Writer, journalist and military officer
Raul Germano Brandão was born on 12 March 1867 at 12, Bela Vista Road (now Raul Brandão Road), in Foz do Douro, a place which clearly influenced his life and work due to the sea and its population. He was the son of small landowners.
His childhood and teenage years were spent in Porto, where he finished his primary school studies at the São Carlos College. In Porto, in 1885, he collaborated in the edition of the school magazine O Andaluz, created "to help the victims of the earthquakes in Andalucía", along with João de Lemos, José Leite de Vasconcelos and Trindade Coelho.
Later, he attended the Porto Polytechnic Academy, meeting other aspiring young writers, among which his long-time teenage-year friends, António Nobre and Justino de Montalvão.
In 1888, he joined the Military School in Lisbon, perhaps to please his parents, or more prosaically put, due to "the irreversible recruitment law".
In 1889, he helped form the group "Os Insubmissos" [The Unsubmissive] and a magazine with the same name, which he coordinated.
In 1890, he made his debut as a writer with a series of Naturalist tales entitled "Impressões e Paisagens" [Impressions and Landscapes]. Shortly after, he participated actively in several literary renovation movements. Along with Júlio Brandão and D. João de Castro, he directed the magazine "Revista de Hoje" (1895) and embarked on a remarkable journalistic career in "Correio da Manhã".
In 1896, after finishing the 10 month traineeship at the Infantry School in Mafra, he was sent to Guimarães, as Second-Lieutenant in the 20th Infantry Regiment. Here, he met Maria Angelina, his future wife.
Later, he was transferred to Lisbon. During this phase, the young writer dedicated himself to metaphysical reflections, collaborated in the pamphlet "Nefelibatas" (1893) and used the newspaper "Correio da Manhã" to publish, in 1896, the book "História de um Palhaço – Vida e Diário de K. Maurício" [The Story of a Clown – The Life and Diary of K. Maurício], reorganized in 1926 under the title "A Morte do Palhaço e o Mistério da Árvore" [The Death of the Clown and the Mystery of the Tree].
In March 1897, he married Maria Angelina, and they lived for a year in Guimarães. He was transferred to Porto, back to the place where he was born: Foz do Douro.
His writings continued to take up an important place in his life. Along with Júlio Brandão, they wrote the play "Noite de Natal" [Christmas Night], staged at the D. Maria Theatre, in 1899.
In 1901, he again asked to be transferred, this time to Lisbon, where he contacted with intellectuals and anarchists, and became more involved in Journalism.
In this period, his life revolved around writing in Lisbon and writing in the seclusion of his house "Casa do Alto", in Nespereira, near Guimarães, which he had bought in 1903. Here, further to his writings, he also administered the property. This direct contact with the rural world awakened in him, as a writer and a man, feelings of pity and grief regarding the hardship endured by the farming communities.
From then on, the main theme of his literary work became the problem of oppressed men and the analysis of contradictory feelings (sympathy for the exploited and selfishness of the petty bourgeois man), present for the first time in "Os Pobres" [The Poor] at the beginning of the 20th century (1902-1903).
In 1906, he travelled across Europe with his wife.
Circa 1910, he suffered a nervous breakdown and in 1911 put an end to his military career, retiring from the army as a Major in 1912.
With more time for writing, he became interested in the History of Portugal. He wrote "El-rei Junot" [King Junot] in 1912, and "A Conspiração de Gomes Freire" [The Conspiracy of G.F.] in 1914. He published "O Cerco do Porto" [The Porto Siege] in the magazine "Renascença", in 1915, a work ascribed to Colonel Hugo Owen and Brandão, who annotated and prefaced it.
In 1917, he published his acclaimed masterpiece, "Húmus", dedicated to his friend Columbano, whom he had met in the late 1800s, and who painted two portraits for him.
From then on, he spent the winters in Lisbon, where he mingled with the group of intellectuals involved in the magazine "Seara Nova" (1921), notably the founders of this group, along with Jaime Cortesão, Raul Proença and Aquilino Ribeiro, among others.
During this period, he was also involved in play-writing. In 1923, he published "Teatro" [Theatre], in which he compiled "O Gebo e a Sombra" [The Hunchback and the Shadow] (staged in 1927 at the National Theatre), "O Doido e a Morte" [The Madman and Death] (staged in 1926 at the Politeama Theatre) and "O Rei Imaginário" [The Imaginary King].
In 1927, he published "Jesus Cristo" [Jesus Christ] together with Teixeira de Pascoaes. In that same year, Columbano painted a portrait of the couple Raul and Angelina Brandão.
In 1929, he published "O Avejão" and the monologue "Eu sou um Homem de Bem" [I am an Honest Man], in "Seara Nova".
Raul Brandão wanted to reveal four drama books to the public; however, this project never materialized, and he was only able to publish one volume. He also planned to write "A História Humilde do Povo Português" [The Humble Story of the Portuguese People], of which "Os Pescadores" [The Fishermen] was to be the first volume, followed by "Os Lavradores" [The Farmers], "Os Pastores" [The Shepherds], "Os Operários" [The Workmen]. He travelled to the Azores and Madeira in 1924, which was part of that plan, and resulted in the publication of "As Ilhas Desconhecidas" [The Unknown Islands], dated 1926.
Together with his wife, he wrote "Portugal Pequenino" [Little Portugal], a children's narrative, published in 1930.
These projects came to an end with his death, in Lisbon, on 5 December 1930, at the age of 63. In 1931, his book "O Pobre de Pedir" [The Beggar] was published posthumously.
As we have seen, Raul Brandão pursued a military career. But, above all, he was a great journalist (in "Correio da Manhã", "Revista de Hoje", "Revista de Portugal", editor-in-Chief of the newspapers "O Dia" and "A República"), and a writer, the author of an extensive and varied literary work (fiction, drama and travel books), marked by social, ethical and religious aspects, and mixing pathetic and tragic characteristics. He was part of the group "Nefelibatas" and the "Geração de 90", of the 19th century, and was influenced not only by Realism and Naturalism, but also by Symbolism and Decadence. He was an imaginative and talented man, passive and isolated, and this is why, in the opinion of many scholars of his work and life, he was misunderstood.
In March 2017, the Rectory of the University of Porto organized a series of events (two conferences, a roundtable and a guided tour by Germano Silva) to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Raul Brandão's birth and the 100th anniversary of the publication of his book Húmus.
(Universidade Digital / Gestão de Informação, 2008)