I’ve received, from the Deputy Mayor of Vila Franca de Xira’s cabinet, an invitation for the inauguration of the tribute sculpture of Álvaro Guerra, held last Saturday. I do not know if I can describe the feeling of receiving an unexpected invitation to a tribute one ignores was being made for a man of whom one has the feeling of not knowing the feats honored and who one only associates with the words “lap”, “beard” and “airport”.
I accepted the invitation on the belief that I knew the part of this man’s story being honored; the part responsible for writing more than a dozen books that I own and keep, chronologically aligned, in one of the bookshelves of my bedroom in my parent’s house.
It was somehow surprising getting to Vila Franca de Xira and everything seeming so much bigger. The last time I was there I was 12 years old and went to this man’s funeral, a man who will now be there forever, carved in metal and set in stone, looking at Tagus River.
Also surprising was watching the crowd who listened to the mayor speaking about that “honorable vila-franquense, a citizen of the world”, near the new Fábrica das Palavras (a modern library named Words’ Factory), which the mayor described, in his naïf speech, as “his Library” – of Álvaro Guerra.
Even more unexpected was meeting the people in the crowd and verifying that the event was held for the man, not the city. No, I was not expecting that. I listened while he was being described as “a whole Man”, “a fighter”, “a dreamer”, “a thinker”, “and a gentleman, always kind, but absolutely sharp and unerring in his thoughts, purposes and convictions”, “a Man of Freedom, Culture, and civic intervention”. And I thought: I didn’t had the chance to really know if all of this is true.
Besides all the books he wrote, I know that my grandfather served in the Colonial War; that he was exiled in Paris and went to Sorbonne; that he was a journalist and founded a newspaper; that he was one of the founders of the Socialist Party; that he was director of information at RTP, the Portuguese public broadcaster; that he was an aide of president Ramalho Eanes; and that he was a diplomat all around the world. But of his character I only know that he smiled, stared and was a somewhat absent presence. As I assume he is for everyone, now that he is gone.
I’ve received, from the Deputy Mayor of Vila Franca de Xira’s cabinet, an invitation for the inauguration of the tribute sculpture of my grandfather Manel, held last Saturday. The morning was wet and gloomy and, through the curious crowd, I saw him, in that pose we all remember him in because it is printed in the back cover of his books. I was filled with a childish pride that, days later, I still don’t understand.
I was introduced to António, author of the sculpture, best known for being the political cartoonist of Expresso, the oldest weekly newspaper in Portugal, and someone told me the following anecdote: on the day of one of the failed attempts of coup d’état, known as Caldas’ Insurrection, on March 16th of 1974, only one month before the country was actually liberated from dictatorship, the cartoonist delivered a drawing that predicted the Revolution to the evening paper República, where my grandfather Manel was a journalist. He had signed with a scribble. In the newsroom someone shouted that it couldn’t be published like that because no one would know who the artist was, and presumably my grandfather said: “I know him, his name is António”. And that’s how António signs his work until today. And that’s how António signed the statue he sculpted of Manel.
This text was originally written in Portuguese. Click here for the original version.