Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis

Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis was a master Brazilian novelist, poet and playwright. He was born on 21st June 1839 in Rio de Janeiro. Brazil and died on the 29th September 1908 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil aged 69.

Major Works

“Memorias Postumas de Bras Cubas” (The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas) (1881)
“Quincas Borba” (Philosopher or Dog?) (1891)
“A Missa do Galo” (Midnight Mass) (1893)
“Dom Casmurro” (1899)
Esaú e Jacó” (1904)
Memorial de Aires” (1908)

Biography Timeline

Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis was born on 21st June 1839 in Rio de Janeiro. Brazil. His father was Francisco José de Assis, a painter and decorator of mixed race and a freed slave. His mother was Maria Leopoldina da Câmara Machado, a Portuguese washerwoman from the Azores. He was born in the house of Dona Maria José de Mendonça Barroso Pereira, the widow of senator Bento Barroso Pereira, who looked after his parents and let them live with her. His only sister died very young. He was a sickly child who suffered from epilepsy. Father Silveira Sarmento becomes his Latin teacher and friend. 

1849: His mother dies and his father takes him to live in Sao Cristovao.

1854: His father, Francisco, marries again to Maria Inês da Silva. Joaquim is taught in a school for girls where his stepmother works making candies. He meets Francisco de Paulo Brito who owns a bookstore, a newspaper and a printers. 

1855: On 12th January de Paula Brito, publishes his poem “Ela” (Her) in his newspaper “Marmota Fluminense”.

1856: He becomes a printer’s apprentice and writes in his spare time. 

1857: He is taken on as typographer’s apprentice in the “Imprensa Oficial” (Official Press) printing government papers. He is encouraged in novel writing there by Manuel Antonio de Almeida. 

1858: Francisco Otaviano the journalist and liberal senator hires him to work for the newspaper “Correio Mercantil” as a proof-reader. He continues to write for other newspapers but does not earn a great deal. The liberal politician Lose de Alencar teaches him English, who taught him English. He reads Laurence Sterne, William Shakespeare, Jonathan Swift and the poetry of Lord Byron.

1860: He works for the newspaper “Diário do Rio de Janeiro”. He develops a passion for the theatre and writes several plays. He also works for the Liberal Party and speaks in defence of religious freedom.

1864: His father Francisco dies which he hears of through friends. He dedicates his poetry collection “Crisálidas” to him.

1867: The Liberal Party assumes power and he expects a position from them but to his surprise the Emperor Dom Pedro the Second hires him as director-assistant for the Diário Oficial and gives him a knighthood.

1868: He meets the Portuguese Carolina Augusta Xavier de Novais, the sister of his colleague Faustino Xavier de Novais, who works on the magazine “O Futuro”. He has a stammer and is extremely shy.

1869: He marries Carolina on 12th November although her parents and her brothers disapprove of him as he is of African descent and she is a white woman. They have no children. 

1870: He begins to work for the Ministry of Agriculture. Agriculture Department. He publishes the poetry book “Falenas”.

1872: He publishes his first novel “Ressurreição” (Resurrection).

1873: He is promoted to head of a section at the Ministry of Agriculture. 

1874: He publishes the romantic novel “A Mão e a Luva” (The Hand and the Glove).

1875: He publishes the novel “Americanas”.

1876: He publishes the novel “Helena”. His novels are a success with the public but not with the critics.

1881: He publishes the novel “Menorias Postumas de Bras Cubas” (The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas; Epitaph of a Small Winner) in a totally different style in 160 short chapters.

1888: He is made an officer of the Imperial Order of the Rose. 

1889: The monarchy is overthrown in Brazil on 15th November taking him by surprise. He considers himself a monarchist and is no lover of republicanism.

1891: He publishes “Quincas Borba” (Philosopher or Dog?).

1893: He publishes “A Missa do Galo” (Midnight Mass) which is often considered his greatest short story. 1897: He becomes the first president of the Brazilian Academy of Letters which he holds until his death.

1899: He publishes his masterpiece “Dom Casmurro” about a mind warped by jealousy.

1902: He is transferred to the Ministry of Industry’s Accounting Board.

1904: Carolina his wife dies on 20 October. He publishes the novel “Esaú e Jacó”.

1905: After many years of asking the government finally finance a proper headquarters for the Academy.

1908: He publishes “Memorial de Aires”.

Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis died on the 29th September 1908 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He was given a state funeral and buried in the Pantheon of the Academia Brasileira de Letras  of Cemiterio Sao Joao Baptista in Botafogo, Rio de Janiero, Brazil.