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FICTION from DEAD SEA / Jorge Amado Translated from the Portuguese by Gregory Rabassa For Raquel de Queiroz, Erico Verissimo, and Alvaro Moreyra Now I should like to tell the dockside tales of Bahia. Old sailors who mend sails, pilots of sloops, tattooed blacks, rogues, all know these stories and these songs. I would hear them on moonlight nights on the Market wharf, in fairs, in small ports around the bay, next to huge Swedish ships at the piers in Ilhéus. Iemanjá's people have much to tell. Come listen to these stories and these songs. Come hear the story of Guma and Livia, which is the story of life and love on the sea. And if you don'tfind it beautiful thefault won't lie with the rough men who tell it, but because you're hearing it from the mouth of a man of the land, and only with great difficulty can a man of the land understand the heart ofsailors. Even when that man loves these stories and these songs and attends the rites of Dona Janaina, even then he doesn't know all the secrets of the sea. For the sea is a mystery that even old sailors don't understand. IEMANJÁ, MISTRESS OF SEAS AND SLOOPS STORM NIGHT WAS RUNNING ahead of itself. People weren't expecting it at all when it fell upon the city with heavy clouds. The lights on the docks hadn't been turned on yet; in the Beacon of the Stars sad bulbs illuminated the glasses of cane liquor; many sloops were still cutting the waters of the sea when the wind brought on a night of black clouds. The men looked at each other as if asking a question. They gazed at the blue of the ocean, asking where that night that was ahead of time had come from. It still wasn't time. But it came on loaded with clouds, preceded by a cold twilight wind, obscuring the sun as in some fearsome miracle. Night arrived on that day with no music to greet it. The bells of the end of afternoon didn't echo through the city. No black man with a guitar had appeared on the sands by the dock yet. No concertina greeted the night from the bow of a sloop. Nor did the monotonous drum beat The Missouri Review · 97 of candomblés and macumbas come rolling down the hillside. Why, then, had night come so soon without waiting for the music, without waiting for the signal of the bells, the cadence of the guitars and concertinas, the mysterious pounding of the religious instruments? Why had it come like that, before its time, out of time? It was a different night, a night of anguish. Yes, because the men had a look of uneasiness and the sailor drinking by himself in the Beacon of the Stars ran to his ship as if going to rescue it from an inevitable disaster. And the woman who was waiting on the small dock by the market for the sloop on which her love was coming began to shiver, more from a coldness coming out of her lover's heart as it filled with evil omens of the night that was suddenly spreading itself out. For they, the sailor and the dark woman, were familiar with the sea and they knew very well that if night arrived before its time many men would die at sea, ships wouldn't reach port, widows would weep over the heads of little children. Because—they knew—it wasn't the real night, the night of moon and stars, of music and love, that had come. That night only came at its proper time, when bells rang and a black man sang to his guitar on the docks, a song of longing. The night that had come loaded with clouds, carried by the wind, was a storm that capsized ships and killed men. A storm is a false night. The rain came down with fury and washed the docks, kneaded the sand, rocked the tied-up boats, raised up the elements, chased off all those waiting for the arrival of the ocean...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 95-108
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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