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Bahia’s Dr. Faustus

Bahia's Dr. Faustus

When Curitiba, a city on the southern state of Paraná, does
something the world pays attention. Citizenship Street is a recent urban innovation in
this city of 1.6 million people that is generally viewed as a model of orderly urban
development in Latin America. As a meeting place, Boqueirão’s Citizenship Street is an
unqualified success. The place also succeeds as an architectural statement and as an
effective means of delivering city services. Can the world learn something from this
experience? We believe so.
By Janer Cristaldo

The word "bordel" (brothel), for those who don’t know, was born in Paris.
During the time in which the "maisons closes" were at the bank of the Seine,
when someone went in search of women, they would euphemistically say: "J’vais au
bord’elle" (I am going to its bank). The Seine is not "un fleuve," but
"une rivière." In other words, it is a feminine word, la Seine. Therefore, when
someone said "au bord’elle" he meant "au bord de la Seine". From
there, bordel (brothel). It is not surprising then that the capital that invented this
word decided to pay homage during the recent 18th Salon du Livre de Paris (Paris Book
Fair) to the greatest prostitute of contemporary literature.

Brazil was honored in the Salon and had as honoring guest and representative of our
literature, Jorge Amado. Brazil’s best selling author, Amado began his career as a
messenger of Nazism and continued as an agent of Stalinism and today is Roberto Marinho’s
(TV Globo network all-powerful owner) officious scriptwriter. Amado also received the
title of Dr. Honoris Causa by Université de la Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris III. Nothing to
be surprised about. The Parisians, long known for their collaborationism and Stalinist
tradition, wouldn’t miss the opportunity to honor, in this end of century, the colleague
who since his youth fought on the same side.

From Nazism to
Stalinism

Amado was born on a cocoa plantation farm on August 10, 1912 at the then recently
founded town named Itabuna, in Bahia. His father was from the state of Sergipe and his
mother had been born in Bahia of indigenous descent. This author, who is the most divulged
Brazilian writer throughout the world and who has been translated in more than 40
languages, was also a collaborator of Nazi publications, a militant of the Communist
Party, constituent Congressman in 1946, Obá Otum Arolu of Axé Opô Afonjá candomblé—a
dignitary on African-Brazilian religion—in Bahia and member of the Brazilian Academy
of Letters.

He was arrested in 1936 in Rio as a consequence of the ’35 Intentona, a failed coup
ordered by the Kremlin and lead in Brazil by Luís Carlos Prestes, the leader of the
Brazilian Communist Party. In 1940, during the non-aggression pact between Germany and
Russia signed by Stalin and Joachim von Ribbentrop, he became the editor of the cultural
page in the pro-nazi newspaper Meio-Dia. During a meeting of the Communist Party,
he was accused of being a "cheap spy of Nazism" by writer Oswald de Andrade who
urged him to move out of São Paulo. When asked about the dirty work during this period,
Amado naively says: "I don’t remember." But Oswald de Andrade remembers. In an
old interview, republished more recently in Os Dentes do Dragão, he said:

"I withdrew from the Party when I was confronted with so many mistakes and
mystifications. In a writer’s committee meeting, in front of 15 people from the Party, I
appealed to Mr. Jorge Amado to leave São Paulo and I accused him of being a cheap spy for
the Nazis, as former eminent editor of Meio Dia. I told them—and Amado didn’t
dare to defend himself—since everything is absolutely accurate—that in 1940
Jorge invited me in Rio to have lunch at Brahma with a high-ranking German man at the
Embassy and in the Transocean agency, so that this German could offer me to write a book
defending Germany. Jorge informed me later that this book would pay me $30 contos.
I refused and Jorge was surprised because he had accepted various orders from this very
same German."

In 1945, Amado was elected federal deputy by the Communist Party and published Vida
de Luís Carlos Prestes, o Cavaleiro da Esperança (Life of Luís Carlos Prestes, the
Horseman of Hope) an eulogy of this southern communist leader and member of the Comintern.
The pamphlet, ordered by the Kremlin, was translated and published in Occidental
democracies and communist dictatorships as part of a campaign to free Prestes from prison
after his bloody attempt in 1935 to impose in Brazil a tyranny in the best style of his
guru, Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili (1879-1953), better known as Stalin. For
Amado, Prestes is the "Hero, he who never sold himself, who never bent and upon whom
the mud, dirt, rottenness and repulsive drivel of calumny never left a trace."

Prestes in prison, according to the writer, meant the own people oppressed: "Like
him are the people, arrested and persecuted, outraged and wounded. But like him people
will stand up, one, two, one thousand times and one day the chains will be broken and
freedom will come out stronger through the prison bars. ‘Dawn comes after every night,’
said the people’s Poet. Even during the most somber nights, a star shines announcing dawn,
like a friend guiding men to the morning light. In the same way, this black Brazilian
night has its star shining over men—that is Luís Carlos Prestes. One day, we will
see him in the morning of freedom and when the moment comes to build in this free and
beautiful day, we will see that he was the star that is the sun: light in the night, hope;
warmth in the day, certainty."

In 1946, as a constituent, Amado signs the 4th Brazilian Constitution. Two years later,
his mandate is revoked due to cancellation of the Communist Party’s registration. In that
same year, 1948, he moves to Paris where he meets Sartre, Aragon and Picasso, among
others. In 1950, he moves to the Castle of the Writer’s Union in Dobris, in the former
Czechoslovakia where he writes O Mundo e a Paz (The World and Peace) an ode to
Lenin, Stalin and to the Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha. The following year, when the book
is published he receives the Stalin International Peace Prize in Moscow, for the totality
of his work, a detail often omitted from his biographies. This decade is marked by long
trips, among others, to Continental China, Mongolia, Western and Central Europe, to the
former Soviet Union and to the Far East.

"You all know, friends, the hatred that the men of money, the owners of life, the
people’s oppressors, the exploiters of human work have against Stalin. This name makes
them shiver, it disturbs them, fills their nights with ghosts, prevent them from sleeping
and transforms their dreams in nightmares. Upon this name laid the most vile calumnies,
the greatest infamies, the most sordid lies. The ‘Red Tzar,’ I read on the headline of a
newspaper. And I smile because I think that in the Kremlin he works incessantly for the
soviet people and for all of us, for the whole mankind, for the happiness of all people.
Master, father and guide, the greatest scientist of today’s world, the greatest state man,
the greatest general, the best of all that humanity has produced. There are those who
calumniate, insult and grate their teeth. But to Stalin elevates the love of millions, of
tens and hundreds of millions of human beings. It hasn’t been long since he turned 70. It
was a worldwide Party, his name was saluted in China and Lebanon, in Rumania and Ecuador,
in Nicaragua and South Africa. In this day of December, the eyes and hopes of hundreds of
millions of people turned to the East. And the Brazilian workers wrote on the mountain his
luminous name."

Because of his militancy in the Communist Party, in the beginning of his career he was
translated in China, Korea, Vietnam and former Soviet Union. Only later he is drawn to the
Western Countries taken by the hand of his German translator. In Munich, in 1978, I
interviewed Curt Meyer-Clason, who was responsible for the introduction of Amado in
Western Europe. The Bahian invaded with his literature the free world so calumniated by
him, through the now dead German Democratic Republic. "Because of the Communist Party
protection, the GDR took the responsibility for the publication of all his books as early
as the ’50s," said Meyer-Clason. "Afterwards, because of me, he passed directly
to the Federal Republic of Germany." Not merely by chance, Meyer Clason has just been
charged by German magazine Der Spiegel as a spy of the Third Reich in Brazil.

In the same way he denies his Nazi involvement, Amado makes no comment about his
Stalinist past. On his last book, Navegação de Cabotagem, he declares :

"During my journey as a writer and citizen I got to know facts, causes and
consequences that I promised to keep secret. I knew of them because I was a militant for a
political party that proposed to change society’s face, acting in illegality and
developing subversive actions. Many years after I left the militancy of the Communist
Party, even today when the Marxist-Leninist ideology that determined the activity of the
Communist Party is getting empty and dying out, when the socialist universe arrives at a
dead end, even today I don’t feel totally free of the commitment I assumed. Even if the
disloyalty does not have any importance and does not bring any consequences now, even in
that case, I don’t feel I have the right to spread out what was revealed to me in
confidence. If I remember them sometimes, I didn’t keep notes of such memories. They will
die with me."

Socialist Realism

In 1954, maybe thinking his defense of Stalinism in O Cavaleiro da Esperança and
O Mundo da Paz (The World of Peace) was insufficient, Amado publishes the three
volumes of Subterrâneos da Liberdade (The Undergrounds of Freedom) where he
narrates the saga of the Communist Party in Brazil. Only in 1958, with the publication of Gabriela,
Cravo e Canela (Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon) he leaves aside his political
militancy and begins the practice of a literature rich of Bahian folklore that later would
become the theme of national movies and soap operas of TV Globo network.

The Bahian novelist introduced the socialist realism in Brazilian literature, also
known as Zdanovism, formula of literary confection to preach the communist ideal,
conceived by the Russian writers Maksim Gorky, Anatoly Lunacharsky, Aleksandr
Aleksandrovich Fadeyev, and systematized by the General Colonel Andrei Zdanov. In
the countries where he was translated, Amado is seen as a writer who does Brazilian
literature, but in reality he was obeying an awkward formula, more propagandistic than
aesthetic, produced by theorists from Moscow.

In A História da Inteligência Brasileira (History of the Brazilian
Intelligence) Wilson Martins clearly translates the characteristics of the new genre:

"…on one side the good, or those who can be included in the mystical ‘key’ of
the ‘worker,’ the ‘laborer’; on the other, the bad, or all others, but the ‘police’ and
the ‘proprietor’ in particular, the two manichaeistic entities of this singular universe.
The first are honest, generous, unselfish, friends of instruction and progress, patriots,
good fathers, sober, delicate artisans, conscientious technicians, efficient employees
(even if rebellious), imaginative and untiring, subjects of a powerful personal magnetism,
filled with an innate sense of leadership and at the same time of the most irreprehensible
sense of discipline, courageous, sentimental, instinctive poets, characters of violent
passions (only in the good sense), models of group solidarity, invincible debaters, full
of a nobility that shines like a halo. The ‘worker’ is a hero typical of the chivalry
novels: fearless and faultless. He is just as realistic as Amadís de Gaula.

On the other hand, the "proprietor" is loathsome and nasty, subject of all
vices, rude, barbaric, corrupt, implacable when collecting his interests, lascivious when
in presence of young widows and a ferocious persecutor of old ladies, fat, always smoking
huge cigars, belching with no shame, man of many lovers and probably also of unconfessable
diseases, member of the secret association called ‘capitalism’, where, as everyone knows,
is invulnerable to the existent solidarity among its members; individual that favors all
types of mockeries, including from his own children; coward, dishonest, selfish, ignorant,
sold to the American dollar, lecherous, brutal husband and mean father, annoying and
obnoxious, a man of routine, cold as ice, incapable of sincerity, who has no better
argument that brutal force, true contemporary incarnation of demoniacal figures that were
used by the Medieval society to scare itself."

Wilson Martins continues in detail a listing of other stereotypes used in this kind of
novel, among them the police, the notary public, the leaseholder, the governor, the
plantation owner, the peasant. It would be too tedious to continue the description of this
polarized universe, as it would make little sense to follow the repetition—ad
nauseam—of a primitive formula of book fabrication. Let’s then put our hands further
down this garbage.

The book Os Subterrrâneos was also written in Dobris, in the same Castle of the
Union of Czechoslovakian Writers where Amado had produced O Mundo da Paz, from
March 1952 to November 1953, in the period immediately following his obtaining the Stalin
Prize. In its historical background there is of course the 1917 revolution. Other dates
and posterior facts will powerfully determine the construction of characters.

In 1935, there is the Communist Intentona in Brazil. In 1936, Prestes is arrested and
his wife, Olga Benário, a German Jew, who was an official of the Red Army is deported to
Hitler’s Germany. Getúlio Vargas manages to persuade Congress to create a National
Security Tribunal to punish the insurgents. Still in the same year, the Civil War erupts
in Spain. That confrontation involved all the European nations and constituted a sort of
general rehearsal for the Second World War, detonated in 1939, a circumstance extensively
exploited by Amado.

In 1937, the "integralistas" (Brazilian-style fascists) launched Plínio
Salgado as a candidate to the presidential elections of January of the coming year, but
they were aborted in November 10 by the coup that consolidated the Estado Novo (New State)
of Getúlio Vargas in Brazil. To develop his history, Amado will concentrate in one of the
most turbulent periods of this century that up to this day continues to generate extensive
bibliographies. The action of Os Subterrâneos is situated precisely between
October of 1937 (right before the Estado Novo and during the Spanish Civil War) and it
finishes November 7 of 1939, on the 23rd anniversary of the proclamation of the
Soviet regime in Russia.

Amado, writer and militant, was responsible for various missions. The first consisted
of defending the ideals of 1917, incarnated in the figures of Lenin and Stalin, powers
invoked many times in the course of the three volumes. Secondly, defending the Messiah
that would save Brazil, Luís Carlos Prestes. Not by chance, the trilogy ended with his
trial. They were secondary missions, but not less vital: denouncing the Yankee
imperialism, condemning the Trotskyist dissidence and portraying Franco as a demon, and
fustigating Vargas for having crushed the communist activity since 1935.

His characters are implausible puppets who lack self will, soaked in alcohol if they
are bourgeois or filled with absolute truth and mineral water if they are workers or
militants, always obedient to the orders emitted from the banks of the Volga river.

The book, composed of three volumes—Os Ásperos Tempos (The Rough Times), Agonia
da Noite (Night Agony) and A Luz no Túnel (The Tunnel Light)—constituted
only the first part of a more vast trilogy with pretensions of being the Brazilian War
and Peace. They were published in May of 1954, a year after Stalin’s death and two
years before the 20th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party, which forced the author to
interrupt his work. For the second time, in Amado’s literary journey his fiction will be
determined not by an analysis of the Brazilian reality but by decisions taken in Moscow.

Omnipresence of
the New God

The quintessential character of the novel is the Communist Party, ubiquitous as the old
Christian God and incarnated in the figure of Stalin. The struggle of the Communist Party
is the struggle—in the author’s view—of the Brazilian people against the tyranny
of Vargas. The external enemies are the United States, Germany, Franco and Salazar.
Without mentioning, of course, the IV International and the Trotskyists. The Communist
Party is infiltrated in the dominant class, dispersed in the middle class, and massively
present among the workers. It invades the cities and the backcountry, the pampas and the
forest, the bourgeois parties, the factories and ports, hearts and minds.

"How many others, from Amazonas to Rio Grande do Sul," reflects militant
Gonçalo, "didn’t find themselves in the same situation as him, facing difficult
problems, having to solve them without being able to discuss with the leaders and unable
to discuss it with the comrades? Gonçalo knows that the Party leadership is not that big,
one thousand or so all over the country, a few thousand militants to attend to an
incommensurable multitude of problems, to keep the struggle in the four corners of the
nation—separated by colossal distances—to win endless obstacles, persecuted and
chased as beasts by the specialized police, tortured, arrested, murdered. A handful of
men, his Communist Party, but this few men were the nation’s own heart, its source of
vital force, its powerful brain, its powerful arm."

This omnipresence extrapolates the country and it is manifested wherever the characters
might be, in Uruguay, France, Spain, all over the planet. Inevitable are their references
to the hammer and sickle and to Stalin, naturally, guide, master and father. The litany
directed towards the great murderer has sometimes the characteristics of black humor:

"The more we are," says militant Mariana "more work the leaders will
have. Think about Stalin. Who in the world works more than he does? He is responsible for
the life of tens of millions of men. Just the other day I read a poem about him: the poet
said that when all sleep late at night, a window is still lit in the Kremlin, its
Stalin’s. The destiny of his nation and of his own people always worries him. It was more
or less what the poet said, but in prettier words, of course…"

The poet is Pablo Neruda, already mentioned in O Mundo da Paz: "The light
in his cabinet is turned off late. The world and his nation do not allow him to
rest." It is part of an ode to Stalin, taken from the Complete Works from the
Chilean poet, where one can still find and "Ode to Lenin." Today we know what
Stalin was planning late at night in his office.

When Apolinário Rodrigues, for example (character inspired by Apolônio de Carvalho,
Brazilian official exiled who had participated in the 1935 Intentona) arrives in Madrid,
he feels at home because wherever he looks, there is the Party. The only local color of
the Spanish capital seems to be the fight for Prestes liberation:

"When he arrives in Spain from Montevideo he lives days of intense emotion when he
sees all around in a country that is at war, on the bombarded streets of cities and
villages, on the walls of the indomitable Madrid, the inscriptions asking for Prestes’s
liberation. He was surrounded by the color of an intense solidarity developed by the
Spanish workers and combatants towards the arrested Brazilian antifascists and Prestes in
particular. (…) It was a single fight all over the world, Apolinário thought in face of
those inscriptions. The Spanish knew that, and among its hard tasks and multiple
sufferings, they extended their solidary hand to the Brazilian people."

The coincidence of the establishment of Estado Novo with the explosion of the Spanish
Civil War makes an unique opportunity for Amado to insert his characters in the
international conflict that would lead to World War II, exposing at the same time the
Party’s orientation. So unique is this opportunity and the author wishes to use it so much
that he even moves the 1946 Santos (a port city in São Paulo) longshoremen’s strike to
1938, though lighting a debate. Was he really being loyal to the method that "demands
from the artist a concrete and truthful representation of the reality in its revolutionary
development?" as the Soviet Writers’ Union statutes proclaimed? To him that did not
matter too much. By dislocating the strike to 1938, he can create a German ship that comes
to Brazil to pick up coffee for Spain. Amado is able to fustigate Hitler, Getúlio and
Franco, all at the same time:

"In few words (the old Gregório) told the reason why the union’s leadership had
planned that session: the government had offered General Franco, commandant of the Spanish
rebels (" a traitor" yelled a voice in the room), a great amount of coffee.
There was a German ship at the port ("Nazi" yelled a voice in the room) to take
the coffee."

In the Spanish Civil War, according to Amado, there are only "Nazi Germans and
Fascist Italians." So prodigal in his praise of Stalin and of the Soviet Union, he
silences in his trilogy the Russian presence in Spain, constituted by war pilots, military
technicians, sailors, interpreters and police. The first foreign presence in Spain was the
Soviet, that sent war material and highly qualified military personnel in exchange for
three-fourths—7800 boxes, each weighing 65 kg (143 lbs.) of the gold reserves
available at the Spanish bank, paid in advance. Amado silences: the truthful concrete
representation of reality in his revolutionary development can wait a little longer.

The Party’s presence will permeate the trilogy from the first pages of Os Ásperos
Tempos to the last ones of A Luz no Túnel. The militant Mariana, before she is
arrested, watches Prestes trial. The communist leader’s voice is the "victorious
voice of the Party against terror and reaction:"

"I want to use this moment that they offer me to speak to the Brazilian people and
pay homage today to one of the greatest dates of all history, to the 23 anniversary of the
great Russian Revolution that freed a nation from tyranny…"

It would be redundant and monotonous to follow this ubiquity of the Party in Amado’s
trilogy. In this universe reigns the absolute good and evil. The good, obviously is
represented by the new God, the proletariat. Evil is the bourgeoisie that holds capital.
Chameleon-like beings, also known as "class traitors" or Party traitors,
eventually transit from one universe to the other.

Dividing the universe in two folds, one good and the other bad, doesn’t mean anything
new and original. This principle comes from the third century, through the Persian
doctrine of Mani (also known as Manes). The scary part is that it is still in practice
today, 20th century, and more: imposing tastes, behavior and even party affiliation to the
characters of a novel. Those who represent the good side are able to love. Those who
represent the bad have mistresses. The good ones drink mineral water. The bad ones drink
rum or whiskey. The good are thin and idealists. The bad ones are fat and greedy. The good
ones have healthy teeth, the bad have rotten ones. The good have no possessions. The bad
ones are proprietors.

The good are poor, the bad rich. The good belong to the Party or collaborate with it.
The others are bad. The good, by the way, are imprisoned in an ideological straitjacket
where they can’t even be allowed to appreciate a surrealist or naïve painting.

Up until 1954, Amado translated in his literature the determinations of the Russian
Communist Party. In an interview with Isto É (November 18, 1981), Amado admits to
his Stalinism:

"I don’t know if the term "socialist realism" is applicable to all my
books from that period. They faced socialist realism but the truth is that Jubiabá,
Mar Morto and Capitães de Areia from the period you have referred could
only be published in Russian after Stalin’s death. I believe this classification is right
for Terras do Sem Fim, Seara Vermelha and Subterrâneos da Liberdade.
If there is a book I wrote that is completely influenced by the Stalinism that is Subterrâneos
da Liberdade that reflects a manichaeistic position."

After Khrushchev denounces the crimes of the Stalin regime in 1956, Amado wets his
little finger on his tongue and raises it up, to see the direction the wind is now
blowing: the direction of History was then one of a more popular tone, to the style of
Rede Globo network. He then starts producing a literature of evasion around Bahian motifs,
but not before doing a timid and discreet mea culpa, published on October 10 of the same
year by the Imprensa Popular:

"We are approaching, my dear, the nine months left to the 20th Congress of the
Soviet Union Communist Party, the time of a gestation. This pregnancy of silence is too
long and all are asking what could it be hiding or if the mountain isn’t giving birth to a
mouse.

"I believe that we must discuss, freely and deeply, all that moves and
agitates the democratic and communist international movement, but that above all we have
to discuss the huge reflexes of the personality cult among us, our huge mistakes,
the absurds of all sizes, the dehumanization that, like the most detrimental and poisonous
tree, flourished in the manure of this cult elevated to its lowest and rudest forms, and
are now suffocating our thoughts and actions. (…) I feel the mud and the blood all
around me, but above them I see the light of the new humanism that we want to keep lit,
but that was almost drowned by the wave of crimes and mistakes."

As if the simple fact he could feel the mud and the blood around himself could redeem
him of his past complicities. But the denunciation of the crimes of the Stalin regime did
not generate any Nuremberg tribunal and Jorge Amado felt as someone naïve, deceived by
the winds of the century. However, he did not allow the reissuing of O Mundo da Paz.
As for his fiction based on the socialist realism continues to be reedited and translated.
But the Bahian agitprop feels obliged to change his course and publishes in 1958, Gabriela,
Cravo e Canela. In 1961, he releases Os Velhos Marinheiros (The Old Sailors,
published as Home Is the Sailor in 1964 in the U.S.), considered as one of his best
moments in literature. In this same year he is elected a member of the Brazilian Academy
of Letters, an institution he had stoned and insulted during his youth. In his
inauguration speech, with the same naiveté of an urchin recalling past tricks, he
reiterates his opposition to the House that receives him:

"I get to your illustrious companionship with the quiet satisfaction of having
been an intransigent adversary of this institution during that period in one’s life when
one must necessarily be against what is settled and definite. Woe is that young man, that
young writer’s apprentice, who at the start of his career does not come, sincere and
quixotic, assailing the walls and the glory of this House. For me, fortunately, I cast
many stones on your windows, many rude adjectives I wasted against your indifference, too
much I booed against your composure, many battles I fought against your strength."

In response to those who condemned him, he said: "All in life obeys formalities,
and if I am a socialist that doesn’t mean that I ignore the formal world that surrounds
me." From Moscow he receives the support of Russian writer Ilya Ehrenburg: "We
love Jorge Amado and we trust him. I just saw him in a photograph a little fatter, wearing
an academic’s gown. I looked at it and smiled. They give a luxurious gown to Brazilian
academics. Besides, they use the swords like the French. There is nothing wrong in a
simple man of yesterday appearing once a year in an immortal’s costume."

An Affair With
the Yankee
Imperialism

With the transposition of his novels to TV soap operas, this retired revolutionary
becomes a sort of scriptwriter for Rede Globo network. Up to this day he prides himself of
his past as a man of the left. But he was the first Brazilian author to personally
congratulate Fernando Collor de Mello for his victory. Of course he didn’t offer his
support when he was being impeached.

With this new turn, his books begin to be published in the U.S.. In a 1985 interview
with the French translator Alice Raillard in his Bahia mansion we see that from an
unconditional enemy of capitalism he becomes a member: "Yes, this house… This
house, I always say that it was the American capitalism that allowed me to build it! It
was an old dream to have a house in Bahia. (…) To build one? I wished but I didn’t
have the money. It was then that I sold the rights for Metro Goldwin Mayer to make a movie
based on Gabriela."

In an interview with the newspaper Folha de São Paulo in December of 1994 he
shows the reporter the mansion bought with the MGM’s dollars: "This is the master’s
bedroom. I spent my life calling Americans all sort of names, but all we have is thanks to
the imperialist Yankees’ money. We bought this house in 1963 with the money we got from
selling the rights of Gabriela, filmed only 21 years later. I didn’t charge them
too much, only $100,000."

The partnership with the capitalist enemy turned out to be a lucrative one and allowed
Amado to realize the dream of living in the same Paris he had insulted so much when a
Marxist: "In 1986, the Americans paid me a big sum in advance for the rights of
translation of Tocaia Grande, $250,000. We put our savings together, Zélia and I,
and we bought our little place in Marais, Paris."

This gentleman, who held up with enthusiasm the worst and most murderous flags of the
century and who at the end of his life confesses without any modesty his venality is who
represented Brazil in the Book Fair of Paris. But there is nothing to be surprised about.
Amado sells to Europe an image Europe accepts as being Brazilian. Once again according to
Wilson Martins:

"The truth is that our literature has always been seen as something exotic,
tropical. That’s why Amado is extremely popular in other countries. He offers this
stereotype of violence, of conquest of the land, of class struggle and of racial
oppression. This exotic idea, this sort of island of the south seas where everyone wears a
tanga (loincloth) on the streets, holds a bow and arrow and chases jaguars on Rio
Branco avenue (in downtown Rio). When a white Brazilian appears showing a great
international culture, he causes an extraordinary surprise. We feed this prejudice with
all our might. We want to pass this image of tropicalistas, that this is a tropical
country, that we are a mixed race, that whites here don’t have a chance. The ones who
defend this are these group of ‘Bahians’ and ‘new Bahians’, the people of the trios
elétricos (wired-for-sound trucks used in the Northeast during Carnaval); it is even
a prejudice against the culture, in the ecumenical sense of the word."

When recently asked how he would like to be remembered in an Encyclopedia 50 years from
now, Amado answered with the naïveté of the innocent: "As a sensual and romantic
Bahian man. I am like my characters—sometimes even the female ones." And maybe
it is one of his female characters that better represents the ambivalence of the
"sensual and romantic Bahian:" Dona Flor, the one who calmly managed two
husbands. By paying homage to Amado, Paris was in reality distinguishing with a medal a
venal writer, who rendered the worst disservice to Brazil when fighting to transform it in
one more little Soviet republic, all for a rapid literary ascension and personal gain.

Translated by Rosemary Gund, freelance translator, rgund@sfsu.edu 

Janer Cristaldo is a writer, translator and journalist. He got a Ph.D.
in French and Compared Literature from Université de la Sorbonne Nouvelle (Paris III)
with the thesis La Révolte Chez Albert Camus et Ernesto Sábato (The Revolt in
Albert Camus and Ernesto Sábato). He published among other books: O Paraíso Sexual
Democrata (The Democrat Sex Paradise) (essay) , Assim Escrevem os Gaúchos
(Thus Write the Gauchos) (anthology), A Força dos Mitos (The Power of Myths) (crônicas),
Ponche Verde (Green Poncho) (novel), Mensageiros das Fúrias (Messengers of the Furies)
(essay). You can get in touch with him via his e-mail: cristal@ibm.net 

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