Cover image for The war of the saints
The war of the saints
Amado, Jorge, 1912-2001.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Sumiço da santa. English
Publication Information:
New York : Bantam Books, 1993.
Physical Description:
357 pages ; 24 cm
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X Adult Fiction Central Library

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Author Notes

Jorge Amado, August 10, 1912 - August 6, 2001 Elected to the Brazilian Academy of Letters, Jorge Amado possesses a talent for storytelling as well as a deep concern for social and economic justice. He was born in Bahia, Brazil, in 1912.

Some critics claim that his early works suffer from his politics. Others commonly express reservations concerning Amado's sentimentality and erotico-mythic stereotyping. In the works represented in English translation, his literary merits prevail. The Violent Land (1942) chronicles the development of Brazilian territory and struggles for its resources, memorializing the deeds of those who built the country. Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon (1958), which achieved critical and popular success in both Brazil and the United States, tells a sensual love story of a Syrian bar owner and his beautiful cook. Home Is the Sailor (1962) introduces Captain Vasco Moscoso de Aragao, a comic figure in the tradition of Don Quixote. In Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands (1966), Amado introduced the folk culture of shamans and Yorube gods. The protagonists of Shepherds of the Night (1964) are Bahia's poor.

(Bowker Author Biography) Jorge Amado has been called the greatest twentieth-century Brazilian novelist. He was born in 1912 in Ilheus, in the northeastern-most state of Bahai. This area serves as the backdrop for most of Amado's work, which reflects a deep appreciation of the Brazilian essence. Amado's works have made him a national figure in Brazil.

Amado's early novels were shaped by a belief in Marxism, and relate the sufferings of humble fishermen and cocoa plantation workers. By the 1950s, he had turned his attention to the plight of middle-class Bahains. This more jovial approach brought him worldwide acclaim, and his keen comic sense and appreciation of the common man have drawn comparisons to the novels of Charles Dickens. Music, cuisine, and passion figure prominently in Amado's literary output.

Amado's works have been translated from Portuguese into more than forty languages, have sold over fifty million copies worldwide, and have been reworked for film, television, and stage. His portraits of commanding female characters, including Gabriela from Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon, and Dona Flor from Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands, have been adapted to the screen, and actress Sonia Braga earned her initial success in these roles. Other titles include The Sand Captains; Memory of a Child; The War of the Saints; and Home Is the Sailor.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

You want magic realism? You've got it in the widely loved Brazilian novelist's latest extravaganza. The mythlike premise is this: From its resting place on the altar of the provincial church of Santo Amaro da Purifica{{‡}}cao, a statue of Saint Barbara of the Thunder is transported to the state capital for inclusion in an important religious art exhibit. The problem is that Saint Babs decides to come to life when she hits town, {{...}}a la Pygmalion, to participate in secular life. And the secular life she comes to participate in is the raucous, sensuous, mad-with-lust-and-heat kind of life Amado traditionally brings to animation in his delightfully yarny, tall-tale narratives about his native Brazilian state of Bahia. Saint Barbara slips off into the night, and her absence, of course, is interpreted by police and church officials as a theft; what these two organizations do as a consequence, and what Saint Barbara does in her new capacity as a non-icon (her activities center on the teenager Manela and her love for the cabdriver Miro), result in a riotous tapestry of Brazilian life as seen through Amado's kaleidoscopic vision. Never guilty of brevity, he follows every side road that presents itself. Readers may find the circuitous path slow going, but they'll be rewarded by the splendid local color. Amado is a popular writer in the U.S., and librarians should expect his latest novel to be requested and returned with a smile. (Reviewed Sept. 15, 1993)0553095374Brad Hooper

Publisher's Weekly Review

This charming, carnivalesque novel tells of a religious statue that comes to life in the Brazillian city of Bahia. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

An exploration of attraction, love, marriage, and relationships, this skillful blend of the concrete and the mystical results in an unexpected novel. Manela lives with her Aunt Adalgisa and her Uncle Danilo. Adalgisa, a beautiful but repressed middle-aged woman, keeps her niece on a short tether. She is a stern taskmaster who believes in employing the rod. As Manela becomes an attractive young woman, Adalgisa uses cruel tactics to keep her under wraps and sheltered from the opposite sex. She locks her in her room, berates her loudly and endlessly, and beats her mercilessly. Finally, Adalgisa imprisons Manela in a convent, where she stays until she is rescued by St. Barbara of the Thunder. Though a glossary of Portuguese terms is (thankfully) included, the work is rife with grammatical and spelling errors that interfere with the enjoyment of reading. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 8/93.-- Peggy Partello, Keene State Coll., N.H. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter One The Crossing Casting Off That day, though the hour was surprisingly late, the Sailor Without a Port was only just entering the far side of the Bay of All Saints, from upriver, under full sail-the sea, a blue mantle, the lover told his beloved. And strangely enough, in the wake of the wind, Maria Clara's voice was not to be heard trailing off in the throes of a love song. If it happened that way it was simply because, in addition to the customary cargo of aromatic pineapples, cashews, and mangos, at Santo Amaro da Purificação the sloop had undertaken the responsibility-the mission, we should say-of transporting to the state capital a statue of Saint Barbara of the Thunder, famed for her eternal beauty and miraculous powers. Despite the evident displeasure of the vicar, the parish had agreed to loan the statue, to be displayed at a highly touted religious art exhibit that was being celebrated in prose and verse in the press and among intellectuals: "The cultural event of the year," as the newspapers proclaimed. In order to carry out this sacred commission, the sloop's captain, Master Manuel, had had to put off his habitual morning departure, delaying almost twelve hours, but he did it willingly: It would be worth the trouble, and besides, Dona Canô never requested favors, she gave orders. The vicar felt less upset when he learned that a priest and a nun were also going along; he was young and modern, hair in disarray, wearing civilian clothes, while she was on in years, thin, pale, in a black habit. Divine providence, which never fails, had sent them to accompany the saint. "Look after her during the crossing. Pay particular attention at the mouth of the river-the currents are tricky there, and the wind blows hard. God go with you." Aided by the vicar, the sexton, and Dona Canô, amidst the prayers and applause of a fidgety gathering of church biddies, the priest and the nun proceeded with the embarkation ceremony. During the slippery descent, however, they preferred to entrust the litter that bore the figure on its pilgrimage into the seafaring hands of Master Manuel and his wife Maria Clara, who deposited it with reverential care in the stern of the sloop. There, standing erect, the majestic effigy of the Catholic saint looked like a ship's figurehead, a votive carving for the bow, a pagan and protective entity. The Nun and the Priest As the late afternoon breeze filled its proud sails, the sloop sped along with the saint. At the helm, Master Manuel smiled at the reverend father and the good sister: Don't be afraid, Saint Barbara's in no danger. Sitting alongside the litter, Maria Clara saw to the stability of the saint, prevented the lurching of the sloop from upsetting its balance. "Don't you worry," she had added to reassure them, while she examined and praised the extravagance of the lining of the litter, made with all the refinements of brocade and ribbon, trimming and lace fashioned for the occasion by the devout ladies of the sisterhood of Our Lady of the Good Death in the neighboring town of Cachoeira, pious old women, first-rate artists. Oh, if it had been up to them, the saint would have traveled all covered with gold and silver, old gold, sterling silver, but the director of the museum had peremptorily turned them down. He'd even refused the sisterhood's reliquary-nasty man! They had been trustworthy vows, those of the captain and his wife, yet the old nun, huddled in her worn and severe habit, trembled for the safety of the figure throughout the long voyage, because of the river currents or the rough seas of the gulf. But she didn't say a word, didn't let her concern show; only prayed, reciting over and over the beads of her rosary, until the breeze that fluttered about the carving came to comfort her bony hands. For her the trip was long and worrisome; she breathed easily only when the sloop headed in toward the market ramp. All had gone well, God be praised! she thought. The saint and her sack of thunder and lightning would soon be in the Museum of Sacred Art, where the director, a German monk with several advanced degrees, a scholar three times over, a renowned author, in his impeccable white cassock, awaited her impatiently. He'd developed a breathtakingly daring thesis concerning the origin and the artist of this famed piece of religious sculpture. Only then, delivered from her prison of fear, would Sister Maria Eunice close her eyes, let out a sigh of relief, and succumb at last to the soft enveloping breeze. The priest, for his part, didn't look like a priest-how could anyone recognize him as a father when he was wearing blue jeans and a flowered shirt open to the wind, with no tonsure shaved into the center of his flowing hair? He was a good-looking fellow who drew women's stares. The habit doesn't make the monk, teaches a wise proverb that dates back quite a bit, to a time before such changes in costume and custom were common. In spite of the apparent disorder in his clothes and hair, his lack of cassock and tonsure, this was no hippie on his way to the peace and love colony in Arembepe, but an ordained priest, sincere in his vocation and his apostolate, devoted to his mission. In the distant parish that was his charge, the faithful were God's unfortunates, slaves of the rich, humbled by the age-old law of violence. For him the trip had seemed longer, endless even, because he'd been living amid impunity and injustice and had every reason to believe he was being summoned to the capital for something besides praise or encouragement. He'd heard of provocations and threats, he'd read items in the papers denouncing and condemning the subversive activity of certain priests. His name, Father Abelardo Galvão, had appeared in the press, in twisted stories that turned facts upside down, invented things, slung mud, vilified him. That was all infamy and villainy, the priest pondered to himself. In truth, all he knew about Patrícia was the crystal tone of her voice, the enigma of her smile, the coquetry of her look. With these venomous insinuations, the bastards were trying to hide the corpses that lay rotting in the mangrove swamps among the guaiamu crabs. The priest was traveling with three dead men on his mind. He knew who had ordered them killed, everybody knew. It did no good to know, however; the ones who give orders to gunmen sail on, unsullied and inaccessible, beyond good and evil. The land has its owners, only a few, and they can be counted on the fingers of both hands-only a few, but they are implacable. Some Modest Information Concerning Bahia In spite of the fact that Maria Clara's soft voice, recalling oaths of love, joys, and sorrows, couldn't be heard, as she sat beside the figure of the saint she was actually humming little popular tunes, a special offering owed to saints and the enchanted. Her melodies didn't carry to the nun or the priest but summoned green swarms of water hyacinths that encircled the stout hull of the sloop. On their fleshy stems the newly opened blue flowers bowed, greeting Saint Barbara of the Thunder. The Paraguaçu River has the smell of tobacco and tastes like sugar; the vessel sailed between cane brakes and tobacco fields. In the seas of the gulf, schools of fish greeted the sloop. A cortège of octopuses, rays, and skates accompanied its wake. The sun spread gold over the sky of the Bay of All Saints. It is well known that the Bay of All Saints is the doorway to the world. Immeasurable, all other inlets in Brazil can fit into it, with space left over for the estuaries of Galicia and all the fleets in the universe. As for its beauty, there's no possible comparison, nor does the writer exist who is capable of describing it. A flock of islands, each more delightful and dazzling than the one before, grazes on this sea of dreams, shepherded by the largest island, Itaparica, settled by Portuguese and Dutch soldiers, Indian tribes, and African nations. In the depths of the waters, in the realm of Aioká, lie the hulks of caravels armed for war, Portuguese noblemen, Batavian admirals, colonists and invaders expelled by dauntless Brazilian patriots. Itaparica is the mother of the new nation, the soil of freedom during the battles for independence commemorated every January. Prudence ordains us not to speak of the glories of the Bay of All Saints-it's best to remain silent so as to avoid resentment and jealousy; its fame is already in the mouths of seafaring men, in the songs of troubadours, in the letters and reports of navigators. We won't give in here to voicing the glories of the bay, nor will we sing praises in its name. Modesty is the perquisite of true greatness. In the bosom of the gulf, in the breezes of the peninsula, set on the hill, rises the City of Bahia, its full name, Cidade do Salvador da Bahia de Todosos Santos, exalted by Greeks and Trojans, celebrated in prose and verse, capital of all Africa, situated in the east of the world, on the sea lane to the Indies and China, on the meridian of the Caribbean, fat with gold and silver, perfumed with pepper and rosemary, copper-colored, flower of mulattery, port of mystery, beacon of enlightenment. Much more could be said concerning this City of Bahia were it not for our modesty and prudence. Now, toward its docks, bearing their tales and humming their songs, heads the Sailor Without a Port, Master Manuel at the helm, his wife Maria Clara watching over the litter. As passengers it carries a priest and a nun and the image of Saint Barbara of the Thunder, who is leaving her simple altar in the main church of Santo Amaro da Purificação to take part in the religious art exhibit in the capital. Muted, Maria Clara's voice is in the diving of the fish, the flight of the sea swallows. The Musician on the Drum That afternoon, up on the market ramp, sitting on an empty kerosene barrel, a well-dressed black man wearing a white suit, bowtie, and two-tone shoes that shone with the glow of their polish was playing solos on the berimbau for a small audience of fruit vendors, idle urchins, and a pair of lovers. There was no group of capoeira foot-fighters to accompany him; the black man was playing for the simple pleasure of playing, the sound coming out of the remote past, from the depths of slave quarters, telling of the horrors of captivity. Looking out in the direction of the sea fort, surprised, the musician recognized the outline of the Sailor Without a Port sailing along with the first shadows of dusk, instead of at the fringes of dawn, as it usually did, when it would carry the morning star atop its mast and Maria Clara's voice would awaken the sun: The handsome sailor Carried off by the mermaid . . . How sweet to die in the sea, In the dark green waves of the sea . . . Dusk and dawn are equally good times to come and to go. Life is made up of the unexpected--isn't that what gives it its charm? The black man stopped playing, sharpened his ear, and heard the horn announcing the end of the crossing. Where had Maria Clara's voice been lost? Why couldn't the sailors' favorite melody be heard? I'll give you a comb for your hair The sky and sea I give you are fair . . . With the majestic sound of the conch-horn, a triumphant cry echoed across the bay. What good news was the captain announcing to the city and its people? An intoxicating aroma of fruit enveloped the dock, the perfume of ripe jackfruit. In the softness of late afternoon, in the opulence of the sunset, the sea and its fish delivered the sloop with the precious litter and the beauteous statue to its port of call, the vessel touching the cement of the market ramp. Maria Clara stood up, went to furl the sails while Master Manuel dropped the rope with the stone that served as an anchor. The Sailor Without a Port came to halt as the sun was exploding in the sky, in the evening sky of Bahia, in all the nuances of red, from rose to scarlet. The Landing Father Abelardo helped the nun to her feet. The two took deep breaths of relief, each disembarking in his and her particular haste. They had watched over the saint during the crossing and were no longer needed since, close to the ramp, the museum van could be seen parked and waiting to pick it up. To receive the precious image the director had chosen Edimilson Vaz, a young and talented ethnologist and his trusted assistant. The director himself had been unable to go; at that precise moment he was hosting a well-attended press conference for both the print and broadcast media, to give them the details of the great exhibit, whose grand opening was scheduled for two days hence, on Friday evening. Attending the press conference were journalists from Bahia, correspondents from important newspapers from the south of the country, and crowning all, a representative from a chain of Portuguese newspapers, a certain Fernando Assis Pacheco. Even as the sloop was anchoring at the market ramp, the director had already begun to discourse on the antique carving of Saint Barbara of the Thunder. Why thunder, why did she have a knapsack full of lightning bolts where a castle and a palm tree should have been? he asked rhetorically. She was a capital work of the imagination that in just a few minutes would be lighting up this room, dazzling all you journalists! Speaking of thunder and lightning, dates and places, saint-makers and sculptors, there is some disagreement among musicologists, historians, and art critics, some pro, some con, yet all are extremely competent and the director even more so, his impeccable white cassock, his seraphic look making him seem roguish, even devilish, at times. Before Master Manuel and Maria Clara had finished mooring the sloop and managed to lift out the saint, the saint herself got down from her litter, took a step forward, smoothed the folds of her cape, and walked off. With a sway of her hips, Saint Barbara of the Thunder slipped between Master Manuel and Maria Clara and gave them a smile of complicity and affection. The êbômin then held her hands open before her breasts in a ritual gesture and said: "Eparrei, Oyá!" When she passed by the priest and the nun, she waved politely to the nun and winked at the priest. Off went Saint Barbara of the Thunder, along the market ramp, heading toward the Lacerda Elevator. She was in a hurry because night was coming on and the time for the padê had already passed. The well-dressed black man bowed at the sight of her, touched the ground with his fingers, then lifted them to his forehead and repeated: "Eparrei!" The black man was Camafeu de Oxóssi, an obá of Xangô, a vendor in the market, a soloist on the berimbau, former president of the Children of Gandhi Afoxé, and not even he himself knew whether he had just happened to be present, or whether he had been allowed to witness this event through the work and grace of the enchanted ones. Before the lights came on in their lampposts, Saint Barbara Yansan had disappeared into the midst of her people. Excerpted from The War of the Saints by Jorge Amado All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.