Critical Context

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Any critical estimate of Jubiabá—its rambling plot, its inconsistent characters and themes, its uneven style, its gross excesses—must take into account that Amado wrote it during his early twenties: It is a fervent young man’s novel. For all its logical disunity and lack of restraint, Jubiabá has a powerful unity of feeling, as Amado announces his loyalties to Bahia, to Afro-Brazilian culture, and to leftist politics. This emotional unity makes Jubiabá perhaps the best of Amado’s early propagandistic works, certainly a representative example.

Amado’s early work long remained untranslated into English; therefore, for readers of English familiar only with his mature work—particularly such comic, sexy bestsellers as Gabriela, cravo e canela (1958) Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon, 1962), Dona Flor e seus dois maridos (1966; Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands, 1969), and Tiêta do Agreste (1977; Tieta, the Goat Girl, 1979)—his early propagandistic phase may come as a surprise. Yet, as a formative novel, Jubiabá forecasts much of the later Amado. Although he toned down his politics (after repeated clashes with censors, jail terms, and exiles), no one can deny Amado’s continuing interest in local color and sex; nor, if his techniques have become more refined, can he be accused of developing inhibitions or restraint. With his political sympathies, his panorama of local color and characters, and his lack of restraint (whether sentimental or sexual), Amado might be called the twentieth century Brazilian Charles Dickens.