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Amado, Jorge 1912–

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Amado, a renowned Brazilian novelist, playwright, scriptwriter, and editor, writes about the people of his native region, Bahia. He portrays them as impoverished and socially repressed but not without hope, and his concern for their future is evident throughout his work. Marxist ideology pervades his early work and critics agree that structure and characterization often seem less important than the promotion of his political theories. His early work was often censored and Amado has frequently been imprisoned or exiled because of his views. His later work, characterized by more emphasis on the individual and on stylistic techniques, is referred to as lyrical and precise in detail. Always active politically, Amado helped draft the current Brazilian constitution. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 77-80.)

Nancy Flagg

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["The Violent Land" should be successful] with the many readers who like their adventure, romance, crime, seduction and social injustice in exotic fancy dress, peeping through veils of literary language.

It isn't likely that this book has lost very much in translation. Too much is left: too much style for style's sake, too much indignation with the powerful and pity for the poor, too many excited, shadowy characters, too much love and lust and greed and arson and killing. (p. 8)

Nancy Flagg, in The New York Times Book Review (© 1945 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), June 24, 1945.

Anthony West

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["Home Is the Sailor" is] a deftly written, lighthearted, and genuinely funny comic novel. Its hero is an old gentleman who enjoys years of tranquil happiness late in life by masquerading as a retired sea captain and telling the most outrageous lies…. Amado's humor is fresh, innocent, and inventive, and his altogether delightful comedy … has some profound things to say, in passing, about the human desire for importance…. (pp. 89-90)

Anthony West, in The New Yorker (© 1964 by The New Yorker Magazine, Inc.), August 8, 1964.

Donald A. Yates

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Brazilian novelist Jorge Amado has returned to his beloved Bahia, that tropical coastal city of whites, mulattos, and blacks, to lay the scene for another adventure of the human spirit. And his message, presented more vehemently [in Tent of Miracles] than in his two most successful earlier novels, Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon (1962) and Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands (1969), is again the need to love and have tolerance towards one's fellow man.

Buttressed by delightful ribaldry and exotic trimmings, along with detailed observations of black culture and religion, Tent of Miracles is basically a propagandistic work that advocates miscegenation…. For a novel with such didactic purpose, Tent of Miracles reads exceptionally well…. (pp. 26-7)

Bahia surely has no greater poet than Jorge Amado. (p. 27)

Donald A. Yates in Saturday Review (© 1971 by Saturday Review Inc., reprinted with permission), August 28, 1971.

North American readers have precious few chances to look at the dynamic giant of the New World's southern half through the eyes of a gifted novelist. "Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon" … offers one of the most precious. Jorge Amado builds his long "chronicle of a city of the interior" around two superbly alive characters: Gabriela, the mulatto girl with the cinnamon thighs and clove in her hair, and Mundinho Falcao…. The other characters and the background reveal the tensions that developed during the 1920's as a new bourgeois society cropped up where great landowners were once all-powerful. An "exciting and enjoyable romp of a book," Juan de Onis called it, in an "elegant and ingenious translation."… (p. 34)

The New York Times Book Review (© 1974 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), May 12, 1974.

William Kennedy

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If we were back in the 1940s [Tereza Batista: Home From The Wars] would be a great vehicle for Dorothy Dandridge, or maybe Rita Hayworth in brownface. [Amado's] heroine, Tereza Batista, is a lithe and loving, copper-colored saint, a glorious nonesuch from the subcontinent, a fantastic beauty with a bod of bods, a prism of strength, a champion prostitute, a magnificent concubine, the personification of selflessness, a martyr to charity, a paradigm of virtue and fidelity, a cop-kicker and leper-licker, but also, sad to say, rather a bore, and a literary joke.

Amado has written a sensual, comic work this time out, again about Bahia in Brazil, again with all the lavish detail of life as it is lived in the torrential spew of his imagination….

Perhaps also, in his own language, the book is different from the product at hand. The translation … is fine English. Yet it has the same quality to be found in the translations of Isaac Babel, another regionalist whose dialect and slang are not entirely lost in translation but arrive here like a package that has been too long at the bottom of the parcel post truck. It's not the same as it started out. Babel is a masterful writer, a giant of concision and meaning. Amado is logerrheic, repititious and in quite another literary dimension from the Russian maestro. Yet their language comes at us from the funhouse mirror, and that distortion—once the art is missing—may be at the heart of why Amado makes it in Portuguese but not English.

Or is it simply that the art is clearly missing, even in Portuguese? Amado believes not only in repeating himself four, five, six times, but also in summarizing each of Tereza's adventures in advance, so that we not only drown in verbosity but we are also denied the surprise that even rotten fiction usually dangles before us. (p. 26)

Amado has made his book dense with superficiality, and in doughty Tereza he has created an affectionate, affronting literary icon for these times of multi-angular sexuality: a composite of Wonder Woman, Mary Magdalene, Lola Montes, Lupe Velez, Melina Mercouri, Clara Barton, Foxy Brown and Little Annie Fanny. Ms. magazine will probably not print an excerpt. (p. 27)

William Kennedy, in The New Republic (reprinted by permission of The New Republic; © 1975 by The New Republic, Inc.), June 28, 1975.

Malcolm Silverman

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Although Jorge Amado is undisputably Brazil's greatest living writer, his sixteen previous novels are of varying quality. Perhaps best remembered from Amado's earlier years are Jubiabá (1935), Mar Morto (1936) and Terras do Sem Fim (1942), while Gabriela, Cravo e Canela (1958) and Dona Flor e Seus Dois Maridos (1966) highlight his more recent successes. In Tieta do Agreste, as in all his post-1958 works, the author continues with his brand of humorous satire, lambasting bourgeois shortcomings in an atmosphere of picaresque adventures and contagious optimism.

Happily, his present narrative has none of the excesses common to his previous two novels; and the development of both plot an content seems to signal a reactivated desire to consolidate rather than experiment—a tendency also echoed in the work's theme. (p. 573)

Amado presents his tragicomic story through the eyes of an obtrusive narrator whose humorous interjections serve to enhance further the light-hearted tone evident throughout the narrative. Long, chronicled headings, which precede both the book's six sections as well as its endless chapters, inform as well as entertain, summarizing what immediately follows. Amid almost continuous action, tongue in cheek suspense and profuse dialogue, Tieta and Agreste's colorful personae get to know each other on several fronts. Subplots center around the usual gamut of small town sexual mores, which Amado realistically portrays with appropriate (and often comical) language. While colloquialisms abound, however, the infusion of cosmopolitan Paulista ways into Agreste's provincialism clearly makes for a story of national appeal—and universal undercurrents.

Jorge Amado has always been at his novelistic best in recreating Bahian life with its mixture of poetry, mystery and telluric regionalism. For almost half a century, this focus has been evolving from one of violent conflict to increasing if imperfect harmony; and Tieta do Agreste, a sort of updated Gabriela, Cravo e Canela (the present heroine is neither innocent nor naive), follows nobly in this tradition. (pp. 573-74)

Malcolm Silverman, in Hispania (© 1978 The American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese, Inc.), September, 1978.

John Sturrock

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Mr. Amado is Brazil's most illustrious and venerable novelist, and a veteran rhapsodist of its native assets. He has also taken a radical line politically, and spoken up emotively for the poor and disfavored. In "Tieta" he has gone soft, celebrating the goodness and vitality of his home province of Bahia, more from memory than conviction, and at crushing length. This is a slow, explicit, sentimental novel with a theme that might have made a short, sharp fable….

[Tieta herself] is, as they say, a catalyst, an agent of change who herself knows of only one way to behave, warmly and openly; she is the original golden-hearted whore. Her goings-on would be more entertaining if they didn't go on so. Mr. Amado spells everything out and tells us again and again what sort of people his very simple characters are, as if there were some danger of our forgetting. In short chapters of commentary he interrupts the story to make ironical or dismissive remarks about it, calling it "a threepenny novel" and a "soap opera," and complaining about its length. Well, "Tieta" is too long, and it does have a lot of the blandness and cheap contrasts in character of the soap opera. It is as if Mr. Amado had one eye on the film or television rights and another on his more sophisticated readers, who need to be reassured that he knows just what sort of book he is writing. (p. 11)

Corruption and industrialization are presumably urgent matters in Brazil, but they are less than urgent matters in "Tieta." Mr. Amado's businessmen are absurd, inadequate even as caricatures, graduates from the fantasies of Harold Robbins, never the Harvard Business School, and more likely to titillate (with their immoralities) than to appall. Indeed, the satire as a whole, when it comes, is stale and discounted by the oppressive benignity of the rest of the novel. The people whom Mr. Amado would protect, in Sant'Ana do Agreste, may seem worth protecting to their creator, but few of them will seem so to his readers. His Rousseauesque trust in the survival and benevolence of human instinct strikes one as horribly insufficient to cope with the genuine moral and economic dilemmas raised here in fun. (p. 25)

John Sturrock, "Brazilian Soap Opera," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1979 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), July 1, 1979, pp. 11, 25.

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Amado, Jorge (Vol. 106)

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