domingo, 8 de março de 2015

Austin Coates: biografia sumária (2ª parte)

Em 1974 Coates sai de Hong Kong e vai para a Europa escolhendo Portugal para se estabelecer mas surge o 25 de Abril e Coates regressa a Hong Kong. O regresso a Portugal ficará adiado até 1992, quando fixa morada em Colares (Sintra). Morre a 16 de Março de 1997, aos 74 anos de idade. Publicou 18 obras e deixou 14 inéditas.

Algumas das obras publicadas:

Macao and the British 1637-1842: Prelude to Hong Kong 

dedicado a Jack M. Braga, sintetiza a presença britânica no território.
A Macao Narrative
Taduzida para português por Luísa Guedes com o título Macau: Calçadas da História (1991). Na introdução pode ler-se: "A história da fundação de Macau sempre me fascinou. Ao transmiti-la agora, proponho-me começar pelo princípio, como em todas as histórias que se prezam. A narrativa principia no altaneiro promontório de Sagres, um dos pontos mais meridionais de Portugal, a pouca distância do Cabo de São Vicente. A sensação que se desfruta do alto da ponta de Sagres é semelhante à que se tem do cimo de Beachy Head, embora aquela seja avassaladora e, lá ao fundo, o oceano Atlântico se faça ouvir  não como um ronco de águas revoltosas, mas como uma mensagem. E foi do alto desses imponente rochedos que há muitos, muitos anos, um princípoe solitário a escutou e interpretou."
Este livro é um esboço geral da história do enclave que contempla a chegada dos portugueses ao Oriente no século XVI, nomeadamente à Índia e à China, de forma a contextualizar o comércio da Nau do Trato entre Macau e o Japão, bem como a ofensiva anglo-holandesa contra os interesses e domínios portugueses; o início da presença inglesa na China; o poderio inglês no século XVIII; a Guerra do Ópio; a fundação de Hong Kong; o governo de Ferreira do Amaral e o tratado sino-português de 1862. O próprio autor define ambas as obras como estudos de síntese realizados a partir de publicações de historiadores por ele referidos e, por essa razão, Coates é considerado um estudioso ‘pouco académico’, gozando, no entanto, os seus textos de algum sucesso editorial em todo o mundo. O próprio autor agradece, nestes estudos, a amigos e investigadores em cujas obras se baseia para formular a sua síntese e confessa a natureza pouco académica dos mesmos, opinião também veiculada por A. E. Brown, num verbete dedicado a Macau no International Dictionary of Historic Places (1996), ao reconhecer a importância de A Macao Narrative e The British in Macao como os principais estudos sobre a história do enclave em língua inglesa.
Prelude to Hong Kong, was the first work on Macau by Austin Coates (1922–1997). It is the first comprehensive survey ever to be written on the English presence, the Anglo-Chinese-Portuguese relations in Macau, and the Portuguese settlement's strategic importance for the British China Trade. The story of the British acquisition of Hong Kong is intricately related to that of the Portuguese enclave of Macao. The British acquired Hong Kong in 1841, following 200 years of European endeavours to induce China to engage in foreign trade. As a residential base of European trade, Portuguese Macao enabled the West to maintain continuous relations with China from 1557 onwards. Opening with a vivid description of the first English voyage to China in 1637. 'Prelude to Hong Kong' traces the ensuing course of Anglo-Chinese relations, during which time Macao skillfully – and without fortifications – escaped domination by the British and Chinese. The account covers the opening of regular trade by the East India Company in 1770, including the 'country' trade between India and China and Britain's first embassies to Peking, and relates the bedeviling effect of the opium trade. The story culminates in the resulting war from which Britain won, as part of its concessions, the obscure island of Hong Kong. Among those who feature in this lucid and lively account are the merchant princes Jardine and Matheson, the missionary Robert Morrison, the artist George Chinnery, and Captain Charles Elliot, Hong Kong’s maligned founder.
Austin Coates, an author who lived and worked for many years in Hong Kong, and who wrote a number of seminal works on Macau, a city whose history fascinated him. Born in 1922, Coates, after serving in RAF Intelligence in South East Asia during the War, later became a magistrate in Hong Kong, after which he briefly joined the British colonial service in Malaya. In 1962, he returned to Hong Kong in order to devote his time to writing, and indeed, his books on Macau and other works, such as his biography of the Philippine nationalist, José Rizal, date from this period. Like the older Charles Boxer and the younger John Villiers, Coates represented a breed of British ‘gentleman scholars’, whose interest in the history of the Portuguese in East and South East Asia stemmed from their direct experience of living and working in that part of the world. It is perhaps fitting that Coates should have spent the last years of his life between Hong Kong and a home near Sintra, in Portugal, where he died in 1997.  

But perhaps Coates’s most fondly remembered work relating to Macau is his City of Broken Promises, for it is the product both of the author’s energy as a scholar, involving research undertaken in the libraries of Macau, Portugal and Britain, and of his imagination, being a re-creation of stories heard in Macau. His interest in the figure of Martha Merop is said to have stemmed from having seen her portrait on a visit to Macau’s Santa Casa da Misericórdia, or Holy House of Mercy. This same painting is reproduced on the book’s cover. City of Broken Promises is a historical novel set roughly between the years 1780 and 1795. The age of Macau’s great prosperity, when it was the hub for the trade in silks and silver between China and Japan, has long gone. But it has assumed a new, cosmopolitan character, with the arrival of the British East India Company along with other Europeans who have been allowed by the Chinese to establish themselves in Macau so as to limit their presence in Canton to the trading season.

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