23.60 x 16.10 cm, 608 pp. ISBN 9788535920772 89,00
Coasting Memoir, 1992 | Afterword by Lêdo Ivo
The memoir Coasting gathers Jorge Amado’s recollections in no strict chronological order. The writer, who lived through many of the most defining moments of the 20th Century and whose personal trajectory, shared with some of the key personalities of Brazil and abroad, played such an important role in Brazilian cultural life, tells his story in this unassuming and moving narrative of times past. The book covers a timespan that ranges from the mid-Twenties, when Jorge Amado recalls the cocoa boom and the Rebel’s Academy movement (a literary group of which he was a member), up to the early 1990s, when the now veteran writer, living between Paris and Salvador, allows himself drift on the tide of his literary, political and personal remembrances. This exercise in memory finds room for observations on his own oeuvre and the television and cinema adaptations it inspired, mixed in with recollections from family life. There is no shortage of warm mention of personal friends, including Carybé, Glauber Rocha, Mirabeau Sampaio, João Ubaldo Ribeiro, Carlos Scliar, Dorival Caymmi and Stela Maris, Calasans Neto and Auta Rosa. The author remembers other writers and artists with whom he had close contact, such as Graciliano Ramos, Raul Bopp, Erico Verissimo, Osman Lins, Aldemir Martins, Flávio de Carvalho, Pierre Verger, Pablo Neruda, Pablo Picasso, Nicolás Guillén, Mario Vargas Llosa, Gabriel García-Márquez, Giuseppe Ungaretti, Jean-Paul Sartre. The ports of call are many and varied: Paris, Rome, New York, Lisbon, Moscow, Prague, Peking, Havana, Casablanca, Dakar, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and, of course, Salvador. Despite his friendship with countless illustrious personalities and the wide-ranging recognition of his work, Jorge Amado spurns all pomp and ceremony in talking about his life: “I don’t want to erect any monuments or pose for posterity mounted on the steed of glory”. Instead, the author focuses attention on the modest dimensions of his existence: a lad from the cocoa coast, a citizen of the humble state of Bahia, the poor man’s troubadour, he says his only aim with this book was to collect remembrances, some funny, others sad, as a kind of “bargain bin of mementos from a life well-lived”.
The author working on the book Coasting
Jorge Amado started writing his memoir in January 1986 whilst in New York for a Pen Club International Congress, accompanied by his wife, Zélia Gattai. Ill and suffering with pneumonia, the author did not attend any of the conference sessions, but took to jotting down some notes as things came to memory. Coasting evokes passages from Jorge Amado’s entire lifetime, except those of his childhood, previously recorded in the book The Grapiuna Boy . The pair of books betrays a pact with Pablo Neruda and Ilya Ehrenburg to never ever write a memoir. The subtitle, Notes for a Memoir I will Never Write, is an allusion to this agreement, likewise broken by Neruda and Ehrenburg, albeit posthumously. In the case of Ilya, the writer’s daughter published a series of his recollections after his death, while the Chilean poet left a memoir to posterity under the title Confieso que he vivido. Jorge Amado published his remembrances during his lifetime. When he completed the work in 1992, he was eighty years of age. The historical moment, for someone whose childhood saw the First World War and the Russian Revolution, was devastating: “A world born of two world wars and a socialist revolution is unfurling, and in the streets, a new geographical and political order is being discussed and planned; when the impossible occurs, down tumble walls, nations, empires”. Despite such radical transformations, Jorge Amado reveals no nostalgia: “I just regret that I will not live to see where all this leads. I should very much like to”. First published on the occasion of Jorge Amado’s eightieth birthday celebrations, editions of Coasting have also been released in Portugal and in translations into five languages.
As my eightieth birthday approaches, I wonder why such a brief span of time is considered a feat worthy of celebration, of being rung-in with parties and fanfare? Invitations to commemorations arrive from all over, within Brazil and abroad, an unending influx of news, projects, programmes for ceremonies, with mounting pressure to accept here, accept there, going from pillar to post, listening to speeches, giving others, thanking all present for their kind words, participating in events, seminars, forums, lunches and dinners; how many inventions are needed just to proclaim someone’s decrepitude. The generosity of friends and the affection of readers move me, but all the pomp and ceremony seems to have an air of farewell to it, a touch of obituary - may he rest in peace -, of mausoleum epigraph in gold letters on a tombstone. I say no to the speech, the medal, the fanfare, the trumpets, the solemnities, the incense, the photographs in evening attire or in short-sleeves, revealing wrinkles and dentures, I’m not one for processional bier.