Amado, Jorge (1912–2001)

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Amado, Jorge (1912–2001)

Jorge Amado (b. 10 August 1912, d. 6 August 2001), perhaps the most widely known and most popular of all Brazilian novelists. A major figure of the generation that developed the social "novel of the Northeast" in the 1930s, Amado wrote for more than six decades, completing more than twenty novels. His work has been translated into at least thirty languages and has inspired many films, television series, and even popular songs. A recipient of numerous international awards, Amado was elected to the Brazilian Academy of Letters in 1961.

From the 1930s until the 1950s Amado was both a political activist and a writer. He was a member of the Aliança Nacional Libertadora (1935) and the Brazilian Communist Party, of which he was an elected federal congressman during its brief period of legality (1945–1947). Because of his political activities, he spent several periods in exile. The trilogy Os subterrâneos da liberdade (1954) re-creates, in novelistic form, the political struggles against Getúlio Vargas's authoritarian Estado Novo in the 1930s and 1940s.

Amado's literary production ranges from novels marked by social protest and denunciation, especially during his "proletarian" phase of the 1930s—for example, Cacau (1933), Suor (1934; Slums, 1938), Jubiabá (1934; Jubiabá, 1984)—to those notable for the colorful, humorous, and often picaresque chronicles of the political customs and sexual mores of Brazilian society; these latter often have memorable female protagonists, for example, Dona Flor e seus dois maridos (1966; Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands, 1969), Tereza Batista, cansada de guerra (1972; Tereza Batista, Home From the Wars, 1975), and Tieta do Agreste, pastora de cabras (1977; Tieta the Goat Girl, 1979). Many critics have pointed to Gabriela, cravo e canela (1958; Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon, 1962) as the dividing line between Amado's politically engaged narratives and his more exuberant, picturesque, populist tales that exalt the freedom to live and love outside the confines of bourgeois morality. The short A morte e a morte de Quincas Berro d'Água (1959) ingeniously and satirically contrasts bourgeois and "popular" culture and values.

Amado's novels and his occasional short narratives typically deal with different aspects of his home state, focusing primarily on the city of Salvador or the cacao region of southern Bahia. Novels such as Terras do sem-fim (1943; The Violent Land, 1945), São Jorge dos Ilhéus (1944), and Tocaia Grande: A face obscura (1984) re-create struggles for control of rich cacao lands, combining political intrigue and intertwined love affairs.

Those works set in Salvador often focus on the life and culture of the city's predominantly black lower classes, frequently portrayed as living in a sort of harmonious primitive communism (Capitães de areia, 1937) and spiritually sustained by the values of the Afro-Brazilian religion Candomblé. Amado's praise of miscegenation and Afro-Brazilian culture reaches its high point in Tenda dos milagres (1969; Tent of Miracles, 1971).

Amado's idealization of the lower classes has drawn harsh criticism from those who see him as exploiting, rather than celebrating, their culture. But his defenders argue that his insistent focus on the poor, even if vitiated by the use of "exotic local color," made him an eloquent spokesman for the downtrodden and the oppressed in Brazilian society.

See alsoLiterature: Brazil.


Maria Luisa Nunes, "The Preservation of African Culture in Brazilian Literature: The Novels of Jorge Amado," in Luso-Brazilian Review 10, no. 1 (Summer 1973): 86-101.

Walnice Galvão, "Amado: Respeitoso, respeitável," in her Gatos de outro saco: Ensaios críticos (1976), pp. 13-22.

Fred P. Ellison, "Jorge Amado," in his Brazil's New Novel: Four Northeastern Masters (1979), pp. 81-108.

Alfredo Wagner Berno De Almeida, Jorge Amado: Política e literatura (1979).

Bobby J. Chamberlain, "Salvadore, Bahia, and the Passion According to Jorge Amado," in The City in the Latin American Novel, edited by Bobby J. Chamberlain (1980).

Additional Bibliography

Brower, Keith H., Earl E. Fitz, and Enrique E. Martinez-Vidal. Jorge Amado: New Critical Essays. New York: Routledge, 2001.

Duarte, Eduardo de Assis. Jorge Amado: Romance em tempo de utopia. Rio de Janeiro: Editora Record, 1996.

Gattai, Zélia. Memorial do amor. Rio de Janeiro: Editora Record, 2004.

                                      Randal Johnson