"Tent of Miracles" is about Bahia's African and mestizo people, their rich culture, their poverty, and their struggle against the racism, with Pedro as their advocate and champion. It's also about his "rediscovery" by the North American Nobel Prize winner and scholar, James D. Levenson, whose attention makes Archanjo the focus of a major "cultural event" that celebrates the 100th anniversary of his birth. The celebration turns out to be a monumental farce in which Pedro Archanjo's memory is laundered and turned into a commercial icon. In 1969 he's still too uncomfortable to the political powers to leave him as he was in "real life", a "donnadie" (Mr. Nobody), a self-educated man of the people whose life ended at age 75 when he died of a heart attack on the way to the room an old friend had given him in a brothel.
It's too bad Amado has been largely forgotten by North American readers; he is far too good for that. It wasn't too long ago that I could find him on the shelves of Barnes & Noble and all of his books on Amazon. Amado, who died in 2001 (he was born in 1912), is one of America's foremost writers. For me, rereading him is like getting together with old friends and taking up where we left off the last time we met. I know exactly what neighborhood I am in, where we're going next, and who we'll meet. I can hear the talk and the laughter, smell the smells of the street and the food, and hear the singing and the sounds of the guitar, berimbau and drum.
If you haven't read "Tent of Miracles", buy a copy and read it. The New York Times called it "a most enjoyable romp", which is like calling a drop-dead beauty "a nice-looking gal": way, way too insipid to fit the reality.
My hat is off to the University of Wisconsin Press for bringing this book out in this fine paperback edition. It sure has set me on fire again!