The New Portuguese Letters and April 25th


Betina Juglair

4/24/20232 min read

To celebrate this very important day here in Portugal, we want to draw attention to this beautiful book: Novas Cartas Portuguesas, published in 1972 by Maria Isabel Barreno, Maria Teresa Horta and Maria Velho da Costa.

The book was banned shortly after its publication, and the court case generated international attention to the regime's abuses. Undoubtedly, the publication of this book was a shock to the Estado Novo fascist regime and directly contributed to the it's downfall!

Demonstrations around the world in solidarity with the “Three Marys” included: coverage of the trial by international media (The Times, Le Nouvel Observateur, etc.); feminist demonstrations in several Portuguese embassies; also the public defense of the work and the authors by feminists such as Simone de Beauvoir, Marguerite Duras, Doris Lessing, Iris Murdoch.

And why were people bothered so much by this book?

The New Portuguese Letters touched on very sensitive points of the authoritarian regime, such as war and conflicts, colonization and immigration, violence, women situation, discrimination, poverty, (absence of) freedom, body repression, among many other issues.

As a literary object, the New Letters is also innovative because it destabilizes notions of authorship and literary genre: the book consists of 120 texts (letters, poems, reports, narrative texts, essays and quotes) always collectively signed by the three authors, although composed individually.

The recently released documentary “O que podem as palavras”, directed by Luísa Sequeira and Luísa Marinho, is a beautiful journey into the book through its own 3 authors: it consists of interviews given to Ana Luísa Amaral, with illustrations and animations by Sama, and the telling of the story of the creation and reception of the book.