Critical Context

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Tent of Miracles, Jorge Amado’s sixteenth novel and twenty-sixth book, has been printed in more than twenty editions and translated into every major language, including English and Russian. This novel, considered to be one of Amado’s most technically sophisticated creations, is representative of his second literary phase, which is commonly recognized as beginning with the critically acclaimed Gabriela, cravo e canela (1958; Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon, 1962), a novel which announces Amado’s closer attention to character development, narrative techniques, and lyric prose, while de-emphasizing the overt thesis formula of his earlier social realist works. This phase is also marked by Amado’s allegiance to Brazil’s rich literary oral tradition, the literatura de cordel, poetry composed and sung by popular balladeers of the Northeast, stressing the time-honored values of the common folk. Tent of Miracles illustrates many of these themes and techniques in Amado’s development as a novelist, including a panoramic depiction of numerous Afro-Brazilian rituals and practices in which spiritual events magically play upon the destinies of his characters.

Known primarily as a popular, best-selling novelist, Amado proves himself to be a skillful craftsman in Tent of Miracles, frequently referred to as one of his masterpieces. In 1977, a feature-length Brazilian film based on this novel was made by the famous Brazilian director Nelson Pereira dos Santos.

Always a first-rate storyteller, Amado infuses his social criticism with humor, irony, and sex. Praised as well as criticized for his portraits of “sensual mulattas” and for alluding to Brazil as a racial democracy, Amado in Tent of Miracles provides through symbol and characterization an implicit explanation of his stand on these issues. Moreover, Tent of Miracles also constitutes one of the first examples of Amado’s allegorical documentation of violence, bigotry, and repression in Brazil, in the past and the late 1960’s. Ultimately, this novel accentuates Amado’s overriding theme of individual freedom while proving the author to be one of Brazil’s masterful novelists of the twentieth century.