Home Is the Sailor, Jorge Amado, Alfred A Knopf, 1964, (translated from the Portuguese, published by Livaria Martins Editora, 1961), 298 pp
As has become routine for me with Amado's novels, it seemed to take forever to get my reading up to speed in Home Is the Sailor. As in every earlier novel of his though, I came to the end feeling I had been told an informative and entertaining tale.
The eponymous sailor, Vasco Moscosco de Aragao, had never sailed a ship in all of his 60 years. He was the son of a Brazilian businessman and raised by his grandfather in the city, caring nothing for business or hard work. Wealthy and gregarious, he made friends in high places. His only sorrow in life was that he had no title, no rank, no degree. He was only Mr de Aragao.
Or so the story goes. The book's narrator calls himself a historian, while he is in fact a lowly journalist in a town of retirees, whose lover is the whore of a rich man. When Captain Vasco Moscosco de Aragao arrives in town, calling himself a Master Mariner, he instantly becomes the most popular man around due to his exciting tales of adventure on the oceans of the world. The former most popular townsperson becomes jealous and challenges the truth of the Captain's claims.
Our narrator/historian takes it upon himself to get to the bottom of the conflict and the reader is the beneficiary as his findings are related. Twists and turns, cliffhangers, and Amado's signature humor all come together in the second half of the novel which I read at four times the speed as I did the first half.
It could have been that I am not Brazilian, that Portuguese is difficult to translate, that Amado's sentences are eerily similar to William Faulkner's, or that I have been reading so much contemporary fiction. I don't care what caused my trouble. It was worth reading and the theme is oddly contemporary. Captain de Aragao, Master Mariner, was a certain kind of self-made man, composed of his past, his connections, his dreams, and his gift for enjoying life. As Amado says to us on the final page:
"Does truth lie in the everyday events, the daily incidents, in the pettiness and vulgarity most people's lives are composed of, or does the truth have its abode in the dream it is given us to dream to free our sad human condition?"
(Home Is the Sailor is out of print and best found in your local library or through used book sellers.)