Aluísio Tancredo Gonçalves de Azevedo was born in the city of São Luís, the capital of Maranhão, on 14 April 1857 to the Portuguese vice-counsel David Gonçalves de Azevedo and Emília Amália Pinto de Magalhães.
He attended school in his native city and worked as a cashier and book-keeper.
With a vocation to draw and paint, in 1876, he decided to meet up with his brother Arthur Azevedo, in Rio de Janeiro, where he enrolled in the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts, nowadays known as the National School of Fine Arts (Escola Nacional de Belas Artes).
To support himself, he drew caricatures for various newspapers such as O Fígaro, O Mequetrefe, Semana Ilustrada and Zig-Zag.
In 1878, due to the sudden death of his father, he had to return to São Luís to care for his family, writing for local newspapers.
He was one of the founders and regular contributor to the anticlerical and abolitionist newspaper O Pensador (The Thinker), a tri-monthly periodical (published on the 10th, 20th and 30th of every month), which was a mouthpiece for the interests of modern society and was run by young people under pseudonyms. He also contributed to the newspaper Pacotilha, which was started by his brothers-in-law Libânio Vale and Vítor Lobato.
He began his career as a novelist with the novel Uma lágrima de mulher (A Woman’s Tear) in 1879, followed by O Mulato (The Mulatto), one of his most famous books, published in São Luís, at the printing-house of O País in 1881. The book caused a scandal in Maranhão society because of its raw, crude language and its dealing with racial prejudice, but with it the author gained national recognition. In Rio de Janeiro the work was well-received, being considered an example of Naturalism – the literary school which is based on the faithful observation of reality and experience.
In September 1881, Aluísio returned to Rio de Janeiro. Determined to cement himself and earn a living as a writer, he dedicated himself to journalism and literary work, enabling him to publish his novels as serials in newspapers.
From 1882 to 1895, without interruption he published novels, short stories, chronicles and theatrical plays, the latter with his brother Arthur and also Emílio Rouède, with whom he developed a strong friendship and intellectual understanding. Together they wrote five comedies: Venenos que curam (Poisons Which Heal), O caboclo (The Hillbilly), Um caso de adultério (An Adulterous Affair), Lições para maridos (Lessons for Husbands) and Em flagrante delito (Caught in the Act).
As a member of the Brazilian Academy of Letters and first incumbent of Chair #4, Aluísio de Azevedo liked to incorporate urban social problems into his work, with their economic, racial and ethical contradictions.
Among his main contributions are: Uma Lágrima de Mulher (A Woman’s Tear) (1879); Os doidos (The Crazies) (a comedy in collabortation with Arthur Azevedo, 1879); O Mulato (The Mulatto) (1881); Memórias de um condenado (Memoirs of a Convict) (1882); Flor-de-lis (opereta) and Casa de Orates (Orates’ House) (comedies, both written in partnership with Arthur Azevedo, 1882); Mistérios da Tijuca (Mysteries of Tijuca) (1883); Casa de Pensão (The Hostel ) (1884); Filomena Borges (1884); Venenos que curam (Poisons Which Heal) (1886); O Caboclo (The Hillbilly) (1886); O homem (The Man) (1887); Fritzmark (1988); O Coruja (The Owl) (1889); O cortiço (The Slum) (1890); A República (The Republic) (1890); Um caso de adultério (An Adulterous Affair) (1891); Em flagrante (Caught in the Act) (1891); A mortalha de Alzira (Alzira’s Shroud) (1893); Demônios (Demons) (short stories, 1893); Livro de uma sogra (The Book of a Mother-in-law) (1895); Pegados (Caught) (1897). He left an unfinished book with impressions of Japan entitled Agonia de uma raça (The Agony of a Race). In 1938, some of his chronicles and correspondence where collected and published by F. Briguiet (Rio de Janeiro) in a book called O touro negro (The Black Bull).
Unable to support himself by writing alone, in 1895 he sat a public exam to be a consul and embarked on a diplomatic career. He was posted to Vigo in Spain, Naples Italy, Tokyo, Asuncion in Paraguay and Buenos Aires, where he lived in the company of Argentinean Pastora Luquez and her two children, Pastor and Zulema, who were adopted by him.
He died in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on 21 January 1931, where he was buried.
Six years later, in 1919, his mortal remains were brought in a funerary urn to São Luís, by his fellow countryman and writer Coelho Neto (Henrique Maximiano).
Recife, 30 June 2010
Translated by Peter Leamy, February 2011.
ALUÍSIO de Azevedo (foto). Desponível em: < http://www.portalsaofrancisco.com.br/alfa/biografia-aluizio-azevedo/imagens/aluisio-de-azevedo-3.jpg >. Acesso em: 11 ago.2010.
BIOGRAFIA fundador. Disponível em: <http://www.academia.org.br/abl/cgi/cgilua.exe/sys/start.htm?infoid=101&sid=106>. Acesso em: 28 jul.2010.
BIOGRAFIAS: Aluísio de Azevedo (1857-1913). Disponível em:<http://www.e-biografias.net/biografias/aluisio_azevedo.php>. Acesso em: 29 jul. 2010.
MIGUEL-PEREIRA, Lucia. História de literatura brasileira. 2. ed. rev. Rio de Janeiro: J. Olympio, 1957. (Documentos brasileiros, 63)
MONTELLO, Josué. Aluísio Azevedo e a polêmica d’O Mulato. Rio de Janeiro: J. Olympio; Brasília, DF: INL, 1975. (Documentos brasileiros, 167).
VERISSIMO, José. História da literatura Brasileira: de Bento Teixeira (1601) a Machado de Assis (1908). Rio de Janeiro: Francisco Alves, 1916
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Source: GASPAR, Lúcia. Aluísio de Azevedo. Pesquisa Escolar On-Line, Joaquim Nabuco Foundation, Recife. Available at: <http://basilio.fundaj.gov.br/pesquisaescolar>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009.