Books: Tatters of Reality

PHILOSOPHER OR DOG? (271 pp.)—Machado de Assis, translated from the Portuguese by Clotilde Wilson—Noonday Press ($3.50).

What is reality? The question has furrowed the higher brows from Sophocles and Heraclitus to Pirandello and John Dewey. To Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis, who produced the best in 19th century Brazilian literature, the "problem of reality" was not just a metaphysical "What is it?" The problem was a practical "Can you take it?" In Philosopher or Dog?, the third of his novels to be published in English, Author Machado tells what happens to a man who can't take it.

In a sense Rubião is killed...

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