Bahia’s Favorite Son: Jorge Amado

Nobody is more responsible for bringing Bahian culture to the rest of the world than Jorge Amado, Brazil’s most famous modernist author. Amado’s tales have been translated into 49 languages and read the world over.

Born in 1912, Jorge spent his youth in Ilhéus, the scene of many of his later novels. After secondary studies in Salvador, Amado studied law in Rio, but instead of going into practice he decided to become a writer. He surprised critics and the public by publishing his first novel, O País do Carnaval, when he was only 19 years old.

An avowed communist, Amado participated in the rebel literary movement of the time, launching two romances set in the cacao zone around Ilheús: Cacau and Suor. The first novel was banned by the fascist-leaning Vargas government, which only increased Amado’s popularity. Sent to prison several times for his beliefs, Amado was elected a federal deputy for the Brazilian communist party (PCB) in 1945, but he lost his seat after a disagreement with the party several years later. He left Brazil and lived for more than five years in Europe and Asia, finally breaking ties with the communist party after the crimes of Stalin were revealed to the world.

With Gabriela, Cravo e Canela (Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon), published in 1958, he entered a new writing phase, marked by a romantic and playful style that intimately described the colorful escapades of his Bahian heroes and heroines. This and his later novel Dona Flor e Seus Dois Maridos (Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands), set in Salvador, were both adapted into popular films.

Amado died in Salvador in August 2001, just short of his 89th birthday.