Perspectives on the Literature and Culture of Portuguese America
Chapter 10. Isolato in Manhattan
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ISOLATO IN MANHATTAN
Among José Rodrigues Miguéis’ papers now at Brown University there exists a statement explicitly to the effect that critics have failed to perceive the most important thing about his writing: that it is all autobiographical. Publication of such an admission (or claim) by this Portuguese writer, self-exiled in the United States, would not have stood him in good stead in Portugal during his lifetime nor, one suspects, would it serve to enhance his reputation in Portugal even today, where no one would bother to see what might be behind Miguéis’ statement. Surely, he could have meant by the statement (and probably did) that he wrote only about what actually occurred to him. The key, though, is in discerning what he might have meant by “what happened.” The answer to this question, if there is one, is in the fiction itself. What I have in mind, specifically, are those individuals in Miguéis’ work, usually the narrators themselves, who spend countless hours in their rooms, in their beds at night, listening to the sounds of the pension, the apartment, the hotel, perceiving by limited cues—old, new—the drama that folds and unfolds. Perception for Miguéis’ people in this case works hand-in-glove with the imagination to piece-out the narrative of “happenings” outside of the “walls” beyond his bed. So we see in Miguéis’ work, early and late, the figure of the recumbent, restless narrator, mixing memory...
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