The Vital Collapse—Apocalypse and New Paradise in Eça de Queiroz and Teixeira de Pascoaes
Fin-de-siècle Europe seems obsessed by the Janus-faced problem of decay and renewal, halfway between the socio-biological sciences of late positivism and the emerging vitalistic theories, where accumulation, waste and loss of vital energies are a constant reference. In Portugal, Eça de Queiroz and Teixeira de Pascoaes both share the obsession with decay, an often topically assumed and aesthetically over-exploited phantasm in the dramatization of the Nation’s destiny. For their visions of regeneration, decay is a necessary but purifying preliminary stage— only the descent into hell can lead to a new paradisiacal overcoming. In the narrative texts A Cidade e as Serras (1901) and Marânus (1911), Eça and Teixeira present sometimes apologetic, sometimes subversive versions of this energetic collapse. With different strategies of inversion, deformation and ironic overfulfilment these texts discuss not only a nationalistic but also—and above all—a poetic overcoming.