Fernando Pessoa: The Book of Disquiet




We will meet next on Tuesday, March 1st, at 8:30 pm, my place, with special guest, Dr. Rex Nielson of BYU’s Department of Spanish and Portuguese. We are reading the eclectic Book of Disquiet by the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa, and Dr. Nielson is an expert on the writings of Pessoa. He will share a few thoughts, as well as show photos of where Pessoa lived. This from a review of the book, sums it up nicely,

“. . . it is a dishevelled album of thoughts, sensations and imagined memories that can never be fully deciphered.”

Here is the description of the book from Amazon,



Fernando Pessoa was many writers in one. He attributed his prolific writings to a wide range of alternate selves, each of which had a distinct biography, ideology. and horoscope. When he died in 935, Pessoa left behind a trunk filled with unfinished and unpublished writings, among which were the remarkable pages that make up his posthumous masterpiece, The Book of Disquiet, an astonishing work that, in George Steiner’s words, “gives to Lisbon the haunting spell of Joyce’s Dublin or Kafka’s Prague.”

Published for the first time some fifty years after his death, this unique collection of short, aphoristic paragraphs comprises the “autobiography” of Bernardo Soares, one of Pessoa’s alternate selves. Part intimate diary, part prose poetry, part descriptive narrative, captivatingly translated by Richard Zenith,The Book of Disquiet is one of the greatest works of the twentieth century.


The interesting thing about this book is that no two translations are the same because the manuscript existed on scraps of paper stuffed into folders which were found in the trunk discovered after his death. This did not all come to light until years after his death. In fact, he published very little in his lifetime, but today is considered a National hero in Portugal and volumes of his work have been published and translated. The other very interesting thing about Pessoa is that he created alternate selves, which he called heteronyms. With 4-5 of these heteronyms he created elaborate biographies and personas and wrote poetry and essays with very different literary styles through these personas.


Here is an interesting piece on Pessoa from NPR,


And an excellent article and review from The Guardian,



My brother Josh and I discovered him about a decade ago and have been reading his works ever since. We can’t seem to get enough of the philosophical ramblings in The Book of Disquiet and I am always intrigued by his poetry, whether it be from himself, Pessoa, or one of his heteronyms, Ricardo Reis, Alberto Caiero, or Alvaro de Campos. My son Finn has become something of an amateur expert on Pessoa and has probably read more of his writings than Josh or I. His favorite poem, and which he highly recommends is called, “The Maritime Ode,” by Alvaro de Campos. It can be found in the book A Little Larger Than the Entire Universe: Selected Poems. Read some of his poetry as well, and come prepared to share some favorite passages. 


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