Azevedo, Aluísio (1857–1913)

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Azevedo, Aluísio (1857–1913)

Aluísio Azevedo (b. 14 April 1857; d. 21 January 1913), Brazilian novelist. Aluísio Azevedo was the major figure of Brazilian naturalism, a movement influenced by the novels of Émile Zola and other European naturalists, but also firmly grounded in the social and historical context of Brazil at the end of the empire period. Azevedo appears to have seen literature as a way to get ahead in life, and his first naturalist novel, O mulato (1881) was a scandalous success. He published three more naturalist novels, including his masterpiece, O cortiço (1890), but simultaneously turned out a number of romantic potboilers. Azevedo abandoned fiction after he was appointed to the Brazilian diplomatic corps in 1895, at the age of thirty-eight. While his works exhibit his gift for describing places, from the provincial city that is the setting for O mulato to the Rio de Janeiro slums in O cortiço, all Azevedo's novels are weakened by their improbable plots and stereotypical characters. His Brazilian contemporaries were shocked and titillated by the heavy-handed treatment of sexuality in Azevedo's novels—the English translation of O cortiço, published in 1926 as A Brazilian Tenement, had to be drastically censored for North American audiences—but today's critics view his works primarily as historical documents. While he and his contemporaries saw these works as innovative attempts to modernize and renew the Brazilian novel, the underlying themes of his naturalism are pessimism about Brazil's future and fear of all the changes that the future might bring: the family skeletons that abolition of slavery might uncover, the white population's prospect of increased competition from mulattos and immigrants, and the education and emancipation of women.

See alsoLiterature: Brazil .


Dorothy S. Loos, The Naturalistic Novel of Brazil (1963).

Sônia Brayner, A metáfora do corpo no romance naturalista (1973).

Lúcia Miguel-Pereira, Prosa de ficçâo de 1870 a 1920, 3d ed. (1973), pp. 142-159.

Jean-Yves Mérian, Aluísio Azevedo, vida e obra (1988).

Additional Bibliography

Klock, Sheldon C. Jr. Themes in the Novels of Aluísio Azevedo. Toronto, ON, Canada: York Press, 1999.

Sedycias, João. The naturalistic novel of the New World: A comparative study of Stephen Crane, Aluísio Azevedo, and Federico Gamboa. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1993.

                                  David T. Haberly