Image: Ilustration by Inês Madeira (http://instagram.com/insmadeira), who collaborated with us on this edition.
Text by the Editor of Os Fazedores de Letras. Proof-read by Miguel Ribeiro. Translated by Tomás Ferreira. Translation proof-read by João N. S. Almeida.
Only a little more than four months after the publication of edition no. 82 of Os Fazedores de Letras (9th July 2020), here we find ourselves again, with a new edition on our doorstep and confronted once more with the need to reflect on the process that brought us here, on what we are presenting now and on the way forward. I believe I speak for all of us when I say these months have been a sustained learning curve, and, to be sure, we assess the outcome as very positive. In this editorial, we want to say something about that learning curve, as well as about the reactions, replies and comments that have found their way to us and about some questions that were raised in the meantime. We want, too, to speak briefly about some major events that took place between July and November 2020 – not only about the pandemic, even though these days, sometimes, we seem to hear little about anything else. We shall, too, remind ourselves and you of a basic principle we defend and seek, as far as possible, to embody. Finally, we want to say a few words about this edition no. 83.
Let us then speak about the first topic. It is known that Os Fazedores de Letras were largely inactive since mid-2019, paralysed by technical difficulties and internal problems. In January 2020, we began assembling a new team that could ensure the continuity of the newspaper, texts were sought after and possibilities assessed. However, owing to the aforementioned technical difficulties, only on the 26th June last did we recover access to our website. After that celerity was called for: the date of 9th July was set for the publication of the new edition and we worked tirelessly during those fourteen days so that this could be a rentrée as triumphant as possible. In terms of the quality of the materials published, it was certainly a comparative success, even though we keep dreaming of doing always more and better. Statistically, it was also a success with the public, comparable to what best had been done thus far in 2018/2019. But it was – and still is – necessary to transform a small victory in a definitive triumph and ensure one does not lose the war after one has won the first battle.
In that respect, we are working on various plans, improvements and novelties that we shall announce in due time. But we are also very satisfied with the support we have received from the community at FLUL and from the whole of the University of Lisbon – it suffices to remember that the edition that we now bring to light, number 83 (!), has received more submissions and incorporates in its final version more texts than any of us remembers ever being the case. We have, also, received a promising encouragement to persevere in defending the causes we have adopted; concerning which, we take this opportunity to publicly thank all readers who wrote to us praising our coverage of the war in Nagorno-Karabakh.
There were, however, a few criticisms, some of which very acerbic, to which we think we owe a considerate response. Without question, what suscitated more criticism was our inclusion of “Christian” and/or “Catholic” content – regarding which one need only read the reactions, in Instagram and Facebook, to our sharing in our social networks an article of the Catholic Herald about the nomination of a Russian Catholic bishop and an opinion column by Fr. Bento Domingues O. P., taken from Público. The disproportion and violence of the comments to those two posts illustrate how intolerant can still – or can already – be even a community such as FLUL. It is equally worth noting that that intolerance comes many times from people who say they are defenders of tolerance and difference. (We believe that it is not especially polemical to say this, even though it might be somewhat uncommon). We take it that the hostility shown to us in those occasions comes in equal parts from the suspicion that Os Fazedores de Letras might be in the process of becoming “Catholic” and from a profound and stubborn ignorance about what it means to be a Christian or a Catholic Christian. How else could left-wing people object to the sharing of an article written by a mendicant friar know for being progressive and left-wing?
As for the suspicion that the student newspaper of FLUL is becoming Catholic, we should, in truth, say that it does not correspond to the reality. What we are is, in fact, pluralists who think the honest dialogue of differing opinions is a healthy thing and who deal very well with the fact that there are those who do not share our beliefs, persuasions, intuitions or opinions. Off course we admit that we have been sharing a number of things written by Christians or about Christian themes – more than ever before in the history of Os Fazedores, of whose editions between 1993 and 2015 Christianity was mostly completely absent – but such is only the case because it is our intention to help give back to the liberal university in which we believe a part of its heritage that has belonged to it since its inception in the 13th century: the intellectual and pastoral contributions of people whose lives were shaped by and devoted to Christ. It mustn’t be news to any educated person that universities have been, since their beginnings and for a great portion of their history, par excellence places of encounter, dialogue and mutual learning between the religious and secular spheres of society and that the mendicant friars in particular, Franciscans and Dominicans alike (as well as, later, the Jesuits), have endowed university environment with a particular character and fuelled the teaching that was ministered in universities in Europe and beyond. That happens still today, in places as different as Oxford (where there are two permanent private halls maintained one by Dominican friars and another by Benedictine monks), Cambridge (where many friars, for example from the Convent of St Michael the Archangel, were and are still professors and tutors) or, off course, Rome – not to mention places outside Europe. And as we have already said (cf. Editorial no. 82), it suffices to cite the exemple of our own School of Arts and Humanities, where Franciscans like Fr Cerqueira Gonçalves and Fr Costa Freitas, not to mention the Jesuit Fr Manuel Antunes, taught and were bright stars in a multicoloured constellation. In our view, the amputation of this Christian element from university culture (or from the broader European culture, as Pope Benedict XVI has wisely remarked) can only result in a disfiguration of that culture and in tragical civilizational losses and is, as such, undesirable. It might seem somewhat naïve to hope that the lesson of History, good sense and goodwill can immediately defeat the ignorance and the imbecile prejudices that have fed and still feed much of modernity and postmodernity, but one must fight the good fight.
As this makes abundantly clear and we have reiterated in other places, the only thing we mean to be is a diversified, interesting and poliphonic quality newspaper that embraces, at least, all the liberal arts and, ideally, all the disciplines taught at the University of Lisbon (as well as some which are sadly not taught here). As such, our approach aims to be characterized by precision and by the quality and merit of the work we publish and by the diversity and poliphony of the voices head and, off course, by the healthy peaceful, civilized and fruitful coabitation of different opinions and multimode wisdoms. The challenge we extend to all of you is: come participate in the debate even if you radically disagree with the other participants. In this respect, in not in all things, we are irreducibly democratic and, for lack of a better word, cosmopolitan. It is, thus, with a mix of naïve surprise and knowing boredom, but also with equanimity, that we keep receiving news of certain reactions to our work. But these reactions do not in the least deterr us from persevering in working towards what we consider to be right.
Let us now speak a little about three events that took place in the intervening months since edition no. 82 was publish, one of which was almost omnipresent in our work and two of which that barely received a mention: the war in Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh), the American presidential elections and the return, in Portugal and in other countries, to the state of emergency and lockdown. We began sharing, in our social networks, news of the war between the Armenian and Azerbaijani forces a few days after the beginning of the armed conflict on 27th September. Not only is it part of our guiding political principles (cf. Editorial no. 82 and the Addenda to it) to support and promote iniciatives that aim at the acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide of 1915-23 and publicize Armenian culture as we also unquestionably recognize the justice of the struggle of the Armenians of Artsakh for self-determination and independence, which we fully support. In that regard, we could not and would not want to avoid sharing the news of Azerbaijani agression and of the war and suffering thereof. By so doing, we intended to alert the Portuguese public for this problem and, ideally, galvanize the humanitarian enthusiasm of the community of FLUL for actions of solidarity and/or for future iniciatives related to this cause we seek to promote. We thought it fitting, too, given the history of Os Fazedores de Letras, that fought fearlessly, between 1993 and 2002, for the independence of Timor, to stimulate consciences to this cause that is equally pressing. We take the opportunity here to lament the inertia, the cowardice and the inconsistence of the international community, which has never recognized the right of the Armenians of Artsakh to independence and self-determination and which, apparently, would prefer that the region remained part of Azerbaijan, with the resulting potentially genocidal consequences that would issue, and to guarantee that we shall not cease to work in favour of this and other humanitarian causes.
As for the American presidential elections, even though some (but not all) of us have very firm opinions on the subject, in general we opted for not participating in the collective hysteria and in the avalanche of news and speculation that we all have known in the past few months, a time in which only COVID-19 was so fertile a terrain for journalism or pseudo-journalism as Trump or Biden (or rather both). We thought about publishing something written by people of different political sides and different electoral preferences, but with all the work that the present edition entailed, we simply haven’t had the time yet. It is not forgotten, however, and, given the slow dénouement of this election, it will probably still come in time. Meanwhile, we propose, rather, that you read one (or both) of the books by Peter Frankopan recently translated into Portuguese and edited by Relógio d’Água: The Silk Roads: A New History of the World (2015) and The New Silk Roads: The Present and the Future of the World (2018).
As for COVID-19 in general, as everything was already said, denied and said again since March and as we are constantly bombarded with information, numbers and tragedies (such as the absolutely inexcusable things that took place in some homes for the elderly), we thought it best both to have the greatest possible restraint in sharing information relative to the pandemic and the concern of giving alternative reading material to our readers. Here, however, we want to take advantage to the opportunity to compliment several of the Schools of the University of Lisbon – including the School of Arts and Humanities – because they have permitted, within reason, a bit of our normality to resume this autumn, and that people be allowed back at schools and institutes, even though with the highest caution. Such concession, however, highlights the importance of individual responsibility, of, without sacrificing our humanity, doing all we can to not increase the risks of certain situations, which necessitates the procedures we all know so well by now (cf. on the matter the two articles by Prof. Pedro Zuzarte that we have published). We ask you to be calm, to not give in to hysteria and to cultivate an equitable racionality that is always so important. We should also mention that, given the present situation of pandemic, we have the firm purpose, foreseeing that the next few months will demand the greatest restraint and seem to us all very long, of organizing more online events that allow for the whole community safely to participate. More news about that very soon.
We regret, also, that no one answered our invitation to write about the importance of freedom of speech for democracy (that is the fundamental value that we wanted to reiterate and that we seek to embody). Os Fazedores de Letras are determined, as we said above, to contribute to a healthy climate of honest exchange of opinions and ideas and to be that which any newspaper should always aim to be: a truthful news outlet, plurivocal and stimulating and not, to be sure, a slave of partisan interests and totalitarian ambitions.
All that is left is for us to tal a little about this edition no. 83 that we now present to you. We would like to start by highlighting the interview to Prof. Pinto do Amaral conducted by Lourenço Duarte and the illustration that Inês Madeira did for us – including the ones she made of Tolstoy. In fact, sadly, we did not receive any articles on Trotski or on any topic from the third theme we proposed in September, but we did receive three contributions about Tolstoy: the excellent essay by Tiago Ramos about The Kreutzer Sonata, the review by João Freitas Mendes of the Portuguese edition of The Last Writings and the aforementioned illustrations, all of which we are especially happy to publish in this that is the month in which we commemorate the 110th anniversary of the death of the author of War and Peace. From among the essays we now publish, we would also like to draw attention to that by Joana Rebocho about the necessity of reform of international law and that by Prof. Fr. Isidro Lamelas, O. F. M., who has once more gifted us excellent work of his making that reveals his vast erudition. Short stories like those of Inês Lagartinho, Grayson Elorreaga and Sebastião Viana (without neglecting the others) will give, I am sure, much pleasure to their readers. We draw attention too to the columns by Márcia Marto, Alice Rodrigues da Silva and Prof. Gerd Hammer. As far as reviews go, we specially invite you to read those of João Bray and Anaïs Silva. And, finally, we leave you with our poetry section, the delights of which are not lightly to be passed over.
We hope you like it and, off course, that you can be present at the launch event online and that, who knows, you will one day write for us and work with us.
With best regards,
Tomás Ferreira (Editor),
On behalf of the editorial team of Os Fazedores de Letras.