At the time of his death, in 1908, Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis was revered as Brazil’s most important and influential man of letters, a distinction many critics feel he deserves. An innovator in such areas as the use of irony and of self-conscious but unreliable narrator/protagonists, Machado de Assis was instrumental in leading Brazilian literature toward an appreciation of both technical sophistication and authenticity of expression. Although he did outstanding work in all the literary genres, including poetry, drama, translation, and critical theory, it was in narrative—the novel and short-story forms especially—that he achieved his greatest successes. His extraordinary work Memórias póstumas de Brás Cubas (1881; The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas, 1951; better known as Epitaph of a Small Winner, 1952) can, for example, be regarded as the first modern novel of either North or South America, while the text widely held to be his supreme achievement, Dom Casmurro (1900; English translation, 1953), ranks as one of the outstanding novels of its time. Perhaps even more brilliant as a writer of short fiction, however, Machado de Assis is credited with having originated the modern short-story form in Brazil, where tales such as “The Psychiatrist,” “Midnight Mass,” “A Singular Event,” “The Companion,” and “Dona Paula” are still judged to be masterpieces of his laconic, metaphoric art.