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The Bowels of Liberty | Agony of Night
Novel, 1954 | Afterword by Daniel Aarão Reis
     The Agony of Night is the second volume in the trilogy The Bowels of Liberty. The novel follows on from Bitter Times, which describes the establishment of the Estado Novo (1937-45) and the first actions of the Getúlio Vargas dictatorship. This installment tells of the regime’s crimes and of the resistance orchestrated by the Brazilian Communist Party, all set against a backdrop of the general Brazilian political context and the international panorama of the Second World War and pervading imperialist interests.
     The plot introduces the Negro Doroteu, a docker at the port of Santos, and his partner, Inácia. It is not love alone that keeps the couple together, but also their political ideals: if they have a son, he will be named Luís Carlos, after Prestes; a tribute to the revolutionary leader imprisoned and condemned by the Estado Novo.
     Doroteu participates in a protest against the sale of Brazilian coffee to the government of the Spanish dictator, Francisco Franco. The dockers call a strike, considered a constitutional crime under the Estado Novo regime. The bourgeoisie is also present, gathered at a fancy dress ball in honour of the Labour Minister.
     The strike reverberates in other revolutionary hotbeds: the factories of São Paulo and Mato Grosso. But even within the party ranks there are corrosive forces, such as the journalist Saquila.
     Agony of Night describes the hardening of the Estado Novo and the urgent need for political combat and the fight for freedom. Now that the dictatorship has taken hold, resistance has become even more necessary. Agrarian reform and foreign interests are some of the themes that could rally the workers to the fight against the dictatorship and imperialism.

     The trilogy The Bowels of Liberty is composed by the novels Bitter Times, The Agony of Night and Light at the End of the Tunnel and constitutes a scathing criticism of the Getúlio Vargas dictatorship, the Estado Novo (1937-45), as seen from the perspective of a member of the Brazilian Communist Party. Jorge Amado had been a militant since 1932, but after Nikita Khrushchev’s denunciation of Stalin at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the writer broke with the PCB.
     A work of politically engaged literature written by an author who sought to have an impact on his historical moment, the novels in The Bowels of Liberty were also intended as instruments of struggle. In these works the author abandons the characters and settings of Bahia so central to his fiction and shifts his focus to São Paulo, the ground roots of those supporting the regime, those fighting against it and of the dominant economic powers.
     The writer details the repression against the Communist Party, the censorship, torture and detentions (Jorge Amado himself was imprisoned twice during the period), using fiction to draft a historical chronicle of that turbulent moment in Brazilian politics.
     The book was written in exile after the Communist Party was struck from the electoral register and Jorge Amado’s own parliamentary mandate was revoked in 1948, whereupon he moved to Paris, followed swiftly by his wife, Zélia Gattai, and their son, João Jorge. However, finding himself also forced out of France, the novelist moved to Prague, in the former Czechoslovakia, where he and his family were lodged at the Writers’ Castle, a one-time aristocratic residence transformed into a communist intellectual headquarters.
     It was there, in 1952, that the series The Bowels of Liberty was begun. The trilogy was completed in Rio de Janeiro in November 1953 and published in 1954. In the first five editions the trilogy was published as a single work, but from the sixth edition onwards it was issued in the current three-novel format, as originally intended by the author.
     Always self-critical, Jorge Amado recognized the works’ sectarian character some years later, saying: “There is nothing worse than this sect mentality. That kind of thought has grown stale”. But he could also see the importance of these novels to his growth toward literary maturity. “I discovered the architecture of the novel – something that stood to me later in books like Dona Flor and her Two husbands, Tereza Batista Home from the Wars, Tieta, Showdown and Tent of Miracles, novels that represent a clear re-flourishing of my work”.
     The German ship was moored at the quays, alongside the storehouse where the coffee was ready and waiting. Curious onlookers came down from the city to see what was happening at the port. Life was going on as normal, ships were being loaded and off-loaded, the only difference was the crew of stevedores scheduled to work the German tanker hadn’t turned up. Another crew was being called in to replace them.
      The morning papers had said nothing of the previous night’s meeting. All they had published was a statement from the local police saying that the union headquarters had been occupied and cordoned off on threat of disorder by extremist elements. But news of the stevedores’ decision had spread throughout the whole city nonetheless, and had even reached São Paulo, from where police reinforcements were leaving for Santos by the carload. Barros, now a chief with the department of Political and Social Order, exchanged lengthy telephone calls with the Santos police. His orders were definitive: if the stevedores hadn’t started loading the ship by nightfall, the first arrests would be made.

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