Machado de Assis's achievement in both novels and poetry make him Brazil's paradigm of a writer. His novels are characterized "by a psychological insight as well as a broad view of social conditions in Brazil and the world. The seriousness of the realistic view is highlighted with ironic humor." Beginning as a romantic, Assis developed a style that embraced realism, naturalism, and symbolism. "Epitaph for a Small Winner" (1881) reveals his essential pessimism, as the only consolation for Bras Cubas is that he has not passed on his misery to any offspring. About his writing in "Dom Casmurro" (1900), it was said "No satirist, not even Swift, is less merciful in his exposure of the pretentiousness and the hypocrisy that lurk in the average good man and woman."
Born in the slums of Rio de Janeiro, Machado de Assis was orphaned early in life. He advanced from typesetter, to proofreader and finally to journalist before entering the Brazilian civil service. He was the author of nine novels, more than 200 short stories, opera libretti, drama, and lyric poetry.
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