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  • Consensus and Debate in Salazar's Portugal: Visual and Literary Negotiations of the National Text, 1933-1948
  • Silvia A. Oliveira
Sapega, Ellen W. Consensus and Debate in Salazar's Portugal: Visual and Literary Negotiations of the National Text, 1933-1948. University Park: Pennsylvania State UP, 2008. Pp. 160. ISBN 978-0-271-03410-2.

Nearly four decades have passed since the fall of Oliveira Salazar's dictatorship that began in 1928 and ended in 1974. Given the current interest in the many facets of history making and memory building that occurred during Salazar's long reign and continued after his passing in 1968, Ellen W. Sapega's Consensus and Debate in Salazar's Portugal: Visual and Literary Negotiations of the National Text, 1933-1948 is essential reading.

Consensus and Debate in Salazar's Portugal presents a well-documented and vivid portrait of how consensus building propaganda led to an official Salazarist culture, and explores the "middle course between open resistance and ready consent. . ." (3). Those interested in the fascistic shaping of national identities during the first half of the twentieth century, especially as it relates to Portuguese, African Lusophone, and Brazilian studies, will find Sapega's work invaluable.

The opening chapter focuses on the actions of the Secretariat of Propaganda, created in 1933 for the manufacturing of Portuguese originality. Sapega analyzes the impact that visual constructs had on forming consensus at the national and international levels, and singles out two illustrative events. In 1938 a nostalgic competition was promoted to discover and recreate the most Portuguese village in Portugal. This national affair served to mobilize the media and center attention on the traditional values of religious and rural life, the central tenant of Salazar's agenda. The second event Sapega examines is the carefully designed and internationally publicized Exposition of the Portuguese World that took place in Lisbon in 1940, an event that was the crown of Salazar's apotheosis. Drawing on images and narratives that appeared in the press, Sapega reconstructs in virtual tour fashion, the experience of the visitor to the imperialistic exposition. She explores the aesthetic elaboration of these two events and documents Salazar's memory building mechanism by examining the strategies and processes used to create a national memory that was crystallized for its own and future generations. With the context of Salazar's designing of Portugalidade established, the remainder of her book is devoted to how three independent artists countered the Estado Novo's ideology by incorporating subtle elements of discord into their work.

Having previously authored an admirable study of José de Almada Negreiro's narrative fiction in 1992, Ellen Sapega here scrutinizes Almada's use of modernist visual aesthetics in his assignments that were commissioned by the government. Through detailed analysis of the state sponsored stained-glass work for the Church of Our Lady of Fátima and the murals of the Rocha Do Conde De Óbidos and Alcântara maritime stations in Lisbon, Sapega persuasively describes how Almada Negreiros designed and imprinted "cracks in the façade" of the national text. These public projects would later prompt accusations of conflict-of-interest and make Almada Negreiros one of the most controversially esteemed Portuguese artists of the twentieth century.

Sapega next turns to Irene Lisboa's literary works published in the 1940s to exemplify how creative writers resisted Salazar's patriarchal doctrine. Irene Lisboa's nearly overlooked importance in twentieth-century Portuguese literature and culture is revitalized as Sapega demonstrates how Lisboa effectively undermined the "God, Fatherland, and Family" slogan by including in her stories common men and women whose life circumstances contradict one or more elements of Salazar's national trinity. Lisboa rejected the melodramatic overtones of flowery official prose and opted instead for a minor tone and a more subtly inconspicuous fragmented narrative. Sapega then appropriately underscores her analysis of Irene Lisboa's texts by stating that Lisboa "implicitly reminds her readers that traditional literary forms can be just as oppressive as the laws that structure and govern the social body" (113). [End Page 714]

Lastly, Cape Verdean writer Baltasar Lopes is introduced. His 1947 novel, Chiquinho, depicting Creole cultural practices, is established by Sapega as an important work...


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