The complete stories of Machado de Assis finally appear in English for the first time in this new translation. Widely acclaimed as the progenitor of twentieth-century Latin American fiction, Machado de Assis (1839–1908)—the son of a mulatto father and a washerwoman, and the grandson of freed slaves—has been hailed in his lifetime as Brazil's greatest writer.
Machado’s stories pulse with life. The endings are frequently murky and strange, often abruptly truncated... Few fiction writers have written so affectionately about ideas, as if they were real people; he is always describing how ideas emerge and move, the way they can lose their way and get caught in a crush with others... To Machado, your identity and the contours of your world are formed not just by your circumstances but by what you think about habitually. You are what you contemplate, so choose wisely. These stories are a spectacular place to start.
The new volume, the first in English to bring together all seven of Machado’s story collections, illustrates both the refined pleasures and the somewhat ungraspable nature of his art ... Some [stories] validate Machado’s reputation as a missing link in the lineage of comic experimentalists running from Laurence Sterne to John Barth. Others foreshadow the metafictional techniques that Jorge Luis Borges would immortalize ... Madness becomes the new normal in Machado’s tales, which start to invert and parody, rather than simply imitate, European storytelling conventions. The Western canon is his playground ... Just as ghosts mingle with their survivors, fact bleeds into fiction to create a book of potent emotional force.
One of the pleasures of reading Machado is to encounter this comedy of detail, of human particulars ... There is a worldly hunger in Machado’s writing, an openness to both life and art. He was a voracious reader and an avid theatergoer fond of sprinkling his stories with the garnish of allusion. Rarely do we turn a page without stumbling into La Rochefoucauld or George Sand, Goethe or Shakespeare, Dante or Homer. For Machado, literature begets more literature. He delights in playing with form and narrative; in this volume there are stories written as lectures, stories written entirely in dialogue, and stories in which literary theory itself is mocked ... It is, finally, Machado’s melancholy that lingers ... His best stories are precise attempts to notice life, to save it from the oblivion we sleepwalk toward ... Regret, disappointment, the passing of time—these grow to become Machado’s most poignant subjects ... And yet it is pessimism aimed not at individual human beings so much as at the fate of humanity itself.