One of Brazil’s Greatest Writers

Benjamin Moser at The New Yorker:

Machado “had a half dozen gestures, habits, and pat phrases,” an early biographer, Lúcia Miguel Pereira, wrote, in 1936. He avoided politics. He was an ideal husband. He spent his free time at the bookshop. And, in founding the Academy of Letters, he brought an administrative structure to literature.

Yet to place this image beside his books is to wonder whether such diligence was a carefully calibrated act—and to see why, despite more than a century’s veneration, the vestment of national spokesman will never quite fit. Machado was too ironic, too mischievous, for the pretentions that the official homages imply. In stories about the polite society of Rio de Janeiro, he managed, with unruffled elegance and composure, to say the most outrageous things. A drag queen might have called this decorous performance “executive realness.”

more here.