Brazil’s is the most independent, and perhaps most original, national literature in the New World. Whereas the United States’ powerful literary tradition is, nevertheless, in some synchrony with that of England, its former metropolis, as is the case with the Spanish American literary tradition with regards to that of Spain, Portugal ceased long ago to be a significant literary presence in Brazil. This is ironic because, of all the American nations, with the exception of Canada, Brazil is the one whose break from the mother country was least painful and radical. Instead of becoming independent from the metropolitan government, the metropolitan government actually moved to Brazil. Brazil absorbed its origins, like some mythological figure who swallows its parents. The emergence of Brazilian literature is, thus, the product of this assimilation.
The foregoing does not mean that modern Portugal is devoid of influential literary figures. Eça de Queiroz, Fernando Pessoa, and currently José Saramago are authors of well deserved world-wide acclaim, who are much respected in Brazil. Yet Brazil itself was able to boast, as early as the nineteenth century, of a writer second to none in the Hispanic world (Spain included, of course); Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis. Machado was the first world-class Latin American writer; he enjoyed a reputation whose only worthy predecessor may have been Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz in colonial Mexico. In the twentieth century, Brazil has generated its own artistic movements, and produced a number of writers of indisputable quality, from Euclides da Cunha, whose Os sertões (1902) [Rebellion in the Backlands] is an influential masterpiece in all of Latin America, to João Guimãraes Rosa, whose Grande sertão, veredas is considered by some (for instance, the late Uruguayan critic, Emir Rodríguez Monegal) the greatest Latin American novel ever.