Jorge Amado was born in Itabuna, Bahia, Brazil and raised in nearby Ilhéus. He died in 2001 at the age of 88.

Amado was an atheist, but I could find surprisingly little information about it on the internet, and disappointingly absolutely no quotes from the writer himself. Amado went to a Catholic boarding school in Salvador as a child,1 but it seems that the introduction in his teens to Candomblé, a polytheistic Afro-Brazilian religion, made a much stronger impact on the young man.2

Amado wrote about Candomblé frequently in his novels, introducing the world and even many Brazilians to the faith.3 And he was even named an honorary priest in 1959.4 Some articles mention that Amado was able to reconcile his atheism with Candomblé,5 and others say that he moved away from atheism in his middle age and towards the religion.6 Regardless of whether he was a lifelong atheist or not, he clearly had a deep respect for the African-based faith.

Of even more concern to Amado than how his religious beliefs are remembered was the right for all Brazilians to practice whichever faith they chose, freely and openly. After a period of intense religious persecution in the 1930s, Amado penned a bill that was incorporated in the 1946 constitution guaranteeing religious freedom in Brazil–although it was made defunct by the 1964 military dictatorship.7

From communist politician to socialist writer

When he was just 20-years-old, Amado joined the Brazilian Community Party. Four years later his involvement with the party caused him to be arrested for a short time,8 and so began many decades of arrests, exile, and persecution for his leftist political beliefs. In 1937, under the Getúlio Vargas regime, he was again arrested and thousands of his books were burned in public. He was then banned from writing for several years, and spent some of the time in exile in Argentina and Uruguay.9

By 1945 he had returned and spent some time in the Constitutional Assembly on the Communist ticket until his party was forbidden from participating formally in government, and he exiled himself to France and then Czechoslovakia.10 In 1951 he received the Stalin Peace Prize from the Soviet Union, but by 1956 he had decided to cease his political activity and focus on writing. He said,

There came a time when I had to choose active politics or being a full-time writer. Political activities were taking so much time, and there were lots of politicians but few writers.11

His political beliefs during that time also started drifting away from communism and towards what he described as “utopian socialism.”12

Amado’s novels feature a wide array of protagonists which shed light on his belief in an egalitarian society; he wrote the first Brazilian book about a black man13 and his later books featured strong and antagonistic women.14 He also shed light on topics often swept under the rug by Brazilian society including racism and religious syncretism–15 bringing the wonder of Brazilian society not only to the rest of the world, but even to Brazil itself.

  1. Life. Jorge Amado. []
  2. Life. Jorge Amado. []
  3. Jorge Amado: Brazil celebrates its master story-teller. BBC. []
  4. Contemporary Latin America: 1970 to the Present – Robert H. Holden, Rina Villars. Google Books. []
  5. Jorge Amado’s legacy lives on. Rappler. []
  6. Contemporary Latin America: 1970 to the Present – Robert H. Holden, Rina Villars. Google Books. []
  7. Jorge Amado. Google Books. []
  8. Life. Jorge Amado. []
  9. Life. Jorge Amado. []
  10. Life. Jorge Amado. []
  11. Jorge Amado Dies at 88 – Brazil’s Leading Novelist. New York Times. []
  12. Jorge Amado Dies at 88 – Brazil’s Leading Novelist. New York Times. []
  13. Jorge Amado: Brazil celebrates its master story-teller. BBC. []
  14. Life. Jorge Amado. []
  15. Jorge Amado: Brazil celebrates its master story-teller. BBC. []