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The Book of Disquietby Fernando Pessoa
Relatively unknown during his lifetime (having published only a single book of poems), Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935) has since been recognized as a literary genius. A national hero in his native Portugal, he developed a style of writing based on the use of "heteronyms," of which he developed dozens. Following his death, a trunk was discovered containing over 25,000 pages of unpublished material from which this book was culled. Not a novel in any traditional sense, The Book of Disquiet, subtitled A Factless Autobiography, is a haunting examination of what it means to be an individual. Faced with an overtly introspective temperament, Pessoa delved into the viscera of existential thought and emerged with a work both unforgettably harrowing and terrifyingly beautiful.
How does one proceed in approaching Fernando Pessoa? Writing under at least 72 known heteronyms, he's a complicated wonder to ferret out from his constructed personae, who have individual prose styles, life histories, and even politics. One must proceed by diving into the work itself. A beautiful, inventive text, The Book of Disquiet is a posthumous collection of fragments attributed to Pessoa's "semi-heteronym" Bernardo Soares (whom he considered close to his own personality but still "a mere mutilation" of it). What interests me about Pessoa is his preoccupation with self as an imagined entity, apparent even in his description of a lake at sunset:
The golden tint that still glows on waters abandoned by the setting sun is hovering on the surface of my weariness. I see myself as I see the lake I've imagined, and what I see in that lake is myself. I don't know how to explain this image, or this symbol, or this I that I envision. But I know I see, as if in reality I were seeing, a sun behind the hills that casts its doomed rays on to this lake that dark-goldenly shimmers.
Recommended by Jae, Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
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 When he died in 935, Pessoa left behind a trunk filled with unfinished and unpublished writings, among which were the remarkable pages that make up his posthumous masterpiece, The Book of Disquiet, an astonishing work that, in George Steiner's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.
"Throughout, the focus is constantly sharpened by the author's narrative restraint, which commands attention, and by his depth of vision, which rewards it. Profound and moving: a work of immense, quiet power." Kirkus Reviews
"This perpetually unclassifiable and unfinished book...is arguably Pessoa's masterpiece....[Zenith] has done an admirable job in bringing out the force and clarity in Pessoa's serpentine and sometimes opaque meditations....[T]he genius of Pessoa and his personae is that readers are left weighing each and every such sentence for sincerity and truth value." Publishers Weekly
"There are no gossipy details in this heteronymous memoir, only the cerebral workings of a first-rate thinker on the dilemma of life. Full of fresh metaphors and unique perceptions, The Book of Disquiet can be casually scanned and read profitably even at random." Library Journal
"This superb edition of The Book of Disquiet is...a masterpiece." John Lanchester, The Daily Telegraph (London)
"Pessoa's rapid prose, snatched in flight and restlessly suggestive, remains haunting, often startling....There is nobody like him." W. S. Merwin, The New York Review of Books
"Extraordinary...a haunting mosaic of dreams, autobiographical vignettes, shards of literary theory and criticism and maxims." George Steiner, The Observer
One of the great strange masterpieces of the 20th century "The Book of Disquiet" is an assembly of sometimes linked fragments and an incredibly modernist Portugese novel.
Fernando Pessoa was many writers in one. The Portuguese author attributed his work to literary alter egos that he called "heteronyms," each of which had a fully developed identity. When Pessoa died, he left behind a trunk filled with disorderly scraps of unpublished poems and unfinished works, among which was The Book of Disquiet. 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.
Edited and Translated with an Introduction by Richard Zenith
Published for the first time 50 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.
About the Author
Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935) was born in Lisbon and raised in South Africa. After returning to Lisbon to study, he made a living as a translator and wrote obsessively in English, French, and Portuguese. While acknowledged as an intellectual and a poet, his literary genius went largely unrecognized until after his death.
Table of Contents
Notes on the Text and Translation xxvii
The Book Of Disquiet
Preface by Fernando Pessoa 3
A Factless Autobiography 9
A Disquiet Anthology 393
Appendix I: Texts Citing the Name of Vicente Guedes 465
Appendix II: Two Letters 467
Appendix III: Reflections on The Book of Disquiet from Pessoa's Writings 471
Table of Heteronyms 505
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