21.00 x 14.00 cm, 472 pp. ISBN 9788535911848 53,00
Showdown Novel, 1984 | Afterword by Mia Couto
In return for leading a bloody ambush against one of his boss’ enemies, the gunman Natário da Fonseca receives some acres near the scene of the massacre, the settlement of Tocaia Grande, where he starts planting cocoa. Now a landowner, Natário sends papers to Rio de Janeiro, then the national capital, requesting the rank of captain. In the true style of the northeastern “colonel”, he sets about expanding his domains and imposing his authority. Tocaia Grande grows quickly. As if overnight, what was once a settlement has become a hamlet, and the hamlet a village. The place attracts prostitutes, adventurers, gunslingers, gypsies and farm hands in search of work on the plantations. The story of the village is told through various characters: Bernarda, Natário’s god-daughter and lover; Venturinha, son of the oligarch Boaventura and graduate at law; the panderess Jacinta Coroca; the witch Epifânia; the Negro Castor Abduim, known as Tição; and the Lebanese trader Fadul Abdala. Little by little, the former lawless backwater swells to the size of a town and receives the name of Irisópolis. In Showndown, Jorge Amado describes the process of the formation of a northeastern town born under the pall of violence and land disputes. A cautious and panoramic novel, it reveals the “dark side” of a place where the law holds no sway and the government marks no presence. On the cocoa coast, the small town of Irisópolis is a microcosm for a society set in traditional and archaic mould that receives the winds of modernization without forsaking its perverse legacy. Despite the progress, emancipation and civilizing influences, the place will retain its birthmarks: spilled blood, the stain of sin and the memory of death.
Illustration by Floriano Teixeira
Tocaia Grande tells the story of the formation of the fictional town of Irisópolis, the erstwhile Tocaia Grande. As yet unpopulated at the beginning of the 20th Century, the place becomes notorious as the site of an ambush and slaughter. The roots of the story lie in Jorge Amado’s own biography. When the writer was only ten months old, his father, João Amado de Faria narrowly escaped such an ambush in the region of Ferradas. The author recounts the episode in his childhood memoir O Grapiuna Boy (1982), the book that inspired him to write Showdown. According to the author, this novel was written “from place to place” between 1982 and 1984, between São Luís do Maranhão, Estoril (Portugal), Itapuã and Petrópolis. When asked why it was taking so long to complete, the author explained: “it’s because this time I’m not writing a novel, I’m building a town”. After decades without returning to the theme, this novel takes Jorge Amado back to the land rush on the cocoa coast. The cocoa boom was one of the central themes of his early career, in such works as Cacau, 1933, The Violent Land, 1943 and The Golden Harvest (1944). Showdown was published in Portugal and translated into seventeen languages. The story was adapted for TV and became a soap-opera on the Manchete network in 1995.
NONE OF COLONEL ELIA’S gunmen escaped, famous gun-fighters brought from the backlands, from Sergipe d’El Rey, the land of brave men, some even from Alagoas, professionals all. When the men went down the hill, following Natário, there wasn’t much work for them to do: finishing off the wounded, bringing down a few who tried to seek shelter in the trees and sell their lives dearly from there, chasing two or three who attempted to flee the way they’d come. Hunting for these last, black Espiridião found Coroinha’s body near a rock behind which he must have tried to hide: Natário understood then why Berilo had his revolver out and came along with such caution and watchfulness. Coroinha had been done in with a knife. His heart had been cut out and his balls cut off, a custom, it would seem, much to the taste of the deceased bully from Alagoas. Natário thought it was right for them to have done him in. If Berilo hadn’t done it, he would have taken care of the job himself. He even agreed with the choice of weapon: a traitor isn’t worth the cost of a rifle bullet.