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Brazil > Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon. Jorge Amado

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message 1: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3610 comments Another Brazilian charmer; Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon/ Jorge Amado features a young woman who is hired to replace the cook.

message 2: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3610 comments Some introductory facts about Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon:
The novel takes place in the year 1945 in the author's hometown Ilhéus, Bahia. The Vesuvius Bar is apparently still a tourist destination on the square that tourists can visit today and can see on YouTube. During this era, the town is a great cacao exporter and is making rapid progress toward modernization. As in Amado's Dona Flor story, the Gabriela one is peopled by a lot of diverse characters who add human interest. Right away, Amado confronts the reader with two problems of the plot: one is related to business and romance, i.e., Nacib's longtime cook is moving to a different town to live with her soon-to-be-married son, leaving the owner of Bar Vesuvius, Nacib, without a cook to prepare an important dinner for thirty people; two is related to the politics of getting things done in the booming town.

message 3: by Kendall (new)

Kendall (kendallfurlong) Gabriela Cravo e Canela is Amado's best book. A more cynical view is that it is his only truly good book, most of his work sadly given to touting awkardly a naïve political agenda. The only other candidate is, of course, Dona Flor e seus Dois Maridos , also from his middle period, though a waggish view might list the latter as a precursor of today's paranormal genre. The movie version, inexplicably done in Italian, and (also inexplicably) casts Marcelo Mastroieanni as Nacib and Sônia Braga as Gabriela.

message 4: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3610 comments Kendall wrote: "Gabriela Cravo e Canela is Amado's best book. A more cynical view is that it is his only truly good book, most of his work sadly given to touting awkardly a naïve political agenda. ..."

Kendall, I also read that about Amado's middle period being a break away from politics and writing this novel. The great pleasure of "Gabriela Cravo e Canela" is his description of the people and place of Ilhéus. I'm at the point in the story where the Dos Reis sisters' Nativity Room is described: decades of recurring work combining an eclectic assortment of historical and modern, of celebrities and events of all kinds to surround the holy figures. Stranger still is that more than a quarter of the novel has passed and it's still the same day. And, there are so many surprising events happening to keep the townsfolk gossiping and opining as part of the story. When these many events occur--a ship on the sandbar, a murder by a jealous husband, no appetizers at the Vesuvius Bar, etc--with all the different groups discussing them, all is happening on busy market day and bringing even more business into Nacib's establishment. From Wikipedia "Jorge Amado":
On his return to Brazil in 1955, Amado abandoned active political life, leaving the Communist Party one year later. From that period on he dedicated himself solely to literature. His second creative phase began in 1958 with Gabriela, Cravo e Canela, which was described by Jean-Paul Sartre as "the best example of a folk novel". Amado abandoned, in part, the realism and the social themes of his early works, producing a series of novels focusing mainly on feminine characters, devoted to a kind of smiling celebration of the traditions and the beauties of Bahia. His depiction of the sexual customs of his land was scandalous to much of 1950s Brazilian society and for several years Amado could not even enter Ilhéus, where the novel was set, due to threats received for the alleged offense to the morality of the city's women.
I can see from reading "Gabriela..." how the Ilhéans might have reacted as custom changes slowly.

message 5: by Kendall (new)

Kendall (kendallfurlong) Gabriela Cravo e Canela really is a great book, I read it first in English, then again in Portuguese after I'd learned the language and had lived in a small town in Brazil which, like Ilhéus, was both fascinated and repelled by modernization. What struck me most though was his lyricism in English and many times over in the original. It just sings. I went on to read in Portuguese most of his early books and was deeply disappointed. Always lyrical, they carry you along pleasurably, but the plots and underlying stories are quite naïve and have not worn well.

message 6: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3610 comments Kendall wrote: "Gabriela Cravo e Canela really is a great book, I read it first in English, then again in Portuguese after I'd learned the language and had lived in a small town in Brazil which, li..."

Kendall, living where a language is spoken, written, and read is an ideal way to become fluent in it and to enjoy its original literature. I sometimes hear from others also that a book in its primary language is more authentic than its translations. Speaking for myself, I am very happy that someone did translate the entertaining story that also gives a true idea about the life and times in that particular Brazilian setting. You mention reading some of Amado's early books in Portuguese. Wikipedia says that Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands, Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon, Tieta, and Captains of the Sands are his Notable Works. Did you read "Captains..." perchance?

message 7: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3610 comments Whew! it's been a very long day from sunrise to after 1 a.m. in Nacib's life, but he does find a cook/housekeeper among the migrants driven from the severe drought of the arid backlands who have made an arduous but hope-inspired journey to the booming coastal, cacao town of Ilhéus. Nacib and his bar Vesuvius are a focal point, bringing together inside for drinks and appetizers the cacao planters, the businessmen, the theater people, and the politicos and outside for conversations the townsfolk and the passersby. Nacib himself is careful never to take sides:
A bar owner must never get involved in politics. More dangerous even than getting involved with a married woman.
After a late evening wake and a cabaret, Nacib goes home. Now the story begins day 2--he's found a young woman who can cook well, gotten some clues about clandestine conversations among his customers, and decided inwardly that some of society's customs are unfair.

message 8: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3610 comments Day 2 has an event that stirs up the town: a newspaper article about the importance of dredging the harbor to permit direct exporting of cacao. It is also obvious to Nacib and others' taste buds and to their appreciation of beauty that Gabriela cooks exquisitely and that her appearances in the Vesuvius cause customers to linger for another drink and cause to Nacib's business to prosper.

Because of the controversial newspaper article, Nacib is very worried that something disastrous might happen at the evening's banquet, but the banquet's dinner, speeches, and toasts go well. Nacib also wonders why some otherwise respectable people behave cowardly while some others stand up for their convictions. The author Amado is writing a satire about how many townspeople are enslaved to custom and about how these customs particularly limit women's lives. The story would be dark were it not for the difficult but successful attempt by connected, wealthy, commanding progressives and by rare, morally upright characters to do the right thing.

message 9: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3610 comments We're out of Day 2 and sometime later: It's all about cacao behind the scenes, which replaced the original sugar economy and which is the setting for romance and politics in Ilhéus. The novel is driven by change and by the conflict produced by it. Attachments to romantic and political agendas drive the plot and unsettle the customary way of doing things in the town.

A note about the title "Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon: The words at first imply cooking, and she is a cook beyond compare in the novel. Pages 211-212 mention twice that Gabriela is--the color of cinnamon and has the fragrance of cloves. So, the Clove and Cinnamon in the title refer to Gabriela's person. But, I also like both--the spices she uses and the spices describing herself.

Also, Amado the author writes optimistically, so that progress, good, and humanity come from the conflict between old and new ways. But then, the new will become the old in time, a point that characters acknowledge.

message 10: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3610 comments Nacib feels jealous and fear, fearful that he will lose Gabirela to a suitor, who can give her land, house, etc:
...if she leaves me, I'll go crazy.
The statement foreshadows an event coming in the plot. Yet, to solve the problem by marrying her he considers craziness and unheard of. Instead, he brings Gabriela a bird in a cage, an action of how he wants to treat Gabriela, by keeping her away from contact with suitors.

Meanwhile, a planter Colonel Altino pays a visit to Colonel Bastos, who runs Ilhéus, to warn him that times are changing in the town and that he needs to compromise rather than to obstruct Mundinho, a progressive with influence in Rio, who fulfills needs in return for support rather than giving orders and serving higher-ups in Brazil.

Besides the romance and the politics, a theme Amado develops is feminism--women should have options and independence. He tells what is happening with Malvina, who wants to go to one of the
big cities where she could earn her own living and her freedom.
She wants to be somebody with a will rather than give in to others:
Malvina saw clearly the mistake she had made in thinking that the only way to get away was on the arm of a man, whether husband or lover...Why not leave on her own two feet, alone.
A difference between Malvina and Josués, a teacher and suitor publishing poetry inspired by Malvina, is the freedom to do what he likes unless he crosses paths with the planters.

Change is coming to Ilhéus--the old will give way to the new in ways things are done. Then, the new will become the old and be changed.

message 11: by Betty (last edited Dec 14, 2011 12:31AM) (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3610 comments An argument breaks out between Nacib and Gabriela about whether to attend the high-society lecture of a bard or the raucous circus performance of a friend.

The plot continues with the rivalry between the entrenched, pro-government politicos and the progressive opposition who are reforming traditional allegiances and contemning strong-arm tactics to bring about positive change in the interest of Ilhéans. Unbeknownst to Nacib, so far, is that Gabriela inadvertently becomes a messenger for an escaped assassin.

message 12: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3610 comments The upcoming election pits the pro-government against the opposition, one of several themes running through this novel. Another theme is Nacib's difficulty in changing Gabriela's free-spiritedness. She refuses to adopt high-society airs, those behaviors dictating dress and behavior, which the bar owner Nacib insists are expected of a woman married to a man in his social position. [Remember that at this time woman cannot vote and cannot have extramarital affairs, while men can do both.] Nacib tries to change Gabiela's fun-loving, frolicking, laughing ways and her doing laundry, cooking, and housecleaning so other people will think she's a somebody rather than a nobody. His intentions backfire--his criticism making her passive, unhappy, and deceptive and her detesting marriage. Nacib explains,'s for your own good that I pick on you. I want you to make a good impression on people..."
Without giving away surprising turns in the plot, something happens to symbolize Nacib as instep with civilized changes coming to Ilhéus.

A surprising scene to portray Gabriela's character is the The Three Kings' pageant, one of several elaborate Christmas festivities. Watching the costumed parade and dancing, Gabriela's actions gets the better of Nacib's criticism. Another even more surprising scene is how and what Nacib learns about Gabriela when a shocking rumor proves true.

message 13: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3610 comments I chuckled when reading some characters' statements in the story:
Don't kill me, Nacib! I came here just to give her some good advice.
Tonico Bastos discovered in a liaison with Gabriela before he fled, jumping into his pants, and hurdling a neighbor's fence.

...he's very rich; he doesn't have to stay in politics.
A conversation to come up with an electoral candidate.
An interesting part was talk about the Bahian cuisine, noted for seafood and fish stew. Food enters the conversation because Nacib and Mundinho are opening a restaurant, but various cooks prove that Gabriela cooks the most flavorful local dishes.

While the beginning and middle depicts the Ilhéan characters working for what they think is required of them by friendship and by social manners, the ending shows them more accepting of their and others true nature. The town, too, is doing community improvement projects from dredging the sea channel to building an asylum for old people and a trade school.

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