Writers, Land of Culture

Alves Redol

Son of António Redol da Cruz and Inocência da Purificação Alves, António Alves Redol was born in Vila Franca de Xira on the 29th of December 1911. Alves Redol started publishing his texts much before he started to publish books, having published an article for the first time at the age of fifteen, in the newspaper “Vida Ribatejana” on July 10th 1927, in which he “defended the setup of a public library in town” (Redol, 2013, p. 18).

The year after, he travelled to Angola, hoping to organise his life. He did indeed find a job, but the salary was not as high as he had wanted and therefore he “taught what he learnt in high school at a night school” (Alves Redol: 50 anos de Gaibéus, [no date], p. 2). Still in Africa he caught Malaria, a disease which was to weaken him for the rest of his life, making him return to Portugal in 1931, where he started to work in an office. This is when he started to be active in the social life of the county of Vila Franca de Xira through the Artistic Forum, giving talks and organising several conferences and presentations, always defending the working class. However, the political police closed down this collective, marking what was to become a conflictual relationship between the writer and the repressive state, which later lead to his collaboration with important newspapers in the anti-Salazarian opposition, as was the case of “O Diabo”, in which he published “Kangondo”, a shortstory set in Africa.

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This climate charged with tension caused by the political repression made Alves Redol and other writers of that time take on a neorealist approach in their literature, which became connected to the democratic resistance movement against the Salazarian dictatorship. Alves Redol was influenced by the Realism of authors such as Eça de Queiroz, adopting a critical view in the description of the society of his time. Redol actually even stated that: “If Camilo touched me, then the irony of Eça delighted me […]. It was because of him that I started to look out of the window of Europe. And I joined a group of students, known in Vila Franca by the name “hopeful youth” (Redol, 2013, p. 19). Hence “if Gaibéus is the first novel of Alves Redol, it also represents a historical date in the introduction of neorealism in Portugal, a literary movement, which plays an integral part in understanding the Portuguese economic and social context” (Alves Redol: 50 anos de Gaibéus, [no date], p. 3).

A firm defender of ideals, Alves Redol always fought for the working class, being arrested on May 12th 1944, virtually one year after his first and only son, António MotaRedol, was born.
As a result of the pressure put on his editors, Alves Redol’s work was censured, for many years being the only Portuguese writer having to submit his first drafts to censorship. However, this humiliating situation did not stop him from continuing to write and play an active role in social life: in 1947, he was named secretary general of the Portuguese section of the Pen Club – an international association of writers – and travelled to Wroclaw in Poland the year after as part of the Portuguese delegation to take part in the Congress of the Intellectuals for Piece, where he spoke in the name of the delegation” (ibid.). The political police knew that Alves Redol was a much-liked writer among the working class and was therefore under constant surveillance by the PIDE. In 1961, he started his career in advertising as the income from his books was not enough for him to live on and in 1963 he was arrested again. He died on November 29th 1969 at the young age of only 57 years in the Hospital de Santa Maria.

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