Realism With Black Magic

Realism With Black Magic

David D. Medina

José Sarney,
Master of the Sea,
Aliform, 2010.


The protagonist of this novel, a cantankerous fisherman, observes that the land belongs to God and the sea to the devil. Not only must he fight the forces of nature to survive, but this boat captain must also contend with  one-eyed sea monsters, black ghosts, seductive bats and vicious devils that terrorize the northern coast of Brazil.

In Master of the Sea, Jose Sarney has created an old-fashioned adventure story that combines earthy realism with black magic. Magical realism was made popular by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but in Sarney’s version, the magic is more fantastic and darker. Instead of angels falling to earth, we have monsters that devour men and rape virgins.

The adventures of Antao Cristorio, a self-proclaimed sea captain, begin in full force when his beloved fiancée is dragged away by sea monsters that invade a village in search of virgins. Like the Greek hero Odysseus, who embarks on a dangerous sea journey home to see his wife, Cristorio sets out on a three-year voyage to save the love of his life. Along the way, Cristorio encounters an array of bizarre figures: phantom ships, people who disappear, others who resurrect, and the vicious piocos-the devils.

Accompanying him on his trips are Querente, who is the incarnation of a 16th -century Portuguese sailor; and Aquimundo, an eternal warrior who represents time. Cristorio found these two men on different trips: Querente miraculously floating on the sea and Aquimundo emerging from a sand funnel. Both chose Cristorio as a friend and travel companion.

Like Don Quijote and his trusty horse, Rocinante, Cristorio navigates through his adventures with his faithful companion, Chita Verde, a boat that has personality and a human soul. Chita Verde is so faithful to her master that one day when Cristorio passes out with a fever, she returns him safely to port. She is so close to him that when the sea captain is old and weary and decides to retire, she feels neglected and mysteriously incinerates in the middle of the sea.

When Cristorio cannot find his fiancée, he settles for a sorcerer’s niece from a distant village and brings her and her sister to live with him, but not before a tidal wave of trouble erupts. He eventually manages to settle down with the sisters, and fathers children with both of them.

Cristorio can see and talk to dead people, especially to his dead children. It is through Jerumenho, his oldest son, who was killed for seducing a married woman, that Cristorio learns about Chita Verde’s decision to end her existence on earth. His daughter, Batesta, warns Cristorio that the Ship of Death will be crossing his path and that he must avoid the deadly vessel.

In the end, this book is about a quest for love and family and the struggle to find a place in the world, where danger lurks in all forms of evil. Sarney, who was president of Brazil from 1985 to 1990, has written a book that is enchanting, tender, and violent as it takes you through the epic tale of the rise and fall of a humble fisherman.

Posted: April 25, 2012 at 8:55 pm

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