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Tuesday, 7 August, 2001, 10:42 GMT 11:42 UK
Brazil's top novelist Amado dies
Jorge Amado
Amado's books mixed a love of life with sharp humour
Brazil's most famous author Jorge Amado, whose books helped shape the outside world's view of his homeland, has died aged 88.

Amado, whose works have been translated into 48 languages and sold more than 20 million copies, died of a heart attack in the north-eastern city of Salvador, the setting for many of his best-loved novels.

Works like Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands and the Violent Land made Amado a regular candidate for a Nobel prize for literature, though he never won.

Exiled for his left-wing views as a young man, he became a Brazilian icon in his later life.

The Portuguese writer Jose Saramago, who won the prize in 1998, said of Amado's death: "In Brazil I think this is a cause for national mourning ... He is no longer here, but his books are".


I continue to firmly believe in changing the world and I believe literature has a huge importance

Jorge Amado

Humour

Amado's writing mixed a love of 'o povo', the common people in his home state of Bahia, with a sometimes outrageous sense of humour.

But social concerns were never far from the surface, such as in the book Tieta, which as well as being a romantic comedy also highlighted the environmental damage being done to Brazil's north-eastern coast.

Jorge Amado was born on 10 August 1912 in the south of Bahia, the palm-fringed state that was once the hub of Brazil's trade in African slaves.

The region's geography and its mixture of races and cultures gave Amado's writing a distinctive taste.

Life at a glance
1912 Born in Itabuna, Bahia
1931 First novel, Land of Carnival
1937 Captains of the Sand published, biggest selling novel
1945 Marries writer Zelia Gattai
1952 Returns to Brazil from exile
1966 First nomination for a Nobel prize
1977 Tieta published
1983 Made member of France's Legion of Honour
His first novel, Land of Carnival, was published in 1931. But it was later books such as Cacau and Captains of the Sands which brought him to international attention.

Exile

Membership of the communist party in still reactionary Brazil forced him into exile in the 1930s and 40s, leading to spells in Paris and Prague.

Back in Brazil after 1952, Amado's work took on a softer tone, emphasising the humour and sexuality he saw as central to the Brazilian psyche.

Brazil's city of Salvador
Salvador featured in many novels
Several of his books were adapted for Brazilian TV, which because of its national reach was helping forge the country's modern identity. Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon starred the actress Sonia Braga as the epitome of Amado's fascination with women and sensuality.

Icon

Brazilians were especially proud of his international reputation. In 1983 he was made a member of France's Legion of Honour, and in 1995 he won Portugal's prestigious Camoes prize.

Among a torrent of tributes on Tuesday, Brazil's president Fernando Henrique Cardoso said: "The characters he created became as or more famous than their author. What greater glory can a writer have?"

Amado's remains are to be cremated on Tuesday and his ashes scattered in his garden in Salvador.

He is survived by his wife of 56 years, Zelia, also a writer, and by a son and daughter.

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The BBC's Tom Gibb
"A legend in his own lifetime"
See also:

27 Jul 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Brazil
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