(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Although Jubiabá is named for an old voodoo priest, the novel relates the romantic, adventurous life of Antônio Balduíno, a black hero of the Bahian masses. The loose, episodic story begins with Antônio’s childhood and continues through his mid-twenties. An ABC ballad at the end tells of his death at the hands of a treacherous murderer. Antônio thus realizes his lifelong ambition to become the subject of an ABC ballad.

The novel opens on a brief boxing match, showing Antônio, the Bahian heavyweight champion, beating the Central European Champion, a blond German, to the delight of the partisan Bahian crowd. Chapter 2 quickly switches back to Antônio’s childhood. As an eight-year-old, he lives with his old aunt, Luísa, and roams Capa-Negro Hill with his playmates, whom he leads into mischief. He does not attend school, but he imbibes a rich folklore from the poor people around him, especially Zé Camarão and old Jubiabá. For example, Jubiabá explains that Capa-Negro Hill got its name from a cruel white master who castrated slaves for not reproducing. Jubiabá also tells about Zumbi dos Palmares, a slave who ran away and led a warlike confederation of other runaways. Zumbi dos Palmares becomes Antônio’s hero.

When his aunt goes crazy (and eventually dies), the twelve-year-old Antônio is adopted by a well-to-do white family, the Pereiras, who live on Zumbi dos Palmares Street. The Pereiras give him some schooling and light servant’s duties and make him a companion of Lindinalva, their daughter. Yet Amelia, the white cook, beats him constantly and, when he is fifteen, accuses him of looking at Lindinalva’s legs. Punished severely, Antônio runs away. He completes his growing up on the seafront streets of Salvador, where he leads a gang of intimidating young “beggars” and sleeps with girls on the nearby sand dunes. After two years, the police break up his...

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(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Chamberlain, Bobby J. Jorge Amado. Boston: Twayne, 1990. Useful, informative, and readable, this critical analysis of Amado’s work covers all periods of the novelist’s output while focusing on a few of the author’s most important works. A biographical chapter is included, along with an extensive bibliography.

Hinchberger, Bill. “Jorge Amado Writes from Heart, Home.” Variety 366 (March 31, 1997): 56. Hinchberger explores the inspirations that shape Amado’s work, the filming of Amado’s novels, and Amado’s reaction to the critical acclaim he has received. Offers interesting insight into the influences that shaped Amado’s work.

Robitaille, L. B. “These Men of Letters Speak for the Powerless.” World Press Review 38 (December, 1991): 26-27. An intriguing profile of Amado, covering his political activity, his life in Paris, and his feelings for his native Brazil. Presents background that sheds considerable light on his writings.