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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Discovery of America
by the Turks

Jorge Amado

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To purchase The Discovery of America by the Turks

Title: The Discovery of America by the Turks
Author: Jorge Amado
Genre: Novel
Written: (1992) (Eng. 2012)
Length: 80 pages
Original in: Portuguese
Availability: The Discovery of America by the Turks - US
The Discovery of America by the Turks - UK
The Discovery of America by the Turks - Canada
The Discovery of America by the Turks - India
La découverte de l'Amérique par les Turcs - France
I turchi alla scoperta dell'America - Italia
De cómo los turcos descubrieron América - España
  • Portuguese title: A descoberta da América pelos Turcos
  • Translated by Gregory Rabassa
  • With a Foreword by José Saramago
  • With a Preface by the author
  • With a Postscript by Zélia Gattai Amado
  • First published in French translation in 1992; the Portuguese original was first published in 1994

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Our Assessment:

B : nicely told little story, but feels like just part of a bigger work

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
TLS . 25/1/2013 Claire Williams

  From the Reviews:
  • "This novella, a chapter cut from another novel and published in part to commemorate the "discoveries" of the New World, is less neatly structured than The Double Death, and its portrayal of the immigrant community is not as revealing of cultural difference as, say, Amado's descriptions of Afro-Brazilian customs in other novels" - Claire Williams, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Commissioned for the Columbus-anniversary year of 1992, The Discovery of America by the Turks is about a different (sort of) discovery of America, as it features two 'Turks' -- the Syrian Jamil Bichara, the Lebanese Raduan Murad (both 'Turks' because they were born in the Ottoman Empire) -- who seek to make their fortune in the Americas (Bahia, in Brazil -- "the newly discovered El Dorado of cacao") at the beginning of the twentieth century, arriving there in 1903. Even with this premise, there's little about discovering America here: the story quickly becomes one about trying to marry off a local girl, with Jamil a possible suitor and Raduan an adviser to the family. (It comes as no surprise when Zélia Gattai Amado admits in a Postscript to the book that she salvaged the first version of this story from the trash, where Amado had tossed it: it was originally a chapter he had written for his novel Showdown which he found didn't really fit there, but which he then found good enough to ... repurpose here.)
       The two men are quite different characters: Jamil is hardworking and ambitious, and spends years working in the backlands, while the older and more philosophical Raduan is a man of great leisure. One of the men Raduan befriends is shopkeeper Ibrahim Jafet. Ibrahim had four daughters, but after the three, attractive (and a bit loose) younger ones were married off, he still had the eldest, Adma, on his hands.
       Adma was no prize: "cherry intact, sour, crabby, undamaged, more than merely a virgin: an old maid". Since her looks and less than winning personality were enough to scare off almost any man, Ibrahim sweetened the pot by promising that his future son-in-law would get part of the business as well; unfortunately, the business wasn't going quite so well any longer either. Still, Jamil weighed the costs and possible benefits, and was tempted -- but, hedging his bets, Raduan also put another possible suitor for Adma into play.
       The Discovery of America by the Turks is a fairly simple story, then, of how Adma finally gets married off. The amusing descriptions and well-sketched characters make this very light little story a satisfying morsel: the father's desperation; Adma's digging her claws and heels in and driving them nearly all mad and to perdition as she realizes her near-hopeless position; those randy sisters of hers. Cap it off with the happy resolution, the little miracle where Adma winds up with just the right man, who knows exactly how to handle her -- and who gets everything he wants out of the relationship as well -- and it makes for a fine little entertainment.
       It has very little to do with discovering America, in almost any respect, but The Discovery of America by the Turks is a quick, enjoyable read.

- M.A.Orthofer, 13 August 2012

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The Discovery of America by the Turks: Reviews: Jorge Amado: Other books by Jorge Amado under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Brazilian author Jorge Amado lived 1912 to 2012.

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