Charles Reis Felix

Da Gama, Cary Grant,
and the Election of 1934

George Monteiro
  Both comedic and comic, Da Gama, Cary Grant, and the Election of 1934 gives us a full and generous picture of a time and place that now exist because of words on a page, populated by individualized characters and characteristic incidents. . . .  As in Ernest Hemingway's stories about Nick Adams in In Our Time or Sherwood Anderson's about George Willard in Winesburg, Ohio, the boy-hero of Felix's book goes though a series of episodes that serve to shape his understanding of the nature of the world. . . .
—From the Preface by George Monteiro


Frank X. Gaspar
  "The Portuguese are the unknown people," declaims Secundo Alves. "To be Portuguese in America is to be a stone dropped in the middle of the ocean." Alves, one of Charles Reis Felix's colorful and memorable characters, may be overstating the case, but not by much. And Reis Felix, in his novel of vignettes, brings the Portuguese to life with wit and humor, and above all, with an eye for telling detail that any American writer—of any ethnicity—should envy. This book captures the nature of immigrant New Bedford in a way that will make it relevant and entertaining reading for decades to come!
—Frank X. Gaspar, author of the novel Leaving Pico


Llewellyn Howland III
  The cotton mills of New Bedford have long since followed its whaling fleet into oblivion. Gone the ugly labor disputes and turf wars that once dominated the region's headlines. Dead the mill owners and operatives who spun gold from cotton. But by a literary miracle, not everyone who was witness to New Bedford's decline and fall has forgotten it. In his wonderful new novel, the octogenarian writer (and New Bedford native) Charles Reis Felix tells what it was like to be young and proud and poor and Portuguese in the city in 1934, while a quartet of ethnic Americans (including the Yankee incumbent) duke it out in a wild mayoral election. Generously observed, vividly drawn, and beautifully realized, the fictional city that the author evokes is a New Bedford to celebrate for all its faults—and to read about time and time again.
—Llewellyn Howland III, author of The New Bedford Yacht Club: A History


Through a Portagee Gate

Katherine Vaz
  Through a Portagee Gate is a plain-spoken, down-to-earth account of an American voyage, rich in fable, anecdote, and wit. Charles Reis Felix writes as boldly as if carving scrimshaw about the soles fixed by his father, a cobbler, and the tread of life upon various nearby souls, including his own.
—Katherine Vaz, author of Mariana, Saudade, and Fado & Other Stories, the 1977 Drue Heinz Literature Prize and Briggs-Copland Lecturer in Fiction at Harvard University


Frank X. Gaspar
  Through a Portagee Gate is a valuable document, a record, a history, an autobiography, a memoir, an elegy. When readers encounter Felix’s carefully drawn dramatic scenes, his exacting prose, and his deeply human people, they understand that he is engaged in a work of art. Felix is a writer possessed of humor, wit, and a great heart.
—Frank X. Gaspar, author of the novel Leaving Pico


Llewellyn Howland III
  Through a Portagee Gate is the story of two men told with novelistic brilliance. Passionate, witty, full of anger, but leavened with equal amounts of hope, it is the most moving biography I’ve encountered in years–and one of the most remarkable autobiographies.
—Llewellyn Howland III, author of The New Bedford Yacht Club: A History


Donald Warrin
  Reading much like a novel, with its rich detail and emotive content, Through a Portagee Gate offers a profound look into the Portuguese immigrant psyche and the evolution of a post-industrial city.
—Donald Warrin, author of Land as Far as the Eye Can See: The Portuguese in the Old West


Crossing the Sauer

Paul Fussell
  "Felix's is one of the most honest, unforgettable memoirs of the war I've read. He pulls no punches and has set himself refreshingly to deliver the truth. For this, I admire him and recommend his book."
—Paul Fussell, author of Doing Battle and Wartime


Alvin M. Josephy, Jr.
  "This is absolutely the best volume I've ever read on the GI in World War II. True to life? Wow! Every former GI will love this one. It's Mauldin come back to remind us of those two great characters—Willie and Joe—and the special place in our hearts for the memories of them. Get out of the way Mr. Ambrose. Sorry, but here come the ghosts of the real ones."
—Alvin M. Josephy, Jr., former editor, American Heritage, and author of The Long and the Short and the Tall


Edwin P. Hoyt
  "There are no heroes in Charles Reis Felix's memoir of an infantry battalion in combat in World War II, only bedraggled GIs wishing they were elsewhere . . . . Albeit the memoir tell largely of fear, death, mud, and other vicissitudes, it is laced with ribald soldier humor, and poignant glimpses of the negatives of war. The reader is left with a feeling that this is how it was, and relief at not having been there."
—Edwin P. Hoyt, author of The GI's War


Library Journal
  Former high school teacher Felix has written a memoir of his experience in the European theater during World War II. His account opens as he travels up to the western front in December 1944. Beginning his duty as a replacement in an infantry division, he becomes a radio operator assigned to an infantry battalion communications crew. By April 1945 he was out of the war, having been removed from active duty after drinking milk from a pail resulted in a case of yellow jaundice. The account of his three months has a rawness, earthiness, and sense of immediacy not usually found in the combat histories of this period. Whether Felix is relating incidents of graft committed by U.S. soldiers on their fellow G.I.s or describing his encounters with German civilians, the reader experiences an immediacy of feeling that makes one forget that these actions occurred over 50 years ago. For anyone wanting to know how it felt to participate in the events of World War II, this memoir is highly recommended. For large public and academic libraries.
—Library Journal, April 1, 2002


Publishers Weekly
  Extensive reconstructed conversations, reminiscent of Lester Atwell's classic Private, lend authenticity and immediacy to Felix's account of being drafted in late 1944 and sent to a battalion he leaves unnamed but is almost certainly within the 5th Infantry Division, part of Patton's Third Army. What really distinguishes this account is the quality of those conversations and of Felix's interior observations, whether he is describing, with restraint, a major's absurd grandstanding to German civilians ("He would be the first American soldier the Germans had ever seen, uncontaminated by the presence of some second lieutenants"), watching a loutish G.I. punch a married French patronne who refuses a drink after last call, or listening to a squad mate's raw and politically incorrect description of mud. Passages like the following abound: "I suddenly realized: There are no tough guys at the front.... I liked the front because we didn't have to salute the officers. And I liked the front because we were spared petty, chicken-shit harassing by noncoms. But the main reason I liked the front was the fellows." Felix describes his war as "a profoundly `good' experience" that still "sits, casting its shadow over everything." One need not be an enthusiast to enter that shadow's ken, making this book a good experience by any measure.
—Publishers Weekly, February 18, 2002


ForeWord
  In three simple words, the author beautifully summarizes what many war memoirs stumble over. "Chance dictates everything." A self-described "bespectacled college boy," Felix found himself advancing across Germany at the front lines of Patton's Army as a radio operator. His recollections of this paramount experience in his young life are vibrant, hilarious, descriptive and, most importantly, strike the reader as something real that happened to an actual person. This is not a movie script--it is a story told by a man who has had the opportunity to reflect, for over fifty years, why Chance decided to let him survive.
  The richest aspect of this memoir is Felix's description of the landscape that he traversed (mostly bleak, honest descriptions, sometimes involving graphic description of dead and dying.), his fellow soldiers and commanding officers. Among the characters are the promiscuous and boastful Berseglaria, the irrational and high-strung Hillbilly, and the quiet, stereotypically reserved Hopi Indian named Chief. Of the three commanding officers, that Felix cared enough to write about, one stands out as the most brash and ridiculous. His name was Major Pusey. When Pusey takes himself and Felix to the front of a caravan and nearly gets both of them blown to bits, Felix deservedly describes how Pusey was struck with a "fleeting case of MacArthur Vainglorius, as it is known to students of psychiatry, a mental condition characterized by pathological self importance." In fact, it is Felix's ability to deglamorize the war and his commanding officers, while highlighting the truly human moments of his experience that makes this memoir so understandable. It is easy for the reader to imagine the experience.
  After three months at the front lines, Felix was transferred out due to yellow jaundice. Just before that, he was relieved from a fifty-three hour-long duty by a fellow radio operator named Folenius. An hour after he was relieved, the radio operator and an officer were killed when an enemy shell struck the abandoned German command post where they were stationed. As is true of the bulk of this memoir, Felix struggles with why he had the fortune to survive, while others in his exact position did not. He is able to put it in perspective, and in this way, pay tribute to his fallen brothers, while not glorifying warfare. It is obvious he appreciates that he was able to experience the rest of his life when he describes what Folenius missed. "He was deprived of life, of loving someone, of holding his child in his arms, of lying in bed Sunday morning reading the paper, of tasting a ripe nectarine, of walking down a quiet country lane, of all the thousand-and-one pleasures of life. If he (Folenius) could talk, would he say to me, 'I died. You lived. Why?' And I have no answer to that."
  Felix returned home in 1945, graduated from Stanford, became a high school teacher, raised a family, and savored much of the simple experiences he was allowed to have.
—ForeWord, May 3, 2002

George Monteiro
  "Both comedic and comic, Da Gama, Cary Grant, and the Election of 1934 gives us a full and generous picture of a time and place that now exist because of words on a page, populated by individualized characters and characteristic incidents.

Frank X. Gaspar
  "And Reis Felix, in his novel of vignettes, brings the Portuguese to life with wit and humor, and above all, with an eye for telling detail that any American writer—of any ethnicity—should envy. This book captures the nature of immigrant New Bedford in a way that will make it relevant and entertaining reading for decades to come!"

Llewellyn Howland III
  "In his wonderful new novel, the octogenarian writer (and New Bedford native) Charles Reis Felix tells what it was like to be young and proud and poor and Portuguese in the city in 1934, while a quartet of ethnic Americans (including the Yankee incumbent) duke it out in a wild mayoral election. Generously observed, vividly drawn, and beautifully realized, the fictional city that the author evokes is a New Bedford to celebrate for all its faults—and to read about time and time again."

Katherine Vaz
  "Through a Portagee Gate is a plain-spoken, down-to-earth account of an American voyage, rich in fable, anecdote, and wit."

Frank X. Gaspar
  "Through a Portagee Gate is a valuable document, a record, a history, an autobiography, a memoir, an elegy."

Llewellyn Howland III
  "Through a Portagee Gate is the story of two men told with novelistic brilliance."

Donald Warrin
  "Reading much like a novel, with its rich detail and emotive content, Through a Portagee Gate offers a profound look into the Portuguese immigrant psyche. . . ."

Paul Fussell
  "Felix's is one of the most honest, unforgettable memoirs of the war I've read."

Alvin M. Josephy, Jr.
  "This is absolutely the best volume I've ever read on the GI in World War II."

Edwin P. Hoyt
  "Albeit the memoir tells largely of fear, death, mud, and other vicissitudes, it is laced with ribald soldier humor. . . ."

Library Journal
  "For anyone wanting to know how it felt to participate in the events of World War II, this memoir is highly recommended."

Publishers Weekly
  "Extensive reconstructed conversations. . . lend authenticity and immediacy to Felix's account. . . ."

ForeWord
  "His recollections of this paramount experience in his young   life are vibrant, hilarious, descriptive. . . ."