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Tieta Paperback – 1 Oct 1988
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"Lusty ...strenuous comedy ... Amado is Brazil's most illustrious and venerable novelist." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Jorge Amado is the acclaimed author of Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon, Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands, and Tereza Batista: Home from the Wars. Highly successful film and Broadway versions of Dona Flor have brought worldwide recognition to Brazil's foremost novelist. The UW Press also publishes Amado's Tent of Miracles.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The novel was written in the seventies and is set in the sixties, and its theme reflects the growing environmental awareness of those decades. In his youth, Amado was an enthusiastic communist, and "Tieta" can be read as an attack upon capitalism, although from an environmentalist viewpoint rather than from a Marxist one. Amado makes it quite clear that his sympathies are with those who hope to prevent the erection of the factory. He paints the industrialists who plan to build the plant as greedy polluters of the environment, and has great fun at the expense of those local people, particularly the local government official Ascanio, who support them out of an abstract belief in "progress" but who have no idea what titanium dioxide is and cannot even say if it is a gas, a liquid or a solid.
Unfortunately, by the end of the novel the reader, unless he or she has some previous knowledge of chemistry, will be just as ignorant of the true nature of titanium dioxide as the hapless Ascanio. In the nearly 700 pages of a novel in which the titanium dioxide industry plays an important part, Senhor Amado does not find room to impart this seemingly important information. Neither does he find room to tell us what this chemical is used for, what economic value it has, how toxic it is, why it poses such a pollution risk, and what measures can be taken to overcome that risk. One is simply left with the impression that it is a deadly poison and that only a particularly evil person would want to manufacture it.
Besides giving us an obviously slanted view of the chemical industry, Amado also gives us an idealised picture of Agreste and its surrounding area. I had always got the impression that the north-east of Brazil was an impoverished area, but in the novel Agreste is frequently described, particularly by Tieta and her travelling companion Leonora, as a "paradise", and some of the local residents echo that description. The town is peaceful and law-abiding, and the only unemployed person seems to be an old beggar named Goatstink. The inhabitants are not exactly rich, but they seem to be content and to have sufficient for their needs. Their main complaint is that life in Agreste is too quiet and that their lives lack excitement. Amado seems to be afraid of the argument that industrial development might relieve poverty and unemployment, so he denies that those factors exist. The area where the new factory is to be built is, of course, a stretch of coastline famous for its beauty. Although the novel was clearly written in support of the "green" cause, it is too biased and one-sided to be of any real help to it.
Besides environmentalism, the novel also deals with another preoccupation of the sixties and seventies, sexual liberation. As well as grasping industrialists, Amado also targets the sexual hypocrisy of Brazilian society. The townspeople of Agreste welcome Tieta because they see her as a rich, respectable widow; if they knew the truth about her, they would reject her, even though most of the male inhabitants of the town themselves frequent the local brothel. One of the few sexually continent characters, Tieta's widowed sister Perpetua, is portrayed as mean-spirited, hypocritical and money-grubbing. Amado's view seems to be that sexual activity, in virtually any form, is a good thing, and that trying to control it only leads to hypocrisy and repression. This is not an erotic novel in the sense of one that contains detailed descriptions of bedroom activity, but it is one in sex is frequently mentioned. There are allusions to most forms of sexual activity, all presented with lip-smacking relish. Amado was so keen to present the arguments for sexual liberalism that he did not stop to consider questions such as whether a brothel is the ideal workplace for a fourteen year old girl. No doubt only a confirmed reactionary like Perpetua would allow herself to be troubled by such questions.
Although I have given the book a largely negative review, readers should not allow that to prejudice themselves against Amado's works in general. This was only the second of his novels that I have read, but the other, "Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon" was much better, and, to my mind, justified the claims that are often made for him as a great novelist. "Tieta" does not. It is overlong and overly propagandist and the characters, with the partial exception of the colourful if shameless Tieta herself, tend towards the stereotypical. (Ruthless businessman, tart with a heart, randy teenager, corrupt politician, frustrated old maid, etc.) The end result resembles a cross between a tract and a soap opera, written by an old man (Amado was in his mid-sixties when he wrote it) trying to be more trendy than the younger generation.
PS. Titanium dioxide is a solid, chiefly used as a white pigment. It is classified as a low toxicity risk except in cases of chronic inhalation.
Jorge Amado`s reading is a kind of happiness.