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The last of four novels that preceded Machado de Assis’s famous trilogy of realistic masterpieces, Iaiá Garcia belongs to what critics have called the Brazilian author’s “romantic” phase. But it is far more than that implies. Like his other early works, Iaiá Garcia foreshadows the themes and characters of Assis’s most masterful novels.

Iaiá Garcia intertwines the lives of three characters in a subtly and wryly developing relationship. While the youthful Iaiá is growing into womanhood, a tentative love affair occurs between the aristocratic Jorge and the prideful Estela. This affair is afflicted by ironic shifts of fortune and in time the maturing Iaiá becomes a rival for Jorge’s attentions. Assis’s portrayal of the relationship among these three characters is a perceptive study of uncompromising pride, thwarted love, jealousy, misunderstanding, bewilderment, and attainment.

As the translator, Albert I. Bagby, Jr., contends, the story of Iaiá, Jorge, and Estela reflects the formula that Assis saw as fundamental to human life: “Will and ambition, when they truly dominate, can struggle with other feelings, but they are the weapons of the strong, and victory belongs to the strong.” In Assis’s view success comes to the strong and failure to the weak. But both inhabit a world that is neutral-neither helping one nor hindering the other. The outcome of events in Iaiá Garcia may not seem entirely optimistic, but neither is it pessimistic. And Mr. Bagby concludes, “Perhaps to understand the optimism of Assis one needs only to be ... a hard, pragmatic realist .... “

Whether hard realists or unregenerate romantics, readers of this novel will find it a compelling tale of love lost and won. Like his earlier translation of Assis‘s The Hand & the Glove, Mr. Bagby’s English rendering of Iaiá Garcia from the original Portuguese is done with both accuracy and sensitivity.

Albert I. Bagby Jr. grew up speaking both Portuguese and English. After eighteen years in Brazil, he came to the United States and entered Baylor University. Following graduation from Baylor, he continued his studies at the universities of Missouri, where he received his M.A., at North Carolina, and at Vanderbilt University; in 1968 he received a doctoral degree in Spanish literature from the University of Kentucky. Presently Mr. Bagby is chairman of the Romance Languages Department at the University of Corpus Christi, Texas.

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






Machado de Assis, Brazil, Brazilian fiction


Latin American Literature


Translation of Yayá Garcia by Albert I. Bagby, Jr.

Iaiá Garcia
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