pt | en
Graphic design
Kiko Farkas / Máquina Estúdio e Elisa Cardoso/ Máquina Estúdio
Cover image
Marcel Gautherot
21.00 x 14.00 cm, 296 pp.
ISBN 9788535911695
Captains of the Sands
Novel, 1937 | Afterword by Milton Hatoum
     In this raw and moving tale, Jorge Amado tells the story of a group of poor boys living in an abandoned warehouse on the waterfront in Salvador. The Captains of the Sands are all between nine and sixteen years of age and scrape by on cons and petty theft, terrorizing the Bahia capital in the process.
     From the brave and scar-faced leader Pedro Bala (Bullet) to the pious Pirulito (Lolly-pop), who prays every night for the purging of his sins; from the sensible Professor (Teacher), the only fully literate member of the group, to the seducer Gato (The Cat), a trainee pimp, each has his own personality, worldview and modest set of dreams.
     The gang’s notoriousness spreads throughout the city, drawing down the ire of the press, the police, the juvenile courts and “distinguished families”. But there is also help out there: Father José Pedro, the saint-mother Don’Aninha, the docker João de Adão (John Adam) and capoeira dancer Queirdo-de-Deus (God Beloved).
     The boys grow up and go their separate ways: a sailor, an artist, a friar, a gigolo, a highway bandit. The leader Pedro Bala takes it upon himself to fight to change the fate of the most abject poor.
     Though influenced by the author’s communist militancy at the time it was written, Captains of the Sands transcends its immediate political persuasion. Caught between the innocence of childhood and the raw adult world, the boys have to negotiate a daily reality at once free and vulnerable, revealing a groundlessness and fragility that in many ways still ring true today.
     Jorge Amado finished writing Captains of the Sands aboard a ship heading for Mexico as part of a trip through Latin America and the United States. Meanwhile, back in Brazil, Getúlio Vargas was instituting the Novo Estado, a regime that would see Amado arrested in Manaus upon his return in November 1937. It was not the author’s first time behind bars, as he had been detained the previous year on suspicion of participating in the Communist Conspiracy.
     Captains of the Sands was thus a somewhat prophetic book, as the author was to experience something similar to Pedro Bala, who is persecuted and imprisoned for having chosen the path of “proletariat militant”. Upon publication, the book was branded subversive and numerous copies were seized and burned by the police in public squares. Jorge Amado received the news in his cell.
     Though the next edition did not come out until 1944, Captains of the Sands has since become Jorge Amado’s most widely published novel, with over one hundred and twenty editions in Portuguese and translations in over fifteen countries.
     The story has also appeared in comic book format and in silver screen adaptations. The American director Hall Bartlett’s The Wild Pack (1971) was partly filmed on location in Salvador, and a new film version, directed by Cecília Amado, the author’s granddaughter, was released in 2011. Captains of the Sands was made into a mini-series on TV Bandeirantes in 1989, directed by Walter Lima Jr.
     In 1987, The Jorge Amado Estate Foundation celebrated the novel’s fiftieth anniversary with the publication of a facsimile of the original first edition.
     When Legless and Big João arrived, Pedro Bala got up off the sand and called the leaders together. They went over to the Professor’s candle. Dora came too and sat down between Big João and Good-Life. The drifter lighted a cigarette, said to Dora:
     “I’m learning how to play a wild samba. And I’m going to get me a guitar, sister.”
     “You really are playing good, brother.”
     “It went over big at parties ...”
     Pedro Bala interrupted the conversation. They were looking at his lip, his swollen eye. He told them about the episode: “Four against one ...”
     “He needs a lesson,” Legless was laughing. “1 won’t let the guy get away with it.”
     They worked out a plan of battle. And around midnight some thirty went out. Ezequiel’s gang slept around the Porto da Lenha, in some overturned boats and on the dock. Dora went alongside Pedro Bala and she carried a switchblade too. Legless said:
     “She even looks like Rosa Palmeirão.”
     There never had been a woman as brave as Rosa Palmeirão. She took on six policemen all at one time.

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