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Jorge de Sena

Jorge de Sena

Jorge de Sena

(Portugal, 1919 - 1978)
Jorge de Sena is one of the most important Portuguese poets of the second half of the 20th century, but he was also an outstanding essayist, a fiction writer of indubitable talent, a significant playwright and a tireless translator of the poetry and prose of writers from a variety of languages and periods. His published works extend to more than a hundred titles. It is difficult to understand how a single person could accomplish so much in one lifetime, and not a long one at that, especially if we consider that he worked under the demands of a professional life and raised nine children.
In 1959, fearing that he would be persecuted for his involvement in a failed coup attempt against the dictatorship of Salazar, Sena went into exile in Brazil, and later adopted Brazilian nationality. There he added a doctorate in the humanities to his degree in civil engineering. In 1965 he left Brazil with his large family for the United States, where he remained until his death. There is a Portuguese Studies Center named after him at the University of California at Santa Barbara, where he held his last teaching post.

The innovative character and the excellence of his vast body of work are broadly recognized today, but this was not always the case. Sena himself believed that he was under-appreciated in Portugal and, from the vantage of his American exile, he took his revenge in a series of acid attacks against the mediocrity and provincialism of the Portuguese cultural scene. It is no wonder that his poetry provoked a certain resistance. Though he was a ferociously critical poet, he would nevertheless dispense with the primer of social realism, and occasionally display the outer signs of surrealism. However, he was much too cerebral to submit himself to the dictates of the unconscious, or to practice automatic writing. And though he would give voice to personal circumstances, his practice as a poet of witness, both of his own life and the world around him, had nothing in common with the subjectivity and the immersion in psychology so typical of the generation of writers grouped around the influential literary magazine Presença, launched in the city of Coimbra in 1927.

With the appearance in Portugal, at the beginning of the 1960s, of a poetry dedicated to creating a new autonomy for poetic language, one which would favor control, prosodic rigor and metaphoric density, it was natural that certain characteristics of Sena’s poetry, such as his frequent use of registers more typical of prose, were seen as symptoms of weak technique. But it is curious to note that what tended to alienate him from the successive poetic currents of his times is exactly what the young and influential Portuguese poets of today find so attractive in him.

As an essayist, Sena is an important reference, both when it comes to Luís de Camões and to Fernando Pessoa. He also wrote a novella, dozens of short stories and one powerful novel, Signs of Fire, which presents at once a fresco of Portuguese society during the period of the Spanish Civil War and a detailed portrait of the education of a poet. He will also be remembered as the translator of hundreds of poems by a variety of poets, and of the novels and plays of such authors as Molière, Lautréamont, Poe, Chestov, Brecht, Faulkner, Hemingway, Graham Greene, Malraux and Eugene O’Neill, among many others.
© Miguel Queirós (Translated by Martin Earl)

Poetry in Portuguese
, Cadernos de Poesia, Lisbon, 1942
Coroa da terra, Lello & Irmão, Oporto, 1946
Pedra filosofal, Confluência, Lisbon, 1950
As Evidências, Centro Bibliográfico, Lisbon, 1955
Fidelidade, Moraes, Lisbon, 1958
Post-Scriptum [in Poesia I], Moraes, Lisbon, 1961
Metamorfoses, seguidas de quatro sonetos a Afrodite Anadiómena, Moraes, Lisbon, 1963
Arte de música, Moraes, Lisbon, 1968
Peregrinatio ad loca infecta, Portugália, Lisbon, 1969
Exorcismos, Moraes, Lisbon, 1972
Camões dirige-se aos seus contemporâneos e outros textos, Inova, Oporto, 1973
Conheço o sal... e outros poemas, Moraes, Lisbon, 1974
Sobre esta praia… Oito meditações à beira do Pacífico, [in Poesia III]. Moraes, Lisbon, 1978
40 anos de servidão, Moraes, Lisbon, 1979 [2ª ed. revised, Moraes, Lisbon, 1982]
Sequências, Moraes, Lisbon, 1980
Visão perpétua, Imprensa Nacional/Casa da Moeda e Moraes, Lisbon, 1982
Post-scriptum II [2 volumes], Imprensa Nacional/Casa da Moeda e Moraes, Lisbon, 1985
Dedicácias, Três Sinais, Lisbon, 1999

Amparo de mãe, Plátano, Lisbon, 1974
O Indesejado (António, Rei), Marânus, Oporto, 1951
Mater Imperialis: Amparo de Mãe e mais 5 peças em 1 acto seguido de 1 apêndice, Edições 70, Lisbon, 1990

Andanças do demónio, Estúdios Cor, Lisbon, 1960
Novas andanças do demónio, Portugália, Lisbon, 1966
Os grão-capitães, Edições 70, Lisbon, 1976
O físico prodigioso, Edições 70, Lisbon, 1977
Sinais de fogo, Edições 70, Lisbon, 1979
Génesis, Edições 70, Lisbon, 1982
Monte Cativo e outros projectos de ficção, Asa, Oporto, 1994

Essay [selective bibliography] 
Páginas de doutrina estética de Fernando Pessoa, Inquérito, Lisbon, 1946
Líricas portuguesas: 3ª série, Portugália, Lisbon, 1958 [2ª ed. revised and expanded into two volumes, Edições 70, Lisbon, 1975 e 1983]
Da poesia portuguesa, Ática, Lisbon, 1959
O reino da estupidez, Moraes, Lisbon, 1961 [2ª ed. expanded, and re-entitled O reino da estupidez I, Moraes, Lisbon, 1979]
A literatura inglesa: ensaio de interpretação e de História, Cultrix, S. Paulo, Brazil, 1963
Uma canção de Camões, Portugália, Lisbon, 1966
Os sonetos de Camões e o soneto quinhentista peninsular, Portugália, Lisbon, 1969
A estrutura de ‘Os Lusíadas’ e outros estudos camonianos e de poesia peninsular do século XVI, Portugália, Lisbon, 1970
Dialécticas da literatura, Edições 70, Lisboa, 1973 [2ª ed. expanded and re-entitled Dialécticas teóricas da literatura, Moraes, Lisbon, 1978]
Maquiavel e outros estudos, Paisagem, Porto, 1974 [re-entitled Maquiavel, Marx e outros estudos] Poemas Ingleses de Fernando Pessoa, Ática, Lisbon, 1974 [Translation, preface and notes]
Régio, Casais, a ‘Presença’ e outros afins, Brasília, Oporto, 1977
Dialécticas aplicadas da literatura, Edições 70, Lisbon, 1978
O reino da estupidez II, Moraes, Lisbon, 1978
Trinta anos de Camões: 1948-1978, Edições 70, Lisbon, 1980
Estudos de literatura portuguesa I, Edições 70, Lisbon, 1982
Fernando Pessoa & C.ª heterónima, Edições 70, Lisbon, 1982
Estudo sobre o vocabulário de ‘Os Lusíadas’ com notas sobre o Humanismo e o Exoterismo de Camões, Edições 70, Lisbon, 1982
Inglaterra revisitada, Edições 70, Lisbon, 1986
Sobre o romance: ingleses, norte-americanos e outros, Ed. 70, Lisbon, 1986
Estudos de literatura portuguesa II, Edições 70, Lisbon, 1988
Estudos de literatura portuguesa III, Edições 70, Lisbon, 1988
Estudos de cultura e literatura brasileira, Edições 70, Lisbon, 1988
Sobre cinema, Cinemateca Portuguesa, Lisbon, 1988
Do teatro em Portugal, Edições 70, Lisbon, 1989
Amor e outros verbetes, Edições 70, Lisbon, 1992
O dogma da trindade poética (Rimbaud) e outros ensaios, Asa, Oporto, 1994
Sobre literatura e cultura britânicas, Relógio d\'Água, Lisbon, 2005
Poesia e cultura, Caixotim, Oporto, 2005

Works in translation

Over this shore... Eight meditations on the coast of the Pacific, Mudborn Press, Santa Barbara, USA., 1979. Tr. Jonathan Griffin
The Poetry of Jorge de Sena, Center for Portuguese Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA., 1980. Org. Frederick G. Williams. Various translators.
In Crete with the Minotaur and other poems, Gávea-Brown, Providence, USA., 1980. Tr. George Monteiro
The wondrous physician, J. M. Dent & Sons, London, 1986
England revisited. Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon, 1986. Tr. Cristopher Damien Auretta
By the rivers of Babylon and other stories, Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, 1989
Genesis [in In the beginning there was Jorge de Sena’s Genesis: The birth of a writer]., Bandanna Books, Santa Barbara, USA., 1991
Art of music, University Editions, Huntington, West Virginia, USA., 1988. Tr. Francisco Cota Fagundes and James Houlihan
Metamorphoses, Copper Beech Press, Providence, USA., 1991. Tr. Francisco Cota Fagundes and James Houlihan
The evidences, Center for Portuguese Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA., 1994. Tr. Phyllis Sterling Smith
Signs of fire, Carcanet Press, Manchester, 1999. Tr. John Byrne

Esorcismi, Accademia, Milano, 1974. Tr. Carlo Vittorio Cattaneo
Su questa spiaggia, Fogli di Portucale, Rome, 1984. Tr. Carlo Vittorio Cattaneo e Ruggero Jacobbi
Metamorfosi, Empiria, Rome, 1987. Tr. Carlo Vittorio Cattaneo
Il medico prodigioso, Feltrinelli, Milan, 1987. tr. Luciana Stegagno Picchio.
Storia del peixe-pato, Empiria, Rome, 1987. Tr. Carlo Vittorio Cattaneo
La Gran Canaria e altri raconti, Eds. Riuniti, Rome, 1988. Tr. Vincenzo Barca
La notte che era stata di Natale, Empiria, Rome, 1990. Tr. Carlo Vittorio Cattaneo
La finestra d’angolo, Selle-Rio, Palermo, 1991. Tr. Vincenzo Barca
Arte musicale, Empiria, Rome, 1993. Tr. Carlo Vittorio Cattaneo
Segni di fuoco, Empiria, Rome, 2004. Tr. Vincenzo Barca
Scorribande del demónio, Empiria, Rome, 2006. Tr. Carlo Vittorio

Le physicien prodigieux, A. M. Métailié, Paris, 1985. Tr. Michelle Giudicelli
Signes de feu, Albin Michel, Paris, 1986. Tr. Michelle Giudicelli
Peregrinatio ad loca infecta, L\'Escampette, Bordeaux, 1993. Tr. Michelle Giudicelli
Les grands capitaines, A. M. Métailié, Paris, 1992. Tr. Michelle Giudicelli
Au nom du diable, A. M. Métailié, Paris, 1993. Tr. Michelle Giudicelli

El fisico prodigioso, Edicións Xerais de Galicia, Vigo, 1987. Tr. Sara Cide Cabido e A. R. Reixa
Sobre esta playa, Olifante, Zaragoza, 1989. Tr. Cesar Antonio Molina
Señales de fuego, Galáxia Gutenberg e Circulo de Lectores, Barcelona, 1998. Tr. Basilio Losada

Senyals de foc, Proa, Barcelona, 1989. Tr. Xavier Moral

Der wundertätige Physicus, Suhrkamp, Frankfurt, 1989. Tr. Curt Meyer-Clason
Feuerzeichen, Suhrkamp, Frankfurt, 1997. Tr. Frank Heibert

De wonderdokter, De Prom, Baarn, 1994. Tr. Arie Pos
Tekens van vuur, De Prom, Baarn, 1995. Tr. Arie Pos
De grootkpiteins, De Prom, Baarn, 1999. Tr. Arie Pos

Frihetens Färg [collection of poems, original title in Portuguese, A Cord a Liberdade], Atlantis, Stockholm, 1989. Tr. Marianne Sandels

Ogniste znaki [Sinais de fogo], Bene Nati, Poznan, 2000. Tr. Jacek Plecinski

Génesis, Instituto Cultural de Macau, Macau, 1986. Tr. Wu Zhiliang
O físico prodigioso, Instituto Cultural de Macau, Macau, 1988. Tr. Jin Guo Ping

Links in Portuguese

Biography and brief introduction to the work

Detailed biography, summary of the fictional and poetic work, primary and secondary bibliography.

Biography. Links to essays about Jorge de Sena.

Biography and poems.
Gemeente Rotterdam
Nederlands Letterenfonds
Stichting Van Beuningen Peterich-fonds
Prins Bernhard cultuurfonds
Lira fonds
J.E. Jurriaanse
Gefinancierd door de Europese Unie
Elise Mathilde Fonds
Stichting Verzameling van Wijngaarden-Boot
LantarenVenster – Verhalenhuis Belvédère