progressively he wrote more within the context of a psychological realism with universal applications. While dismayed by human failures that he exposed with sardonic humor, he believed nonetheless that individuals were capable of better and that literature could prove an effective vehicle in conveying such transformation. In this respect, therefore, he was a consummate craftsman, productive in all forms of literature but masterfully distinguished in fiction.