21.00 x 14.00 cm, 488 pp. ISBN 9788535911701 53,00
Dona Flor and her Two Husbands Novel, 1966 | Afterword by Roberto DaMatta
One Carnival Sunday, Vadinho stopped sambaing and dropped down dead. A bohemian life had reached its end: rum, gambling and nightly binges had ruined the young rogue. Dona Flor, dressed in the garb of the traditional Baiana, cradled her husband’s corpse and sobbed. For seven years of marriage she had suffered Vadinho’s shenanigans, but loved him nonetheless. Widowed, Florípedes Guimarães devotes herself to cooking classes at the school of Flavour and Art. A year after Vadinho’s death, however, the body’s desires burn through the soul’s reclusion. The chemist Teodoro Madureira emerges as a suitor. After courtship and chaste engagement, they finally marry. Ceremonious and balanced, the second husband is the very opposite of the first, as Dr. Teodoro lives only for pharmacy and his bassoon rehearsals. Flor is happy with him, but there is an emptiness she cannot define. One night, a year into her marriage, Dona Flor is stunned to find Vadinho lying naked on the bed, smirking and beckoning to her. The scoundrel’s ghost moves in with the couple. In the best style of the comedy of manners, Dona Flor and her Two Husbands describes the night-life of Salvador, with its casinos and cabarets, the typical food of Bahia, the voodoo rites of candomblé and the mingling between politicians, doctors, poets, prostitutes and scoundrels. One of the author’s best-known female characters, Dona Flor embodies some very Brazilian contradictions. Divided between the faithful and sensible Teodoro and the extravagant and voluptuous Vadinho, she opts for the best of both worlds. This story paints an inventive and good-humoured portrait of the ambiguities that characterize Brazil, a nation caught between commitment and pleasure, joy and serenity, work and roguery.
Jorge Amado used to say that in writing Dona Flor and her Two Husbands he had based himself on a story he heard some years earlier about a widow who remarries but can’t stop dreaming about her deceased first husband. As a model for Vadinho, the author recalled a friend from his youth who spent his life “losing money and accumulating women”. In addition to this material from memory, the plot is also interspersed with literary cameos by real-life figures such as Dorival Cayammi, Pierre Verger, master Didi, Sílvio Caldas and Carybé. Written in Salvador in the second half of 1965, the book was released the following year to great acclaim. After Gabriela, Dona Flor was the author’s second striking female character. The initial print-run of 75 thousand copies sold out rapidly. One of the author’s biggest hits, the novel has passed the fifty-editions mark and has been published in over twenty countries. Such popularity comes down to the singularity of the story and the humour of the plot, but also to its particular vision of Brazilian society. For the anthropologist Roberto DaMatta, in Dona Flor and her Two Husbands “Jorge Amado turns ambiguity, the love triangle and the female perspective into values, where they no longer represent the negative pole of the social order or the human condition”. When the director Bruno Barreto adapted the novel for film in 1976, the success transferred to the silver screen, setting the all-time box office record in Brazilian cinema, with over 10 million viewers.
Dona Flor sat down on the edge of the bed, and Vadinho stretched himself out at his ease, spreading his legs a little, showing everything, those forbidden (and beautiful) indecencies. Dona Flor was moved by every detail of that body; she had not seen it for almost three years, and it was as though time had stood still. “You are exactly the same. You haven’t changed the least bit. I have put on weight.” “Oh, you’re so beautiful, you can’t imagine. You’re like; onion, firm and juicy, so good to bite into. That scoundrel of a Vivaldo knows what he is doing. He doesn’t take his eyes off your backside, that dirty dog...” “Take your hand away from there, Vadinho, and stop lying, Mr. Vivaldo never looks at me — he has always been respectful. Come on, take away your hand.” “Why, sugar? Why take away my hand?” “Have you forgotten, Vadinho, that I am a decent married woman? The only one who can lay a hand on me is my husband...” Vadinho winked a dissolute eye: “And what am I, sugar? I am your husband.