Books: Skeptic from Brazil

EPITAPH OF A SMALL WINNER (223 pp.) —Machado de Assis—Noonday ($3.50).

Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis (1839-1908) was a shy, epileptic quadroon and Brazil's greatest man of letters: his collected works fill 31 volumes, and range from drama and epic poetry to novels and short stories. Except for a few of his short stories, nobody had ever bothered to translate Machado into English until William L. Grossman, a New York University economics professor, ran across his writings during a 1948 teaching stint in Brazil. Grossman became so fascinated that he spent all his holidays translating one of Machado's best novels, Epitaph of...

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