Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Jorge Amado's Brazilian Brillance



There's a good reason why Brazilian author Jorge Amado's books have been adapted into countless TV shows, plays and films. All of his books pop with vivid imagery, excitement and humor. And of course, because we're dealing with Brazilian culture here, heaping doses of sensuality seep through the pages. As I explained in an earlier post about Amado, he was the author most recommended to me when I was in Brazil. I devoured his most famous novel, Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon but I couldn't stop there. Once you visit Bahia, you never want to leave so I read Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands next.

The title and the cover give helpful hints about the book's tone. Yes, we're exploring a woman's relationship with her two husbands and yes it's a little kinky. Dona Flor is a classic, voluptuous beauty who turns down her shrewish mother's attempts to set her up in a profitable marriage and marries the man she loves. That would be Vadinho, a smooth, gambling, whorish, rogue who knows how to melt her reserve. Fittingly, Vadinho perishes in the middle of a carnaval procession, gussied up in the costume of a Bahian market woman. Dona flor mourns for years, until a respectful and gallant pharmacist, Dr. Teodoro Madueria, marries her and sweeps her into the rarefied life of a a society matron. Flor is content except for one thing. Teodoro is rather clinical in bed. It never occurs to her that she might find alternatives until Vadinho's ghost appears, bold and half-clothed, he's ready to alleviate her frustrations.

This 622-page novel not only paints the colorful details of 1940s Brazilian life but it unveils such witty and lively characters that you always want to be in their company. Vadinho embodies the Latin lover archetype, sexy and self-centered, with a gift for charming everybody except Flor's mother. There's Pelancchi, the gambling house don and "child of Calabria" who can't understand how Vadinho's friends suddenly rack up unheard of amounts. He worries that he has been cursed and he has, by Vadhino's antics. Dionisia is a lovely candomble priestess whom Flor falsely suspects of bearing Vadhino's child after his death. The specifics of Bahian life also leap off the page, from the spicy cuisine, to capoeira matches, to the intricate candomble(African-based religion incorporated into Brazilian culture) rituals, you get a rich sense of the culture.

Filled with magic realism and humor, Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands is a Brazilian classic that easily overcomes cultural barriers. The 1978 film starring Sonia Braga in in my Netflix queque so I will be extending my Bahia stay.

12 comments:

HereBeDragons said...

Wow! You make it sound so intriguing! I might just have to look up this novel.

Amanda said...

I've never read any Brazilian authors, but am very interested to start. Thanks for the recommendation. This book sounds muito sexy!

Jean-Luc Picard said...

This sounds a real colourful and passionate novel.

Fly Girl said...

Dragons, thanks for dropping by. It really is an exciting book.

Amanda, this book is muy sexy and interesting!

Jean-Luc, that's it exactly.

Heather on her travels said...

That sounds like a real page turner for lying on a Brazilian beach while trying to ignore all the tanned and beautiful bodies.

A Cuban In London said...

Now, let me declare an expression of interest here. Aged 14 or 15 I sneaked into the cinema to see 'Dona Flor y sus Dos Maridos', the title in Spanish. I loved it and fell in love with Sonia Braga immediately. In fact, some of my girlfriends in college (high school for you) had the same caramel colour, the same exuberant hair. It was real life copying art. But also, this is a movie that features one of my favourite Brazilian actors ever, Jose Wilker. I never read the book and now you have whetted my appetite. As for the movie, 15 or 16 times and counting.

This post brought back memories galore. And they were all positive. Many thanks.

Greetings from London.

Tiffany,Ebony Intuition said...

Thanks for the book title will check this out.

Fly Girl said...

Heather, it's a good book but not good enought to make you ignore Brazilian bodies!

Cubano, I had a feeling you had read this book since it's your type of read but I never thought about the movie. I love Sonia Braga as well and can't wait to see it.

TIffany, I highly recommend it.

jessiev said...

another book in the TBR pile - thanks!

Fly Girl said...

Jessie, I hope your pile isn't about to tip over like mine is!

Catherine said...

I have seen the film which I really enjoyed...time now for the book..

Fly Girl said...

Catherine, I can't believe how many have seen the movie and not read the book! As is usually the case, the book is very detailed and probably includes things not seen in the movie. You're in for a treat!