Who is Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis?

June 21, 2024


Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis, often referred to as Machado de Assis, was a Brazilian writer, poet, playwright, and literary critic. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest writers in Brazilian literature and is considered the founder of Brazilian literary realism. Machado de Assis was born on June 21, 1839, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and died on September 29, 1908. Throughout his life, he wrote numerous novels, short stories, and poems that continue to be studied and celebrated to this day.

Early Life and Education

Machado de Assis was born to a poor family in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. His parents were Francisco José de Assis, a mulatto housepainter, and Maria Leopoldina da Câmara Machado, a Portuguese washerwoman. Machado de Assis was of mixed-race heritage, which was uncommon for a writer of his time. Despite his humble beginnings, Machado de Assis showed a talent for writing from a young age and was encouraged by his mother to pursue his literary ambitions.

Literary Career

At the age of 21, Machado de Assis published his first book of poetry, “Crisálidas.” This was followed by the publication of his first novel, “Ressurreição,” in 1872. Over the course of his career, Machado de Assis wrote a total of nine novels, over 200 short stories, and numerous essays and plays. His most famous works include “Dom Casmurro,” “Memórias Póstumas de Brás Cubas,” and “Quincas Borba.” Machado de Assis’s writing is known for its psychological depth, irony, and social commentary.


Machado de Assis’s influence on Brazilian literature and culture cannot be overstated. He is considered a master of the Portuguese language and is often compared to European literary giants such as Shakespeare and Cervantes. Machado de Assis’s works continue to be studied in schools and universities around the world, and his impact on Brazilian literature can still be felt today. In 1941, the prestigious Brazilian literary award, the Prêmio Machado de Assis, was established in his honor.

Themes and Style

Machado de Assis’s writing often explores themes of love, jealousy, madness, and social inequality. His works are characterized by their psychological complexity, unreliable narrators, and innovative narrative techniques. Machado de Assis was known for his use of irony and satire to critique the social and political issues of his time. His writing is marked by a keen observation of human behavior and a deep understanding of the human psyche.

Recognition and Awards

Throughout his career, Machado de Assis received numerous awards and honors for his contributions to Brazilian literature. In 1897, he was elected as the president of the Brazilian Academy of Letters, a position he held until his death in 1908. Machado de Assis was also awarded the Order of the Rose, one of Brazil’s highest honors, for his literary achievements. In 1906, he was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature, although he did not win.

Personal Life

Despite his literary success, Machado de Assis led a relatively quiet and reclusive life. He never married and had no children. Machado de Assis was known for his wit and humor, as well as his love of music and theater. He was a frequent visitor to the opera and the theater, and he often wrote reviews of performances for newspapers and magazines. Machado de Assis was also a founding member of the Brazilian Academy of Letters and played a key role in shaping the literary landscape of Brazil.

Final Years and Death

In his later years, Machado de Assis suffered from failing health and began to withdraw from public life. He continued to write and publish until his death in 1908. Machado de Assis passed away at the age of 69, leaving behind a rich legacy of literary works that continue to be read and admired by readers around the world. He is buried in the São João Batista Cemetery in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.


Overall, Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis was a pioneering figure in Brazilian literature and a master of the Portuguese language. His works continue to be studied and celebrated for their psychological depth, social commentary, and innovative narrative techniques. Machado de Assis’s legacy lives on in the hearts and minds of readers everywhere, cementing his status as one of the greatest writers in Brazilian literary history.

Tatiana Cesso

As a journalist, I've made it my mission to explore and share stories that inspire, inform, and entertain. You may have stumbled upon my work in esteemed publications such as InStyle, Marie Claire, Bazaar, L’Officiel, and Vogue, among others. Having called the U.S. home since 2010, I've lived in Chicago, LA, and currently, Miami. But my heart always beats to the rhythm of Brazil. It's where I was born and raised, and my love for its culture, people, and energy knows no bounds. To share this passion, I've founded Brazilcore, a platform aimed at bridging the gap between Brazil and English speakers worldwide.