“In Portuguese, “amado” means “beloved,” and in more than a score of novels, the Brazilian writer Jorge Amado made clear his eternal passion for Salvador da Bahia, the city that took him in as a teenage boarding student and became his home. Salvador, in turn, loved him back, and even now, more than six years after his death, Amado’s exuberant spirit, aesthetic and characters seem to permeate the streets of the place he described both as “the most mysterious and beautiful of the world’s cities” and “the most languid of women.
For visitors keen to experience those tropical mysteries, Amado went so far as to suggest an itinerary in his novel, “Tereza Batista: Home From the Wars.” He wanted tourists to see not just “our beaches, our churches embroidered with gold, the blue Portuguese ceramic tiles, the Baroque, the picturesque popular festivals and the fetishist ceremonies,” but also “the putridity of the slum houses on stilts and the whorehouses.”
That kind of dichotomy was typical of Amado, who, especially in his early years, tended to see everything as pairs of opposites: good and evil, black and white, sacred and profane, rich and poor. He even managed to impose that Manichean vision on the geography of Salvador, scorning Rua Chile, then the main commercial street of the upper city, and its well-to-do clientele in favor of the lower city and the port, where sailors, longshoremen, beggars, prostitutes and grifters saturated him in “the greasy black mystery of the city of Salvador da Bahia.”
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