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"An exciting and enjoyable romp of a book, rich in literary delights." — The New York Times
"Enchanting...a comedy vivid, believable, and entertaining." — The Atlantic Monthly
“An enchanting and romantic novel . . . . A comedy vivid, believable, and entertaining.”—The Atlantic Monthly
“One hardly knows what to admire most: the dexterity with which [Amado] can keep half a dozen plots spinning, the gossamer texture of his writing, or his humor, tenderness and humanity.” —Saturday Review
“Gossipy, funny, very much alive.” —The New Yorker
“A twentieth-century Charles Dickens. . . . A master craftsman.”—The Nation
The Languor of Ofenísia
(whose importance must not be judged by
the brevity of her appearance)
In that year of 1925, when the idyll of the mulatto girl Gabriela and Nacib the Arab began, the rains continued long beyond the proper and necessary season. Whenever two planters met in the street, they would ask each other, with fear in their eyes and voices:
"How long can this keep up?"
Never had they seen so much rain. It fell day and night, almost without pause.
"One more week and we may lose everything."
"The entire crop . . . "
"God help us!"
The crop gave promise of being the biggest in history. With cacao prices constantly rising, this would mean greater wealth, prosperity, abundance. It would mean the most expensive schools in the big cities for the colonels' sons, homes in the town's new residential sections, luxurious furniture from Rio, grand pianos for the parlors, more and better-stocked stores, a business boom, liquor flowing in the cabarets, more women arriving in the ships, lots of gambling in the bars and hotels-in short, progress, more of the civilization everyone was talking about.
But this unending downpour might ruin everything. And to think that only a few months earlier the colonels were anxiously scanning the sky for clouds, hoping and praying for rain. Ah through southern Bahia the cacao trees had been shedding their flower, replacing it withthe newly born fruit. Without rain this fruit would have soon perished.
The procession on St. George's Day had taken on the aspect of a desperate mass appeal to the town's patron saint. The gold-embroidered litter bearing the image of the saint was carried on the shoulders of the town's most important citizens, the owners of the largest plantations, dressed in the red gowns of the lay brotherhood. This was significant, for the cacao colonels ordinarily avoided religious functions. Attendance at Mass or confession they considered a sign of moral weakness. Church-going, they maintained, was for women.
Not that the colonels played no part in the religious life of the community. Their role, as they saw it, was to provide funds, upon request of the Bishop or the local priests, for church buildings and activities. They financed the parochial school for girls, the episcopal residence, catechism classes, novenas, the month of Mary, charity bazaars, and the feasts of St. Anthony and St. John.
That year, instead of spending St. George's Day swilling in bars, there they all were, walking contritely in the procession, each with a candle in his hand, promising the saint everything in the world in exchange for the precious rains. The crowd followed the litters through the streets, praying along with the priests.
Adorned in his vestments, hands joined, face touched with compunction, Father Basilio led the prayers in his sonorous voice. He had been chosen for this important function not only because of his professional capacity but also because he was himself a plantation owner and therefore had a special interest, not shared by his colleagues, in divine intervention. He could be relied upon to pray with all the strength at his command.
Father Basilio's exaltation inspired transports of ecstasy in the old maids clustered around the image of Mary Magdalene. They could hardly recognize in him the indifferent priest whose Masses were breathtakingly short and who listened so inattentively to their long confessions unlike Father Cecilio, for example.
The priest's vigorous and self-interested voice rose high in ardent prayer. So did the nasal soprano of the old maids and the mixed chorus of colonels and their families, tradesmen and their employees, exporters, workers from the country come to town for the occasion, longshoremen, sailors, prostitutes, professional gamblers and assorted good-for-nothings, the boys of the catechism classes, and the girls of the Daughters of Mary. The prayer rose to the diaphanous, cloudless sky, with its pitiless sun--a murderous ball of fire set on destroying the newborn sprouts of cacao pods.
At the latest ball of the Progress Club, some ladies prominent in local society had agreed to walk barefoot in the procession, and they were now fulfilling this promise, offering the saint their elegance as a rain sacrifice. Further delay on his part was wholly inadmissible. He could see the affliction of his people, he could hear their appeals--all sorts of desperate promises in exchange for a quick miracle.
Nor did St. George remain unaffected by their prayers, the sudden and inspiring piety of the colonels, and the ladies' bruised feet. Doubtless he was touched especially by the anguish of Father Basilio. The priest was so fearful of the fate of his cacao that, between prayers, he swore to give up the sweet favors of his housekeeper Otalia for the entire month. She had borne five children-three girls and two boys, all as sturdy and promising as Father Basilio's cacao trees. She had wrapped them in cambric and lace and carried them to the baptismal font, where the priest became their godfather. He could not adopt them but, in Christian charity, he let them have his family name--Cerqueira, a fine and honorable name.
Indeed, how could St. George remain indifferent to such affliction here in his own land, the land whose destiny he had been directing, for good or ill, since early colonial days? As a token of friendship, the king of Portugal had given the region, with its savages and brazilwood trees, to one Jorge de Figueiredo Correia. This gentleman, however, preferred the pleasures of the court at Lisbon to the hardships of the wilderness. In his stead he sent his Spanish brother-in-law, who, at his suggestion, placed the region under the protection of the donee's namesake, St. George . . .Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon. Copyright © by Jorge Amado. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Posted December 23, 2007
Gabriela Clove and Cinnamon is a more than delicious and delightful novel that takes place in the Brazilian town of Ilheus in the mid 1920¿s. The plot centers on the romance between the bar owner Nacib, the Arab, and the graceful Gabriela, a mullato beauty that is willing to work as Nacib´s cook for next to nothing as she is running away from famine. This takes time and place when and where the cacao prosperity is changing every aspect of the political and social lives at Ilheus. I chose this book since I had already read Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands, also by Jorge Amado, and absolutely loved it. By no chance was I disappointed. This is just another masterpiece by the late Jorge Amado that I just could not put down until I finished and, besides, made me laugh and feel great all throughout the book. I won¿t give away the plot, but I am telling you, it is one of the finest novels by a Latin-American author that I have ever read.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 18, 2004
One of the best books I've read in a long time. Superbly written with a wonderful story and a great cast of characters. Amado shows the beauty of an old countryside and the mysticism and power of cooking.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 16, 2000
I studied for a semester in Costa Rica and was required to read this book for one of my classes (in English). It is a wonderful book, full of great insights into the Brazilian psyche and culture. And as an added bonus it is extremely humorous but in a very subtle, tongue-in-cheek way.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 29, 2008
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Posted June 10, 2010
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