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Mário de Sá-Carneiro, A Cosmopolitan Modernist


Edited By Fernando Beleza and Simon Park

Although he committed suicide at the age of twenty-five, Mário de Sá-Carneiro left behind a rich corpus of texts that is inventive, playful, even daring. The first collection in English to be dedicated to his work, this volume brings together scholars from Portugal, Brazil, and the USA to reassess Sá-Carneiro’s contribution to Portuguese and European Modernism(s). In the book, established researchers and younger scholars delve into the complexities and paradoxes of his work, exploring not only the acclaimed novella Lucio’s Confession, but also his poetry, short fiction, and correspondence. Each essay engages in the necessary task of placing Sá-Carneiro’s work in a wider literary and artistic context, bringing back to his texts the creative energy of early twentieth-century Europe. Plural in their methods, the essays propose multiple lenses through which to tackle key aspects of Sá-Carneiro’s œuvre: his aesthetic and artistic influences and preoccupations; his negotiations/performances of identity; and the ways in which his work emerges in dialogue with other Modernist authors and how they in turn engage with his work. Though he is sometimes overshadowed by his more famous friend and artistic comrade, Fernando Pessoa, this collection shows just how much one misses, if one overlooks Sá-Carneiro and other writers of the Orpheu generation.


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Part I: Intersections


Part I Intersections Fernando Cabral Martins Mário de Sá-Carneiro: Intersectionist ‘Novela Romântica’: A Paradox Although the traditions of Romanticism and Symbolism endure in the writing of Sá-Carneiro, there are fundamental aspects of them that evolve. It is for this reason that, right from Dispersão (1913) [Dispersal] to his final poems, Sá-Carneiro can be read alongside the avant-garde of his age. This is the primary paradox of his work: it preserves a given tradition whilst also breaking with it. And it is this paradox that fuels the strangeness and sophis- tication of his imagination. Indeed, after the revolution of Paulismo that resulted from his dialogue with Fernando Pessoa and which is documented in their published correspondence from 1913–14, experimental tendencies emerge in Sá-Carneiro’s work that lead him to become an Intersectionist, combining his more experimental style with certain nineteenth-century, Romantic, and Decadent traits.1 Sá-Carneiro’s avant-garde qualities manifest themselves above all in what I call his ‘geometric imagination’ and in his syntactic inventive- ness. They coalesce in one of the underlying themes of his work, that of impossibility: the impossibility of communication with the Other and the impossibility of attaining the Ideal. Two very Romantic ideas indeed. If we compare Sá-Carneiro with the ultra-Romantic Soares de Passos, for instance, we see that the theme of the unattainable ideal and the flight 1 For more on this artistic dialogue, see Cartas de Mário de Sá-Carneiro a Fernando Pessoa, ed. Manuela Parreira...

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