The literary magazine Orpheu debuted in the Portuguese cultural scene on 24 March 1915, and a second issue followed, on 28 June. Initially planned as a quarterly publication, the magazine had a very short lifespan, and the third issue never came out, mainly for financial reasons. Although Orpheu was the intellectual product of a group of young poets and virtually unknown artists, its two issues immediately provoked a literary scandal of significant proportions, for a literary phenomenon, which dragged on for several months in the Portuguese press, guaranteeing the periodical’s reputation long after the moment of publication. The scandal was mainly due to the formal and stylistic novelty in the literary and artistic domains introduced by the magazine, which caused considerable discomfort within a cultural milieu marked by the past. As early as 27 March, for example, newspaper O Mundo referred to it as ‘a kind of summary of the various modern currents in our literature’, which included ‘varied collaborations of some of the most characteristic figures among the young’. The emphasis on modernity and novelty advocated by the magazine corroborates its avant-garde character, with regard to the context in which it first appeared, as the most representative publication of the first Portuguese modernist generation. As Fernando Cabral Martins notes, Orpheu ‘is a synecdoche of Modernism, a magazine-sign of the moment, whose name now identifies a generation and a type of poetry’ (‘Orpheu continua’, Orpheu, facsimile ed., 2nd ed., Lisbon, Contexto, 1994). In fact, the magazine embodies the ‘activist moment’ that Renato Poggioli identifies as a constituent of nascent avant-garde movements (The Theory of the Avant-garde, Cambridge, Harvard UP, 1968, p. 25), but possesses a more enduring reach that includes both a generational dimension and a characteristic type of expression, as evidenced by the countless contemporary productions done ‘in the manner of Orpheu’. Also appropriate is Fernando Pessoa’s classification of the magazine as a ‘current’, capable of embracing the transgenerational impact of that ‘cultural movement’ (as Arnaldo Saraiva calls it. See Os órfãos do Orpheu, Porto, Fundação Engenheiro António de Almeida, 2015, p. 22) in the Portuguese letters, which would certainly be renewed in the experimentalist neovanguards of the 1960s and 70s.

If, on one hand, the literary phenomenon of Orpheu anticipated modernity in a Lisbon still in a premature phase of modernization, on the other, on an international level, it is worth noting the contemporaneity of the magazine with some of the first European modernist expressions. This aspect is remarkable if we consider that Orpheu's origins date back to 1912, 1913, years in which some of its early collaborators – notably Fernando Pessoa, Mário de Sá-Carneiro, Alfredo Pedro Guisado, Armando Côrtes-Rodrigues, and Almada Negreiros – all met; the first two began to plan the project. It is also worth noting the transnational aspect associated with the magazine, mainly due to some of its collaborators prolonged stays abroad, such as Sá-Carneiro, Santa-Rita Pintor, and José Pacheco, who had, before Orpheu, significant artistic experiences in Paris. In fact, the interartistic content of the magazine, which reflects these experiences, is compared to analogous European phenomena by Almada Negreiros, for whom ‘here one could find (...) the same thing that had occurred shortly before in Paris: the encounter of letters and painting’ (‘Orpheu’, Textos de Intervenção, Lisboa, Imprensa Nacional Casa da Moeda, 1993, pp. 169-188). Likewise, Orpheu reflects a transatlantic encounter, resulting from the merger between the magazine projects of Pessoa and Sá-Carneiro and what had been shared by Ronald de Carvalho and Luís de Montalvor, resulting in a first issue co-based in Portugal and Brazil, with the latter two authors serving as directors, and presenting Portuguese and Brazilian collaboration in both issues.

In addition to the magazine’s transculturalism, we find Orpheu’s transdisciplinarity, which synthesizes some of the most significant 'isms' of its time. For Pessoa, the aesthetic mentor of the magazine, as an ‘organ’ of ‘sensationism’, Orpheu seeks to be ‘an art-all-arts’ (‘uma arte-todas-as-artes’) that ‘must contain, alongside the subtlety of the symbolists, and the velocity of the whitmanists (I call them thus, to mark their origin, the cubists, the futurists and other modern authors (of our time?) dynamists...’ (Fernando Pessoa, Sensacionismo e outros Ismos, org. Jerónimo Pizarro, Lisbon, Imprensa Nacional Casa da Moeda, 2009, pp. 75-76, 475). The phrase is suspended in this fragment of ‘dialogic imaginary’ that begins with the question ‘So you want to know what is Orpheu? ", but to these imported aesthetics that influenced the literary and artistic production of the Orphics, Pessoa adds, besides sensationism, paulism and intersectionism, that inspired his and others’ collaborations included in both issues of the magazine.

Pessoa presents Orpheu as a platform for cosmopolitan nationalism, a counterpoint to the ‘radical provincialism’ of Iberian literature (Fernando Pessoa, Ibéria: Introdução a Um Imperialismo Futuro, org. Jerónimo Pizarro and Pablo Xavier Pérez López, Lisbon, Ática, 2012, p. 112), and an attempt to distance himself from the nostalgic nationalism of the Renascença Portuguesa and the traditionalist Lusitanian Integralism, his contemporaries. Consequently, in 1914, Pessoa and Sá-Carneiro planned to name the magazine ‘Europe’ (Mário de Sá-Carneiro, Em Ouro e Alma: Correspondência com Fernando Pessoa, org. Ricardo Vasconcelos and Jerónimo Pizarro, Lisbon, Tinta-da-china, 2015, p. 231). Steffen Dix suggests that ‘the celebrated paradox of cosmopolitan nationalism that Pessoa mentioned at this time’ can best be understood in the context of the ‘intellectual climate during and shortly before 1914’, characterized by ‘a curious proximity between cosmopolitanism and nationalism’, a reflection of the volatile condition that prevailed in pre-war Europe (Steffen Dix, ‘O Ano de 1915: Um Mundo em Fragmentos e a Normalização dos Extremos’, 1915: O ano do Orpheu, org. Steffen Dix, Lisbon, Tinta-da-china, p. 23). Later, the members of the Orpheu group will describe themselves as ‘Portuguese people writing to Europe’ (Fernando Pessoa, Páginas Íntimas e de Auto-Interpretação, org. Georg Rudolf Lind and Jacinto do Prado Coelho, Lisbon, Ática, 1966, p. 121). This objective corresponded not only to the Europeanization of Portugal, introducing the modern European currents to the country, but also and mostly to divulge the Portuguese modernity in the international arena. This explains Pessoa's numerous attempts to publicize the magazine and the aesthetic currents associated with it in Europe, with particular emphasis on London – many letter drafts addressed to various English editors and fragments of prefaces with this intent were found in his archive – and Madrid, as he even wrote to Miguel de Unamuno suggesting the celebrating of an ‘Iberian entente’ that projected both literatures internationally (Fernando Pessoa, Pessoa Inédito, org. Teresa Rita Lopes, Lisbon, Livros Horizonte, 1993, p. 314).

Patrícia Silva