Thursday, October 08, 2009


In the last year I have carried The Book of Disquiet with me everywhere. If it means I must carry a bag large enough to accommodate it, I find one that fits the purpose. Only in the last few weeks, Pessoa stands in the bookshelf with the glass front that once belonged to my grandfather (who kept in it a flat, small round of Vicks that he would take out and sniff. To me, the smell was magical and meant possibilities). The cover - with one man shot, his back arched and his hands flung up in the air, and another caught mid-stride, his day's purpose re-shaped - looks out at me every time I pass.

It would be a crude formulation to say that I have learnt immense amounts from Pessoa but it is a crudity that is given shape by my inability to put any of that 'learning' into practice in the last year. I dip into the book when I want to know what the day holds for me; to find the words for things long known; to confirm my objective self-pity. I consult it as I would an oracle.

So here's Pessoa in Poetry this month, translated by Richard Zenith:

In me every thought, however much I’d like to preserve it intact, turns sooner or later into reverie. If I wish to set forth reasons or launch a train of argument, what comes out of me are sentences initially expressive of the thought itself, then phrases subsidiary to those initial sentences, and finally shadows and derivatives of those subsidiary phrases. I begin to meditate on the existence of God and soon find myself speaking of faraway parks, feudal processions, rivers that pass almost soundlessly beneath the windows of my contemplation . . . And I find myself speaking about them because I find myself seeing them, feeling them, and there’s a brief moment when my face is grazed by a real breeze rising from the surface of the dreamed river through metaphors, through the stylistic feudalism of my central self-abandon.


See also [via Mitali Saran].


Rob said...

I'll have to read The Book of Disquiet. I really like Pessoa's poetry, in whichever of his various names he's writing under. Not the kind of stuff it's possible to imitate, but much to learn.

Cheshire Cat said...

Soares rocks, Ricardo Reis less so, Alberto Caiero is a fraud.

Space Bar said...

Rob: funnily enough, I haven't read too much of Pessoa's poetry. I'd imagine Pessoa is pretty much impossible to imitate, though!

Cat: no views on Campos? (agree re Soares).

km said...

I think I am in the right mood to read this book.

Falstaff said...

I don't know that Pessoa's poetry is so hard to imitate - after all, most of it is Pessoa imitating himself.

What is inimitable is the whole multiple identity thing, and that only because once it's been done there really isn't a point.

[he says, writing under a pseudonym]