Machado de Assis

Multiracial Identity and the Brazilian Novelist

By (author) G. Reginald Daniel

Paperback - £23.95

Publication date:

15 May 2012

Length of book:

344 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271052472

Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis (1839–1908) was Brazil’s foremost novelist of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As a mulatto, Machado experienced the ambiguity of racial identity throughout his life. Literary critics first interpreted Machado as an embittered misanthrope uninterested in the plight of his fellow African Brazilians. By midcentury, however, a new generation of critics asserted that Machado’s writings did reveal his interest in slavery, race, and other contemporary social issues, but their interpretations went too far in the other direction. G. Reginald Daniel, an expert on Brazilian race relations, takes a fresh look at how Machado’s writings were inflected by his life—especially his experience of his own racial identity. The result is a new interpretation that sees Machado as endeavoring to transcend his racial origins by universalizing the experience of racial ambiguity and duality into a fundamental mode of human existence.

“G. Reginald Daniel’s work is a thoughtful analysis of how racial identity and race relations are dealt with in the work of Machado de Assis. It allows us to understand how Machado’s universal principles, as well as his ambiguity regarding the ‘mulatto’ condition in Brazil, in fact erode the very foundations of raciologic thinking. In so doing, Daniel opens a very interesting window onto the singularity of Brazil’s way of dealing with race and the differences between the Brazilian and the North American historical cases with regard to their African and African American (or Afro-Brazilian) heritage. Daniel’s book brings fresh air to the appreciation of Machado’s work in the United States, where it has gained the attention of outstanding critics, at the same time that it provides the reader with fundamental keys to the understanding of Brazil’s complex and at times unique position in the African Diaspora.”

—Pedro Meira Monteiro, Princeton University