Books by Jorge Amado

Released: Nov. 15, 1993

Amado dips back into his encyclopedic knowledge of the local politics, religions, and sexual joie de vivre of his beloved Bahia in this tale of Catholicism subverted by spiritualism, of puritanism undone by joyous sap, of right-wing control undone by happy anarchy. Here, a holy statue of Saint Barbara of the Thunder is to arrive in the port city of Bahia—to be displayed in the local Museum of Sacred Art—but it never quite makes it: Before it can show up at the museum, Saint Barbara has turned herself into a live force. The main object of her ministrations is a young woman, Manela, cruelly shut up in a convent by her strict mother for the sin of having fallen in love with a dark-skinned young taxi-driver. Saint Barbara—as the voodoo goddess Yansan in this case—will have none of it, springing Manela so that she can naturally celebrate her love, while at the same time vexing the local corrupt bureaucrats and proving once again that Brazilian religion is a far more fluid state of affairs than any organized church chooses to see it as. A lot is scattershot, unsubtle, and creaky here—but Amado (The Golden Harvest, 1992, etc.) remains the preeminent chronicler of at least the idea of a joyful life—and as such never neglects the infectious freedom of spirit that gives all his work a happy valence. Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 1, 1992

Here, in the first English translation of a novel written some 40 years ago, Amado (Pen, Sword, Camisole, 1985, etc.) strikes off with his trademark exuberance—this time to tell the cautionary tale of how brokered cacao devastates the economy, ecology, and societal structure of the Brazilian provincial port of Ilheus. The chief villain is the middleman, Carlos Zude, a cuckolded but financially ambitious exporter, who decides in the unsettled political climate of pre-WW II that he and his cronies can do as much for setting the price of the commodity as the big exchanges. Reading a scarcity situation shrewdly, he sets off a boom in the crop that at first seems to benefit Ilheus boundlessly. Until the bust, that is, when the reality rises up—the reality being that the poor have remained poor (and gotten even poorer), that the rain forest has been cut down to provide more acreage for cacao planting (Amado lets us know that this is not a new problem), and that the autocratic but at least locally based plantation system is destroyed with little to replace it. Amado seems to surrender to the material halfway through- -chapters become shorter and shorter, merely notational—and the scantiness of characterization is disappointing from so lusty and zestful a writer. Still, Amado provides us with the fullness of Brazilian reality and modern history that no other writer we read in translation does. Read full book review >