The Double Death of Quincas Water-Bray – Jorge Amado

The news was in the air, going up on the Lacerda Elevator, travelling along on streetcars to Calcada, by bus to Feira de Santana. Lovely black Paula was breaking up in tears at her tapioca-cake stand, Water-Bray wouldn’t be coming by that afternoon to whisper his well-chosen come-ons to her, peeking into her ample breasts, propositioning her for wicked things, making her laugh.

After reading The Captains of the Sands, The Double Death of Quincas Water-Bray seemed almost a bridge from Amado’s earlier novels about Bahia, and Dona Flor and her two husbands. Evoking Bahia with his usual love and care, in the same way he did with Ilheus in his previous novel, Gabriella, Clove and Cinnamon (another one of his well known novels and one of my favourites) there is an injection of humour here, and a warm depiction of the under world of Bahia.

Amado brings Quincas back to life to celebrate his own wake. After walking out on his well to do family, declaring the women ‘vipers’, he spends the last, and happiest years of his life on the streets as a champion drunk. After his first death, his family try to restore him back to the respectable Joaquim Soares da Cunha, but after dressing him up and getting him a coffin, they leave the wake, and his old friends take him off to the sea with his love in celebration of his life.

What makes this different from Dona Flor is that while Vadinho is obviously a ghost, Quincas comes back to life, but in the descriptions, I couldn’t help but wonder if Quincas was actually only alive in the minds of his friends:

Quincas Water-Bray enjoying himself mightily, was trying to trip up the corporal and the black man. He was sticking out his tongue at passersby and tipping his head into doorways for a leer at lovers. With every step he took, he felt like lying down on the street.

The movements seemingly how a corpse would behave if being dragged along the streets by a bunch of drunken men. I’m not sure why I picked up on this and why it stayed with so much, I wasn’t sure if it worked. I wondered if Amado portrayed Quincas this way intentionally, playing with the idea, and evolved it for Dona Flor, or if I’m just way off..probably the latter.

My peculiar musings aside I enjoyed this short. Amado paints all his locations in an almost magical way, they are as much characters as the people that inhabit them and Quincas is someone who finds happiness late in his life (although to be fair, we never seem to learn exactly why he hated his family as much as he did) and lays himself to rest in the way that he wanted, an interesting idea wherever you are in the world.

Quincas didn’t reply. He was breathing in the sea air as one of his hands touched the water and raised a small wake in the waves. Everything was so peaceful as the party began: Maria Clara’s voice, the beauty of the fish stew, the breeze that had become a wind, the moon up in the sky, Quiteria’s whispering.

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