Lima Barreto, Afonso Henriques de (1881–1922)

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Lima Barreto, Afonso Henriques de (1881–1922)

Afonso Henriques de Lima Barreto (b. 13 May 1881; d. 1 November 1922), Brazilian author. A fin-de-siècle realist writer, memorialist, and journalist from Rio de Janeiro, he produced novels, stories, and essays containing scathing critiques of the Brazilian plutocracy, the bureaucratic state, racism, and social injustice. The grandson of African slaves on both sides, he was for decades compared—almost always unfavorably—with Joachim Maria Machado De Assis. Although both wrote urban fiction set in Rio, Machado's style was generally considered more sophisticated in form, whereas Lima Barreto's fiction was seen as a poorly articulated paraphase of his own life.

His fictional works, including his four major novels—Recordações do escrivão Isaías Caminha (1909; Memoirs of the Clerk Isaías Caminha), O triste fim de Policarpo Quaresma (1915; The Patriot, 1978), Vida e morte de M. J. Gonzaga de Sá (1919; The Life and Death of M. J. Gonzaga de Sá, 1979), Clara dos Anjos (1923; Clara dos Anjos, 1979)—were based on an aesthetic in which literature is seen as "liberating from all forms of prejudice." Initially devalued as romans à clef or autobiographical recollections, these works have more recently received favorable critical reappraisals for their antiliterary attitude and direct prose style.

A fierce opponent of the highly rhetorical, French-inspired "literature of the salons" promoted by his contemporary Henrique Coelho Neto, Lima Barreto was also a self-proclaimed anarchist who espoused virulent anti-Americanism. His best-known novel, O triste fim de Policarpo Quaresma, is a utopian novel and an overt attack on the Republican government of Floriano Peixoto. The hero, a fanatic nationalist obsessed with Brazil's redemption, dies a madman. In his diaries, Lima Barreto, who died at age forty-one, describes his own life as a tragic one, marked by alcoholism, discrimination, and economic hardship.

See alsoCoelho Neto, Henrique; Literature: Brazil.


Francisco De Assis Barbosa, A vida de Lima Barreto (1975).

Francisco De Assis Barbosa, "A. H. de Lima Barreto," in Latin American Writers, edited by Carlos. A. Solé and Maria Isabel Abreu, vol. 2 (1989), pp. 565-573.

Robert Herron, "Isaías Caminha as a Psychological Novel," in Luso-Brazilian Review 8 (December 1971): 26-38.

Maria Luisa Nunes, ed. and comp. Lima Barreto: Bibliography and Translations (1979).

Additional Bibliography

Dacanal, José Hildebrando. Romances brasileiros: Contexto histórico, enredo, personagens principais, estructura narrativa, comentário crítico e exercícios. Porto Alegre: Novo Século, 2001.

Nolasco-Freire, Zélia. Lima Barreto, imagem e linguagem. São Paulo: Annablume, 2005.

Oakley, R. J. The Case of Lima Barreto and Realism in the Brazilian 'Belle Epoque'. Lewiston: E. Mellen Press, 1998.

                                          Miriam Ayres