Jorge Amado -
The Brazilian novelist Jorge Amado (born 1912) was best known in
the 1930s for his novels of social protest. By the 1950s he had
evolved into a compelling storyteller more apt to poke fun at
the establishment than to denounce it. His lyricism, imagination,
and humor have given him a worldwide reputation and following.
Jorge Amado was born on his father's cacao plantation along the
eastern seaboard of Brazil, an area just then emerging from a
period of violent struggles for land among the intrepid
frontiersmen who opened it up. His novels are almost all set
either in this region or in the city of Salvador (Bahia), where
he was sent to secondary school. As a 16-year-old contributor to
short-lived reviews, he began rebelling against the stuffiness
of literary canons, an urge to which he gave further expression
in his first halting novel, O pals do carnaval (1931; Carnival
In law school in Rio de Janeiro, Amado became increasingly
radicalized. Cacau (1933; Cocoa) was a proletarian novel set in
the region of his childhood, and Suor (1934; Sweat) indicated
both its aim and its earthy style by its title. In 1935 Amado
was jailed; two years later he was exiled and many of his works
were banned. He alienated the authorities still further by
publishing in 1942 a biography of Luis Carlos Prestes, the
charismatic leader of the Brazilian Communist party. After World
War II, under a new political regime, Amado served as a
Communist member of the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies until the
party was outlawed in 1948. He won the Stalin International
Peace Prize in 1951.
Subsequently, however, he ceased to take much active interest in
political affairs. His later novels lost their preachy quality
and became steadily less concerned with social protest. This new
aspect can be seen in his first big literary success, The
Violent Land (1943). It depicts the rough-and-tumble of frontier
life but is neither just a "western" nor a radical pamphlet.
This novel reveals careful attention to characterization, plot
and style. A sequel was published 15 years later, Gabriela,
Clove and Cinnamon. It offers an especially sharp contrast to
his earlier work by its heightened sense of humor and by its
concern with the individual caught up in the process of social
change, rather than with the broad issues of social justice.
Instead of caricatures there are now characters. In its details,
the novel is a loving portrayal of the Brazilian lifestyle. It
received wide acclaim, was translated into several languages and
became a best seller in the United States.
From Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands (1966), Amado's best-known
novel, through such late works as The War of the Saints (1988),
his characters gained greater individuality in an often magic,
realist, contemporary Bahia. The international success of these
works (they've been translated into more than 30 languages)
flows from Amado's keen sensitivity for human foibles and his
ironic depiction of self-serving moralism, especially among
those who seek to belittle others in order to give themselves
false stature. His simple, almost poetic style, modeled on the
ballad rhythms of the folk singer, helps give his novels an
emotional intensity checked by his sardonic wit.
In addition to the Stalin International Peace Prize, Amado's
honors include the Juca Pato Prize for "Intellectual of the Year"
in 1970 from the Union of Brazilian writers. He was elected to
the Brazilian Academy of Letters in 1961.
There is no biography of Amado in English. Fred P. Ellison,
Brazil's New Novel (1954), describes the literary setting and
evaluates Amado's work
Fundaçao Jorge Amado
Jorge Amado was born on August 10, 1912, at the Auricídia farm
in the Ferradas district of Itabuna, a city in southern Bahia.
He was the son of cocoa planter João Amado de Faria and Eulália
Jorge moved to Ilhéus when he was one year old and spent his
childhood there. He went to high school at Antônio Vieira
College and Ginásio Ipiranga, in the city of Salvador. During
that period, he started doing newspaper work and taking part in
literary circles. He helped found the Academy of Rebels.
His first novel, O país do carnaval (The Land of Carnaval), was
published in 1931. In 1933 he married Matilde Garcia Rosa and
they had a daughter named Lila. That same year he published his
second novel, Cacau (Cocoa).
He graduated from the National Law School in Rio de Janeiro in
1935. As a communist militant, he was forced into exile in
Argentina and Uruguay in 1941 and 1942, a period when he
traveled extensively throughout Latin America. He and Matilde
Garcia Rosa separated when he returned to Brazil in 1944.
In 1945, he was elected to the National Constituent Assembly as
a member of the Brazilian Communist Party (PCB) and was the
federal deputy with the most votes in the State of São Paulo.
Jorge Amado drafted the law that guarantees the right to freedom
of worship that is still in force today. That same year, he
married Zélia Gattai.
In 1947, the year their eldest child, João Jorge, was born, the
PCB was banned and its members were persecuted and arrested.
Jorge Amado and his family had to seek exile in France, where
they lived until the government ordered them to leave. In 1949,
Jorge's daughter Lila died in Rio de Janeiro. The Amados lived
in Czechoslovakia from 1950 to 1952, and their daughter, Paloma,
was born in that country.
After returning to Brazil, Jorge Amado gave up his political
militancy in 1955, although he did not leave the Communist
Party. From that time on, he devoted himself entirely to writing.
On April 6, 1961, he was elected to chair number 23 of the
Brazilian Academy of Letters, whose patron is José de Alencar.
Its first occupant was Machado de Assis. In addition to holding
honorary doctorates from several universities, Jorge Amado was
proud of the Candomblé title of Obá, his post at Ilê Axé Opô
Afonjá, in Bahia.
Jorge Amado's literary works have been adapted to the screen,
stage and television countless times, and are even the theme of
Carnival parades throughout Brazil. His books have been
translated into 49 languages and published in 55 countries.
There are also copies available in Braille and on tape for the
The Jorge Amado House Foundation officially opened in Salvador,
Bahia's Largo do Pelourinho in 1987. Since then, it has housed
his library and made it available to researchers. The Foundation
also aims to develop cultural activities in Bahia.
Jorge Amado died in Salvador on August 6, 2001. He was cremated
and his ashes were buried in the garden of his home on
Alagoinhas Street on August 10th, the day he would have marked
his 89th birthday...