The Discovery of America by the Turks – Jorge Amado

So why not? Adama was a rough deal, hard to swallow. Facing her called for decisiveness, courage, and the stomach of a camel. Tall, slim, muscular, doltish, Adib was like a dromedary. His youth and greed made him capable of chewing straw and finding it tasty, of standing up against an aging, sour old maid, busting her cherry with delight, raising her up into a frenzy, to beautitude, to peace with life. 

Continuing my tradition of devouring the back catalogue of my favourite authors as much as possible, mostly because they seem to already have died by the time I come to them, I got The Discovery of America by the Turks by Jorge Amado, translated by Gergory Rabassa. A Brazilian take on The Taming of the Shrew, I couldn’t decide in the end how much I liked this. The foreward by probably my favourite author, Jose Saramago, complimented the book and Amado’s ability to wonderfully paint the multiple facets of Brazilian life, particularly in the north, and in this book in particular, Itabuna in Bahia. It is here that Ibrahim Jafet seeks to marry off his remaining unwed daughter to someone who will take over his Bargain Shop. The problem being that Adama is strictly religious and a crabby old maid. Ibrahim seeks the help of his friend the Lebanese Raduan Murad who tries asking Jamil, the Syrian if he would be interested in this task of Herculean effort. As Jamil comes round to the idea, Ruduan also entices the young waiter Adib into the deal to break down the cold walls of the haughty and unobtainable Adama.

While this is unmistakeably Amado, it seemed different from his other novels that I have read. I thought perhaps it was the translation, but Rabassa translated my favourite book of Amado’s, the War of the Saints, so it wasn’t that. In some aspects it seemed crude, but then again no more so than his other books, and it’s precisely that bold, full of life storytelling that I enjoy about Amado. Still I struggled to enjoy it, perhaps that’s just the way it goes, I still love Amado.

They opened and closed the doors of the establishment when it suited their fancy. Drowsy, they continued their billing and cooing behind the counter without giving proper attention to the seamstresses and housewives who, in exchange for a few small purchases – a thimble, a dozen buttons, hairpins, two yards of ribbon – demanded a little talk and consideration.


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