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Guilląme Sebastian Furrét (March 4, 1863 – May 17, 1937) was a Portuguese dramatist and social agitator. He is perhaps most famous for his dramatic work Gracejos em Você. Furrét died during the turbulence of the Spanish Civil War.

Contents

Early life

Guilląme Sebastian Furrét was born in Sêntret, Portugal, in the year 1863. Sêntret was a small village formerly located around the city of Oporto in Northern Portugal. He was the son of a French father and a Portuguese/Basque mother. An only child, Furrét was an introvert, spending the majority of his time indoors writing in French, Basque, and Portuguese. Although he wrote most of his works in Portuguese, Furrét incorporated many Basque words into his plays. When he was fifteen years old, he received the opportunity to attend the acclaimed Conservatório de Lisboa, where he excelled at both writing and playing the cello. While at the school, Furrét took a trip to New York, which he described as "the greatest city on earth, full of the vibration of popular energy."

Education

After attending the Conservatório in Lisbon, Furrét visited Harvard University on a scholarship from the Portuguese Catholic church. While Furrét appreciated the education he received while at Harvard, he resented the general atmosphere of the place, describing it in a letter to his mother as "a place where everyone tries to elevate his nose to a higher altitude than every other. Even as he competes with every other Harvard student, the typical Harvard student agrees with everyone else in his cosy club that he is better than the rest of the nation."[1] This educational excursion solidified Furrét's support for the proletariat. After his experience at Harvard, Furrét went to the University of Pennsylvania to study drama. He found the atmosphere to be far more focused on applying knowledge to helping people and improving the world than at Harvard. In later letter to his father, Furrét wrote, "I can feel the energy of the place, pulsating throughout my every vein. Were it not for Portugal, this is where I would stay."[2]

Works

Furrét wrote mostly during his earlier years. His drama was most noted for its intense narrative qualities, famous for their distinct characters that most critics believe parallel the nature of the Portuguese proletariat, with whom Furrét had known sympathies. Though he quickly ascended the ranks of notable early-Modernist Portuguese playwrights, some critics decried his works as mere continuations of previous abstract realism exhibited by G.B. Shaw and Henrik Ibsen. Furrét appears to have taken this criticism in stride and not to have allowed it to dampen his creative spirit.[3]

Gracejos em Você

Furrét's seminal work, Gracejos em Você, fermented the proletariat's eternal desire for a nominalistic hero to lead the masses in a revolt against the Portuguese authourities. The five act play centres around the daily struggle of a soldier in the Portuguese Army and how he teams up with a disgruntled diplomat to create a revolution. Critic João Miguel Anselmo Luís Andrade da Silva raved, "Never have I seen such a moving drama!"[4]

Trip to South Africa

To prepare for his next play about the tensions between the Boers and the British over the gold of the South African Republic, Furrét undertook a trip to South Africa in June 1898. While on the trip, he observed the imperial conflict between the traditionally-oriented Boers and the profit-minded British. Even though he detested their overtly racist attitudes, Furrét sympathized with the plight of the Boers as they fought against British imperial domination. Furrét especially appreciated the great energy and dynamism of Johannesburg. Furrét returned to Portugal in November 1898. When the Second Boer War broke out in 1899, Furrét considered volunteering for the Boer forces but was dissauded by his friends from undertaking such a dangerous escapade. Furrét vehemently supported the publication of J.A. Hobson's work War in South Africa, which explored the conflict from the angles of capitalism and imperialism, in Portugal.

Involvement in the Russian Civil War

Following the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, Furrét voyaged to Moscow to offer his services to the revolution. The Bolsheviks placed him in a division of the Red Army.

Later life

Following Salazar's takeover of Portugal in 1932, the socialist-leaning Furrét could no longer live there. He decided to relocate to neighboring Spain. While living in Salamanca, Spain, Furrét was discovered by Nationalist troops. According to one bystander, he was shot twice in the heart after a short, ritualistic Iberian knife battle during which the seventy-four-year-old Furrét refused to give in. His last words are reputed to have been,"O meu Portugal, por que devo eu deixá-lo?", roughly translated to mean, "O, my Portugal, why must I leave you?" Other accounts state simply that the troops dragged him outside and executed him summarily. Regardless of the circumstances, Furrét was penniless at his death and was buried in an unmarked pauper's grave at the local Catholic church.[5]

References

  1. ^ Não de encontro a meu proletariado português: Uma voz da sabedoria das letras de Guilląme Sebastian Furrét, page 79
  2. ^ Não de encontro a meu proletariado português: Uma voz da sabedoria das letras de Guilląme Sebastian Furrét, page 138
  3. ^ Encyclopaedia of Portuguese Culture, page 282
  4. ^ Lisbon Drama Review, May 1896
  5. ^ Burial Register of Father Antonio Valderas
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