Portugal Realistic Literature Part III
Between the two literary ideals, realism and symbolism; there were no violent conflicts, such as those of 1865 and 1871; there was scarcely a smiling polemic, Eça de Queiroz’s two pleasant and precise commentaries on Oliveira’s “neogarrettismo”, a word that meant the return to peaceful and satisfied national sentiment, as translated in Garrett’s historical dramas. The ten years, which go from the death of Eça de Queiroz to the proclamation of the republic, are the serene period of detoxification of literature from political virus. The theater collaborated in this ephemeral restoration of the artistic purity of literature. A neo-romantic theater, of regionalism of costumes and under the influence of Ibsen, Maeterlinck and Rostand, flourished in these years. It is the golden age of Marcellino Mesquita, H. Lopes de Mendonça, João da Camara (1852-1908), Eduardo Schwalbach (1856-1919), Julio Dantas, with the cooperation of a group of great actors.
According to watchtutorials, the advent of the republic could not help but leave a deep emotion in the spiritual field. Its marked innovative and revolutionary character was for the most part legitimate fruit of the demolishing literature of realism, but it was also by now in conflict with the spiritual tendencies of the new elite.. From here derive two spiritual orientations: that of the “conformes” spirits, who propose to give a brain to the republic, elaborating a doctrine and a literature for it; and that of the “desconformes”, who organize a body of opposition ideas, defending tradition and the old anti-liberal political style. The first trend gives rise to the formation of the group “Renascença portuguesa”, which later becomes the “Seara Nova”. Leonardo Coimbra, Teieira de Paschoaes and Jayme Cortesão are his first orientators, joined by Aquilino Ribeiro and Raul Brandão and Teieira Gomes. Paschoaes is the founder of the vague and esoteric doctrine of “saudosimo”. The second trend originates the group, more political than literary, of “Lusitanian integralism”, whose leader, Antonio Sardinha, was a vigorous temperament of polemicist and critic. Certainly many writers remain outside these groups and independently follow their spiritual path, obeying the innate particularity of the race.
A characteristic of this literature is given by the vast female collaboration, especially in subjective poetry and in the children’s story, without excluding other genres, such as the novel and the theater. The names of Florbela Espança and Virginia Victorino are very representative. The novel, expertly cultivated by Campos Monteiro, João Grave, Aquilino Ribeiro, Manuel Ribeiro, Sousa Costa, Ferreira de Castro, etc., also obeys the school of Eça de Queiroz. The contemporary novel offers a significant fact: the discovery of authors and themes that had not yet risen to the forefront of public attention; and it carries out an aspiration for radical social reforms, and that of announcing the creed of a generation. Some of these authors come from journalism, they trained in the school of reportage, which ultimately leads to contact with reality.
In the first three decades of the century. XX, criticism has made considerable progress in Portugal, and under the most varied aspects: historical, literary, philological, social and philosophical criticism; and in the most diverse forms: didactic and erudite, militant and polemical, measured, in the type of interpretative essay, on the English and French ones. Because this literary form derives precisely from England and France, although in this modern development of taste by the essay a Spanish influence is revealed above all, since critics play a large and excellent part in neighboring literature. And there is also an influence of circumstances: in a moment of spiritual anarchy, in which it is necessary to recast all the intellectual patrimony,
The colonies, once only a matter of petty official literature, laws and regulations, reports and speeches, are rising to the dignity of art. The landscape of the colonies and the problems of their general framework can impart vivid notes of luminous grandeur and exoticism to the small horizon of the motherland; but this fashion of colonial literature, which is encouraged even with official prizes, until it is free from its purely apologetic, traditionalist and Chauvinist character, will not succeed in affecting the higher zones of imagination and taste.
Futurism has also established itself in Portugal, although not as strongly as in Brazil, a field more prone to aesthetic rebellion. After various attempts, without excluding caricatured histrionics, which fell before the general indifference and distrust, the movement of “living art” seems to have crystallized in Coimbra, around the magazine Presença. The reasons for the lack of success of the movement will perhaps be due to the traditionalist atmosphere. However, we can attribute to Futurism the efficacy of fruitful ferment in reawakening the sincerity and spirit of individuality, inseparable from any artistic creation, especially in this moment of intellectual reconstruction and reorganization. It is precisely this effort of ideal organization that characterizes and marks the limit of the nationalist phase of Portuguese literature, which began in 1900. Just as realism contributed to the triumph of an intransigent and violent politics, this in turn must lead to a moral and intellectual reaction, which is announced with the re-evaluation of the great writers of the realistic age and with the flowering of the essay on social criticism.