RECIFE, Brazil — Throughout elementary and middle school, Ricardo Pavan Martins remembers reading Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis, one of Brazil’s most famous writers.

So the 29-year-old, who lives in Bauru, was shocked to see a new image of Machado that has gone viral in the country. It shows him with chocolate-brown skin, considerably darker than how he appears in the black-and-white photograph that appears on virtually all of his books and hangs prominently in the Brazilian Academy of Letters.

“I always imagined him as white because this is the default image of most writers,” Martins said. “I am certain that if the skin color of an author so important was at the very least discussed during my experience at school, my black friends would have felt more represented.”

Among Brazilian writers, Machado, who lived from 1839 to 1908, inhabits a unique position. “Dom Casmurro,” his 1899 masterpiece about cuckoldry and jealousy, is required reading at some schools around the country. His name has been lent to streets and subway stops across Brazil. Susan Sontag , Twitter and Instagram, sign up for our newsletter or our literary calendar. And listen to us on the Book Review podcast.

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