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Essays on Paula Rego

Maria Manuel Lisboa


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1Life has thrown at me my fair share of the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, but in my Sea of troubles they have always been there: the lovely friends and relatives who have taken up arms on my behalf, kept me safe and made the difference in the choice between to be or not to be.

2Paula Rego puts dangerous and delightful thoughts in the most upright of minds without even trying. The inspiration for these acknowledgements comes from her and I blame her entirely for the implied violence. In approximate alphabetical order, Victoria Best, the loveliest of friends, who if I asked her to help me hide a body would say: ‘Of course I will, darling. Perfect timing: I’ve just finished baking you a cake’; Janet Chow, Colin Clarkson, Fiona Colbert, Hélène Fernandes, David Lowe, Sonia Morillo Garcia and Mark Nichols (I did say more or less alphabetically), magician librarians who would provide me with good reference books on how to carry out a perfect murder; Margaret Clark who would hide the body in her garden and use it for compost and Ken Coutts who would look disapproving but whose moustache would nevertheless twitch ever so slightly; Céline Coste Carlisle who would make me a tarte tatin to restore my energy after the deed was done; Chris Dobson who may well have been the best, kindest, most intelligent and funniest man I have ever known, and who might not have helped but would have watched and laughed if I tripped and fell over in the process of wrongdoing; Mary Dobson who would look at me standing over the body dripping knife in hand and say: ‘Oh, Manucha, I don’t believe you would ever murder anybody. You are a very special person’; Peter Evans, who would be delighted that I’d finally turned into a film noir femme fatale and Isabel Santaolalla who would organize everything incredibly efficiently including the collection and disposal of the body; Robert Evans, who would raise an eyebrow, remain perfectly poker-faced but help anyway; the Gentlemen Porters of my College, who would suggest the College cellars as a good place to hide the evidence; Philippa Gibbs, who would help as long as the victim wasn’t Welsh; Margaret Jull Costa who would translate my alibi plan into several languages; Ádela Lisboa, Ana Cristina Lisboa and Zé Rodrigues, my lovely and loving relatives who would help because that’s what family does; Teresa Moreira Rato, my friend whether I’m right or wrong (since we were five years old), who, when asked would stub out her cigarette and go and get a spade; Coral Neale, who would look a bit annoyed and say, ’I’ll help but only after midnight: I’m working till late’; Máire Ní Mhaonaigh, who would be a bit concerned but would place the body in the basket of her bike and deal with it in five minutes flat; John O’Sullivan, Aicha Rehmouni, Farida Hadu, Jack Glossop, Des O’Rourke and Jamie Pineda and with fond memories of Jean-Pierre Laurent (‘Madame, time eez nussing when I am wiz you’) who would serve me the body medium-rare on a silver platter with a delicious sauce; John Rink, the man of my dreams who would wash up the murder weapon, dry it and put it away neatly; Helen Watson, who would say: ‘I wish you hadn’t done it Manucha, but a friend’s a friend. Of course I’ll help’.

3And as ever, with love to Laura Lisboa Brick, who I hope would visit me in prison.


4This volume gathers together both my published and unpublished work on Paula Rego. The bulk of it, ‘A Map of Memory’, is composed of Paula Rego’s Map of Memory: National and Sexual Politics, my monograph previously published by Ashgate but now out of print. A shorter version of chapter 5, ‘Brave New Worlds: The Birthing of Nations in First Mass in Brazil’ was published previously in Portuguese in Brazil as ‘Admirável Mundo Novo? A Primeira Missa no Brasil de Paula Rego’ in João Cézar de Castro Rocha (ed.), Nenhum Brasil existe: pequena enciclopédia (Rio de Janeiro: Topbooks Editora, 2003), pp. 73–91. Chapter 7, ‘Paula and the Madonna: Who’s That Girl?’ was first published in Ann Davies, Parvathi Kumaraswami and Claire Williams (eds.), Making Waves Anniversary Volume: Women in Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies (Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008), pp. 185– 201. Chapter 6, ‘I Am Coming to Your Kingdom, Prince Horrendous: Scary Stories for Baby, Perfect Stranger and Me’ is an entirely new essay. I am grateful to the original publishers and editors of the essays published previously for permission to reproduce modified, extended and translated versions of the works.

5Images are numbered following the principle of giving chapter number and image number separated by a full stop. Thus the fourth image in chapter 1 is 1.4. For these purposes the Prologue is noted as chapter 0 and the Epilogue as chapter 8.

6All translations from Portuguese literary works, including poetry, critical texts and interviews are my own.

7I am very grateful to Paula Rego for giving me permission to reproduce her images and above all for creating them. Erin Sleeper, Celia Duque Espiau and Mary Miller at Marlborough Fine Art were endlessly patient with my disorganization in keeping track of the digital images with which they kindly provided me. I thank them and apologize.

8I am more than grateful to Alessandra Tosi, my publisher (for the second time), for her patience and kindness, and Lucy Barnes (in honour of steel snowflakes).

9I am also very grateful for research grants from St. John’s College, Cambridge, and from the University of Cambridge, which made this book possible.


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