Em todas as ruas te encontro – On every street I encounter you’
(from: Pena Capital, 1957)

To celebrate the centenary of the birth of Mário Cesariny de Vasconcelos (1923-2006), the country will mark a year of reflection on the work and life of its most famous surrealist poet, activist, and painter.

Last month the festivities reached the capital with a major exhibition O Castelo Surrealista’ (the surrealist castle) at the Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (MAAT) – until the 18th of February. Some new publications are also in the pipeline as well as a series of lectures, concerts, and performances throughout the country.

At a very young age, Mário Cesariny learned chiseling to continue his father’s trade, goldsmithing. He didn’t like the subject and entered the Lisbon Conservatory (piano major). During the war, he was shown surrealist magazines from Paris by friends and became captivated by those anomalous texts and images.

In the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, he was initially interested in neo-realism, a movement dominated by the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP), that positioned itself as a viable alternative to the official art of the fascist Estado Novo (New State) of Salazar. But he left the movement soon after because of its fidelity to the representation of people in paintings and its stylistic dictates, including the obligatory use of figuration.    

In 1947, he got the chance to spend some time in Paris, where he visited the International Exhibition of Surrealism organized to reinvigorate the surrealist movement that had been on the verge of disappearing during the war. There he met André Breton, the founder and leader of the French surrealists, and later that year founded the Portuguese Surrealist group (Os Surrealistas).

In 1950, his debut poetry collection ‘Corpo visível’ (visible body) was published outside the censorship of Salazar’s dictatorship. He lived in London and Paris, sometimes for longer periods, to be free of the intrusiveness of the PIDE (secret police) as they kept an eye on him because of his homosexuality and political ideas.

‘Surrealism is a way of transforming life and the world’, he used to say.
‘It is one of the two great revolutions of the 20th century, the other is Lenin’s.’

Only in 1961, when the repressive regime had somewhat softened, his poems were published by an established publisher in Portugal. In 1974 – when the Carnation Revolution liberated the country from the fascist terror – he participated in the Poetry International festival in Rotterdam, the Netherlands after which all his work was published and he was able to make trips to Spain, England, the US, and Mexico.

Cesariny was first and foremost a great poet. Public recognition for his pictorial work came later with the EDP Grand Prize for painting in 2002. That same year, a major retrospective exhibition of his paintings and other visual work was held in several Portuguese museums and an oeuvre catalog was published.
But he also was an excellent translator of poetry, translating work from Rimbaud, Novalis, and Breytenbach.

Happy Holidays         Boas Festas                (pic Público/Zucamag)

‘One of the most innovative cities’

Cascais is a town in the Lisbon Metropolitan Area, situated on the western edge of the Tagus river, between the Sintra hills and the Atlantic Ocean. It has about 225,000 inhabitants and is one of Europe’s oldest holiday resorts.
The municipality is one of the wealthiest in the country – ranking third on the list of the ten most expensive streets in Portugal – and famous for its quality of life.

The name ‘Cascais’ appears to derive from a plural derivation of cascal (monte de cascas), signifying ‘a mountain of shells’, referring to the abundant volume of marine molluscs harvested from the coastal waters.

Its history as a popular seaside resort originated in the 1870s, when King Luis I of Portugal and the royal family made the town their residence every September, turning the quiet fishing village into a cosmopolitan destination at the same time attracting members of the Portuguese aristocracy, who established a summer community thereby building impressive mansions in a wide-ranging style, many of which are still to be seen.

Another important step in the development of the area was made in the first half of the 20th century with the building of a railway from Lisbon to Cascais and the construction of a casino in neighbouring Estoril, which inspired Ian Flemming to write his first James Bond novel in 1953, Casino Royale.

Due to Portugal’s neutrality in World War II and the town’s royal past, Cascais became home to many of exiled royal families in Europe – including those of Spain, Italy, Hungary and Bulgaria – and Estoril a centre of international spies and diplomatic secrecy. Many of the places that saw German, British and American spies walk around still exist in Estoril about which the Cascais Tourist office (www.visisitcascais.com) published a small guide (rota misteriosa dos espiões).

Nowadays Cascais is considered to be one of the 50 most innovative cities in the world for its energy transition and climate action policies. It was the first municipality in the country to have hydrogen-powered buses circulating and leading the way as a smart city by using GPS locators.

After a wave of thefts of various palm trees, Cascais City Council decided to put GPS tags on some of its most valuable species in the Avenida 25 de Abril, one of the main roads in the city centre, that was recently upgraded and landscaped for 70,000 euros with several hundred tree species, in particular young palm trees. And with success. One of the stolen trees could be detected in the house of a military man.

And finally, chronic and long-term inpatients at the José de Almeida hospital in Cascais can now be visited by their pets. The first visit took place this spring when a 77-year-old patient received her four-year-old dog Nino. According to the hospital employees, the woman – admitted to the Internal Medicine unit after suffering a stroke – articulated more sentences during the encounter with her dog than during her whole stay in the hospital.

Enjoy the week            Aproveite a semana               (pic Público/Sapo)