Portugal Literature Part III

The leader is always Agustina Bessa Luis (b.1922), who in 1954, with the memorial novel A Sibila, had given a thematic and formal turning point to Portuguese fiction and who will continue until today her torrential production of almost Balzacchian wealth with Fanny Owen (1979); Um bicho da terra (Uriel da Costa), 1984; A corte do norte (1987); Eugénia and Silvina (1989). Furthermore, Isabel da Nóbrega (b. 1925: Elegia para um caixão vazio, 1987); O. Gonçalves (b. 1929: Ora esguardae, 1982); Maria Gabriela Llansol (b.1931: A restante vida, 1983; Da sebe ao ser, 1988); Maria Velho da Costa (b.1938), who jumped to the fore in 1971, together with Maria Isabel Barreno and Maria Teresa Horta, with the erotic-political scandal of the Novas cartas portuguesas and then present in every era with epic-lyric novels such as Casas Pardas (1977) or Missa in Albis (1988). And again, along a line of recovery of recent national history, Lídia Jorge (n.1946O dia dos prodígios, 1979; Cais das merendas, 1982; A costa dos murmúrios, 1988, on the war in Africa seen in its ambiguous lapels from ruthless female eyes); Teolinda Gersão (b.1940: as a writer, all from the 1980s, with the playful allegories of O silêncio, 1981; Os Guarda-chuvas cintilantes, 1984; O cavalo de sol, 1989). And then, among the youngest, Eduarda Dionísio (b.1946Alguns lugares muito comuns, 1987) and Hélia Correia (b.1949A casa eterna, 1991).

According to Harvardshoes, the names of the new authors and above all of the new works, by young and old, overlap in the lively panorama of current Portuguese fiction. We mention among others Fernando Campos (b.1924: A casa do Pó, 1986) and Augusto Abelaira (b.1926: Deste modo ou daquele, 1990). And again António Alçada Baptista (b.1927) who gracefully marries the ironic component of national eroticism with the equally endemic belief in the existence of a demon, the generating center of all evil (Os nós e os laços, 1985; Catarina ou o sabor da maçã, 1988; Tia Suzana, meu amor, 1989); Álvaro Guerra (b.1936: Café República, 1987); Mário Cláudio (b.1941), who in the Eighties consecrated himself as a highly original author composing the “ northern ” trilogy, that is of the Portuense region: Amadeu (1984), Guilhermina (1986) and Rosa (1988), respectively dedicated to the painter Amadeu de Sousa Cardoso, the cellist Guilhermina Suggia and the ceramist Rosa Ramalho. António Lobo Antunes (b.1942), who made his debut with great success in 1979 with Memória de elefante, followed in the same year by Cus de Judas, his best known book, and then again Fado Alexandrino (1983), and As Naus (1988), all novels originating from the author’s participation in the colonial war and then becoming merciless denunciations of a degraded contemporary world; Almeida Faria (b.1943), who in the 1980s completes the cycle opened in 1965 by the successful novel A Paixão in a perfect tetralogy, continuing it in Cortes (1972), Lusitânia (1980) and Cavaleiro andante (1983), with the corollary of the erotic fantasy of O Conquistador (1990). And finally, in the new generation, it is appropriate to remember Mário de Carvalho (b.1944O causa do Beco das Sardinheiras, 1981; A paixão do conde de Fróis, 1986) and, in a line of renewed realism, João de Melo (n.1949: O meu mundo não é deste reino, 1987, and Gente feliz com lágrimas, 1988).

But the great figure of Portuguese fiction of these years is José Saramago (b.1922), in whose name the Portugal has managed to cross national borders and interest audiences in many countries thanks to a very peculiar narrative figure that makes a popular language revisited memorially and of the past and recent history of the country the metaphor of a topicality seen with the irony and passion of a political commitment that is sometimes frustrated, but never abandoned. Like the recent history of Portugal, the work of the communist Saramago (almost entirely translated into Italian) is crossed by a line that separates a ” before ”, prior to the 1974 revolution, from an ” after ”, with which, in 1980, began its new, successful narrative season that has never stopped since then and of which each stage represents a new poetic milestone. The books are: Levantado do chão (1980; trad. It., A land called Alentejo); O Memorial do convent (1982; it., 1985); O ano da morte de Ricardo Reis (1984; trans. It., 1985); A jangada de pedra (1986; trad. It., 1988); O ano de 1993 (1987); O cerco de Lisboa (1989; trans. It., 1990); O Evangelho segundo Jesús Cristo (1991; trans. It., 1992).

Season also of essayists appear these eighties of the reborn Portuguese literature. And, among others, the name of Eduardo Lourenço (b. 1923) is enough, who starts from a Heideggerian philosophical experience to explore the myths of national culture (O Labirinto da Saudade, 1978; Pessoa, rei da nossa Baviera, 1986; Nós and to Europe, 1988). In this context, the work, of considerable level, of the many critical-essayists appears to be fundamental who, even with a different focus on the works of the past (the literary revaluation of all the literature of travel and discoveries appears to be interesting in this decade) indicate the path in a country like Portugal where there are very few who manage to make a living from literature and where therefore dialogue or even the exchange of functions between the poet, the critic and the professor is always alive.

On the other hand, as always in Portugal, the theater marks the time: and above all the dramatic literature marks it in a moment in which also here, as everywhere, instead of showing new texts, the theatrical activity rests essentially on the spectacle, with the often recovery of a classical and modern national repertoire by fierce dramatic companies. Unrecognized texts of the past are discovered and rediscovered (such as the theater of Jorge de Sena, collected in Mater imperialis, 1991; or the theater of Bernardo Santareno [1920-1980]: Português, escritor, 45 anos de idade, 1981). But new textual proposals are also made by already established authors such as Jaime Salazar Sampaio, Prista Monteiro, Natália Correia (A pécora, 1983) and again José Saramago (A segunda vida de Francisco de Assis, 1986; trad. it., 1991).

Portugal Literature 3