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Machado is generally regarded as Brazil’s greatest writer, for both his psychological insight and his postmodern playfulness. While his major novels are readily available, out of his hundreds of stories only thirty-odd are in print in English—and those are scattered among survey anthologies, British imports, and translations from the ’70s. The masterful novella “O alienista,” a satire on the corruptions of power and the relative nature of sanity, was translated in 1963 as “The Psychiatrist” but is now out of print. Many other gems haven’t yet made it into English, including “Miss Dollar,” which begins with the narrator challenging the reader to guess the personality of the title character (who turns out to be a missing dog); the unresolved mystery of “O relógio de ouro” (“The Gold Watch”); and “A carteira” (“The Wallet”), whose finder can’t see the importance of its contents. A pharaoh trades places with a scribe; a needle’s conversation with a spool of thread becomes an allegory of class; a dress-pin recounts her début at a society ball. Machado’s stories range from the fantasy and humor of Poe or Twain to the subtle perceptions of James or Chekhov, and they deserve to be as widely read.
Matt Rowe translated fiction and nonfiction.
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