While looking for novels by Jorge Amado in the online catalogue of a bookseller, I stumbled upon the recently published novella Anna Seghers im Garten von Jorge Amado ("Anna Seghers in Jorge Amado's Garden") by the Swiss author Robert Cohen. According to the book description, the novella was inspired by a photo of Anna Seghers, sitting in a tropical garden with a notebook on her lap. This picture is said to be taken in Jorge Amado's garden in Brazil in 1963.

Anna Seghers is or was one of the most important German female authors of the previous century. She was Jewish ánd joined the Communist party in the 1930s, which gave her two good reasons for leaving Germany when the Nazis took over. She ended up in Mexico, where she stayed until 1947; after her return to Germany, she moved to East Berlin and became a citizen of the German Democratic Republic (i.e. that part of Germany that is not considered democratic).

If the photo mentioned above exists, it must have been made during a later trip by Seghers to South America. Amado lived in exile in Europe between 1947 and 1954, so that may be where Seghers first met him, but by 1963, Amado was living in Brazil again. The Wikipedia article about Jorge Amado (I also checked the versions on French, German and Portuguese) does not mention Anna Seghers, nor does the Wikipedia article about Anna Seghers mention Brazil or Jorge Amado. However, it seems clear that Anna Seghers knew Jorge Amado. For example, the article 30 años sin Anna Seghers ("30 years without Anna Seghers") says that she established a friendship with Jorge Amado, and the article Der „brasilianische Balzac“ says she once described Amado as "the Brazilian Balzac".

Rather than asking how and where Seghers and Amado first met, I would like to know whether Amado was familiar with Seghers's work. The Portuguese Wikipedia article about Anna Seghers lists only five translations, only one of which is dated (2013), so it is not clear what translations were available to Jorge Amado during Anna Segher's lifetime. (Translations published after Seghers's death would not have contributed anything to conversations or correspondence about her work.)

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Answering this question requires intertwining not one, but two biographies. The authors are both contemporary so I couldn't find an exhaustive biography on Jorge Amado that's placed in the public domain. However, several articles, thesis, and facts are available that allow to say with some confidence Jorge Amado was familiar with the works of Anna Seghers.

The following three quotes are taken from "Ideias napoleônicas e o grande inquisidor: sobre a militância comunista de Anna Seghers e Jorge Amado" by Klaus Eggensperger. Published in Revista Contingentia, Vol. 4, No. 2, novembro 2009, 01–10. ("Napoleonic ideas and the grand inquisitor: about the communist militancy of Anna Seghers e Jorge Amado".)

  1. Introdução

    Quando se encontraram pela primeira vez, no Congresso Internacional dos Intelectuais pela paz, em 1948, na cidade de Wroclaw, Polônia, Anna Seghers e Jorge Amado se tornaram amigos pela vida inteira.


    When they met for the first time, in the International Congress of intellectuals for peace, in 1948, in the city of Wroclaw, Poland, Anna Seghers and Jorge Amado became lifelong friends.

  1. No mesmo ano, em 1951, Seghers e Amado receberam em Moscou o importantíssimo “Prêmio Stalin da Paz”

    I that same year of 1951, Seghers and Amado receive in Moscow the very important "Stalin Peace Prize"

  1. Em agosto de 1961, Anna Seghers e seu marido visitaram Jorge Amado e Zélia
    Gattai no Rio de Janeiro.

    In August 1961, Anna Seghers and her husband visited Jorge Amado and Zélia Gattai in Rio de Janeiro.

so it is not clear what translations were available to Jorge Amado during Anna Segher's lifetime

In this same year Seghers first visited Brasil a collection of stories by Seghers was published by Jorge Amado's brother James Amado—who also authored the translation—Histórias Vividas. James Amado. São Paulo. Cultrix, 1961.

Two early Portuguese translations of Seghers were published before 1961:

Other early translations in Spanish that Jorge Amado would certainly have been able to read and understand:

Translations published after Seghers's death would not have contributed anything to conversations or correspondence about her work

We can also suppose with confidence—beyond bibliographic dates—that Amado must have been intimately familiar with Seghers, since it would be reductive to limit the mutual understanding of their literary works to translations that successfully went through the publication process. It's more than likely they had access to unpublished translations, or translations in languages other than German and Portuguese. Here comes one relevant problem: biographic notes on the internet don't clearly indicate what languages Amado could understand, to what extent and at which point in his life.

Notes in his correspondence in the early 1948 period of his exile seem to indicate he had plenty of free time, and even a secretary - which considerably broadens the possibility of having someone read and explain texts to him.

"O Jorge mais amado" by António Aráujo In Diário de Notícias.

"Tenho visto museus, andado em Paris, o pessoal pôs uma secretária (não tenha ciúmes que é pessoa séria e que de tanto eu falar,já te estima) à minha disposição." Mais tarde, Jorge retomaria o assunto da auxiliar administrativa, pelos vistos melindroso: "Quanto à secretária, é uma pessoa que fala português e como meu francês é infame foi posta à minha disposição para quanto eu necessitasse. É boa pessoa e muito competente, mas só isso. É outra Fanny, filha minha, não tenhas ciúmes tolos. À proporção que melhora meu francês, menos eu a utilizo."

"I've seen museums, walked around Paris, folks put a secretary (don't be jealous because she's a serious person who from me speaking so much of you, already esteems you) at my disposal." Later, Jorge again mentions the administrative assistant, apparently a delicate issue: "As for the secretary, she's a person that speaks Portuguese and since my French is infamous was put at my disposal for when I needed. She's a good person and very competent, but only that. She's another Fanny, daughter of mine, don't have silly jealousy. At the proportion my French improves the less I use her."

But we know from his own texts like O ANTI-DOGMÁTICO (available in French and Portuguese) he spend time in the social circles of post-war German communist writers. This text starts in the setting of Seghers' house, evoking the conversations they shared.

I don't know how far the personal correspondence between the Amado family and Seghers has been made public. That might be the only source that could meaningfully answer the original question. In a letter from Seghers to Zélia Amado:

25. Überfahrt. Eine Liebesgeschichte (1971)

Aus einem Brief an Zélia Amado vom 17. Februar 1963 geht hervor, »dass sie die Arbeit an diesem Projekt auf der Rückreise ihrer ersten Brasilienfahrt im September 1961 begonnen hatte« (Albrecht 2002, 423).

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