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  • "No Coward Soul is Mine"The Year in Portugal
  • Cláudia Faria (bio)

If you are not a famous football player, involved in a political or private scandal, or recovering from cancer, your autobiography will surely fail to make any bestseller list in Portugal. It is not only the general public who is disinterested in everyday life stories; Portuguese academe also appears reluctant to embrace life writing as a legitimate field of study, which explains the few publications and projects available for consideration this year.

Portuguese Perspectives on Twentieth-Century Wars

However, a closer look at the publication spectrum suggests that life stories associated with the two World Wars (in particular, Portuguese overseas war memories) have become a popular topic for the general public. Perhaps the topic's popularity is directly correlated to the celebration of the centennial of the end of WWI. Public interest in this war indicates that Portuguese society is finally coming to terms with this moment in history, as is suggested by Fernando de Castro's O meu diário de campanha and Maria José Oliveira's Prisioneiros Portugueses da Primeira Guerra Mundial. Two works related to WWII are also worth mentioning: Portugal e os Nazis by Cláudia Ninhos and Aristides de Sousa Mendes: Memórias de um neto by António Moncada Sousa Mendes, grandson of the famous consul who saved many Jews from Nazi persecution.

We have also been witnessing a series of books written by veterans of the Guerra do Ultramar—the official name in Portugal of the Portuguese Colonial War (1961–1974)—as well as by scholars researching this period. Why is this happening? Without attempting to provide a sociological justification for this war or its consequences, we can note that Portugal as a nation has been shaped by this dark period, and that the Portuguese people have only recently gained public access to sensitive archives, like the ones held by the Secret Police Department (PIDE), thus allowing comparative studies to be made. War veterans and families have realized [End Page 119] the time has come to reveal "the other side" of the story in order to bring to light their own experiences of suffering and injustice. Struggling with ambivalent feelings about their participation, veterans have kept diaries, letters, photos, and other types of private documents. However, by now, most appear to have accepted their sons' and grandsons' lack of interest in the matter. Fearing this information will be eventually lost forever, some have decided to write their own version of the story of these conflicts, while others have relied on specialists to help them with the retrieval of their past. As Ioana Luca puts it, referring to the situation in post-Soviet societies, "[there is] a personal and/or collective urge to talk about a forcefully silent past, as well as a need to reassess political figures or events" (656). A master's thesis entitled "As cicatrizes da ditadura: memórias autobiográficas de ex-presos políticos Portugueses" by Ana Pinto Pereira, an article entitled "La resistance à la dictature Portugaise et le sceau de la memóire: l'archive sensible d' Aurora Rodrigues" by anthroplogist Paula Godinho, and the book Os Flechas: A tropa secreta da PIDE/DGS na Guerra de Angola by Fernando Cavaleiro Ângelo all contain first-person accounts from this period, while Miguel Carvalho's Quando Portugal Ardeu: Histórias e segredos da violência política no pós-25 de Abril includes testimonies and private documents concerning the days after the Carnation Revolution on April 25, 1974. These projects demonstrate Portuguese scholars' emerging interest in discussing a silenced moment in the country's history. Other works that treat this topic include Retornar: Traços de Memória do Fim do Império edited by Elsa Peralta, Joana Oliveira, and Bruno Góis, Abril, caderno de memórias by Nuno Pinto Soares, and Luanda, como ela era: 1960–1975 by Rita Garcia.

Identity Card: "No coward soul is mine"

In June 2017, sociologist Maria Filomena Mônica republished her autobiography Bilhete de identidade, which originally appeared in 2005. Mônica was born in Lisbon in 1943, graduated in philosophy and history, completed a PhD in...


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