Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis was a renowned Brazilian novelist. He is often heralded as the greatest writer of Brazilian literature.
Born to a poor family in Rio de Janeiro and the grandson of freed slaves, Machado de Assis was largely self-taught. He studied in public school but was not a good student. After his mother died when he was ten, he had some schooling in the all-female school that his stepmother worked at. He learned French at night from an immigrant bake and published his first poem with a newspaper owned by an acquaintance at 15. From a politician friend, he learned English and studied English literature. Later in life, he also learned German and Greek.
Working for newspapers earned Machado de Assis a very small income. For a while, he worked with the Liberal Party and wrote plays — which garnered him some notoriety. In 1867, the emperor Dom Pedro II hired him as an assistant-director.
In 1868, he met Carolina Augusta Xavier de Novais who he married the next year. The match was disapproved of because Machado de Assis was of African descent while Xavier de Novais was white, but they remained happily married for the rest of their lives.
Using a bureaucratic career to bolster his income, Machado de Assis began to publish works in earnest. His first two volumes of poetry were not well received, so he turned to other genres. His romantic were popular but critically derided. It was his Memórias Póstumas de Brás Cubas that brought him the first bit of literary renown and is still considered a Brazilian classic.
He was one of the founding members of the Brazilian Academy of Letters and was its first president.
Machado de Assis died in 1908, four years after his wife.