Amado, Jorge 1912–2001
Amado, Jorge 1912–2001
PERSONAL: Born August 10, 1912, in Itabuna, Bahia, Brazil; died of heart and lung failure, August 6, 2001, in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil; son of Joao Amado de Faria (a plantation owner) and Eulalia (Leal) Amado; married Matilde Garcia Rosa, 1933 (divorced, 1944); married Zelia Gattai, July 14, 1945; children: Joao Jorge, Paloma. Education: Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, J.D., 1935. Hobbies and other interests: Reading, gardening, cats, poker.
CAREER: Writer. Diario da Bahia, Bahai, Brazil, reporter, 1927; imprisoned for political reasons, 1935; exiled, 1937, 1941–43, 1948 52; federal deputy of Brazilian parliament, 1946–48; Para Todos (cultural periodical), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, editor, 1956–59.
MEMBER: Brazilian Association of Writers, Brazilian Academy of Letters.
AWARDS, HONORS: Stalin International Peace Prize, 1951; National Literary Prize (Brazil), 1958; Calouste Gulbenkian Prize, Academie du Monde Latin, 1971; Italian-Latin American Institute Prize, 1976; Nonnino literary Prize (Italy), 1983; candidate for Neustadt Inter-national Prize for Literature, 1984; Neruda Prize, and Volterra Prize (Italy), 1989; Sino del Duca Prize (Paris), and Mediterranean Prize, 1990; named commander, Legion d'Honneur (France).
IN ENGLISH TRANSLATION
Jubiaba, J. Olympio, 1935, translated by Margaret A. Neves under same title, Avon (New York, NY), 1984.
Mar morto, J. Olympio, 1936, translated by Gregory Rabassa as Sea of Death, Avon (New York, NY), 1984.
Capitaes da areia, J. Olympio, 1937, translated by Gregory Rabassa as Captains of the Sands, Avon (New York, NY), 1988.
Terras do sem fim, Livraria Martins Editôra (São Paulo, Brazil), 1942, translated by Samuel Putnam as The Violent Land, Knopf (New York, NY), 1945, revised edition, 1965.
São Jorge dos Ilheus, Livraria Martins Editôra (São Paulo, Brazil), 1944, translated by Clifford E. Landers as The Golden Harvest, Avon (New York, NY), 1992.
Gabriela, cravo e canela, Livraria Martins Editôra (São Paulo, Brazil), 1958, translated by James L. Taylor and William L. Grossman as Gabriela, Clove, and Cinnamon, Knopf (New York, NY), 1962.
Os velhos marinheiros, Livraria Martins Editôra (São Paulo, Brazil), 1961, translated by Harriet de Onis as Home Is the Sailor, Knopf (New York, NY), 1964.
A morte e a morte de Quincas Berro Dagua, Sociedade dos Cem Bibliofilos do Brasil, 1962, translated by Barbara Shelby as The Two Deaths of Quincas Wateryell, Knopf (New York, NY), 1965.
Os pastores da noite, Livraria Martins Editôra (São Paulo, Brazil), 1964, translated by Harriet de Onis as Shepherds of the Night, Knopf (New York, NY), 1966.
Dona Flor e seus dois maridos: Historia moral e de amor, Livraria Martins Editôra (São Paulo, Brazil), 1966, translated by Harriet de Onis as Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands: A Moral and Amorous Tale, Knopf (New York, NY), 1969.
Tenda dos milagres, Livraria Martins Editôra (São Paulo, Brazil), 1969, translated by Barbara Shelby as Tent of Miracles, Knopf (New York, NY), 1971, with introduction by Ilan Stavans, University of Wisconsin Press (Madison, WI), 2003.
Bahia (bilingual Portuguese-English edition), Graficos Brunner, 1971.
Tereza Batista cansada de guerra, Livraria Martins Editôra (São Paulo, Brazil), 1972, translated by Barbara Shelby as Tereza Batista: Home from the Wars, Knopf (New York, NY), 1975.
O gato malhado e a andorinha Sinha, Editora Record (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), 1976, translated by Barbara Shelby Merello as The Swallow and the Tom Cat: A Love Story, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1982.
Tieta do agreste, pastora de cabras; ou, A volta da filha prodiga: Melodramatico folhetim em cinco sensacionais episodios e comovente epilogo, emoçáo e suspense!, Editora Record (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), 1977, translated by Barbara Shelby Merello as Tieta, the Goat Girl; or, The Return of the Prodigal Daughter: Melodramatic Serial Novel in Five Sensational Episodes, with a Touching Epilogue, Thrills, and Suspense!, Knopf (New York, NY), 1979, with introduction by Moacyr Scliar, University of Wisconsin Press (Madison, WI), 2003.
Farda, fardao, camisola de dormir: Fabula para acender uma esperanca, Editora Record (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), 1979, translated by Helen R. Lane as Pen, Sword, Camisole: A Fable to Kindle a Hope, D.R. Godine (Boston, MA), 1985.
The Miracle of the Birds, Targ Editions, 1982.
Tocaia grande, Editora Record (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), 1984, translated by Gregory Rabassa as Showdown, Bantam (New York, NY), 1988.
O sumiço da santa: Uma história de feitiçaria, Editora Record (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), 1988, translated by Gregory Rabassa as The War of the Saints, Bantam (New York, NY), 1993.
O pais do carnaval (title means "Carnival Land"; also see below), Schmidt, 1932.
Suor (title means "Sweat"; also see below), [Brazil], 1933, 2nd edition, J. Olympio, 1936.
Cacau (title means "Cocoa"; also see below), [Brazil], 1934, 3rd edition, J. Olympio, 1936.
A B C de Castro Alves (title means "The Life of Castro Alves"), Livraria Martins Editôra (São Paulo, Brazil), 1941.
Vida de Luiz Carlos Prestes, o cavaleiro da esperanca (title means "The Life of Luiz Carlos Prestes"), Livraria Martins Editôra (São Paulo, Brazil), 1942.
O pais do carnaval; Cacau; Suor, Livraria Martins Editôra (São Paulo, Brazil), 1944.
Obras (collected works), seventeen volumes, Livraria Martins Editôra (São Paulo, Brazil), beginning 1944.
Bahia de Todos os Santos: Guia das ruas e dos misterios da cidade do Salvador (title means "Bahia: A Guide to the Streets and Mysteries of Salvador"), Livraria Martins Editôra (São Paulo, Brazil), 1945.
Seara vermelha (title means "Red Harvest"), Livraria Martins Editôra (São Paulo, Brazil), 1946.
Homens e coisas do Partido Comunista (title means "Men and Facts of the Communist Party"), Ediçoes Horizonte, 1946.
O amor de Castro Alves (title means "Castro Alves's Love"), Ediçoes do Povo, 1947, published as O amor do soldado (title means "The Soldier's Love"), Livraria Martins Editôra (São Paulo, Brazil), 1958.
O mundo da paz: Uniao Sovietica e democracias populares (title means "The World of Peace: The Soviet Union and Popular Democracies"), Editorial Vitoria, 1952.
Os subterraneos da liberdade (title means "The Subterraneans of Freedom"; contains "Os asperos tempos," "Agonia da noite," and "A luz no tunel"), Livraria Martins Editôra (São Paulo, Brazil), 1954, essays published separately, 1961–1963.
O poeta Ze Trindade (title means "Ze Trindade: A Poet"), J. Ozon, 1965.
Bahia boa terra Bahia (title means "Bahia Sweet Land"), Image (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), 1967.
O compadre de Ogun, Sociedade dos Cem Bibliofilos do Brasil, 1969.
Jorge Amado, povo e terra: Quarenta anos de literatura (title means "Jorge Amado, His Land and People: Forty Years of Literature"), Livraria Martins Editôra (São Paulo, Brazil), 1972.
(With others) Brandao entre o mar e o amor (title means "Swinging between Love and Sea"), Livraria Martins Editôra (São Paulo, Brazil), 1973.
(With others) Gente boa (title means "The Good People"), Editora Brasilial (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), 1975.
(With Luis Viana Filho and Jeanine Warnod) Porto Seguro recriado por Sergio Telles (title means "Porto Seguro in the Painting of Sergio Telles"), Bolsa de Arte (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), 1976.
Conheca o escritor brasileiro Jorge Amado: Textos para estudantes com exercicios de compreensão e dabate (title means "Know the Writer Jorge Amado: Texts for Students"), edited by Lygia Marina Moraes, Editora Record (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), 1977.
O menino grapiuna, Editora Record (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), 1981.
A bola e o goleiro, Editora Record (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), 1984.
Conversaciones con Alice Raillard, Emece Editores, 1992.
Navegacao de cabotagem: Apontamentos para um livro de memorias que jamais escreverei, Editora Record (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), 1992.
Discursos, Fundaçáo Casa de Jorge Amado (Salvador, Brazil), 1993.
A descoberta da América pelos turcos: Romancinho, illustrated by Pedro Costa, Editora Record (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), 1994.
Bahia amada Amado, ou, O amor à liberdade y à liberdade no amor, edited by Maureen Bisilliat, Empresa das Artes (Sao Paulo, Brazil), 1996.
(With Arnaldo Jabor and Roberto Damatta) Carnaval, photographs by Claudio Edinger, Dórea Books and Art (São Paulo, Brazil), 1996, Distributed Art Publishers, 1997.
(With Antonio Riserio and Renato Pinagiro) Mágica bajia (bilingual Portuguese-Spanish text), Fundaçáo Casa de Jorge Amado (Salvador, Brazil), 1997.
O Milagre dos pássaros, Editora Record (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), 1997.
(With Gilberbert Chaves and Paloma Jorge Amado Costa) Rua Alagoinhas 33, Rio Vermelho: A Casa de Zélia e Jorge Amado, Fundaçáo Casa de Jorge Amado (Savador, Brazil), 1999.
(Author of text with Padre Antonio Vieira and Wilson Rocha) Salvador, edited, with photographs by Mario Cravo Neto, Aries Editorial (Salvador, Brazil), 1999.
Author's works have been translated into French, Spanish, Russian, and numerous other languages.
ADAPTATIONS: Gabriela, Clove, and Cinnamon was adapted for film as Gabriela, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/United Artists, 1984; Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands: A Moral and Amorous Tale was adapted for the stage as Sarava.
SIDELIGHTS: Ranked by some critics as Brazil's greatest twentieth-century novelist, Jorge Amado certainly was the most widely read. His depictions of the social, political, and cultural aspects of Brazil's northwestern Bahia region have been translated into as many as fifty languages. Amado wrote with the eye of a social realist; his early work was politically inflammatory and evoked a poverty-stricken land afflicted by brutal government management. In his later novels Amado mellowed his political approach—still depicting the underclass, but with informed compassion and humor.
Amado was born the son of immigrant farmers on a cacao plantation in southern Bahia. When he was old enough to work, he spent his summer holidays toiling in the cacao groves with other area laborers. These early episodes among Brazil's impoverished proved an invaluable learning experience for Amado and provided a foundation for much of his writing. In an interview with Berta Sichel for Américas, he once elaborated on the importance these people hold for him and his work: "I am a writer who basically deals with social themes, since the source material for my creation is Brazilian reality…. [Many of my] novels narrate the life of the people, everyday life, the struggle against extreme poverty, against hunger, the large estates, racial prejudice, backwardness, underdevelopment. The hero of my novels is the Brazilian people. My characters are the most destitute, the most needy, the most oppressed—country and city people without any power other than the strength of the mestizo people of Brazil. They say that I am a novelist of whores and vagabonds, and there is truth in that, for my characters increasingly are antiheroes. I believe that only the people struggle selflessly and decently, without hidden motives."
Appreciating Amado's concern for social realism requires an understanding of the sociopolitical climate in which he first began to write. Following a global economic crisis that had shattered the coffee industry and forced an unprecedented number of Brazilians into poverty, Brazil's 1930 presidential election was rife with revolution. When liberal challenger Getulio Vargas met with apparent defeat, he headed an armed rebellion against the state—gaining control of civilian and military establishments, dissolving the congress, and issuing a decree of absolute power for his government. Initially, the overthrow of the old order produced a renaissance of sorts among Brazil's writers. Vargas had championed achievement and reform, and the writers were quick to adopt this spirit of social renewal. The new critical literature of Brazil lay bare the squalor of its lower classes and offered solutions for a nation restless for change.
Amado's early novels, often termed works of social protest, were published amid these turbulent times. O pais do carnaval, Suor, and Cacau, all written during the early 1930s, depict a destitute and violent Brazil and offer answers to many of the prevailing social problems. For many critics though, these early works hold little literary merit. In his assessment of this first phase in Amado's literary career, Fred P. Ellison wrote in Brazil's New Novel: Four Northeastern Masters, "Character, plot, and literary form are consistently neglected…. In fact, there is reason to believe that Amado purposely slighted artistic qualities in attempting to draft social documents."
If Amado was indeed attempting to affect social change, he was not alone. As nationwide impatience with the economic plight grew, Vargas's support waned. Several political factions—notably the Communist Party and the fascist Integralistas—began to exert a marked influence among Brazilians. In 1935 a short-lived rebellion broke out, and Vargas subsequently declared martial law. Communists and others labeled seditionists were hunted down relentlessly, and a censorship department was created to suppress all forms of dissent. Amado's inflammatory early novels, though given little regard by critics, attracted the suspicious eye of the Vargas regime. Their author was imprisoned as a member of the Communist Party in 1935, exiled on several later occasions, and, in 1937 following a national ban, two thousand of his books were burned in a plaza by the Brazilian military.
The Vargas crackdown did not silence the writer's call for reform so much as alter his form of protest. Starting with his 1935 book Jubiaba, Amado began to display a greater concern for technique, often cloaking social themes within psychological studies. This new style found its greatest success in Terras do sem fin (The Violent Land). Published in 1942, The Violent Land depicts the brutal land-battles that ensue when two neighboring estates rush for the last, precious cacao groves in northern Brazil. Bertram D. Wolfe noted similarities between the Brazilian power wars Amado characterized in The Violent Land and those that took place during the expansion of the American West. He wrote in the New York Herald Tribune Weekly Book Review: "To the raw violence and action of one of our gold-rush, claim-jumping, frontier tales, this novel adds an exuberant, tropical lyricism…. It is one of the most important novels to have come North in some time, and, because of its frontier character and crowded action, one of the most accessible to the American reader." Ellison termed the book "Amado's masterpiece, a story of almost epic grandeur," and attributed its success to Amado's avoidance of the propaganda in his earlier work: "The Violent Land shows what Amado can achieve when art is not encumbered with the millstone of political argument." Although Amado continued for several years to write novels of social realism, none ever earned the literary acclaim given The Violent Land.
In 1958, with the publication of Gabriela, cravo e canela (Gabriela, Clove, and Cinnamon), Amado's writ-ing took another significant shift. As in his earlier work, the underclasses of Brazil's Bahia region continued to dominate Amado's novels. Beginning with Gabriela, however, the examination of their afflictions gave way to romantic and humorous themes. In the New York Times Book Review, Juan de Onis attributed this shift in tone to Amado's alignment with the contemporary European rejection of Communism. "Gabriela," Onis wrote, "represents undoubtedly the artistic liberation of Senhor Amado from a long period of ideological commitment to Communist orthodoxy."
Gabriela, cravo e canela is named for a spirited migrant worker who is discovered by an Ilheus bar owner and elevated to social respectability. Gabriela's healthy sexual appetite is instrumental in liberating the growing Bahian town from its restrictive social values. For most critics, Amado's foray into the lighter side of Brazilian life proved highly successful. "It is in Gabriela that [Amado] really finds himself," wrote Harriet de Onis in the Saturday Review. "One hardly knows what to admire most: the dexterity with which Amado can keep half a dozen plots spinning; the gossamer texture of the writing; or his humor, tenderness, and humanity." Onis described Amado's stylistic evolution thusly: "In his earlier novels on the cacao region,… Amado tended to paint caricatures rather than characters…. In striking contrast to these flat symbols, the characters in Gabriela are created in-the-round; they live, breathe and feel as genuine individuals—and none more so than Gabriela herself." The critic also noticed a change in the tone of Amado's writing. For example, the earlier novel The Violent Land, wrote Onis, "is spun out with grim, humorless indignation. In Gabriela, however, irony, satire and plain high spirits illuminate every page."
With the critical acclaim that Amado's new style attracted came a growing popularity. The 1960s found him enjoying best-seller status with several novels, notably Dona Flor e seus dois maridos (Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands). Like most of Amado's later novels, Dona Flor blends elements of burlesque with the surreal. Critic David Gallagher granted credit for the success of this strange brew to Amado's convincing characters. "Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands is a remarkable novel for the coolness with which the author is able to impose his extraordinary characters on us," Gallagher wrote in the New York Times Book Review. "Like them, we learn to take exoticism and magic in our stride."
The novel presents the life of the virtuous Dona Flor who, after her disreputable first husband dies in drunken revelry, weds an upstanding and meticulous pharmacist.
When the ghost of her first husband appears—with his exceptional lovemaking skills still effective on Dona Flor—she is ambivalent about her dilemma. She appreciates the security that her new husband provides but longs for his predecessor's passion. A Time magazine critic charged Dona Flor with overblown sentimentalism, calling the book "a love letter to Bahia." The reviewer claimed that Amado "romanticizes his Bahians into virile lovers, darkly sensual morenas [women], whores and neighbors, all larger than life…. In lavishing details of color, touch and taste, Amado so ignores the canons of construction that at times he seems embarked on little more than an engaging shaggy-dog story." Gallagher held a similar opinion of Amado's prose: "It is a pity that Amado mars his achievement by often writing flatly, without discipline or tension. His refreshing exuberance is diminished by the novel's almost aggressive repetitiveness. Cut to half its size, it would have been a better book."
Amado continued to produce international best-sellers despite such charges of prosaic deficiency and claims that machismo elements dominated his later work; in Myth and Ideology in Contemporary Brazilian Fiction, Daphne Patai criticized the author for his "evident commitment to the status quo in that most fundamental of issues: men's domination of women." His 1984 work Tocaia grande, translated as Showdown, was no exception. Tracing the lively history of a town founded on the Brazilian frontier, the novel proves to be an epic patchwork of the nation's heritage. "Showdown is a second look at the terrain Amado covered in The Violent Land," commented Pat Aufderheide in the Washington Post Book World. "It has the plot drive that has kept people reading the latest Amado novel all these years; it's loaded with sex and violence; and the picaresque characters all share their inner lives with the reader through Amado's omniscient narration." Paul West, writing in the New York Times Book Review, called Showdown "a vital novel, more complex than it seems at first, written in a long series of ebullient lunges, none of them stylish or notably elegant or eloquent, but in sum haunting and massive…. [Amado] creates something fecund and funny, tender and burly, as if his lively social conscience, under pressure,… yet again had to take the side of the human race."
Through the 1990s to his death in 2001, Bahia's leading literary authority continually painted a lyrical image of his homeland, aggrandizing Brazil's downtrodden in rollicking tales of passion and mystique. Two of his later novels, Tent of Miracles and Tieta, the Goat Girl; or, The Return of the Prodigal Daughter, were reprinted in honor of the writer, and "continue his undying con-cern for the future of Brazil," according to Sophia A. McClennen in Review of Contemporary Fiction. "Rich in narrative structure and remarkable in the description of Brazilian plenitude, these novels are smart, witty, and fun," McClennen continued, adding that the fictions characterize Amado's transition, after the mid-twentieth century, "from more overtly political narrative to writing that was full of excess, sensual delight, and the richness of everyday life."
In summation of Amado's writing, Ellison wrote: "In the works of this most controversial of modern Brazilian writers, unevenness is the salient characteristic. Amado seems to write solely by instinct. Of conscious art intellectually arrived at, the result of reflection and high craftsmanship, there is relatively little. Yet his novels have a mysterious power to sweep the reader along. Serious defects in artistry are overcome by the novelist's ability to weave a story, to construct vivid scenes, and to create fascinating characters." In his interview with Sichel, Amado once revealed the source of his inspiration: "I consider myself to be a writer with a commitment, a writer who is for the people and against their enemies, who develops his work around the reality of Brazil, discussing the country's problems, touching on the dramatic existence of the people and their struggle."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Chamberlain, Bobby J., Jorge Amado, Twayne (New York, NY), 1990.
Contemporary Literary Criticism, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 13, 1980, Volume 40, 1986, Volume 106, 1998.
Curran, Mark J., Jorge Amado e a literature de cordel, Fundaçáo Cultural do Estado da Bahia, 1981.
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 113: Modern Latin-American Fiction Writers, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1992.
Ellison, Fred P., Brazil's New Novel: Four Northeastern Masters, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1954.
Patai, Daphne, Myth and Ideology in Contemporary Brazilian Fiction, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press (Rutherford, NJ), 1983.
Peden, Margaret Sayers, editor, The Latin American Short Story: A Critical History, Twayne (Boston, MA), 1983.
Tati, Miecio, Amado: Vida e obra, Itatiaia, 1960.
Tavares, Paulo, O baiano Jorge Amado e sua obra, Record (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), 1985.
Américas, May-June, 1984; September-October, 1992, p. 60.
Booklist, August, 1992, 1993; September 15, 1993, p. 100.
Book World, August 24, 1969.
Hispania, May, 1968; September, 1978.
Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 1993.
Library Journal, August, 1992, p. 144; December, 1993.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, February 28, 1988; March 27, 1988.
Nation, June 5, 1967.
New York Review of Books, May 4, 1967; February 26, 1970.
New York Times, October 1, 1977; January 12, 1985; January 24, 1988.
New York Times Book Review, September 16, 1962; November 28, 1965; January 22, 1967; August 17, 1969; October 24, 1971; September 21, 1975; July 1, 1979; October 28, 1984; May 19, 1985; February 7, 1988; November 28, 1993, p. 20.
Publishers Weekly, November 21, 1980.
Review of Contemporary Fiction, spring, 2004, Sophia A. McClennen, review of Tent of Miracles, p. 143.
Saturday Review, September 15, 1962; January 8, 1966; February 4, 1967; August 16, 1969; August 28, 1971.
Times Literary Supplement, July 2, 1970; October 2, 1981; November 12, 1982; January 20-26, 1989.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), September 9, 1979; January 24, 1988.
Variety, March 31, 1997, Bill Hinchberger, "Jorge Amado Writes from Heart, Home," p. 56.
Washington Post, December 29, 1984.
Washington Post Book World, September 12, 1971; January 10, 1988.
World Literature Today, winter, 1996, Nelson H. Vieira, review of A descoberta da América pelos turcos: Romancinho, p. 173.
Chicago Tribune, August 7, 2001, section 2, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times, August 8, 2001, p. B10.
Time, August 20, 2001, p. 13.
Times (London, England), August 8, 2001.
New York Times, August 7, 2001, p. A15.
Washington Post, August 8, 2001, p. B6.