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Jorge Amado: O Sumiço da Santa (The War of the Saints)

All the key ingredients of an Amado novel are here – the savage mocking of the authorities (particularly the Government, the church and the police), the influence of the Afro-Brazilian gods, including their transformation into human form, the beautiful but conservative woman who sees the light, young love thwarted and then requited and the fact that most Brazilians have African blood in them and the positive influence this brings. The story starts with a statue of Saint Barbara being brought by boat from a church to Bahia for an exhibition of religious art. The exhibition has been organized by Dom Maximiliano von Gruden, a monk and head of the Museum of Sacred Art. He has written a book on the statue, specially for the exhibition, which is seen as the highlight of his career. However, when the boat arrives at the harbour, the statue casually comes to life and walks off.

We then follow the story of Manela. She is the niece of Danilo and Adalgisa . Danilo is a former football star and now works in a lawyer’s office. Adalgisa is beautiful but very religious and very conservative, particularly in bed. They are the guardians of Manela, whose parents have died. When Adalgisa realizes that Manela is dating the taxi driver Miro, who is black, she tries to stop the relationship. When that does not work, she gets a court order which has Manela confined to a convent. Fortunately, Saint Barbara intervenes and, eventually, Manela gets Miro, Adalgisa sees the light and becomes good in bed and Danilo is happy.

Meanwhile Dom Maximiliano, the police, the church and the press have been looking for the statue. On the boat on which the statue came, Father Abelardo Galvão was travelling. Father Abelardo is a left-wing priest, who believes the church should be on the side of the poor and not the rich, helps the poor peasants and does not wear formal clerical garb. He is immediately suspected and the police are on his trail, as are the beautiful Patricia and the landowner who wants him assassinated. To cut a long story short, he is not assassinated, he gets together with Patricia and the statue returns to the exhibition and thence to its church but not before Amado has had a lot of fun and games with his story.

Publishing history

First published 1988 by Editora Record
First published in English 1993 by Bantam Books
Translated by Gregory Rabassa