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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 III: Dialogues


Part III Dialogues Pedro Eiras Lúcio’s Unreadable Testimony If testimony looks back dispassionately at a crime from the outside, how can it cry or laugh along with the action? To begin with, allow me a short paragraph of personal reflection, not academic, but subjective. For many years, I considered A confissão de Lúcio (1913) [Lúcio’s Confession] an unhappy text, guilt-ridden, horrifying. I suffered with Lúcio as he gave his testimony. Time went by and when I returned to Sá-Carneiro, I could not stop laughing as I read. Where once I had found angst, I encountered comedy that was totally unexpected. This comparison of my two reading experiences, which, by the by, keep evolving, suggests that there is perhaps no single way of reading a text like A confissão de Lúcio; one that emerges from our reading as so multi-faceted. What we take as humorous or straight-faced, ironic or sincere, even testi- mony of fact or fiction, all has to be revised. And this is the thrust of this chapter: how do we get from a work that is self-confessedly testimonial to a text that is unreadable? The fact that Modernism ends in the loss of innocence of the text is not incidental: its forms of negativity demand a new grammar. The victim of the Modernist crime is the sentence itself: it becomes a-grammatical. But negativity does not imply that literature self-disintegrates in the same way that my laughter does not show disregard...

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