Theatre Translations Censored in Portugal (1929-1945)

Abstract: Based on censorship reports, this article attempts to reconstruct a corpus of theatrical performances in translation in Portugal between 1929 and 1945. The analysis of the corpus provides a more detailed and measurable insight as to the Portuguese authorities’ changing attitude towards British and American culture over these years and the audience’s possible expectations.

Keywords: censorship, Estado Novo, literature in English, theatre translations


Despite the fact that censorship scholarship has devoted considerable attention to the relationship between book censorship and literary translations (Billiani, Seruya and Moniz, Merkle et al., Rundle and Sturge), censorship practices with respect to theatre translations still continue to be an unexplored research field. The extensive publications of the Spanish TRACE (TRAnslations CEnsored) project, notwithstanding, there is a surprising scarcity of studies and research on the subject (see: Antochi, Fernandez, Krebs).[1] [2] Woods’s monograph on the English translations of Vaclav Havel’s plays in the UK and USA is certainly unique of its kind and deserves individual attention, but almost stands alone. The number of research articles discussing theatre translations censored during Estado Novo is also very modest (see: Rayner, Coelho, Zurbach, Cortez, and P. E. Carvalho “En- contro”), and the vast majority of them are reconstructions of individual cases. No comprehensive study has been published thus far on the interrelations between censorship and theatre translation production in Portugal.

Inspired by the methodology adopted by Seruya and Lin Moniz as well as by the researchers of the TRACE project, this chapter sets out to examine the position of theatre translations on stage in Estado Novo in a more systematic and data-driven manner. The period under scrutiny covers the rise and development of the dictatorial regime of Antonio Salazar (1889-1970) along with the pre-war and Second World War years.

Special attention has been given to the changing position of British and American literature as well as their proportional relationship to theatrical performances staged or planned to be staged in a country whose ideological inclination, especially at the initial stage of the dictatorship, points more towards Hitler’s Nazi Germany and Mussolini’s Fascist Italy than to liberal-democratic Great Britain or the USA.

The study also seeks answers to questions such as whether the Estado Novo’s fluctuating political stance had any influence on theatre translation production in Portugal or not before and during the Second World War with reference to the source language and country, and whether the patriotic culture politics of Portugal in the Fascist era had any impact on theatre production concerning national versus foreign plays.

  • [1] The research work has been conducted in the context of my post-doctoral projectEnglish Language Literature and Censorship in Portugal and Hungary during the Second Half of the Twentieth Century supervised by Teresa Seruya, Alexandra Assis Rosaand Patricia Odber de Baubeta, and funded by the Portuguese Foundation of Scienceand Technology (FCT) (SFRH/BPD/92486/2013) as well as the Portuguese researchproject Censura e mecanismos de controlo da informagao no teatro e no cinema [Theatre and Cinema censorship in Portugal during the Military Dictatorship and EstadoNovo period] coordinated by Ana Cabrera and housed at the Centre for Media andJournalism, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, also funded by the FCT between 2011 and2014 (PTDC/CCI-COM/117978/2010).
  • [2] TRACE (TRAnslations CEnsored) is joint venture by groups of translation studiesresearchers at the University of Leon and the University of the Basque Country. Its research database includes catalogues of book, theatre and cinema translations censoredin Francoist Spain.
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