This essay analyzes representations of Asia in the satirical 1911 short story “O homem que sabia javanês” (“The Man Who Knew Javanese”) by Brazilian author Lima Barreto. Like much of Barreto’s work, the short story critiques the deterministic categories of scientific racism popular in elite circles during the First Brazilian Republic. However, this essay asserts that the references to Java in the story are not arbitrary means through which to carry out that critique. Instead, drawing on Lisa Lowe’s concept of residual intimacies and Bruno Carvalho’s engagement of cartografia letrada (lettered cartography), it argues that Barreto crafts a fiction of plausible contact between Brazil and Java, revealing transpacific spatial and racial entanglements that categories of canonized knowledge at the turn of the twentieth century failed to manage and control. Barreto imagines Java on the streets of Rio, revealing the tangible closeness of two experiences categorized as different and distant. The essay considers how the plausible yet fictional intimacies in this literary counternarrative conceptually reorient readers toward both the Pacific and the Atlantic.

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