Jorge Amado Amado, Jorge (Vol. 106) - Essay


(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Jorge Amado 1912–

Brazilian novelist, short story writer, and nonfiction writer.

The following entry presents an overview of Amado's career. For further information on his life and works, see CLC, Volumes 13 and 40.

Jorge Amado is a best-selling author known for his novels which evoke the spirit of the people of Bahia, Brazil. A communist in an authoritarian-ruled nation, Amado spent many years fleeing government persecution and espousing communist ideals in his novels. Eventually Amado became disenchanted with the Communist Party and wrote from a more personal perspective about his region and its people. He became a well-loved national and much-acclaimed international novelist.

Biographical Information

Amado was born in Ilheus, Bahia, Brazil, on August 10, 1912. He grew up on his father's cocoa plantation and then attended a Jesuit boarding school. While interested in classical literature, Amado found it hard to concentrate on his studies. In 1930 Amado went to Rio de Janeiro to attend law school, where he earned a diploma which he never bothered to pick up. Amado published his first novel, O paiz do carnaval (1931), when he was nineteen. His second novel, Cacau (1933), made evident his political leanings and interest in the newly formed Brazilian Communist Party. The neofascist government headed by Getulio Vargas ordered that the book be removed from bookstores. Amado became a member of the National Liberation Alliance, a left-leaning political group which attempted a coup in 1935. Shortly after the coup failed, Amado was arrested and spent two months in jail. His adversarial relationship with the Brazilian government continued, and in 1937 the government staged a public book burning in which the majority of books destroyed were Amado's. Amado eventually fled to Argentina in 1941 and wrote a biography of the founder of the Brazilian Communist Party, Luiz Carlos Prestes, entitled Vida de Luiz Carlos Prestes, o cavaleiro da esperança (1942). He returned to Brazil, and his struggle with the government continued until Vargas was ousted from office. In 1945 Amado was elected federal deputy of São Paulo on the Communist Party ticket. Within a few years, however, the Party again became illegal, and in 1948 Amado decided to leave his country. He lived in France and Czechoslovakia for the next four years, then returned to Brazil again in 1952. After Joseph Stalin's death there was much debate over the future and ideological position of the Brazilian Communist Party. In 1955 Amado left the party, and from then on his relationship with communism was ambiguous. His writing underwent a significant change, becoming less political and more universally recognized by critics. During the fall of 1971 Amado came to America as a visiting fellow at the Institute for the Arts and Humanistic Studies at Pennsylvania State University.

Major Works

Amado began his career trying to expose the problems of the northeast region of Brazil, specifically of his home state, Bahia. The works were more political in nature, but beginning with Gabriela, cravo e canela (1958; Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon) his work turned more personal, focusing on specific people and how life in Bahia affected their individual lives. Amado's protagonists are antiheroes, often coming from the lower class and including whores and rogues. Amado's work is full of mystical elements: statues that come to life and walk away, as in O sumiça da santa (1988; The War of the Saints); a protagonist who dies more than once, as in A morte e a morte de Quincas Berro Dágua (1962); and a dead husband returning, as in Dona Flor e seus dois maridos (1966; Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands). Amado's Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands is about a woman who falls in love with a rogue. He is passionate and exciting but hurts her with his wild exploits. When her husband dies, Dona Flor mourns but then goes on to remarry. This time her husband is respectable, responsible, and dull. While she knows her second husband is good for her, Dona Flor misses the passion her first love inspired in her. The first husband's spirit returns to her, and at first she resists him. Eventually she discovers happiness with the best of both husbands. The mystical nature of Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands resurfaces in The War of the Saints, in which the statue of Saint Barbara of the Thunder comes to life and simply walks away to tend to her people.

Critical Reception

Reviewers usually discuss Amado's career as having two phases, marked by the shift in Amado's career away from political-oriented works. Leftist critics ignore his later novels, but most reviewers agree the change was for the better. James Polk asserts, "His first works were embittered, pedantic tracts, weighted with social squalor and class struggle, resolved by a simplistic and highly romanticized brand of communism." Many critics have pointed out the importance of Bahian cultural forms in Amado's fiction, such as his use of the candomblé religious ritual and the Brazilian martial art capoeira in many of his stories. In addition they refer to his borrowing from Bahian's popular literary press, the folhetos, or songbooks. Reviewers often point out the mystical quality of his work and praise his ability to make supernatural events seem ordinary. Many reviewers call Amado a regionalist, but a few point to the general truths present in Amado's work and the popular appeal of his fiction. Amado is known for his strong female characters. A few critics mention his almost feminist views being in strong opposition to traditional Brazilian machismo. However Amado has been accused of inconsistency in his views. His public statements on sexism and racism in Brazil have sometimes conflicted with his presentation of those problems in his novels. Complaints about characterization range from assertions that portraying intimate or unspoken thoughts is not Amado's forte to charges that his characters are underdeveloped. Some reviewers have accused Amado of being a pornographer, but critics generally dismiss this label. Critical assessment of Amado's fiction is mixed. Some critics assert that he is a master storyteller with a great ability to evoke the images and soul of his native region. Others accuse him of being a hack, simply a writer of popular formulaic novels that lack any literary merit. Jon S. Vincent states, "Amado is anything but a simple spinner of yarns. His later novels are deceptively sophisticated fictions by a writer with a perfect ear for the right word, a flawless sense of dramatic and comic pace, and a keen sensibility for narrative pattern."

Principal Works

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

O paiz do carnaval (novel) 1931
Cacau (novel) 1933
Suor (novel) 1934
Jubiabá (novel) 1935
Mar morto [Sea of Death] (novel) 1936
Captiães da areia [Captains of the Sands] (novel) 1937
A estrada do mar (novel) 1937
ABC de Castro Alves (novel) 1941
Vida de Luiz Carlos Prestes, o cavaleiro da esperança (nonfiction) 1942
Terras do sem fim [The Violent Land] (novel) 1943
São Jorge do Ilhéus [George of Iltheus] (novel) 1944
The Golden Harvest (novel) 1944
Bahia de todos os santos (travel essay) 1945
Homens e coisas do Partido Comunista (nonfiction) 1946
Seara vermelha (novel) 1946
O amor de Castro Alves (novel) 1947
O mundo da paz (nonfiction) 1950
Os subterrâneos da liberdade (novel) 1954
Gabriela, cravo e canela [Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon] (novel) 1958
Os velhos marinheiros [The Two Deaths of Quincas Wateryell and Home Is the Sailor] (short stories) 1961
A morte e a morte de Quincas Berro Dágua (novel) 1962
Os pastores da noite [Sheperds of the Night] (novel) 1964
Dona Flor e seus dois maridos, história moral e de amor [Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands] (novel) 1966
Tenda dos milagres [Tent of Miracles] (novel) 1969
Tereza Batista, cansada de guerra [Tereza Batista: Home from the Wars] (novel) 1972
O gato malhado e a andorinha Sinhá [The Swallow and the Tomcat] (novel) 1976
Tieta do Agreste: Pastora de cabras [Tieta the Goat Girl] (novel) 1977
Farda, fardão, camisola de dormir [Pen, Sword, Camisole] (novel) 1979
A bola e o goleiro (novel) 1984
Tocaia grande [Showdown] (novel) 1984
O sumiça da santa [The War of the Saints] (novel) 1988
Chapada diamantina (novel) 1989
Navegação de cabotagem (memoir) 1992
A descoberta da América pelos Turcos (novel) 1994

David Gallagher (review date 17 August 1969)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands, in The New York Times Book Review, August 17, 1969, p. 33.

[In the following review, Gallagher praises Amado's Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands, but complains that "It is a pity that Amado mars his achievement by often writing flatly, without discipline or tension."]

For the average citizen of São Paulo or Rio, the North-East of Brazil is an area of calamitous suffering he is happy never to have visited. And if this vast, arid region, inhabited by nearly 17 million Brazilians, ever pricks his conscience, it will be to some extent due to the work of three novelists of the North-East, José Lins do Rego,...

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Jorge Amado with J. C. Thomas (interview date 23 June 1975)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Jorge Amado," in Publishers Weekly, Vol. 207, No. 25, June 23, 1975, pp. 20-1.

[In the following interview, Amado discusses his presentation of women in his novels and his relationship to his home region of Bahia.]

A regionalist who calls himself a materialist, Jorge Amado also describes himself as "a chronicler of the lives of the poor people of Bahia," a state in the northeast of Brazil. American readers know him best as the author of Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon; now, with the publication shortly by Knopf of his latest novel, that audience will discover a different kind of liberated woman in Tereza Batista.

He is a stocky man...

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Nancy T. Baden (essay date Summer 1976)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Popular Poetry in the Novels of Jorge Amado," in Journal of Latin American Lore, Vol. 2, No. 1, Summer, 1976, pp. 3-22.

[In the following essay, Baden traces Amado's use of popular and oral verse forms in his novels.]

The diverse aspects of Bahian popular culture manifest themselves as some of the most distinctive and important elements of the fiction of Jorge Amado. In effect, popular songs, stories, and customs are at the core of the underlying psychological structure of his novels. Naturally, many critics have referred to Amado's heavy borrowing from the folhetos, the popular literary press of Brazil's Northeast, as well as his extensive utilization...

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Earl E. Fitz (essay date May 1984)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Structural Ambiguity in Jorge Amado's A Morte e a Morte de Quincas Berro Dágua," in Hispania, Vol. 67, No. 2, May, 1984, pp. 221-28.

[In the following essay, Fitz asserts that "in A Morte e a Morte de Quincas Berro Dágua, Jorge Amado offers tangible evidence of how technically sophisticated he can be, of how effectively he can combine the best features of literature's oral tradition with those of its written form."]

While, as William Empson has demonstrated, a properly conceived and controlled ambiguity can add richness, complexity and depth to any literary work, Jorge Amado's A Morte e a Morte de Quincas Berro Dágua offers us a...

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Jorge Amado with Berta Sichel (interview date May/June 1984)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Jorge Amado," in Américas, Vol. 36, No. 3, May/June, 1984, pp. 16-9.

[In the following interview, Amado discusses his work and its relationship to other cultures, Brazil, and his own region of Bahia.]

If Gabriel García Márquez opened the way for Mario Vargas Llosa, Carlos Fuentes, Ernesto Cardenal and many other Latin American writers in Spanish, it was Jorge Amado who did the same for the Brazilian authors. This writer from Bahia, who doesn't like to talk about himself, was the first to tell the world of Bahia, of Brazil and its people. He was the first to demonstrate that Brazilian literature is less homogeneous than that produced in other Latin American...

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Nelson H. Vieira (essay date Winter 1986)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Myth and Identity in Short Stories by Jorge Amado," in Studies in Short Fiction, Vol. 23, No. 1, Winter, 1986, pp. 25-34.

[In the following essay, Vieira analyzes several of Amado's shorter works in order to illuminate common themes and universal truths found in all of Amado's work.]

Overshadowed by the success of such bawdy, sweeping, lyrical, and socially-minded novels as Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon, Shepherds of the Night, Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands, and Tereza Batista Home From the Wars, Jorge Amado's short fiction has understandably received little attention from readers and critics. Except for the highly acclaimed short story/novella,...

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Enrique Grönlund and Moylan C. Mills (essay date 1988)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands: A Tale of Sensuality, Sustenance, and Spirits," in Film and Literature: A Comparative Approach to Adaptation, Texas Tech University Press, 1988, pp. 165-78.

[In the following essay, Grönlund and Mills praise Bruno Barreto's film adaptation of Amado's Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands.]

Jorge Amado's novel Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands: A Moral and Amorous Tale tells the story of Floripedes, a raven-haired Brazilian beauty "with eyes shining like oil and skin the color of tea," and the two men she marries. This independent-minded woman of Bahia, who "had been born with the gift for seasoning," a teacher of culinary...

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Paul West (review date 7 February 1988)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Ambushed in the Cacao Groves," in The New York Times Book Review, February 7, 1988, pp. 3, 37.

[In the following review, West lauds Amado's Showdown.]

The only calendar in Tocaia Grande—it was a New Year's gift—hangs outside the dry-cacao storehouse, more a toy borrowed from the cradle of time than anything practical. It pictures a mountain snowscape and a big hairy dog under whose chin hangs a small cask. From the print there dangles a booklet of numbered leaves, a few of which old Gerino now and then peels away, mainly out of gratitude. No wonder life in this verdant riverside shantytown among the cacao groves of South Bahia remains "permanently behind...

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Barbara Mujica (review date 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Passionate Tales," in Américas, Vol. 44, No. 5, 1992, pp. 60-1.

[In the following review, Mujica praises Amado's The Golden Harvest and asserts that "Thanks to the superb translation by Clifford E. Landers, English-speaking audiences can now appreciate the skill and wit of the young Jorge Amado and gain insight into the evolution of a truly great novelist."]

The creator of classics such as Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon, Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands, Tieta, and Tereza Batista, Brazil's Jorge Amado is one of Latin America's greatest storytellers. Even in this 1944 novel, translated now for the first time into English, Amado's narrative...

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James Polk (review date 21 November 1993)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Wages of Virtue," in Chicago Tribune Books, November 21, 1993, pp. 6-7.

[In the following review, Polk discusses Amado's War of the Saints and states that "Amado has also found that his surest weapon against the related evils of puritanism and fascism is ridicule … he employs that weapon to sure and constant effect."]

Jorge Amado (Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands, Showdown, Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon) sets his latest novel, as he has most of his nearly 20 others, in his home territory, the Brazilian city and state of Bahia. A better stage for the crazy, intertwined dramas of The War of the Saints is hard to imagine.


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Allen Josephs (review date 28 November 1993)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Stone Made Flesh," in The New York Times Book Review, November 28, 1993, p. 20.

[In the following review, Josephs lauds Amado's War of the Saints.]

As Jorge Amado's spectacular new novel, The War of the Saints, opens, St. Barbara—or, more properly, "a statue of St. Barbara of the Thunder, famed for her eternal beauty and miraculous powers"—has just been transported across the Bay of All Saints to Bahia for an exhibition of religious art. Suddenly, just after the ship has docked, the statue takes life and steps from her litter, transformed into the living African deity St. Barbara Yansan. Waving politely to the nun and winking at the priest who...

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Ilán Stavans (review date Winter 1994)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of The Golden Harvest, in World Literature Today, Vol. 68, No. 1, Winter, 1994, p. 100.

[In the following review, Stavans praises Amado's Golden Harvest.]

Translated into English now for the first time, The Golden Harvest, in the realistic tradition of Europeans like Dickens and Balzac, is, simply put, a delight. Jorge Amado's first artistic period, ideologically committed, was concerned with class-struggle domination and the re-creation of social types from all segments of Brazilian society. Beginning with Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon in 1958, notwithstanding, he broke toward more magical, lighthearted constellations of themes and...

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Patricia Aufderheide (review date 2 January 1994)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Blame It on Bahia," in Book World—The Washington Post, January 2, 1994, p. 8.

[In the following review, Aufderheide discusses Amado's War of the Saints and his celebration of African-Brazilian culture.]

Reading a new Jorge Amado novel is like eating yet another Brazilian dinner. The ingredients are predictably pleasant: the beans, the rice, the palm oil, seafood, a zesty dash of lime. The novelty is all in the mix and the company. There's something stale about the execution this time, but you can hardly be surprised.

Amado has juggled the ingredients he uses in The War of the Saints more than 20 times before. This is the...

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Bondo Wyszpolski (review date 3 January 1994)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Truth and Tomfoolery in the Tropics," in The Los Angeles Times Book Review, January 3, 1994, pp. 3, 7.

[In the following review, Wyszpolski praises Amado's War of the Saints, which he calls "a novel so loud you can find it with the lights out."]

Jorge Amado wrote his first novel in 1931 when he was 19-years-old. The title, Carnival Country, could be applied to the body of work he's been amassing ever since.

This is the Brazilian novelist who gave Dona Flor two husbands (one living; one dead, but livelier), and he's still mixing wry, ribald poetry with literary soap opera. Even now, Amado remains idealistic, boyishly romantic, a...

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Nelson H. Vieira (review date Winter 1996)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of A Descoberta da América pelos Turcos, in World Literature Today, Vol. 70, No. 1, Winter, 1996, pp. 173-4.

[In the following review, Vieira asserts that "by creating a compelling sense of narrative [in A Descoberta da América pelos Turcos] Amado again proves himself to be a deft storyteller."]

Labeled a "small novel" by the author and written for the Quincentenary celebration (1492–1992), A Descoberta da América pelos Turcos was originally a project commissioned in 1991 by an Italian state public-relations agency for a volume of stories, dramatizing the "encounter" between the Old and the New World, by best-selling authors...

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Further Reading

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)


Foster, David William, ed. "Jorge Amado." Modern Latin American Literature. New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1975, pp. 30-42.

Contains reviews of several of Amado's novels.

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