The Portuguese writer Mario de Sa-Carneiro (1890-1916) is a somewhat tragic figure: he committed suicide in Paris when he was just 26. Although he did not produce much in his short life, he is considered to be one of the most influential writers of the Portuguese Modernism movement. His poems and stories almost always toy with conceptions of what is real, and delve into the Decadent concepts of madness, excess, sickness and sexuality. There is a general sense of distaste towards, and fear of, women in his writing, as well as a strong homosexual undercurrent.
Sa-Carneiro writes in the first person, ‘I’, forcing the reader to confront the speaker head-on, and experience the intensity of the story being told as if it is being related directly to them. It also seems to be a method of personal exorcism for the author. Plagued by fears of madness, he purges the horrors and fantasies of his mind into his work in the hope of absolution.
Lucio’s Confession is no exception to this rule. It is a remarkably intense novella, consisting of the written confession of Lucio, a writer, detailing the events leading up to his accusation for a crime he did not commit. He tells the story of his intense friendship with the enigmatic poet Ricardo de Loureiro, from their meeting at a decadent party in Paris. Ricardo is a tortured eccentric, plagued by his inability to truly possess the people he cares for. He eventually marries a beautiful and mysterious woman named Marta, and she and Lucio soon begin an affair. However, it is not long before Lucio begins to question who Marta really is and whether she even exists at all. He descends deeper and deeper into confusion and madness, until events culminate in tragedy.
It’s a quick read, comprising only 121 pages, but one which leaves a lasting impression. I have never read anything quite like the works of Mario de Sa-Carneiro.