Portugal Literature: 20th Century

Portugal Literature: 20th Century


At the beginning of the century. XX poetry, without renouncing the contributions of the symbolist lesson, expresses the temptations of rappel à l’ordre, parallel to the social involution that undermines humanitarian conceptions in the name of the individual and his absoluteness or in the name of the fatherland and of his past. According to clothingexpress, the name of António Sardinha (1888-1925) is at the center of this ideological crossroads and will eventually provide a philosophical basis for Salazar’s nationalism, corporatism and colonialism. Trends such as Saudosism, led by an authentic but torrential poet, Teixeira de Pascoaes (1877-1952), and futurism with marinettiane (Almada-Negreiros, 1893-1970), as well as phenomena of isolation of the ego in melancholy and in the conversation with death (António Nobre, 1866-1903) or in the fleeting life of the senses, also touched by the sadness of one’s own transience (António Botto, 1902-59). In this confused atmosphere the newest voices of the time appear, first of all that of the poet Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935) who achieved world fame with a production that remained largely unpublished until his death and divided into various sections, attributed to as many heteronyms (from the bucolic Alberto Caeiro to the Horatian Ricardo Reis, up to the futurist Álvaro de Campos), almost as if they were works by different and even opposing authors. Pessoa, with his poetry and his action of renewal of the letters of the homeland, remains the central figure of the Portuguese twentieth century. To the experience of Pessoa and the Orpheu generation , the radiant center of Portuguese modernism that turns against the past academicism and in which stands, alongside that of the “master”, the figure of Mário de Sá-Carneiro (1890-1916), narrator (A Confissao de Lúcio, 1914) but above all a poet (Indícios de Oiro, 1937; Poesias, 1946), the activity of the magazine Presença (1927-40) is linked, which has brought Portuguese literature back to the heart of European culture: Rainer Maria Rilke, M. Proust, P. Valéry, A. Gide were some of the favorite names, while L. Coimbra (1883-1936) popularized philosophies along the line of existentialism. Since the early twentieth century, the prose is marked, beyond isolated attitudes of introspection or formalistic impassivity, as in Carlos Malheiro Dias (1875-1941), by the interest in the national reality that characterizes Portuguese neorealism, giving it a touch of picturesque regionalism, albeit in authors such as Aquilino Ribeiro (1885-1963). The expansion of the social horizon to rural and urban environments is also due to these. Social realism has its greatest exponent in Ferreira de Castro (1898-1974), while the work of José Rodrigues Miguéis (1901-80) marks the transition to regionalist neorealism to which authors such as Soeiro Pereira Gomes (1909-49) and Fernando Namora (1919-89) are also linked. In poetry, the first half of the twentieth century ends with the diversification and affirmation of individual neorealist experiences, such as that of the poet and novelist Vitorino Nemésio (1901-78), and with the foundation in Lisbon, in 1947, of the first surrealist group. From here some of his most significant personalities will later break away: from António Pedro (1900-66) to Alexandre O’Neill (1924-86), to the poet and painter Mário Cesariny de Vasconcelos (b. 1923) and, above all, to one of the greatest poets, storytellers and critics, as well as playwright, Jorge de Sena (1919-77).


From the 1950s onwards, the reaction to social neorealism assumes forms of skeptical existentialism, as in David Mourao-Ferreira (1927-96), a metaphysical study in Fernando Guimaraes (b.1928) or a true transcendentalism. in Fernando Echeverría (b.1929). The works of poets with different artistic sensitivities such as Sophia de Mello Breyner (b.1919) and Ruy Belo (1933-78) refer to a clear polemic or social criticism. the birth and evolution of the dictatorial regime which ended with the “carnation revolution” on April 25, 1974, subsequently embarked on different paths along the path of experimentation. On this level, high results in the exploration of the structural possibilities offered by the artistic material are obtained by poets such as Herberto Helder (b.1930), Pedro Tamen (b.1934) and, in the seventies and eighties, from the psychoanalytic studies of José Augusto Seabra (b.1937), and the highly transgressive work of Alberto Pimenta (b.1937). Eugénio de Andrade (b.1923), author of a poem of clear musicality and António Ramos Rosa (b.1924), poet and critic of subtle and lucid modernity. Even in prose, by virtue of the regressive climate established by the dictatorship, the resistance is channeled into the search for new expressive ways. Here the great figure is still that of Miguel Torga (1907-95, pseudonym of Adolfo Rocha) who asserts himself in the story as in the poem. The truth-novels of José Cardoso Pires (1925-98), the transfigurations of everyday reality by Agustina Bessa-Luis (b.1922), up to the structural inventions of Almeida Faria (b.1943) and the classical and ironic frescoes are closer. historical and cultural heritage of the country with which José Saramago(b. 1922, winner of the Nobel Prize in 1998) affirms himself, like many other authors, after the 1970s, and thanks to which Portuguese literature forcefully crosses national borders. After the fall of the dictatorship, the production of memorials and texts of analysis and reflection on the national reality was intense, as well as the lively and varied character of the feminine prose, taking shape as an awareness of the deep-rooted situations of Portuguese society: from the re-enactments of the postwar by Fernanda Botelho (b.1926), to the open feminist rebellion of the authors of the New Portuguese Letters (Maria Isabel Barreno, Maria Teresa Horta and Maria Velho da Costa), up to the demystifying memories of the colonial war by Lidia Jorge (b. 1946). Like fiction and poetry, theater has also suffered from a forty-year absence of political freedom. Expressionistic nightmares appeared in the singular dramas of Raul Brandão (1867-1930), Pirandellian echoes in Alfredo Cortes (1880-1946), aspects of Dadaism and Futurism in the theater of Almada-Negreiros, but a sweetened naturalism continued to triumph, made official in the comedies of Ramada Curto (1886-1969). The most significant results were also obtained by personalities who made brief forays into dramaturgy: great modern poets such as José Régio and Natalia Correia or Augusto Abelaria. And the persistence in the dramaturgical work of figures such as those of Luís Francisco Rebelo (b.1924), Bernardo Santareno (1924-80) and Luís de Sttau Monteiro (b.1926) was a great proof of courage, made the voice of freedom heard. In the field of dramaturgy, revelation is considered the figure of Carlos Coutinho whose texts constitute a critical testimony, in the manner of allegory, on every form of social repression. Among the younger poets we can mention the names of Paulo Teixera (b.1962) and Fernando Pinto do Amaral (b.1960), while in the field of children’s fiction Maria de Conceição Ferreira (b.1963) deserves a mention. Finally we remember the names of N. Júdice, L. Antunes, U. Tavares Rodriguez.

Portugal Literature