Ethics and aesthetics of irony in José Rodrigues Miguéis’s fiction

Georges Da Costa
Etudes du monde lusophone, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris 3
June, 2010
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José Rodrigues Miguéis (1901-1980) leaves Portugal in 1935 and, despite several attempts to come back, he spends most of his life in the United States. This exile, mostly due to his political activities against the Salazar regime, will deeply influence his fictional work. Indeed, on the one hand, his ethical concerns as an activist strongly riddle his narratives which very often obey a global literary strategy with an educational intention where classical and satirical irony is a tool of choice. On the other hand, he regularly shows a critical attitude towards the self and towards the real and often stages his doubts and questionings through another irony, romantic and modern, using literary techniques pointing out a reflexive relationship to creation. The paradox constituting any irony – to say at the same time adhesion and detachment – is thus exacerbated by the presence of those two contradictory ironies, often in the same work. This study aims to prove that the particular nature of the Migueisian fiction lies in the simultaneous presence of those two ironies: a fiction considered as a playground characterized by ambiguity, where the writer plays with the conventions of literature, with genres, with the character/narrator/author categories that he tends to mix up all together and, above all, with the autobiographical dimension, which really plays a predominant role. The classical irony and the romantic and modern one then reveal themselves as the two literary faces of the same identitary drama, that of an exiled writer who wishes to be and is, above all, Portuguese.