The Tabby Cat and Miss Swallow – a heartfelt love story.
It has been more than four years since I’ve read a Brazilian author. I cannot remember the last one, as a matter of fact. I have been venturing into other lands, other seas, other languages, avoiding the pain of watching my people and my country getting lost in mutual incomprehension, in learned ignorance, in political unintelligibility. I feel like a homeless refugee; I am a homeless refugee – a wandering, restless animal; but my soul and my heart have not forgotten the fresh and loving way of being Brazilian.
The farther you move away from your roots, however, the more they claim ownership. They pound in the depths of your being at every moment of uncertainty, reminding you of the shape, tone and substance of your natural expression.
I love the culture that brought me up; I love belonging to this idiosyncrasy of colors, sounds, smells, flavors and letters; so chaotic, irreverent, beautiful, happy and seductive. And savoring Brazil again through the eyes of Jorge Amado is blessing, granted by all the saints of Bahia, who are rather forces of Nature than men and women of Religion.
What a pleasure to delve into the imagination and folly of a man in love with his son.
“This story is a gift for my son, João Jorge, on his first birthday. Paris, November 25, 1948.”
Amado is a madman, a fool. How could he sanely give personality, feelings and voice to the Time, the Wind, the Dawn? How could he wisely make them tell unforgettable love stories?
“With a kiss, the Dawn switches each star off as she continues her journey towards the Horizon. Half asleep, yawning, she happens to forget some of them on. The poor remain lit in the light, trying in vain to shine during the day; how sad”.
Amado made me recall my own childhood daydreaming, when I indulged in imaginative wanderlust, personifying Nature and arguing with gods and goddesses. “Why does the Time elude me, so aloof? This lazy Dawn takes so long to arrive. Sneaky Wind, refuses to fill the sails of my boat”. Countless times my girly mind was taken by this nonsense, and Amado, so sure that his son would dwell in all of them, anticipates himself toasting his first birthday with : “I can’t wait for you to board all this baloney, João Jorge, I want to be a boy again, with you”.
“Fanatic about a good story, the Dawn lags even further, attentive to the Wind. The cases can be funny, or saddening, sometimes long, extending through the chapters of a booklet”.
Amado wrote not only for Joao, but for all the growing children and those already grown and forgotten inside of us. Such a beautiful and painful love story, but as the poet used to say : to love is to suffer, but rather to suffer from love than not living it at all.
“I want to say that there are people who don’t believe in love at first sight. Others, on the contrary, in addition to believing, claim that this is the only true love. Both are right. It is because love is dormant in creatures’ hearts and one day it awakens, with the arrival of Spring or even in the rigor of Winter”.
“Suddenly, love awakens from its sleep to the unexpected sight of another being. Even if we already knew them, it is as if we saw them for the very first time and that’s why we call it love at first sight”.
But human beings have the infinite capacity to make suffer – if it could only be to make love. And so all the animals in Amado’s park awfully cry the pain of being human – of not understanding the other even though they are all the same; the fear of accepting the differences; the daily intolerances of coexisting; the small gestures of selfishness, dissimulation and provocation; the useless rules they only dare to break through violence; the renunciation of true love in the hope that resignation, one day, will fill the void and the lingering, inner death that follows.
My life, sad life,
I cannot sing nor fly,
I have no wings, no feathers,
I don’t even know to write,
Much I love the Swallow,
Marry her I would,
But she will not, she cannot,
A tabby cat I am,
In each animal character we find the reflection of ourselves, our illnesses, our desires, but in so beautiful, poetical, tender style that it captivates and warms our hearts.
“They walked until the Night came. Then she told him that it had been the last time, that she was going to marry the Nightingale, because, alas, a swallow cannot marry a cat. As she had done before, she flew over him and touched him with her left wing – it was her way to kiss. But this time he could not hear the Swallow’s small heart, so feeble its was. Through the air she left and didn’t look back”.
I wish this world was made of Jorges and Zélias, who, every year, poured out heartfelt poems and love stories onto not yet literate Joãos.
The world will only
Be good to live in
When we come to see
A Maltese Cat
Wedding a cheerful Swallow
The groom and his little bride
Mr. Cat and Mrs. Swallow
Jorge Amado took the theme from a poem that Estêvão da Escuna used to recite at the Sete Portas Market in Salvador, Bahia.