The Brazilian writer and journalist Joaquim Maria Machado De Assis wrote his most experimental stories between the years 1878 and 1886, amidst a general body of work which has won him the praise of the late American critic Susan Sontag, the Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes, and, yes, Woody Allen.
“I couldn’t believe he lived as long ago as he did,” enthuses the film director. “You would’ve thought he wrote it yesterday.. Great wit, great originality, and no sentimentality.”
This reviewer is not sure what actual stories Woody Allen has been reading to make him suggest that Machado de Assis could have been his own contemporary. Rhett McNeill’s translation of this selection, at least, firmly places Machado de Assis in his nineteenth century milieu.
Born in Rio de Janeiro in 1839, Machado De Assis was the grandson of freed mulatto salves. On his death in 1908, he was given a state funeral, with full civic and military honours, the first occasion on which such was bestowed on a man of letters in Brazil.
In these ten stories, Machado de Assis’s sense of the fantastic prefigures the work of the Argentinian Jorge Luis Borges.
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