Jorge Amado

Jorge Amado

[uh-mah-doh; Port. ah-mah-doo]
Amado, Jorge, 1912-2001, Brazilian novelist. Amado's works deal largely with the poor urban black and mulatto communities of Bahia. His early novels, such as The Violent Land (1942, tr. 1945), are marked by grim and violent realism. His later works, such as Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon (1958, tr. 1962), Doña Flor and Her Two Husbands (1966, tr. 1969), Tent of Miracles (1969, tr. 1971), and Tieta, the Goat Girl (1977, tr. 1979), frequently have a comic element and stress folkloric and popular themes related to Afro-Brazilian culture. Alive with vibrant characters, his novels often reflect his left-wing political views and his deep sympathy for women. Although sometimes criticized for stereotyped female characterizations and for romanticizing poverty, Amado is acclaimed for his portrayal of ordinary Brazilians and is the most widely read Brazilian novelist of the 20th cent. and among the most translated novelists in the world. His later fiction (he wrote 32 books in all) includes Pen, Sword, Camisole (1979, tr. 1985), Showdown (1984, tr. 1988), and The War of the Saints (1989, tr. 1993).

See biography by B. J. Chamberlain (1990); study by K. H. Brower et al., ed. (2000).

Jorge Amado de Faria (August 10, 1912August 6, 2001) was a Brazilian writer of the Modernist school. He was the best-known of modern Brazilian writers, his work having been translated into some 30 languages and popularized in film, notably Dona Flor and her Two Husbands (Dona Flor e Seus Dois Maridos) in 1978. His work dealt largely with the poor urban black and mulatto communities of Bahia.


Amado was born in a fazenda ("farm") in the inland of the city of Itabuna, in the southern part of the Brazilian state of Bahia, son of João Amado de Faria and D. Eulália Leal. The farm Amado was born in was precisely located on the village of Ferradas, which though today is a district of Itabuna, at the time was administered by the town of Ilhéus. That is why he considered himself a citizen of Ilhéus. In the large cocoa plantation, Amado knew the misery and the struggles of the people working the earth, living in almost slave conditions, which were to be a theme always present in his later works (for example, the notable Terras do Sem Fim of 1944).

When he was only one year old the family moved to Ilhéus, a coastal city, where he spent his childhood. He attended high school in Salvador, the capital of the state. During that period Amado began to collaborate with several magazines and took part in literary life, as one of the founders of the Modernist "Rebels' Academy".

Amado published his first novel, O País do Carnaval, in 1931, at age 18. Later he married Matilde Garcia Rosa and had a daughter, Lila, in 1933. The same year he published his second novel, Cacau, which increased his popularity. Amado's leftist activities made his life difficult under the dictatorial regime of Getulio Vargas: in 1935 he was arrested for the first time, and two years later his books were publicly burned. His works were banned from Portugal, but in the rest of Europe he gained great popularity with the publication of Jubiabá in France. The book had enthusiastic reviews, including that of Nobel Prize Award winner Albert Camus.

Being a militant, from 1941 to 1942 Amado was compelled to go into exile to Argentina and Uruguay. When he returned to Brazil he separated from Matilde Garcia Rosa. In 1945 he was elected to the National Constituent Assembly, as a representative of the Brazilian Communist Party (PCB) (he received more votes than any other candidate in the state of São Paulo). He signed a law granting freedom of religious faith. The same year he remarried, this time to the writer Zélia Gattai.

In 1947 he had a son, João Jorge. The same year his party was declared illegal, and its members arrested and persecuted. Amado chose exile once again, this time in France, where he remained until he was expelled in 1950. His first daughter, Lila, had died in 1949. From 1950 to 1952 Amado lived in Czechoslovakia, where another daughter, Paloma, was born. He also travelled to the Soviet Union, winning the Stalin Peace Prize in 1951.

On his return to Brazil in 1955, Amado abandoned active political life, leaving the Communist Party one year later: from that period on he dedicated himself solely to literature. His second creative phase began in 1958 with Gabriela, Cravo e Canela, which was described by Jean-Paul Sartre as "the best example of a folk novel": Amado abandoned, in part, the realism and the social themes of his early works, producing a series of novels focusing mainly on feminine characters, devoted to a kind of smiling celebration of the traditions and the beauties of Bahia. His depiction of the sexual customs of his land was much to the scandal of the 1950s Brazilian society: for several years Amado could not even enter Ilhéus, where the novel was set, due to threats received for the alleged offense to the morality of the city's women.

On April 6 1961 he was elected to the Brazilian Academy of Literature. He received the title of Doctor honoris causa from several Universities in Brazil, Portugal, Italy, Israel and France, as well as other honors in almost every South American country, including Obá de Xangô (santoon) of the Candomblé, the traditional Afro-Brazilian religion of Bahia.

Amado's popularity as a writer never decreased. His books were translated into 49 languages in 55 countries, were adapted into films, theatrical works, and TV programs. They even inspired some samba schools of the Brazilian Carnival.

In 1987, the House of Jorge Amado Foundation was created, in Salvador. It promotes the protection of Amado's estate and the development of culture in Bahia.

Amado died on August 6, 2001. His ashes were spread in the garden of his house four days later.


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