For Brazil, there will never be a novelist like Jorge Amado again.
Brazil's all-time best-selling author, Jorge Amado, whose novels praised the best of Brazil to readers across the globe, died Monday evening in the northeastern city of Salvador, Bahia. He was 88.
Mr. Amado, a diabetic whose health had been delicate for many years, died of a heart attack at around 7:30 p.m. local time, Reuters reports.
Mr. Amado was Brazil's best-selling author both at home and across the world, with 20 million volumes sold worldwide in nearly 50 languages.
"I am a writer who has written about the life of my people, the character of my people," Mr. Amado told Reuters in a 1995 interview. "What I can say is that the greatest hero of the Brazilian novel is the Brazilian people."
Amado's work was well known to Brazilians of all classes, thanks to adaptations of his novels for television soap operas and films, including Tieta do Agreste, Gabriela, and Dona Flor and her Two Husbands.
Among his most valued work are the 1958 novel Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon, a story of a bar owner in Bahia's cocoa belt and the backwoods girl he takes as a servant and later becomes his lover.
His next big hit would be 1966's Dona Flor and her Two Husbands, which was made into a film in 1978, bringing actress Sonia Braga international stardom, grossing $20 million and becoming Brazil's biggest box office hit in the United States, according to The Associated Press.
Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso said Amado's characters became more famous and real than the author himself.
"What greater glory is there for a writer?,'' Cardoso said told the Brazilian TV Netowrk Rede Globo. "Jorge Amado's language was a Portuguese that seduced the five senses, full of colors, sounds, perfumes, flavors and textures.''
Such writers as Portugal's Jose Saramago and Peru's Mario Vargas Llosa lamented his death.
"Jorge Amado was one of the greatest writers of our time who made the Brazilian myth known on all five continents in all modern languages," Vargas Llosa told.
Portugal's former President Mario Soares, called him "one of the great figures in our language," Reuters reports.
Mr. Amado, who would have turned 89 on Friday, said he would like to be remembered as a sensual and romantic Bahian.
"I am like my characters - sometimes even the female ones," he said.
President Cardoso has declared the country to mourn the death of the author for three days, and all flags have to be lowered to honor his death.
The author is survived by his second wife Zelia Gattai, also a best-selling novelist, and two children, Paloma and Joao Jorge. His body lay in state in the Archbishop's Palace in Salvador, covered with red roses and white lilies and was later was cremated Tuesday.
Mr. Amado's ashes will be scattered at the foot of a mango tree in his home in Salvador, the capital the country's Afro-Brazilian culture.