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Amado Was Revered Brazilian Author - 2001-08-07

Brazil is mourning the death of its greatest contemporary writer, Jorge Amado, who died late Monday just four days before his 89th birthday.

Mr. Amado's works, translated into more than 40 languages, brought fame and recognition to the author and his nation.

Mr. Amado, who suffered from diabetes, died late Monday of heart and lung failure in Salvador, in the northeastern state of Bahia. He was 88.

His body, after lying in state at a government building in Salvador, will be cremated late Tuesday. His ashes will be scattered beneath a mango tree in the garden of his house in Salvador, where he used to like to sit and tell stories. Thousands of Brazilians in Salvador lined up to view the body Tuesday, and pay their last respects to Brazil's greatest contemporary author.

Mr. Amado, who published his first novel at 19, wrote 32 books, which sold millions of copies both at home and abroad. Many of them described the life and people of his beloved state of Bahia. Among his most well-known are The Violent Land - the story of a bloody struggle in Bahia's cacao plantations - Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands - which was made into a successful movie - and Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon.

His works brought new prominence to Brazil, and led critics to compare Jorge Amado to novelists like Honore de Balzac of France and Leo Tolstoy of Russia, writers who became representative of their nations' identity.

Born in 1912 to a middle class family on a farm in southern Bahia, Mr. Amado became a dedicated member of the communist party and was awarded the Stalin Peace Prize in 1951 by the former Soviet Union. But by the mid-1950s, Mr. Amado dropped out of the party, though without formally renouncing communism, and became a Socialist.

Interviewed four years ago by Brazil's Globo television network, Mr. Amado said of his political views that he was always angered by the inequality he saw around him. "My indignation always existed, from the time I began to work and see what things were like, I became indignant and remain so," he said.

An admirer of Charles Dickens and Mark Twain, Mr. Amado's books often portrayed characters who were down on their luck, yet had universal appeal. In that 1997 interview with TV Globo, he was asked if he wanted his books to change the world. "I think everyone wants to change the world," he said, "with their books, with their work, with their life. I think all people want to change the world and make it better, and even though most don't succeed, at least everyone tries."