The War of the Saints

Jorge Amado, Author, Gregory Rabassa, Translator Bantam $22.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-553-09537-1
Bahia, the author's hometown and the liveliest city in lively Brazil, is the setting for this charming, sensuous novel. Many of its citizens are adherents of candomble , a syncretic religion that mixes the Catholic saints with African deities. Dom Maximiliano von Gruden, the director of the Museum of Sacred Art, puts together a show of Bahian religious art, and its centerpiece is the famed statue of Saint Barbara of the Thunder, on loan from a church in the nearby town of Santo Amaro. As the sloop on which it is being transported docks, the statue--animated by Saint Barbara's Yoruban incarnation, Yansan--walks off the ship. For the next two days, mayhem ensues, as Dom Maximiliano, three police arms of the country's military regime and the incensed townspeople of Santo Amaro trip over themselves trying to recover the spirited statue. But Yansan has her own agenda--freeing an adept from the nunnery where she's being kept by her nasty aunt. Others also get caught up in the intrigue: an activist priest with a price on his head, the aspiring actress who's trying to seduce him, and a crew of French filmmakers in town to make a documentary about the city. Amado exploits the Brazilian penchant for mixing fact and myth by including Brazilian celebrities of the period, such as the singer Caetano Beloso and the writer Moacyr Scliar. His graceful prose is filled with the rhythms of the nervous frevos and smooth sambas . And by writing in short vignettes--flitting from one character or subject to another--he manages to make reading this novel like attending a particularly raucous Carnival celebration. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 11/01/1993
Release date: 11/01/1993
Paperback - 368 pages - 978-0-553-37440-7
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