Friday, June 02, 2006

Ricardo Reis

A poet of Sad Epicureanism, master of highly wrought, metaphysical and neoclassical odes. Born in Porto and educated by Jesuits. A doctor by profession and monarchist by conviction. Reis sought exile in Brazil after the proclamation of the first Portuguese Republic in 1919. Antonio Tabucchi believes Reis to have died peacefully in exile at the end of 1935. Saramago, however, speculated that Reis died in Lisbon one year later under mysterious circumstances, unwittingly entangled in the revolts which spilled over from the Spanish Civil war in Lisbon. Reis was the nearest that Pessoa could come to being Caeiro.

Reis wrote classically inspired odes. Richard Zenith (Pessoa's English translator) characterizes these poems as advocating “a stoic acceptance of life with its small and fleeting pleasures, its inevitable sorrow, and its lack of any discoverable meaning.” Perhaps what distinguished Reis from Soares is that he kept his overt broodings to his short poems and became obsessed with two women.

Saramago has Reis, on one of his walks about the city of Lisbon, wanders onto the street of Soares' life:

"Ricardo Reis went around the square from the southern side and turned into the Rua dos Douradores. The rain almost over, he could now close his umbrella and look up at the tall, grimy fa├žades. Rows of windows at the same height, some with sills, others with balconies, the monotonous stone slabs extending all along the road until they merge into thin vertical strips which narrow more and more but never entirely disappear."

Until he finds his own apartment, Reis spends most of his months in Lisbon living in the Hotel Bragan├ža at the beginning of the Rua do Alecrim, taken there by a taxi driver immediately after he disembarks from the ship that brought him home after 16 years in Brazil.

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