The democratic monument

The monument compiled, interwoven and dedicated to freedom, to democracy, to modern and contemporary rationalism, to a living and participative culture, by 20th century Portuguese persons of thought, sciences, and letters is called Seara Nova.

The magazine of doctrine and criticism stood for nearly five decades of dictatorship as the organ for educated and intransigent dissenters who put the duty of raising their voices in the name of knowledge, the demand for dignity, and the desire for equity above all else.

The undertaking was necessarily broad and accommodating of similar yet distinctive perspectives. More than a precise programme, Seara defined an attitude: that both means and ends are inevitably linked and that the strength and greatness of a common endeavour resides in the plurality of opinions and gestures of the free and courageous men who pursue it.

During long periods of time, only the sheer capacity for resisting the misfortunes inflicted upon the magazine allowed authors the possibility of writing for a periodical acknowledged for its independence and, therefore, for its opposition to Salazar’s regime; the first decisions in Seara Nova’s life were taken in the same location where the political police would later have its headquarters.

The intellectuals who took the initiative of founding the Empresa de Publicidade Seara Nova – Jaime Cortesão, Raul Proença, António Sérgio, Raul Brandão, Aquilino Ribeiro, Faria de Vasconcelos, among others – stood out for the heightened civic and political sense they conferred upon the condition of the educated person. Exile, banishment, imprisonment, professional and personal persecution, even the mental disorders these men were subjected to, all contribute to bestow the significant symbolic aura to their public commitment.

In this group Luís da Câmara Reys, the hero of the management of the magazine and the Empresa, often accused of irresponsibility, could also be found. Forced to deal with general external adversity, everyday financial upheaval, complex internal balances – that caused two deep rifts among the editorial staff – Câmara Reys always displayed the necessary good sense to state that ‘if Seara had been run with prudence, it would have ceased to exist or to have a reason for existing a long time ago’ (nr. 1008, p. 225).

Even though the seareiro spirit had its own character, the evolution of the magazine produced and reflected the course of 20th century Portuguese intellectual history, of which it was, in fact, the backbone. Seara Nova, with a remote origin in A Águia, that had flown away from Teixeira de Pascoaes’ hands and landed in Lisbon, proclaimed an ambitious, even excessive, programme of radical – but not jacobine – regeneration of the Republic, both in the opening editorial by Raul Proença and the civic movements in which it took part. This undertaking ceased a few years after the 25th of April, to which the programme greatly contributed, after having closed itself off inside a restrictive perspective of political and cultural intervention.

In the meantime, the plot and the web of 20th century Portuguese democratic culture, together with the contributions of the seareiro programme, the more or less conflictive and ambivalent growing presence of the new Marxist faction, the affirmation of contemporary theoretical or sensibility perspectives, the criticism of an asphyxiating day-to-day, the possible reception of world and European cultural life, the intensity of political combat brought on both by the Allied victory and the presidential elections of 1958 – to which much more could be added in the fields of literary, musical, plastic arts, and film criticism.

Considering the 21,358 published pieces and over 3000 authors that can be counted throughout 31,500 pages published between 1921 and 1984, the attention of most researchers has been focused on the period before the Military Dictatorship, where the content and the ambiguity of the seareiro programme took shape. Apart from a few pioneer studies, the remaining four cycles that make up the current and consensual periodization of the seareiro project have been largely neglected (1927-1939, 1939-1959, 1959-1974, and 1974-1984).

The publication of over six-hundred books spanning several decades, also by the Empresa de Publicidade Seara Nova, has also not received the attention merited by its cultural and political reach.

The Seara Nova website, made possible by the unwavering interest and support received by the Seminário Livre de História das Ideias from the current publishers, intends to contribute toward the creation of suitable conditions for (re)reading this live monument, composed of 1604 issues, that takes up a central spot in contemporary nonconformist and free cultural crossroads.

On one hand, we now provide access to the intact word of all those who wrote in the magazine; on the other, an index of its authors, together with direct links to the respective articles, is also made available. Lastly, we present compilations of testimonials, correspondence, documents, and studies; while there is no intent of exhaustiveness, these are nonetheless representative and, in many cases, never before published.

Note: The extension of the Seara Nova collection has driven the Revistas de Ideias e Cultura programme to open an exception to the usual model for treatment of information of periodicals – only the author and article indexes are currently provided. The insertion of analytical descriptors and indexes of concepts, subjects, quoted names, quoted works, and geographical locations has not yet been carried out for lack of indispensable material conditions.

Luís Andrade