For a glimpse into Brazilian culture from a literary perspective, you can’t go wrong with reading the works of Brazil’s best-selling author, Jorge Amado. He published 32 books that were translated into 48 languages and is best known for his three novels, Captain of the Sands, Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands, and Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon. Born in Bahia in 1912, his works were greatly influenced by the contrasting rich and poor divisions of society that he grew up with. Here are 12 of Amado’s best books.
Captain of the Sands
Capturing the colorful culture of Bahia through vivid descriptions, the book is about a group of young runaways and orphans who coin their gang ‘Captains of the Sand’ and survive through daring acts of stealing, begging and gambling against Salvador’s elite. However, before long, the residents grow tired of their criminal ways and put pressure on the authorities to capture them, putting the future of these 100 or more children in jeopardy.
Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon
One of Amado’s most popular books for its intriguing and exotic storyline, the book tells of a conflict in a town in Bahia when a colonel kills his wife and her lover when he catches them in bed together. Much to the surprise of the residents, it’s a migrant worker that looks set to be the catalyst of change yet first, the worker falls for Gabriela, a beautiful, charming local that is also a great cook and the girl he wants to marry.
Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands
An evocative, comical account set in Bahia that tells the story of Dona Flor who throws herself into her cooking school after her gambling husband, Vadinho, dies during Carnival. Her friends, concerned that she will remain single and lonely, encourage her to meet someone else and remarry. Soon she meets a friendly pharmacist, the opposite character of her late husband, and before long she marries him. Yet Dona Flor never truly forgets Vadinho and his memory becomes real when he shows up one night filled with lust at the side of her bed.
The Double Death of Quincas Water-Bray
A dark yet witty story, this absorbing novel is about Joaquim Soares da Cunha, a model citizen who, after retirement, gets up and leaves everything behind and becomes Quincas, a gambler and a drunk. His death soon after is just the beginning as he returns not as Joaquim but as Quincas who still lives a vibrant life, despite being dead.
The War of the Saints
To get a feel for the vibrant atmosphere of Carnival in Bahia, The War of the Saints is an ideal read as it paints a vivid picture of this universally known event. The story centers on Saint Barbara, a holy icon that comes to life when arriving at the dock in a city in Bahia. As she touches the city with her magic and helps a young love-stricken girl who is locked up by her aunt, the residents’ lives in this Bahian town begin to change.
The Discovery of America by the Turks
Like many of Amado’s books, the story contains references to lust and sexual desire yet without being overly explicit. The story intertwines the arrival of two Turks in Bahia with the tall of Adma, a girl whose parents try marrying her off as she is considered physically unattractive and moody. There are plenty of descriptions of visits to local brothels where the men can satisfy their desires.
The Violent Land
The tale weaves concepts of greed, murder and lust as two families fight over securing more land in the northeast of Brazil to build cocoa plantations. The land is won through violence and trickery, aided by the use of gunmen, and before long, workers face terrible conditions there as they try to make quick and easy money. The story is peppered with colorful descriptions of corruption, prostitution and political conflicts, creating an absorbing read that vividly paints the landscapes of Bahia.
Tent of Miracles
Tent of Miracles is filled with rich descriptions of Brazilian culture, vivid imagery of Bahia and accurate accounts of real-life prejudices against black Brazilians. The story is based on the main characters Pedra Archanjo that starts with his birth and leads the reader to when he ages and becomes a novelist. One of the fascinating themes in the book is the accounts of macumba, a religion in Brazil that has strong African roots.
The main character is Tieta, a wealthy woman who locals believe is the widow of a distinguished businessman when in fact her fortune was made as the owner of a brothel in Sao Paulo. She returns to Bahia – beautifully described as a picturesque paradise – and starts to campaign against the construction of a titanium dioxide factory near the city.
Tereza Batista: Home from the Wars
The story focuses on the main character, Tereza, who has a complex life including being sold as a slave by her aunt, being jailed for defending her deceitful lover, and a beautiful girl who captures the imaginations and hearts of several men. She can samba and leaves admiration and lustful desire in the people she encounters.
Sea of Death
One of Amado’s earlier novels, Sea of Death is set in the docks of Bahia and tells the stories of the sailors that work there and their day-to-day lives including love, lust and struggles for survival. There are also references to the goddess of Iemanja, a water deity from the Candomblé religion, a set of beliefs that are common in Salvador and other parts of Bahia.
Home is the Sailor
Set in Periperi, a small coastal town in the northeast of Brazil, Home is the Sailor tells the tale of Captain Vasco Moscoso de Arago, a recently retired sailor who arrives at the town and enchants people with his stories of daring sailor antics and passionate romances. However, a rival researches his past and discovers he never had the experiences that he claimed to have had. Yet just as his rival is about to unveil the truth, Vasco is called to sail a ship after its prior captain is dead, offering Vasco the chance to make his stories come true.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.