Jorge Amado is the acclaimed author of Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon, Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands, and Tereza Batista: Home from the Wars. Highly successful film and Broadway versions of Dona Flor have brought worldwide recognition to Brazil’s foremost living novelist
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Although not as fast a read as ¿Dona Flor and her Two Husbands¿ or ¿Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon¿, ¿Tent of Miracles¿ is an outstanding piece of work which relates the entire life and the posthumous celebration of the Centennial of Birth of the mulatto Pedro Archanjo, alias Ojuobá- the Eyes of the King-. Archanjo´s struggle throughout his entire life centers around racism, the wellbeing of the mix breed and the understanding of miscegenation in the Brazilian area of Bahia from the early 1900´s until the time of his death around the end of WWII. Archanjo is a womanizer, a studhorse who could have only sons, an autodidact who mastered several languages, a grand buddy and companion, a performer of voodoo ceremonies with a free laugh, a dancer, a great conversationalist and listener, a sociologist, an anthropologist, an ethnologist, and, principally, an utterly excellent reader and writer. Nevertheless, he does not put pen to paper on anything: the core of his work lies on the lives and struggles of the mestizo race and on proving, without little doubt, that the Brazilian face is a mestizo face and its culture is mestizo. He actually accomplishes to put in writing four books, rather pamphlets, namely: ¿Daily Life in Bahia¿, ¿The African Influence on the Customs of Bahia¿, ¿Notes on Miscegenation in the Families of Bahia¿ and a ¿Cookbook¿. ¿Notes on Miscegenation¿¿ was written when he was about fifty years old and proves that no single family in the area was pure white. As a matter of fact, pure or Aryan race was a thing that did not exist in Bahia or in Brazil for all that matters. These facts, which were supported with great evidence, brought about great controversies among the stiff nosed so-called whites of the region. The voodoos ceremonies were prohibited and prosecuted by the police, the intermarriages were just about forbidden or very badly considered and the mulattos, Negroes or mestizos were considered no better than animals. But what really stroke me was the real friendship that Archanjo was able to pursue with his ¿ so called- twin brother: Lidio Corro, the Miracle Painter at the Tent of Miracles. They both were in love with the same woman, Rosa de Oxalá, however, Archanjo, who could have had the woman he wanted, let go of her for Lidio´s sake. The book is also filled with myriad voodoo ceremonies, dances, faithfulness, enchantments, convictions and terminology. Definitely worth the read.
The name Jorge Amado has been largely ignored by most of the English speaking world. Even in translation(the original Portuguese survives the trip well) his books contain some of the most beautiful prose written. There is no limit to the quality of this, in my opinion, his best work. The world he creates, with all of the rich characters, has a Utopian face that hides the substance of the novel to the casual reader. The main character, Pedro Archanjo, is both a freewheeling entertaining rogue and a fierce activist against racism. The locale of Bahia is the home of this tale and the setting could not be better. After an intellectual celebrity 'discovers' the writings of Pedro Archanjo, a race is on to show who was the biggest supporter of the man who has now become a hero, posthumously. The story occurs along two lines, one is in Archanjo's lifetime and the second during the hoopla generated decades later by the professor from Columbia. Simply put, there are too many wonderful aspects of this novel to even begin to describe in a small space, hence the disjointed review. However, I recommend this novel to anyone who asks(I own a bookstore) for the reason that even with the strife that takes place in it, this book contains a world completely enviable because the people in it are far more alive than almost any we meet in life.