by Tricia, May 25, 2005 12:38 PM
Everyone loves the writing of Samuel Beckett (they claim to anyway), but few people have read Fernando Pessoa (let alone heard of him). Pessoa was a Portuguese poet who lived in the early part of the 20th century and can be credited for helping develop modernism in his homeland. He wrote under the "heteronyms" Ricardo Reis, Alvaro Campos, and Alberto Caeiro. What's remarkable is that each of these personas' styles and ideologies is distinct: Reis is a doctor and writes in classical forms; Caeiro is a shepherd who writes in free verse. In addition to writing their own discrete poems, these figures would comment on and critique each other's work. Pessoa, himself, was a translator. He lived and died in relative obscurity, and from what I've read he wanted it this way. The Book of Disquiet takes the form of a diary. It, too, was written by a "heteronym." This one Bernardo Soares, an assistant bookkeeper who takes as his theme contradiction between the intensity of his feelings and the banal reality of his daily life. Like Molloy who only has his inner thoughts to sustain him, so too does Soares. Yet both are utterly aware of the futility of even this last vestige of meaning. Soares: "I write down what I feel in order to lower the fever of feeling. What I confess is of no importance because nothing is of any importance." Molloy: "And truly it little matters what I say, this, this or that or any other thing." Like any Beckett book, The Book of Disquiet helps one savor a melancholy mood.