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The Book of Disquiet

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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 When he died in 1935, Pessoa left behind a trunk filled with unfinished and unpublished writings, among which were the remarkable pages that make up his posthumous masterpiece, The Book of Disquiet, an astonishing work that, in George Steiner's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.

544 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1982

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About the author

Fernando Pessoa

1,055 books5,366 followers
Fernando António Nogueira Pessoa was a poet and writer.

It is sometimes said that the four greatest Portuguese poets of modern times are Fernando Pessoa. The statement is possible since Pessoa, whose name means ‘person’ in Portuguese, had three alter egos who wrote in styles completely different from his own. In fact Pessoa wrote under dozens of names, but Alberto Caeiro, Ricardo Reis and Álvaro de Campos were – their creator claimed – full-fledged individuals who wrote things that he himself would never or could never write. He dubbed them ‘heteronyms’ rather than pseudonyms, since they were not false names but “other names”, belonging to distinct literary personalities. Not only were their styles different; they thought differently, they had different religious and political views, different aesthetic sensibilities, different social temperaments. And each produced a large body of poetry. Álvaro de Campos and Ricardo Reis also signed dozens of pages of prose.

The critic Harold Bloom referred to him in the book The Western Canon as the most representative poet of the twentieth century, along with Pablo Neruda.

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Profile Image for Bill Kerwin.
Author 1 book81.9k followers
March 22, 2019

Here is the only Portuguese literary joke I know: Q. Who are the four greatest Portuguese poets of the 20th century? A. Fernando Pessoa. Trust me, it's funny. But it does take a little explaining.

Fernando Pessoa, in order to express various philosophical and poetic moods, constructed a series of what he termed “heteronyms.” The heteronym, although similar to the mask or persona, differs in that each one is equipped with a name, a personality, a biography, and a physical description, as well as a distinct writing style. Although Pessoa made use of more than five dozen heteronyms in the course of his thirty-five years, the best known are Alberto Caeiro, Ricardo Reis, Álvaro de Campos, and Bernardo Soares. Of these four, his greatest creation--and perhaps the heteronym closest to Pessoa's self--is Bernardo Soares, the "author" of The Book of Disquiet.

The Book of Disquiet, if not unique, is close to it. It is a little like a novel, often like a collection of prose poems, and often like a series of aphorisms and philosophical reflections. The heteryonum that is Soares enables Pessoa to communicate a disciplined, definite vision of the world, necessarily limited in scope, but intensified and concentrated. In this sense, it resembles Roman and English satire, its authorial mask as carefully crafted and resonant as those of Horace and Juvenal, Pope and Swift. Soares, however, takes no interest in vice, let alone the reform of humankind; in fact, he seems to care little about humanity in general, or people in particular.

It is here that the novelistic aspect of this work becomes interesting. Soares is a shy, isolated man, a clerk at a Lisbon commercial firm who adds up columns of figures, and seems to do little else. Although he mourns his colleagues when they pass away, he never seems to communicate with them when they are alive; the closest he seems to get to fellowship are his encounters with the waiter in the little cafe where he eats his nightly dinner and consumes his nightly bottle of wine. At first, we feel sorry for him, for we feel his great isolation and are moved by his great passion and profound love for beauty which he can only express through his journal.

Slowly, however, we begin to see that this isolation is a personal and artistic choice, a way of refining his art and his being . If he cares about human beings at all, it is only because they are useful adjuncts to his own magnificent loneliness, because they resonate as discrete elements of the poet's imagination, much as a certain play of light on a Lisbon street may reflect one particular color of the canvas that is the poet's consciousness. Perhaps this is why the book “The Book of Disquiet” reminds me of most is The Chants of Maldoror, that uncompromising paean to the magnificent isolation of evil.

There is of course a great difference. Maldoror could only have been produced by a very young man hiding beneath a very old mask. His persona is a posture of isolation through which he begins to know himself. The Book of Disquiet, on the other hand, is the work of someone who knows himself well, and cares only about reaching a kind of existential purity: a clarity of view, a refinement of mood, the isolation of particular beauties that resonate more deeply and linger longer than the others.

Soares is a monk of the poetic mind, for whom aloneness is a vocation. Its fruit, this memorable book, is rare and delicious, filled with vivid descriptions, evocative language, and refined reflections.
Profile Image for Szplug.
467 reviews1,257 followers
December 19, 2009
Humans are social beings, to the extent that those who prefer solitude to the company of others are usually perceived as troubled individuals, outside of the norm; it took me a long time to feel comfortable with being alone, with dampening the guilt that flared up in me every time I begged off going out with a group of friends. It is always a welcome reinforcement when I come across a book penned by a fellow recluse—and The Book of Disquiet could be a solitary soul's bible, so powerfully does it speak in the language of single-place table settings, corner-chair cobwebs and bachelor apartments. It has achieved pride of place on my bedside stack, where I can ladle myself servings of Pessoa's wisdom at leisure.

This book's voluntarily alone author is Fernando Pessoa, a Portuguese poet, writer, and polylinguist who invented fully-fleshed out heteronyms—distinct and separate personalties of differing nationality and gender—in order to pursue his writing in various idiosyncratic shades and styles. The Book of Disquiet is a collection of the aphoristic prose-poetry musings of one such heteronym, that of Bernardo Soares, assembled from notes, entries, and jottings made over a span of some thirty years and left unpublished at the time of Pessoa's death in 1935. Richard Zenith, the editor and translator of this stunning, haunting, and achingly beautiful paean to the imaginary potentiality of man, has compiled the definitive edition of this tome in a truly outstanding translation that captures the expressive eloquence of Pessoa and his magical, metaphorically rich manner of constructing word images to portray his unique way of life.

There is no finer encomium to the shattering melancholy and bracing affirmation of loneliness and solitude than the five hundred plus entries that make up The Book of Disquiet; and few better descriptions of existential nausea, of the desperate efforts to perceive a reason to continue with the painful disappointments, shadow terrors, and numbing meaninglessness of human existence. As Pessoa—writing as Soares—quietly and unassumingly goes about his daily rituals of walking, working as a book-keeper and inhabiting the well-trod spaces of his rented room in the real world, he is living a rich existence within the wildly creative contours of his mind: as a knight errant, a rich merchant, a pirate, a voyager, a lover of countless women, a guide to the cosmos, an inhaler of sunrises and embracer of sunsets, the guiding hand of every drop of Lisbon's morning showers, the leaves shaken by a sudden burst of wind. Having been sentenced to a term of life by an errant universe, Pessoa decided to renounce action and ambitions in what we hold to be real life to pursue a variegated and abundant existence within the realm of dreams. As our life is measured through the archived clippings of one's memory, whether one actually performed the deeds recalled matters less than the detail and substance they contain.

Such, at least, is the defense offered by Pessoa; yet often his solipsistic persuasions are contradictory, defensive; and when the mask slips we can see the depth of pain and loneliness underneath the placid surface of his imaginary life. There is much repetition and mulling over of themes from different angles, but the writing is so expressive and raw and honest that, to myself at least, it never becomes tedious—even as the tedium of existence, the stretching of the soul on the rack of time, is one of the principal ideas that populate Pessoa's thoughts and entries. It is as if tedium was experienced as a box of chocolates, each colour and coating, each form and flavour, each taste and texture, mulled over, pondered, drawn out and examined, and then set to paper as a running record to remind of an eccentric daily pleasure.

This is a book to be mused upon and savored, one that can be imbibed in different ways: it can be read straight through—the way I approached it, drawn into a white heat of blistered enthrallment—or sparingly sampled over weeks, months, even years. The order the aphorisms are assembled in is purely a construction of Zenith; he stresses such in his introduction and encourages each reader to create their own sequence for the collected entries. However the reader decides to approach The Book of Disquiet, they will be rewarded with the inventive honesty of a hale and wounded man from a work that is truly sui generis.


I've recently picked up the Serpent's Tail Extraordinary Classic edition, which features a translation by Margaret Jull Costa, who performed similar duties for José Saramago's last half-dozen books. Distinct from Zenith, obviously, but just as potent and powerful—and the differently parsed words and sentences only serve to present Pessoa's incomparable poetry of loneliness in a new light, equally fulgent and searing, just focussed from an alternate angle. A richly marbled interiority of immanent pain and transcendent beauty.


Revisiting the disquietude of early modern Lisbon, I'm reminded anew how this collection of Pessoa's dispassionate passion is one whose title is so perfectly matched to the content within that one can sit there (all by oneself, of course) cushioned within the utter silence of an unvoiced existence, serving as an unexciting urban renewal zone for migratory dust motes and unimpressive highland anchored lethality for predatory silken arachnids, with a nigh sardonic set to the tight-lipped, hesitantly-committed smile of satisfaction that imprints itself upon one's otherwise stoney visage, and marvel at how much one man's textually decanted imaginative impressions and gossamer ruminations running the interior gauntlet of unlived memories, unacted performances, unconsummated affairs, unshed tears, unwatched observations, unwinged flights, ungrounded fears, unfelt kisses, untouched caresses, uninvolved emotions, unexercised exertions, untasted repasts, unliked friendships, unmet acquaintances, untold stories, unpoured libations, undone happenings, unannounced recollections, unlit umbrages, unformed expressions, untraveled journeys, unnoticeable leavenings, unhoused guilts, and unarticulated speechifications resonate, to the fullest extent, with the plucked strings ever aquiver within the utterly empty, lonely, and withdrawn chambers of the mind- and/or house-bound soul.
Profile Image for Jim Fonseca.
1,100 reviews7,190 followers
August 24, 2023
If you read this, you need to know what you are signing up for, so, below, I’ll let Pessoa speak for himself. It’s a series of vignettes, random thoughts and meditations all written between 1913 and 1935.


It’s a work of genius, of course. Pessoa, the famous Portuguese writer and poet was known for his multiple writing personalities (heteronyms). Disquiet was supposedly written by Bernardo Soares, an excruciatingly lonely and socially dysfunctional man. He’s a shipping clerk at a textile wholesaling firm and spends his entire life a few blocks from his tiny apartment with one window on a balcony. He goes to the same restaurant, same tobacconist and same barber for thirty years. All of them die one by one in their 70s, which he only discovers by going into their shop and finding out they died the day before. The first two passages below show some of his severe social issues.

“Moreover, I am bothered by the idea of being forced into contact with someone. A simple invitation to dine with a friend provokes in me an anguish it would be hard to define. The idea of any social obligation – going to a funeral, discussing an office matter face-to-face with someone, going to the station to wait for someone I know or don’t know - the mere idea disturbs a whole day’s thoughts. Sometimes I am concerned all through the night and sleep badly. And the real thing, when it happens, is absolutely insignificant, justifying nothing; and the thing repeats itself and I don’t ever learn to learn.”

“Sometimes saying hello to someone intimidates me. My voice dries up, as if there were a strange audacity in having to say that word out loud.”


“There are metaphors that are more real than the people walking down the street. There are images in the secret corners of books that live more clearly than many men and women. There are literary phrases that possess an absolutely human individuality. There are passages in paragraphs of mine that chill me with fear, so clearly do I feel them to be people, standing alone so freely from the walls of my room, at night, in shadows…”

“Yes, dreaming that I am, for example, simultaneously, separately, unconfusedly, a man and a woman taking a walk along a riverbank, To see myself, at the same time, with equal clarity, in the same way, with no mixing, being the two things, integrated equally in both, a conscious boat in a southern sea and a printed page in an ancient book. How absurd this seems! But everything is absurd, and this dream is the least of the absurdities.”

“There is nothing that reveals poverty of mind more quickly than not knowing how to be witty except at the expense of others.”

“I go forward slowly, dead, and my vision is no longer mine, it’s nothing: it’s only the vision of the human animal who, without wanting, inherited Greek culture, Roman order, Christin morality, and all the other illusions that constitute the civilization in which I feel.”

“In the dark depth of my soul, invisible, unknown forces were locked in a battle in which my being was the battleground, and all of me trembled because of the unknown struggle. A physical nausea at all of life was born when I awakened. A horror at having to live rose up with me from the bed. Everything seemed empty, and I had the cold impression that there is no solution for any problem.”

“Ennui is not the illness of the boredom of not having anything to do, but the more serious illness of feeling that it’s not worthwhile doing anything. And being that way, the more there is to do, the more ennui there is to feel.”

“How many times, how many, as now, has it pained me to feel what I am feeling – to feel something like anguish only because that’s what feeling is, the disquiet of being here, the nostalgia for something else, something unknown, the sunset of all emotions, the yellowing of myself fading into ashy sadness in my external awareness of myself.”

“During certain very clear moments of meditation, like these in which, at the beginning of the afternoon, I wander observingly through the streets, every person brings me a message, every house shows me something new, every sign has an announcement for me.”

“Sometimes, with a sad delight, I think that if some day, in a future to which I may not belong, these words I’m writing will endure and receive praise, I will finally have people who ‘understand’ me, my people, the true family to be born into and to be loved by. But far from being born into it, I will have already died a long time before. I will be understood only in effigy, when affection no longer compensates the dead person for the disaffection he experienced when alive.”


“I consider life an inn where I have to stop over until the coach from the abyss arrives. I don’t know where it will take me because I don’t know anything. I could consider this inn a prison because I’m force to stay inside it; I could consider it a place for socializing because I meet others here…I slowly sing, only to myself, songs that I compose as I wait.”

“Everything is emptier than the void….If I think this and look around to see if reality is killing me with thirst, I see inexpressive houses, inexpressive faces, inexpressive gestures. Stone, bodies, ideas – everything’s dead. All movements are stopping points, all of them the same stopping point. Nothing says anything to me. Nothing is familiar to me, not because I find it strange but because I don’t know what it is. The world is lost. And in the depth of my soul – the only reality at this moment – there is an intense, invisible anguish, a sadness, like the sound of someone weeping in a dark room.”

Not an easy or a pleasant read, but genius.

Top painting from i2.wp.com/www.revistabula.com
Sculpture of Pessoa in Lisbon from alamy.com
Photo of Lisbon in 1940 from atlaslisboa.com

[Edited 8/24/23]
Profile Image for Vit Babenco.
1,464 reviews3,615 followers
January 30, 2022
The Book of Disquiet is incredibly aphoristic – one can take almost any sentence at random and use it as an aphorism…
And so, not knowing how to believe in God and unable to believe in an aggregate of animals, I, along with other people on the fringe, kept a distance from things, a distance commonly called Decadence. Decadence is the total loss of unconsciousness, which is the very basis of life.

The Book of Disquiet is an anthem to the futility of life and a hymn of life’s preciousness.
And so we were left, each man to himself, in the desolation of feeling ourselves live. A ship may seem to be an object whose purpose is to sail, but no, its purpose is to reach a port. We found ourselves sailing without any idea of what port we were supposed to reach. Thus we reproduced a painful version of the Argonauts’ adventurous precept: living doesn’t matter, only sailing does.

And Fernando Pessoa fearlessly proceeds right from the point where Ecclesiastes stopped…
“I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit…” Ecclesiastes 1:14
To recognize reality as a form of illusion and illusion as a form of reality is equally necessary and equally useless…

And so we keep moving through our reality and through our illusions until our “dust returns to the earth as it was…”
Profile Image for Dolors.
539 reviews2,278 followers
March 19, 2013
I have this habit of keeping a pencil close by when I'm reading a book which I know is going to have some passages I want to remember. So, whenever I come across a sentence or a paragraph that strikes me for some reason, I underline it.
Well now, what's mostly happened with my copy of the "The book of disquiet" by Fernando Pessoa is that there is something underlined in almost every page of the book. Which is the same to say that this is a memorable book on the whole. I'd even dare to say that this is more than a mere book, it is a gate to upper thinking, a new way of understanding the world, a new philosophy, a daring and maybe even scary but sincere approach to what is hidden in our human souls, if we are brave enough to look.

I knew a bit of Pessoa before I picked up this book. Vastly known Portuguese poet, famous for his ability to create different "personalities" and stick to them closely to perfection, writing in different styles according to the voice of each character. Schizophrenia? Or the mind of a genius who fooled everyone who knew him? Or a man who disguised himself out of boredom and who was able to live more than 70 different and complete lives through all these invented "characters" to become a complete real person? Maybe all these options at once. Maybe none. We'll never know.
Anyway, even though I knew about Pessoa, I wasn't prepared for this book.
Not only unconnected recollections of the "supposed" life of Bernardo Soares, one of Pessoa's characters, but also unanswerable questions which left me kind of anxious and peaceful at the same time, if that makes any sense...
Questions regarding consciousness, the almost obsession about dreams and the state of peaceful lethargy of sleeping, doubts aroused regarding deities, love and death. And about what it is to be happy or to feel nostalgia about a non existent past, or about egoism and solitude. But all this questions made even more intense with this overflowing passion for writing, and for literature. And for Lisbon.

A privileged mind which opens for us, humble readers who want to witness an amazing transformation of the world surrounding us, seeing for the first time what our lives really are, or what they aren't and what we should expect them to be.
An experience which will leave you exhausted but with renewed energy to face this extenuating and unavoidable journey which we call life.
Profile Image for Fergus, Quondam Happy Face.
1,028 reviews17.7k followers
August 19, 2023
There you go, friend, you’re ambling amiably across the vast antiseptically postmodern, socially distanced, desolate landscape of Pessoa...

And peaceably enough ensconced in your own little zeitgeist, so much so that you don’t notice he’s got a heavy bludgeoning blackjack poised above your skull...

With your name on it.

And you see, don’t you, that he’s going to clobber you with that steel blackjack, conk you out and deep-six you? No kidding.

He’ll turn you into an Undead Ringwraith.

I mean it!

Inscribed on this blunt instrument is the cryptic line from Mallarme: I’m going to go and see the Shadow you’ll become!

For Pessoa, we’re ALL turning into Shadows.

So read him and you’ll spend Forty Years in the Desert.

As T.S.Eliot wept:

“Cry cry what should I cry?!”

But hold on a sec.

If we’re gonna travel through the desert, maybe we can do something.

Can we plant a Flag there?

A Flag saying, “this parched Land is me, is mine. I’m gonna live with it, thrive in it, raise my kids in it...?”

Cause that’s exactly what we’re doing when we don’t wanna become a Ringwraith.

And Tomorrow, we’ll be in the Promised Land!

And on the bright colours of our Flag is a Big, Four-Letter Word:


Hope beyond ALL the Naysayers.

Hope beyond ALL the Bullies.

Hope, Hope, Hope: because Hope is WHERE OUR HEART IS!
Yes, Postmodernism hits hard.

But we can HIT BACK.

We can hit back with every nerve, every sinew and every fibre of Love we’ve got in us.

We’re NOT Finished Yet!

This world’s ugly, alright, but we’re NOT GIVING IN.

So Pessoa’s not a dead end, after all, is he?


And the rest is Up To Us.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews46 followers
September 16, 2021
Livro do Desassossego = The Book of Disquiet, Fernando Pessoa

The Book of Disquiet is a work by the Portuguese author Fernando Pessoa (1888–1935).

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 1935, Pessoa left behind a trunk filled with unfinished and unpublished writings, among which were the remarkable pages that make up his posthumous masterpiece.

In Lisbon there are a few restaurants or eating houses located above decent-looking taverns, places with the heavy, domestic look of restaurants in towns far from any rail line. These second-story eateries, usually empty except on Sundays, frequently contain curious types whose faces are not interesting but who constitute a series of digressions from life. — Fernando Pessoa, from The Book of Disquiet, trans. Alfred MacAdam.

عنوانهای چاپ شده در ایران: «کتاب دل‌ واپسی»؛ «دل واپسی برناردو سوارز کمک حسابدار»؛ نویسنده: فرناندو پسوا؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز شانزدهم ماه آگوست سال 2011میلادی

عنوان: کتاب دل‌ واپسی؛ نویسنده: فرناندو پسوا؛ مترجم: جاهد جهانشاهی؛ تهران، نگاه، 1384؛ در 335ص؛ شابک: 9643512746؛ عنوان دیگر دل واپسی برناردو سوارز کمک حسابدار؛ موضوع: سرگذشت شاعران پرتغال - سده 20م

پس از پیدا کردن دست نوشته‌ های «پسوا»، در سال 1982میلادی، جهانیان بی‌درنگ به شایستگی‌های ستودنی ایشان، پی بردند، و دریافتند که ایشان همزمان، بزرگترین نویسنده ی سده بیستم میلادی «پرتغال»، و نخستین پایه‌ گذار «نوگرایی» در کشور خویش، و نخستین بانی «پسانوگرایی» در جهان بوده‌ اند؛ «فرناندو پسوا» به شدت تحت تأثیر ژرف‌ اندیشی، و جهان‌ نگری «خیام» بوده اند، و هرجا که فرصتی یافته اند، لب به ستایش ایشان بگشوده‌ اند؛ «کتاب دلواپسی» نیز، به گونه‌ ای با اندیشه ی «خیام» گره خورده‌ است؛ «پسوا» را در زمینه ی سرایندگی و شعر (نظم)، با «ریکله»، و در زمینه ی نگارش (نثر) با «شکسپیر» برابر دانسته‌ اند؛ ایشان فرزند پدری «موسیقی‌دان»، و مادری تحصیل ‌کرده، بودند، آشنایی پدر و مادرش با ادبیات، سبب شد، که ادبیات، بخش جدایی‌ناپذیر زندگی «پسوا» گردد؛ کتاب «دل ‌واپسی» شامل قطعه‌ های گوناگونی است، که کنار هم چیده ‌شده‌ اند؛ این کتاب شامل سیصد قطعه است، که هر کدام از آنها، چکیده‌ ای از تأملات فلسفی «فرناندو پسوا»، درباره ‌ی زندگی هستند؛ نخستین بخش‌های کتاب، در سال‌های 1913میلادی نگاشته‌ شده، و نوشتار پایانبخش‌ آن، به سال 1934میلادی باز می‌گردد؛ بیش از بیست سال، نگارش این کتاب به درازا کشیده، و دست نوشته هایش، چهل و هفت سال، پس از درگذشت ایشان، پیدا شده است

نقل از متن کتاب: (اگر کسی مالک رودخانه ای روان باشد، آیا باد وزنده نیز میتواند از آن کسی باشد؟ ما نه صاحب اندامیم و نه حقیقت و نه حتا رؤیا؛ ما اشباح پا گرفته از دروغیم، از سایه های تلقینیم، و زندگی من از درون، همچون برون هیچ است؛ کسی که مرزهای روان خود را میشناسد میتواند بگوید من، من ام؟ ولی من میدانم آنچه را حس میکنم از جانب من احساس میشود؛ ما چه چیز را مالکیم؟ وقتی نمیدانیم چه ایم، پس چطور میدانیم که مالک چه ایم)؛ پایان نقل از کتاب

نقل دیگر از کتاب: (ما اکنون هرقدر هم که نخواهیم، بردگان زمان در اشکال و رنگ‌های مختلف هستیم و مطیع فرمان‌های آسمان و زمینیم؛ حتی آن‌که در جمع ما به تمام و کمال در خود مخفی می‌شود، و پیرامون خود را نادیده می‌انگارد، باز به هنگام باران، و زمانی که آسمان صاف است، به همان شکل در خود مخفی نمی‌شود، دگرگونی‌های تیره که شاید تنها در ژرفای احساس‌های مجرد درک شوند، به ‌پیش می‌روند، چرا که باران می‌بارد، یا از آن‌رو که بند آمده، بی‌آنکه انسان بتواند حس کند، حس شدنی است، زیرا بی‌آنکه به ‌راستی احساس کنیم، هوا را حس می‌کنیم

هر یک از ما بی‌شمار است، بسیار است، کثرتی از خویشتن است.؛ از این‌رو، آن‌که پیرامون خود را تحقیر می‌کند، با آنکه خشنود می‌شود، یا از آن رنج می‌برد، یکی نیست؛ در مستعمره‌ ی پهناور هستی ما، انسان‌های متنوعی، به گونه‌ های متفاوت فکر و حس می‌کنند؛ در این لحظه که من در درنگی مجاز ظرف امروز، کار اندک این تأثیرات فکری مختصر را می‌نویسم، کسی هستم که آن‌ها را به‌ دقت می‌نویسم؛ خشنودم که در این ساعت کسی که آسمان نامرئی را از اینجا می‌بیند، و درباره‌ ی همه ی این‌ها می‌اندیشد، اندامش را شاد و دست‌هایش را هنوز هم کمی در قید حس می‌کند، نیازی به کار کردن ندارد.؛ و این کل چهار من برآمده از مردمان بیگانه با خود، چون خیل جمعیت گوناگون متنوع فقط یک سایه می‌اندازد - اندام آرام سرگرم کار کردن من، که به ‌وقت ایستادن، در پشت میز تحریر بلند آقای «بورخس» به آن لم می‌دادم، هم‌زمان در جستجوی مداد پاک ‌کنی بود که به او قرض داده بودم.‌)؛ پایان نقل

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 14/09/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 24/06/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Matthias.
107 reviews351 followers
March 20, 2017

Some books wrap me up in dreams and fantasy, creating a protective bubble in which I can leisurely gaze at the world in comfort. The opposite happened when reading “The Book of Disquiet”, a book that lives up to its title like no other. I didn’t get wrapped up in anything. With every sentence I read I felt myself being unwrapped, as layers of self-deceit and unconsciousness were shed.


I held the book in my hands. I could decide to open and close it. I could decide to put it away. But despite all that it didn’t take long for me to realise that I was not the one in power, as the book firmly grasped me in turn. Not through my mind, like good books. Not through my heart, like great books. It grasped my soul and never let go. While I was reading this book, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it had beaten me to it, in that the book was reading me and that it did so more quickly and effectively than I could read its pages. This book is a mirror for my soul, a mirror in which my reflection always sees me first, a mirror where my reflection waves to me and I wave back.


I’m compelled to take over the book’s structure in this review, and that’s not only because of Junta’s shining example. There is no plot weaving together the pages. The book is made up of more than two hundred diary entries. But this is a special diary. The entries seldom talk of work, of interactions with other people, of the goings-on in the day. They deal with the author’s rich inner life, to which the outside reality offers only a background at best. Pessoa sat down at his desk and just wrote what he thought. Streams of thoughts are often fragmentary, and so is this book. Every number allows a new idea to carry you through poetic landscapes until the author reaches the shores of that idea and he starts over, sometimes with a new idea, sometimes with the same, sometimes leading to the same shore, sometimes further away or closer by. As a result, my notes of my reactions to the book are equally fragmentary, each note representing a new stream as I glide to the next number and I start over.


One of my favorite things to do is to stand in between two mirrors that stand directly opposite of each other. To see my reflection multiplied to infinity is the most humbling ego-boost I can think of. I say infinity but if you look far enough into that world of infinite reflections there is a dark hole at the end of it, there where the light ceases to reach and where my beholding eye ceases to behold.
Consciousness is a mirror. Consciousness of consciousness leads to a similar infinity that seemingly leads to nothingness.


Infinity sharpens my mind and elates my heart as a concept, but it numbs my mind and shrinks my heart as a reality. Nothingness is just one version of infinity. Equating everything to zero is the easiest solution to find, but the most difficult one to accept.


I don’t know if this book has changed my life. It added a layer of consciousness to my consciousness and makes me more aware of inner processes. On the other hand, it couldn’t have done so if it didn’t confirm my consciousness, if it didn’t confirm what I already felt and knew without knowing. My soul was stripped of the comfort and warmth of the mundane, but already I feel myself slipping back into the world and out of myself.


A connection feels meaningful when it is direct, goes deep and is complete.


Dreams I’ve never bothered to write down, thoughts and follies that were interrupted: much of what I have said, written and thought is lost. Only the abstract memory of having said, written and thought lingers. Before I go to sleep, thoughts wash over me, turning around in my head, taking five paths at once and dancing in harmony. The mind is cleared and cleansed with these high-speed thought-cycles but then, a jolt of consciousness, the spell is broken and the thoughts are forever lost, hiding away in dreams. The heavy weight of consciousness doesn’t last as another torrent of thoughts sweeps down and I fall into a peaceful sleep. How I would like to commit those thoughts to paper, to catch the wild torrents and be at peace.


In my mind’s eye a castle is easily conjured up, the atmosphere is palpable, the potential for storytelling enormous. I pick up my pen. The jester is no longer a concept, but a living thing in need of adventures and adjectives. The scene becomes heavy and slow and I grind to a halt.


An unlikable side-effect of my consciousness is that I can’t help but feel special. That feeling doesn’t start at the cerebral level. Somewhere in the depths of my diaphragm there is this core, a source of that intuition. Sometimes that core is cold and the feeling fades, but this book made it burn brightly. I look at the reviews page and I see that it did so for others. My feeling special makes way for a special feeling.


Like Pessoa, I find a lot of philosophy in the exceedingly small. That which does not matter, matters precisely because of it. When I look at an ant hard at work, I find that its essence is its being. This goes for everything, but it is in the insignficant that this is made the most obvious to me. A blade of grass sticking out of the pavement. Small numbers written in pencil on a wall that now have lost all significance. A bug. An abandoned shack that has fallen in disuse.

I was hiking in a wild, rough coastal region in France. On the sandy path there was a small patch of pebbles and I resolved to pick one up and throw it into the sea far below when I'd get close enough. During my walk I thought about what had brought the pebble to that patch, what had brought me there, and as ever, one thought led to the other. The pebble became heavy with my ponderings. I could not bring myself to throw it into the anonymity of the crashing waves when the time came.



Whenever I find wonder in the banal, nothingness becomes less likely. Banality is a virtue, importance is a sin. There is no wonder in importance, only design.

The situation of the spider crawling on my book only a few moments after I had read the small chapter on "millimeters" held wonder, but the picture I took was designed, flipping back to the relevant page so that spider could walk on it. It felt important to share the moment so I turned wonder into an anecdote.


Sometimes reality feels like the dream that my inaction brought to fruition.
Sometimes reality feels like the remnants in the sieve through which my dreams are poured.
Profile Image for Valeriu Gherghel.
Author 6 books1,442 followers
August 2, 2023
„Alții sînt mari seducători cărora nu îndrăznesc să le reziste nici măcar femeile inexistente”.

Pessoa a lăsat în manuscris o operă imensă. Și valoric, și cantitativ. Zeci de mii de texte (de mînă sau dactilo). Mai precis, dacă este să-i credem pe biografi, 27.543 de texte, poezii, însemnări filosofice, povestiri polițiste fără concluzie, note poematice sau confesive. Publicate în întregime, textele ar alcătui aproximativ 200 de volume. Opera lui Tolstoi s-a tipărit în 90 de volume. Mai poți spune ceva?

Iată ce crede despre faimă Bernardo Soares (semi-heteronimul lui Pessoa): „De cîte ori eu însumi, care îmi bat joc de asemenea seducții, bune numai să ne distreze, nu m-am surprins imaginîndu-mi cît de agreabil mi-ar fi să devin celebru, cît de plăcut să fiu adulat, cît de strălucitor să mă văd triumfînd. Însă nu ajung niciodată să mă închipui cocoțat pe asemenea înălțimi, fără să am parte de rîsul batjocoritor al celuilalt eu, cel care se află mereu prin preajma mea... Mă văd celebru? Înseamnă că sînt celebru ca ajutor de contabil... Mă văd aplaudat de mulțimi pestrițe? Aplauzele urcă pînă la etajul 4 și se izbesc de muchiile mobilelor mele ieftine, din camera sărăcăcioasă, se izbesc de tot ceea ce mă înconjoară și mă umilește... Nu mi-am construit nici castele în Spania, cum fac acei granzi de Spania ai tuturor iluziilor. Castelele mele au fost doar din cărți de joc, vechi, soioase... Voi muri așa cum am trăit, în acest bric-à-brac [amestec de nimicuri, n. m.] de periferie, apreciat la kilogram, la capitolul de post-scriptum al tuturor rebuturilor” (pp.82-83).

Pe acest fundal metafizic, mai degrabă cinic decît stoic, cum se explică, totuși, fecunditatea ieșită din comun a lui Fernando Pessoa? De ce nu s-a lăsat pradă lehamitei, plictisului, deșertăciunii? Găsesc chiar în notele poetului acest răspuns luminos:
„Singura atitudine demnă de un om superior este să persiste cu tenacitate într-o activitate pe care o știe inutilă, să respecte o disciplină pe care o știe sterilă și să folosească norme de gîndire filosofică și metafizică despre care simte că n-au nici o importanță” (p.122).
Profile Image for Lizzy.
305 reviews166 followers
February 19, 2019
'We're well aware that every creative work is imperfect and that our most dubious aesthetic contemplation will be the one whose object is what we write. But everything is imperfect. There's no sunset so lovely it couldn't be yet lovelier, no gentle breeze bringing us sleep that couldn't bring yet sounder sleep.'

Almost all my feelings…
As soon as I turned the last page, I realized how much I was going to miss The Book of Disquiet. For it has been my faithful companion for over two weeks, as my friends are witness for their company was always there with me. As soon as I turned the last page, I worried, what am I going to do now? But now it seems my only consolation is all the quotes I collected during this lavish period. So I now populate my new solitude with these gems, with Fernando Pessoa’s amazing dreams.
'I've never done anything but dream. This, and this alone, has been the meaning of my life. My only real concern has been my inner life. My worst sorrows have evaporated when I've opened the window on the street of my dreams and forgotten myself in what I saw there.'

I’ve always been a dreamer, but I dream mainly through readings that I always carried along with me in my life’s journey. I cannot now pretend to be a dreamer like Fernando Pessoa, or Bernardo Soare: I’ve never done anything but dream. This, and this alone, has been the meaning of my life. For I lived more in the real world than Pessoa confessedly did. Every dream is the same dream, for they're all dreams. Let God change my dreams, but for my gift of dreaming. For him they were his nourishment, his own life. But for me they are my leisure. Yes, my dreams might not be his dreams but they are as alive as his, as dear to me as his were to him.
'I read and I am liberated. I acquire objectivity. I cease being myself and so scattered. And what I read, instead of being like a nearly invisible suit that sometimes oppresses me, is the external world’s tremendous and remarkable clarity, the sun that sees everyone, the moon that splotches the still earth with shadows, the wide expanses that end in the sea, the blackly solid trees whose tops greenly wave, the steady peace of ponds of farms, the terraced slopes with their paths overgrown with grape-vines.'

We might be distinct souls, but there is one thing that we are one and that I felt is his anxiety and is also my own:
'My tedium takes on an air of horror, and my boredom is a fear. My sweat isn’t cold, but my awareness of it is. I’m not physically ill, but my soul’s anxiety is so intense that it passes through my pores and chills my body.'

Yes, it seems we could even be related,
'It sometimes occurs to me, with sad delight, that if one day (...) the sentences I write are read and admired, then at last I'll have my own kin, people who 'understand' me, my true family in which to be born and loved.'

The main difference is that I am not a writer, I am only a reader. And so I am his soul mate for I complete him when I leaf through the pages of his book. As are all his readers that give life to his writings. His prose so beautiful it is heartbreaking, despite his own insecurities. But I would I wish to be a writer if the price is to not live? Better to write to dare to live...

Do you suppose that that is the reason of my contentment? Should you ask if I’m happy, I’ll say that I’m not. For me there is not so much solitude, no lack of friendship, no ceaseless tedium. Only unhappiness is elevating, and only the tedium that comes from unhappiness is heraldic like the descendants of ancient heroes. So, I could not ever be a good poet and I am glad I had never desired so high. Although I have to confess that I had some dreams of being a poet. But these were only dreams…

Perhaps I could have never been a poet, for above all I love. I love my friends, I love my children, I loved a man and I love life. And I could never declare like Pessoa, We never love anyone. What we love is the idea we have of someone. It’s our concept – our own selves – that we love. Or even that [l]ife hinders the expression of life. If I actually lived a great love, I would never be able to describe it. Maye I should read other poets… But I have to agree with him when he states, I wake up to make sure I exist... Aren’t we all always unsure if we truly exist?

Am I ordinary?, for most of the time I realize I think with my feelings. While Pessoa confesses: I believe most people think with their feelings, whereas I feel with my thoughts. Yes, I am happily ordinary. While his happiness is as painful as [his] pain.

However, the more I say I don’t agree with our poet, the more I believe him. Am I saying nonsense? Sometimes to be a poet is to unbelieve. Oh, I believe we can travel through our dreams, we can imagine unimaginable places within our dreams:
'What can China give me that my soul hasn't already given me? And if my soul can't give it to me, how will China give it to me? For it's with my soul that I'll see China, if I ever see it. I could go and seek riches in the Orient, but not the riches of the soul, because I am my soul's riches, and I am where I am, with or without the Orient.'

But after all my incoherence, I can only agree with Pessoa:
'It's the central error of the literary imagination: to suppose that others are like us and must feel as we do. Fortunately for humanity, each man is just who he is, it begin given only to the genius to be others as well.'
But our natures are diverse, for I am not as solitary as he was. I am solitary, you might say, but I have my books. What does he have? Only his dreams or a poignant and fruitful solitude. To understand, I destroyed myself. To understand is to forget about loving. Can we be that alone? I ask myself, or only genius and poets have that gift? Perhaps, if so that is a sad truth.

Some closing remarks…
I feel I need to add a few considerations, besides my ramblings above.

Pessoa called this work as a factless biography. It might present distinct tones of the absurd, and despite its hints of indifference or even cynicism, it’s nevertheless a quintessential trait of its writer. He reveals an ethereal existence, or his own life, through his willful approach towards his own disquietude; through his sense of a consciousness that suffers with a tedium that results basically from his own senselessness existence. And in that he could not be more truthful.

Faced with the life’s adversity, and aiming to overcome the anguish to him so acute, he imagines, he dreams. This may be one of the reasons for his so many personalities (his heteronyms, who could each write in distinct literary styles) to be born. He is not one, he is many. So he can experience different lives in only one existence. According to him:
'My intellect has attained a pliancy and a reach that enable me to assume any emotion I desire and enter at will into any state of mind.'

For me, his flow of thoughts or dreaming that we read in The Book of Disquiet captures the writer’s mind, reveals a structure and a repetition in thoughts that talks about solitude, dream, tedium, love or un-love and unhappiness. It is ultimately passionate and painful.

Bernardo Soares is Pessoa’s heteronym considered to be the closest to Pessoa’s real self; and his writings strongly express Pessoa’s aspiration to live an imagined life, as if in a dream, so as to forget his self in real life. He continually writes about his dreams, their nature and importance to his survival:
'Live your life. Don’t be lived by it. Right or wrong, happy or sad, be your own self. You can do this only by dreaming, because your real life, your human life, is the one that doesn’t belong to you but to others. You must replace your life with your dreaming, concentrating only on dreaming perfectly. In all the acts of your real life, from that of being born to that of dying, you don’t act – you’re acted; you don’t live – you’re merely lived.'

Rain frequently appear in his writings and it could be viewed as a symbol of his disquietude, his unrelenting dreaming that pours over his own existence. What a wistful and beautiful vision Pessoa gifts us:
“Each drop of rain is my failed life weeping in nature. There’s something of my disquiet in the endless drizzle, then shower, then drizzle, then shower, through which the day’s sorrow uselessly pours itself out over the earth. It rains and keeps raining. My soul is damp from hearing it. So much rain… My flesh is watery around my physical sensation of it.

And he dialogues with the readers, but mainly he questions or even doubts himself and his own writing:
'What will I be ten years from now, or even five? My friends say I'll be one of the greatest contemporary poets - they say this based on what I've written, not what I may yet write. But even if this is true, I have no idea what it will mean. I have no idea how it will taste. Perhaps glory tastes like death and futility, and triumph smells of rottenness.'

The Book of Disquiet moved and overwhelmed me fiercely. Pessoa bit by bit immersed himself into my own self, made me wonder and tremble with his alluring and poignant words, much above a mere understanding. I perceived his disquiet, and I shared with him many uncertainties or yet his certainties. His solitude and his dreaming are written down in my soul and will certainly come back to me in the future. Ah, to be such a poet, what a dream and what sufferings!

Other quotes

'I weep over my imperfect pages, but if future generations read them, they will be more touched by my weeping than by any imperfection I might have achieved, since perfection would have kept me from weeping and, therefore, from writing. Perfection never materializes.'

'When all by myself, I can think of all kinds of clever remarks, quick comebacks to what no one said, and flashes of witty sociability with nobody. But all of this vanishes when I face someone in the flesh: I lose my intelligence, I can no longer speak. Only my ghostly and imaginary friends, only the conversations I have in my dreams, are genuinely real and substantial, and in them intelligence like an image in a mirror.'

'I've undertaken every project imaginable. The Iliad composed by me had a structural logic in its organic linking of epodes such as Homer could never have achieved. The meticulous perfection my unwritten verses makes Virgil's precision look sloppy and Milton's power slack. My allegorical satires surpassed all of Swift's in the symbolic exactitude of their rigorously interconnected particular. How many Horaces I've been.'

'When I put away my artifices and lovingly arrange in a corner all my toys, words, images and phrases, so dear to me I feel like kissing them, then I become so small and innocuous, so alone in a room so large and sad, so profoundly sad.'

'Sadly I write in my quiet room, alone as I have always been, alone as I will always be. And I wonder if my apparently negligible voice might not embody the essence of thousands of voices, the longing of self-expression of thousands of lives, the patience of millions of souls resigned like my own to their daily lot, their useless dreams and their hopeless hopes.'

'I’m dazed by a sarcastic terror of life, a despondency that exceeds the limits of my conscious being. I realize that I was all error and deviation, that I never lived, that I existed only in so far as I filled time with consciousness and thought. I feel, in this moment, like a man who wakes up after a slumber full of real dreams, or like a man freed by an earthquake from the dim light of the prison he’d grown used to.'

'It sometimes occurs to me, with sad delight, that if one day (...) the sentences I write are read and admired, then at last I'll have my own kin, people who 'understand' me, my true family in which to be born and loved. But from being born into it, I'll have already died long ago. I'll be understood only in effigy, when affection can no longer compensate for the indifference that was the dead man's lot in life.'

'Not only am I dissatisfied with the poems I write now; I also know that I will be dissatisfied with the poems I write in the future...
So why do I keep writing? Because I still haven't learned... I haven't been able to give up my inclination to poetry and prose. I have to write, as if I were carrying out a punishment. And the greatest punishment is to know that whatever I write will be futile, flawed and uncertain.'

'My state of mind compels me to work hard, against my will, on The Book of Disquiet. But it's all fragments, fragments, fragments...'
Profile Image for Guille.
782 reviews1,743 followers
November 17, 2018
Es curiosa la cadena de novelas que a veces se produce. Si en un comentario a mi anterior lectura (Madame Bovary) resaltaba la importancia casi absoluta de la forma narrativa en mi apreciación de las obras, me topo con esta donde esa forma, la música que del texto brota se manifiesta con tal fuerza y belleza que consigue que saboree cada uno de sus desasosiegos sin importarme lo más mínimo compartirlos o no e, incluso, como me ha ocurrido en varias ocasiones, si no comprendo un carajo.

Pero hay más. Como en la novela del insigne francés, también aquí nos las tenemos que ver con un atormentado romántico insatisfecho, aunque de índole bien distinta que la protagonista de aquella otra lectura: si allí la romántica inocente e inconsciente era capaz de perseguir sus quiméricos sueños hasta el infinito y más allá, aquí estamos ante un romántico reflexivo, de esos que quieren “la luna como si hubiera manera de obtenerla”, pero que, sabedor de la imposibilidad de su empeño, se refugia en la inactividad, en la contemplación, en el dejarse ir, en el no vivir, recurriendo a la escritura, por lo demás inútil, para disminuir “la fiebre de sentir”, “como fuga y refugio”.

“Y así soy, fútil y sensible, capaz de impulsos violentos y absorbentes, malos y buenos, nobles y viles, pero nunca de un sentimiento que subsista, nunca de una emoción que prolongue y entre hasta la sustancia del alma. Todo en mí es tendencia para ser a continuación otra cosa; una impaciencia del alma consigo misma, como un niño inoportuno; un desasosiego siempre creciente y siempre igual. Todo me interesa y nada me cautiva.”

Pessoa nos seduce porque es capaz de expresar como nadie esa tristeza de la vida, la tan mencionada saudade, que todos hemos sentido alguna vez y que él parece haber padecido cada segundo de su vida. Ni amado ni amante más que de sueños, sin llegar siquiera a la categoría de malfollado, aun pareciéndolo, Pessoa es la gran zorra de la vida (la de la fábula y no la de Mérimée).

”Quiero ser tal como quise ser y no soy. Si viviera, me destruiría. Quiero ser una obra de arte, del alma por lo menos, ya que del cuerpo no puedo serlo. Por eso no me esculpí en calma y en extrañamiento y me coloqué en invernadero, lejos de los aires frescos y de las luces claras– donde mi artificiosidad, flor absurda, pueda florecer en lejana belleza.”

Desde el inicio, me he alegrado maliciosamente por su desconsuelo. Primero porque gracias a su desdichada alma he disfrutado como un loco de este maravilloso, triste y sombrío texto, pero, según leía, más y más me alegraba por lo irritante que a veces resulta el personaje y la persona. Pessoa crea en este libro un mundo terrible a los ojos de este raro ser llamado Bernardo Soares, cuya vida es un quedarse al margen de todo y de todos, incluso, si se pudiera, de sí mismo, un ser que por encima de todo ambiciona “una cosa mucho más horrorosa y profunda, el dejar de ni siquiera haber existido”.

“Feliz quien no exige de la vida más de lo que ella espontáneamente le ofrece, dejándose guiar por el instinto de los gatos, que buscan el sol cuando hay sol, y, cuando no lo hay, el calor donde quiera que el calor se encuentre. Feliz quien renuncia a su personalidad con la imaginación, y se deleita en la contemplación de las vidas ajenas, viviendo, no todas las impresiones, sino el espectáculo exterior de todas las impresiones ajenas. Feliz, en fin, el que renuncia a todo, y al que, por renunciar a todo, nada le puede ser ni arrebatado ni reducido (…) El campesino, el lector de relatos, el asceta puro—estos tres son los que viven una vida feliz, porque son estos tres los que renuncian a la personalidad— uno porque vive del instinto, que es impersonal, otro porque vive de la imaginación, que es olvido, el tercero porque no vive y, no habiendo muerto, duerme.”

Y aunque esta postura ante la vida parece terrible, el autor/personaje lo pasa bien, yo diría que incluso realmente bien, pasándolo mal. Se siente y se sienta orgulloso en su elevado trono desde el que desprecia toda vida, toda humanidad. Pero no es tonto y tiene el grave defecto de reflexionar, de pensar, quizás a lo único que le da algún valor, y es plenamente consciente de la trampa en la que ha caído.

“Necesito acorazarme contra la vida. Como todo estoicismo no pasa de un severo epicureísmo, deseo hacer en lo posible que mi desgracia me divierta. No sé hasta qué punto lo consigo. No sé hasta qué punto consigo alguna cosa. No sé hasta qué punto existe alguna cosa que pueda conseguirse... En el fondo, nada de esto es estoico. Es sólo en las palabras donde reside la nobleza de mi sufrimiento. Me quejo, como una criada enferma. Me atormento como un ama de casa. Mi vida es completamente fútil y absolutamente triste.”

Es un libro que se presta a un tipo de lectura a sorbitos, como si se tratara de una biblia poética, lleno de iluminaciones y contradicciones, humanidades y divinidades. Es este un libro infinito, de innumerables lecturas y relecturas, de los de cabecera perpetua, de los de leer de corrido una vez y al azar el resto de la vida, de los que no hay que subrayar pues tontería es subrayarlo todo.

En definitiva, El libro del desasosiego es el triste, tremendo y sincero reconocimiento de una derrota:

“Siempre quise agradar. Siempre me dolió que me mostraran indiferencia. Huérfano de la Fortuna, tengo, como todos los huérfanos, la necesidad de ser objeto del cariño de alguien. Pasé siempre hambre de la realización de esa necesidad. Tanto me adapté a esa hambre inevitable que, a veces, ni sé si siento la necesidad de comer... Juzgo a veces que me gusta sufrir. Pero, francamente, yo preferiría otra cosa.”

Profile Image for Dave Schaafsma.
Author 6 books31.5k followers
August 28, 2021
Job: “My soul is weary of my life.”

Pessoa/Soares: “I'd woken up early, and I took a long time getting ready to exist.”

Pessoa/Soares: “I write because I don’t know.”

You are planning a party; here’s your guest list:

Dostoevsky’s Raskolnikov (from Crime and Punishment)
Melville’s “Bartelby the Scrivener”
Kafka’s Gregor Samsa (from The Metamorphosis)
Joyce’s Stephan Dedalus (from The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man)
Camus’s Merseault (from The Stranger)
Beckett’s Molloy
Sartre’s Roquentin (from Nausea)

I'm a comics guy, too, so let's let in Noah Van Sciver (who wrote Disquiet [I suspect naming it with Pessoa in mind] and a comics biography, The Hypo: The Melancholic Young Lincoln)

Hmm, maybe you also invite Hamlet (for some historical perspective) to recite his “To be or not to be. . . “ soliloquy as entertainment, or have Macbeth say out his speech at the party opening, “Tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day. . .”

And you will add your own literary grumps, when you begin to pick up the pattern of this literary party guest list. Some fun, eh? What’s a good party game for this bunch, Russian Roulette? My list above is all male, but I also just read (8/21) Anna Kavan's Asylum Piece, so I could make another list of just women, too, of course.

I just met someone who is a perfect addition to the guest list, Bernardo Soares, from Ferdinand Pessoa’s Book of Disquiet published in 1982, 47 years after his death at 47 in 1935. What do they have in common, the characters on our guest list? All men, yep. Men largely living without women. And many of them alone, even if they live with others. Sad, sad men. Melancholic. Intense. Maybe today we would psychologically diagnose some of them as bipolar or neurologically diagnose them as autistic/Asperger Syndrome or philosophically diagnose them as nihilist?

So what does Soares, a mild assistant bookkeeper, bring to the party that we don’t already have? Well, for one, he’s Portuguese, from Lisbon, and The Rua dos Douradores, where he lives and works and eats alone in one solitary restaurant night after night. Soares’s “story”—never to be finished, based on scraps of paper Pessoa threw in a trunk, edited and arranged by Richard Zenith with loving care—is mainly a collection of aphorisms and philosophical reflections and psychological insights with respect to Soares’s experience of “disquiet,” which I take to be a psychological condition akin to depression, ennui, and alienation, but which also seems to be a kind of existentialist statement.

Some people think Pessoa’s Book of Disquiet makes of Lisbon what Joyce’s works make of Dublin, or Kafka’s works make of Prague. The difference? Joyce’s novel is a narrative, and Disquiet actually resists narrative in most respects. It resists coherence, completion, and is a kind of deconstructionist, meta-fictional precursor to postmodernism. Resistant to logic. Often absurd. I don’t think it is for everyone, especially if you want to read a good old-fashioned story, but it does create a portrait of an interesting character, and it does have some of the most beautiful and insightful sentences you will ever read in a book. Many people list it as one of the greatest works of fiction of all time, and I won’t say nay to that, but I think as he never finished it, most readers won’t finish it, either. Would Pessoa care if we finished it? What does it mean to "finish" or not finish any book, especially this one?

The basic move Pessoa makes to convey “disquiet” is a set of repeated paralyzing contradictions, inversions, circularities or oxymorons, which can also seem very darkly funny:

“. . . the stoicism of the weak.”

“Though naturally ambitious, he savored the pleasure of having no ambitions at all.”

“Consoler of the inconsolable, Tears of those who never cry, Hour that never sounds — free me from joy and happiness.”

“To give love is to lose love.”

“Only unhappiness raises us up.”

“My joy is as painful as my grief.”

“Since we can't extract beauty from life, let's at least try to extract beauty from not being able to extract beauty from life.”

And on and on, delightfully and sometimes painfully so.

The Book of Soares’s Disquiet is a portrait of melancholy, of isolation:

“I am not a pessimist, I am merely sad.”

“I aspire to nothing. Life wounds me.”

“Do not make the infantile mistake of asking the meaning of things and words. Nothing has any meaning.”

“. . . the chance circumstances of his life and the direction it had taken were dictated by his instincts, in his case inertia and detachment.”

“My past is everything I failed to be.”

“I feel as if I'm always on the verge of waking up.”

“I'm sick of everything, and of the everythingness of everything.”

“I've always rejected being understood. To be understood is to prostitute oneself. I prefer to be taken seriously for what I'm not, remaining humanly unknown, with naturalness and all due respect.”

“. . . the stagnant jewel of my ecstatic disdain.”

Soares in his spare time keeps a journal of sorts, though we have no idea when he wrote what he wrote. Writing and reading do sustain him, in a way.

“There are metaphors more real than the people who walk in the street. There are images tucked away in books that live more vividly than many men and women. There are phrases from literary works that have a positively human personality.”

But writing is also not self-discovery so much as it is self-erasure:

“To write is to forget. Literature is the most agreeable way of ignoring life.”

“I write because I don’t know.” {but not that he now expects to know; see above where life has no meaning to discover]

And he’s also sustained by dreaming (which is of course related to reading and writing):

“I never tried to be anything other than a dreamer. I never paid any attention to people who told me to go out and live. I belonged always to whatever was far from me and to whatever I could never be. Anything that was not mine, however base, always seemed to be full of poetry.”

“I've never done anything but dream. This, and this alone, has been the meaning of my life. My only real concern has been my inner life.”

But as with writing, there's also the flip side of dreaming:

“The only important fact for me is the fact that I exist and that I suffer and cannot entirely dream myself out of feeling that suffering.”

“Their way of dreaming is a garment that conceals, not a dream that creates.”

And he's alone:

“We never love anyone. What we love is the idea we have of someone. It's our own concept—our own selves—that we love.”

I want to share a longer section, just so you can get a better feel of Soares:

“Today, suddenly, I reached an absurd but unerring conclusion. In a moment of enlightenment, I realized that I'm nobody, absolutely nobody. When the lightning flashed, I saw that what I had thought to be a city was in fact a deserted plain and, in the same sinister light that revealed me to myself, there seemed to be no sky above it. I was robbed of any possibility of having existed before the world. If I was ever reincarnated, I must have done so without myself, without a self to reincarnate.

I am the outskirts of some non-existent town, the long-winded prologue to an unwritten book. I'm nobody, nobody. I don't know how to feel or think or love. I'm a character in a novel as yet unwritten, hovering in the air and undone before I've even existed, amongst the dreams of someone who never quite managed to breathe life into me.

I'm always thinking, always feeling, but my thoughts lack all reason, my emotions all feeling. I'm falling through a trapdoor, through infinite, infinitous space, in a directionless, empty fall. My soul is a black maelstrom, a great madness spinning about a vacuum, the swirling of a vast ocean around a hole in the void, and in the waters, more like whirlwinds than waters, float images of all I ever saw or heard in the world: houses, faces, books, boxes, snatches of music and fragments of voices, all caught up in a sinister, bottomless whirlpool.”

We are left with this explosion of dolorous language, “those feelings that inhabit the gloom of my wearinesses and the grottoes of my disquiets.”

The Book of Disquiet raises questions about the nature of authorship in that, while it is technically authored by Pessoa, it is credited to one of his several heteronyms, Bernardo Soares, assistant bookkeeper. Who is Pessoa? He’s not a stable, unified person, but multiple and fractured. Pessoa was known primarily as a poet with several titles under several different names. The whole idea most of ascribe to of an author's "voice" is clearly undermined by Pessoa. He leaves us with fragments of literature and identity.

As Soares says, I feel “The vast indifference of the stars.” Seems like he and Hamlet and Beckett and Camus would have a lot not to talk about at your party.
Profile Image for Rowena.
501 reviews2,516 followers
June 20, 2014
"I follow the course of my dreams, making them images into steps toward other images; folding casual metaphors like fans into grand pictures of interior vision; I untie life from myself, and I toss it aside as if it were a too-tight suit."- Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

You know a writer is great when he makes you want to learn a new language to understand his work in the original. "The Book of Disquiet" is easily the best book I've read this year, and possibly the one I've copied the most quotes from. I'd only ever read Pessoa's poetry and I had no idea what to expect from his prose. It turns out he does poetry and prose equally well.

I would love to have a conversation with Pessoa, although I would probably be an annoyance to him with his desire for solitude. But having a deep, philosophical conversation with him would be like a dream. He has such fascinating thoughts! He delves into the complexity of humans and helped me to understand the reason for his several heteronyms in his poetry:

"Each of us is various, many people, a prolixity of selves."

I feel that this is the sort of book that people will either think is brilliant or they will think Pessoa is too sentimental and sensitive. I have to say that I rarely come across a writer who thinks so deeply and obsessively about certain things. Pessoa's favourite topics seem to be dreams, solitude, writing, the futility of life (was he an existentialist? He reminds me a bit of Meursault). I may share Pessoa's melancholy to some extent but I don't share his negative outlook, his depression and his misanthropic nature! Even so, this was a brilliant book and one I'm so glad I finally read.

Pessoa's writing really consumed me at times. Definitely a book to be savoured, and a candidate for a re-read.

"When I write, I visit myself solemnly. I have special rooms, remembered by someone else in the interstices of my self-representation, where I take pleasure in analyzing what I do not feel, and I examine myself as if I were a painting in the shadows."
Profile Image for Nahed.E.
601 reviews1,539 followers
November 25, 2017
لم أطلب سوي القليل من الحياة ، وحتي ذلك القليل رفضت الحياة منحي إياه .. طلبت حزمة من ضوء الشمس ، القليل من السكينة مع قليل من الخبز ، ألا تثقل عليّ كثيراً معرفتي بأنني موجود ، وألا أطلب من الآخرين شيئاً وألا يطالبونني هم بأي شئ ..

فجأة أجدني وحيداً في العالم .. أري كل هذا من خلال أعالي سطح روحي ، وحيد أنا في العالم .. أن تري الأشياء يعني أنك بعيد وأن ثمة مسافة .. أن تري الأشياء بوضوح معناه أن تتوقف وألا تكف عن الرؤية .. أن تحلل كل شئ يعني أنك غريب !

كل الناس يمرون بجانبي بدون أن يحتكوا بي .. لا أملك هواءً إلا فيما يحيط بي ! لقد وصل مبلغ إحساسي بعزلتي حدا يجعلني أحس بالمسافة الموجودة بيني وبين بدلتي


لقد مررت أجنبياً بينهم ، لكن ما من أحد رآني ، لقد عشت بينهم ، ولا أحد ، حتي أنا ، أرتاب في كوني كذلك ! جميعهم حسبوني قريباً لهم ، ما من أحد عرف أنهم قد غلطوا بحقي منذ ولادتي ، هكذا كنت مماثالاً للغير بدون مشابهة أخاً للجميع دون أن أكون من العائلة

عندما تركت جريدتي في المقهي .. فكرت في الكيفية التي مرت بها في حياتي .. أحسني مثل أي حيوان حي منقول في سلة من تلك السلال التي تلوي الذراع ، بين محطتين من محطات الضواحي .. الصورة سخيفة .. لكن حياتي التي وصفتها اسخف منها كثيراً ..
احسد الناس جميعا لكونهم ليسوا انا !

فكلما كان الإنسان أطول قامة ، تحتم عليه أن يحرم نفسه من أشياء كثيرة ، في القمة لا مكان سوي للإنسان وحيداً ، كلما كان أكثر إتقاناً ، كان أكثر كمالاً ، وكلما كان أكثر كمالاً ، كان أقل اندماجاً مع الأخرين ... بهذه التأملات السيكولوجية يتسلي الحييون أمثالي

أنمتلك شيئاً نحن ؟ إذا كنا لا نعرف ما نحن فكيف نعرف ما نمتلك ؟
إنني بحجم ما أراه لا بحجم قامتي .
ثمة لحظات يتعبنا فيها كل شئ حتي ذلك الذي يريحنا ، ما يتعبنا يتعبنا لأنه يتعبنا ..
ما يريحنا يتعبنا لأن فكرة نيله تتعبنا
كائناً ما أكون ، أتخلي عما أكون ، أتخلي عما أنا إياه ، راضياً بما يقسمه الحظ ، وما تصنعه المصادفة ، وفياً لتعهد منسي
"لا توجد معضلة سوي الواقع ذاته ، وهي معضلة حية غير قابلة للحل
لا أنام . أتناوم !!
سعيد من لا يطلب من الحياة اكثر مما تهبه هي تلقائيا
وجع في رأسي وفي الكون
Profile Image for Fernando.
684 reviews1,128 followers
December 17, 2022
“Un gran sosiego en la luz deja sentir que el cielo es ya casi todo azul. Pero no hay sosiego -¡ay de mí, ni lo habrá nunca!- en mi corazón, aljibe viejo en el fondo de una quinta vendida, memoria de la infancia clausurada al polvo en el sótano de una casa desconocida. No hay sosiego, ¡ay de mí! Y ni siquiera, el deseo de que lo haya…”

Es realmente difícil para un simple lector como yo reseñar libro de semejante envergadura, dado que cuesta mucho describir utilizando las palabras adecuadas lo que la lectura de este volumen de Fernando Pessoa genera en uno.
“El libro del desasosiego” es un libro inacabado e inacabable, inagotable, infinito.
Posee una variedad de sentimientos, emociones y reflexiones tan amplio que deja al desnudo cada pequeña partícula de ese ser tan especial que fue Fernando Pessoa.
Un ser humano único, vulnerable, soñador, desencantado, sentimental y solitario quien vivió toda su vida en la soledad y el retraimiento, acuciado por las enfermedades, arrestos de locura y los embates del alcohol que terminaron minando su vida.
Pessoa fue un ser de luz, cuyo talento innato para la poesía le hizo recalar en la prosa de una manera increíblemente bella. Es claro que cuando un poeta escribe prosa, el resultado será un texto con la misma intensidad y belleza que sus versos.
Uno abre este libro, que Pessoa escribió a partir de fragmentos entre 1913 y 1935, año de su muerte, y no importa en qué página se encuentre, lo que lea le llegará al corazón.
Todo es tan sutil, tan poético y melodiosamente armónico que queda uno extasiado ante tanto arrebato de fragilidad y sinceridad, sin vueltas, ni rodeos ni misterios.
Pessoa escribe a corazón abierto. Centra su prosa en aspectos muy claros y claves de su vida. Vive intensamente aferrándose a las pequeñas cosas que lo motivan a seguir de pie. Es estoico, desencantado, frágil, pero aún sueña. ¿Complejos? Bueno, obviamente que los tiene, pero no se guarda nada. Lo deja todo a la luz del cristal que el lector utiliza para llegar a él.
No puedo dejar de trazar un paralelismo entre Fernando Pessoa y Franz Kafka (especialmente en sus “Diarios”), ya que ambos autores luchan internamente contra la soledad además de un marcado síndrome de inferioridad, dado que sienten de forma similar más puntualmente en lo referente al amor, a la vida y a la muerte.
"Entre la vida y yo hay un cristal tenue. Por más nítidamente que yo vea y comprenda la vida, no la puedo tocar", dice Pessoa con profundo desencanto.
"Me siento más inseguro de lo que he estado jamás, lo único que siento es la violencia de la vida. Y estoy absolutamente vacío", afirma Kafka en 1913.
Ambos escritores son contemporáneos y de la misma manera lo son sus pesares.
La escritura puede ser también una vía de escape como un sacrificio y logra torcer ambas voluntades.
Dice Pessoa: "He escrito, paseando, frases perfectas de las que después en casa, ya nada me acuerdo. No sé si la poesía infalible de esas frases formará parte de lo que fueron o parte de lo que no fueron nunca", concordando Kafka quien dice que "Cuando empiezo a escribir después de bastante tiempo sin hacerlo, saco palabras como del aire vacío. Si consigo una, es ella la única que está ahí y todo el trabajo vuelve a empezar desde el principio."
Con la muerte también sucede lo mismo, porque Pessoa declara que "Somos muerte. Esto que consideramos vida es el sueño de la vida real, la muerte de lo que verdaderamente somos", mientras que Kafka declara: "Morir no significa otra cosa que entregar la nada a la nada, pues, cómo podría uno, que es una nada, entregarse con conciencia a la nada."
Tal vez otros lectores enfoquen sus apreciaciones exclusivamente en Pessoa. Yo leí todo este libro con Kafka en mente porque todo eso que leía me remitía directamente al autor checo, dado que como propuse, ambas personalidades y vidas tienen demasiados puntos en común para dejarlas pasar.
La única diferencia clara es que Pessoa escribía utilizando heterónimos (llegó a crear setenta) siendo los más destacados los Bernardo Soares, que es el ayudante de tenedor de libros en Lisboa que supuestamente escribe este libro, Ricardo Reis, Álvaro de Campos o también el de Vicente Guedes, mientras que Kafka no se amparaba en ningún alter ego para su literatura.
Por el otro lado, ambas vidas concuerdan en lo solitario, la vida como empleados de oficinas, las relaciones esquivas y complejas con las mujeres y una constante presión ejercida sobre sí mismos, lo que les confería ese halo de desprotección y auto abandono:
"Conquisté, palmo a palmo, el terreno interior que nació mío. Demandé, metro a metro, el pantano en que me inmovilicé nulo. Parí mi ser infinito pero me arranqué a golpes de mí."
Además del epígrafe que abre esta reseña, resuena en mi cabeza constantemente un verso de una canción de Los redonditos de ricota en la que Solari canta “Siempre fui menos que mi reputación”, pues Pessoa constantemente descree de sí mismo, su inconformismo y su apatía por todo aquello que atrae a las personas comunes lo asquea, le repugna.
En un momento choqué con una frase que define cabalmente el desasosiego completo, absorbente y determinante que controla la vida de Fernando Pessoa: “Siento mi vida como si me golpearan con ella.”
"El libro del desasosiego" es una forma de intentar acercarse a la mente y el corazón de Fernando Pessoa y en cierta forma, mientras lo leemos, de tratar de conocernos a nosotros mismos.
Profile Image for Florencia.
649 reviews1,940 followers
March 7, 2018
If I write what I feel, it’s to reduce the fever of feeling. What I confess is unimportant, because everything is unimportant. I make landscapes out of what I feel. I make holidays of my sensations. (42)

He who does not know how to populate his solitude, does not know either how to be alone in a busy crowd.
- Charles Baudelaire, Crowds

Some dreams want to transcend our minds. They want to feel alive, be outside and become reality. We all have dreamed about things that, even after we woke up, we are not sure if they actually happened or never left the secure yet claustrophobic mind of ours. And so, while those dreams are trying to abandon that place, magic can happen. When they realize they can't, tragedy awaits.
This is the story of a man who lived a thousand lives and wrote about the fragile boundary between reality and dreaming with the most beautiful and heartbreaking prose I've ever encountered.

I wanted to read this book for a long time. When I found it, I did something I try not to do: I skimmed it. I wanted to see something before my better judgment had control over my literary anxiety. Before I knew, I found myself reading a mesmerizing passage that I couldn't leave until I finished it.
Lucid Diary
My life: a tragedy booed off stage by the gods, never getting beyond the first act.
Friends: not one. Just a few acquaintances who imagine they feel something for me and who might be sorry if a train ran over me and the funeral was on a rainy day. The logical reward of my detachment from life is the incapacity I’ve created in others to feel anything for me. There’s an aureole of indifference, an icy halo, that surrounds me and repels others. I still haven’t succeeded in not suffering from my solitude. It’s hard to achieve that distinction of spirit whereby isolation becomes a repose without anguish... (579)

From that moment, I just knew it was going to be an extremely emotional experience. Whoever said that reading is a passive activity, never found a book with the power of taking his soul out for a ride.
What a book. I could relate to almost every word. Every yearning for something that could never happen. Every loss that did happen. Every thought made by a restless mind. And every feeling conceived by an isolated heart longing for an endless dream. A cure. Redemption. Or nothing.

The melancholic beauty of his prose and the heartbreaking honesty of his sorrow made me feel too small. And relieved. Suddenly, many of my thoughts and feelings were exposed in those pages that I was never able to write. And he did it. Pessoa did it with the most exquisite language you could ever hope to find.

The atmosphere is filled with an overwhelming sense of failure and frustration.
I envy – but I’m not sure that I envy – those for whom a biography could be written, or who could write their own. In these random impressions, and with no desire to be other than random, I indifferently narrate my factless autobiography, my lifeless history. These are my Confessions, and if in them I say nothing, it’s because I have nothing to say. (42)

Each drop of rain is my failed life weeping in nature. There’s something of my disquiet in the endless drizzle, then shower, then drizzle, then shower, through which the day’s sorrow uselessly pours itself out over the earth.
It rains and keeps raining. My soul is damp from hearing it. So much rain... (177)

Solitude devastates me; company oppresses me. (80)

Again, fluid and uncertain, the rain pattered. Time dragged to its accompaniment. My soul’s solitude grew and spread, invading what I felt, what I wanted, and what I was going to dream. The room’s hazy objects, which shared my insomnia in the shadows, moved with their sadness into my desolation. (285)

And so, not knowing how to believe in God and unable to believe in an aggregate of animals, I, along with other people on the fringe, kept a distance from things... Could it think, the heart would stop beating. (30)

I've never had anyone I could call ‘Master’. No Christ died for me. No Buddha showed me the way. No Apollo or Athena, in my loftiest dreams, ever appeared to enlighten my soul. (533)

And many other displays of human nature. Devastating situations that contrast themselves with the lyrical beauty of this man's writing.
His crude words are still little sunbeams that could enlighten the obscure depths of our souls, only if we let them. In that so human selfishness of ours, we always think nobody is suffering more than we do. We are the only ones struggling to survive in this world that we never asked for. Well, we are not; that is not an extraordinary epiphany. But reading the words of a man whose thoughts are so familiar to us always represents an inspirational experience. We feel like we just found the necessary balm to soothe our pain. That is the healing power of understanding. Of empathy.
We are not alone. We never were. Like Soares in this book, I am acquainted with isolation more than I would have wanted to. I breathe it. I am made of it. And still, somehow, I am not alone.
A breath of music or of a dream, of something that would make me almost feel, something that would make me not think. (57)

Being fatally sensitive can be exhausting and a perpetual cause of sorrow. But the so-desired inability to feel resembles to being dead inside a living body. Human existence doesn't limit itself to some functional organs. Feeling nothing is not the answer. You might as well be truly dead.

So, yes. This book is my newest treasure. My diary and sanctuary. I can't help but to be grateful. It filled my head with many questions that I wish I could find the answers by myself.
What to do when we are forced to leave the safe place our dreams represent? Can they make us do it? Will we ever find the strength enough to face the world? Do we have to?
Do we dare?
I sleep when I dream of what doesn't exist; dreaming of what might exist wakes me up. (179)

Life should be about finding a sane balance between reality and fantasy. That reminds me of something I found the other day. I don't know if the following words really belong to Pizarnik—they sure sound like her—and since I couldn't find them in English, I kind of translated them. Trust me, they are too beautiful in Spanish. So, I apologize in advance.

I am simply not from this world... I frenziedly dwell in the moon. I am not afraid of dying; I am afraid of this foreign, aggressive land...
I cannot think about specific things; I am not interested. I cannot speak like everybody else. My words are foreign, they come from far away... What will I do when I plunge myself in my wildest dreams and cannot ascend? Because that is going to happen, eventually. I will go and I won't know how to come back. Moreover, I will not know that there is a "coming back". I will not want it, perhaps.

No. Pessoa was not alone.

According to this book, Soares was not a pessimist. He was sad. He suffered and dreamed. And he complained without knowing if suffering was the norm, if he deserved it for some reason. However, he rejoiced in the fact that he could play with his complaints and made them musical because he was an artist. He could give beauty to his complaints and dreams.
But, if you can't do that, if you are not an artist... well. What then?

Note: I read the English (Zenith) and Spanish (Crespo) translations at the same time. I prefer the English one.
Apr 27, 14

* Also on my blog.
** Other reviews:
A Little Larger Than the Entire Universe: Selected Poems
The Selected Prose of Fernando Pessoa
The Education of the Stoic
El Banquero Anarquista (written in Spanish)
Profile Image for Mark André .
117 reviews249 followers
August 2, 2022
(Almost finished.)
“a factless autobiography”
Vivid. Compelling and Sincere.
A remarkable book. For experienced readers.
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,990 reviews298k followers
May 23, 2021
God, this was so bad it was almost funny. This is literally just a book full of philosophical emo journal entries.

“I'd woken up early, and I took a long time getting ready to exist.”

"Each face, even if it belongs to someone we saw only yesterday, is different today simply because today is not yesterday."

"I've just re-read these pages, in which I write with a clarity that will last only as long as they last, and I ask myself: What is this, and what is it for? Who am I when I feel? What dies in me when I am?"

🙄 Sometimes I really think I should have kept my old journals from when I was thirteen.
Profile Image for Luís.
1,943 reviews607 followers
June 14, 2022
The Book of Disquiet portrays the condition of the human soul, where the author brings us confessions and sensations exposed in each loose fragment. Here Fernando Pessoa seeks to take us on a journey into the human mind poetically and reflectively, simultaneously an intense and emotional journey.
Profile Image for Cheryl.
464 reviews604 followers
February 20, 2015
Flow lightly, life that does not even feel itself, a silent, supple stream beneath forgotten trees! Flow softly, soul that does not know itself, a murmur hidden from view by great fallen branches! Flow vainly, aimlessly, consciousness conscious of nothing, a vague, distant glimmer through leafy clearings, with no known source or destination. Flow on, flow on and leave me to forget!

Flow smoothly, book that does not realize its influence, supple prose poem with ignitions of profundity. Read slowly, reader who wishes never to see it end.

One cannot read this book of fragmentary thoughts as quickly as one would others, for instead of plot or story, one finds style and syntax that reveal the human condition and psyche. So I read this one intentionally, wishing it would go on and on. Our protagonist and “voice” is that that of the solitary and observant older man, a writer who has never known the affections of childhood because he lost both his parents at a young age. What it must feel like to be loved, to feel the warmth of a mother’s hug, he ponders. He has never been in love, nor has he had any friends. In fact, he’s never had ambition, only his imagination and dreams:
Between myself and life there have always been panes of opaque glass, undetectable to me by sight or touch; I never actually lived life according to a plan, I was the daydream of what I wanted to be, my dream began in my will, my goal was always the first fiction of what I never was.

It is said that we learn more about life when we write, that we find ourselves within our prose (especially memoir writers). As I write this, I understand more about myself, and as I read his words, I realize that he and I are nothing alike, and yet we have so much in common:
I am, for the most part, the very prose that I write. I shape myself in periods and paragraphs, I punctuate myself and, in the unleashed chain of images, I make myself king, as children do, with a crown of made from a sheet of newspaper or, in finding rhythms in mere strings of words, I garland myself, as madmen do, with dried flowers that in my dreams still live.

This is the beauty of poignant prose, when we find pieces of ourselves within it. Someone should have given me this book years ago, when I was a teenager in a new country, recovering from war and struggling to find myself in a new world of structured freedom. Back then, I was living in tedium, as the narrator puts it. My new world was invigorating, yet scary, this idea that I could walk the streets freely (and not have to keep myself secluded from men and guns), that I could attend public high schools and apply for federal aid for college, that I could go to a library and read any book—better yet, buy books freely and form my very own library? Although this was great, it was also painful, to be faced with the realization that this world had existed even while I'd been in a different world of imprisonment. I never knew how to verbalize that pain until now:
The pain of not understanding the mystery of life, the pain of being unloved, the pain of others’ injustice to us, the pain of life crushing us, suffocating and imprisoning us…

To live in tedium is to die while still being alive, even while believing in staying alive: "Life chills me. My existence is all damp caves and dark catacombs." To live in tedium is to hope for a second chance at life, where one can do the things one has always imagined doing. This is the core expression of this book, I believe, this art of mastering self-consciousness. The book is a solemn but necessary read, this is why I’ve recommended it to my students who are war survivors and to my veteran students who have just returned from Iraq and Afghanistan. And this is also why I would recommend it to anyone who is frustrated by, yet still fascinated with this thing called life.
These pages are the doodles of my intellectual consciousness of myself. I set them down in a torpor of feeling, like a cat in the sun, and re-read them at times with a dull, belated pang, as if remembering something I had always previously forgotten.

Profile Image for Rakhi Dalal.
212 reviews1,437 followers
January 20, 2014

“My soul is a hidden orchestra; I know not what instruments, what fiddlestrings and harps, drums and tamboura I sound and clash inside myself. All I hear is the symphony.”

An Orchestra of over 70 musicians, playing their own instruments, each producing an individual sound, a discrete voice, adding up from each corner, playing the distinctive notes of solitude, dream, rain and tedium, rising at one place while falling at another and producing a symphony so striking in its completion that it cannot be complete, like a painting frozen in time, striving for an expression it cannot possibly attain, and not because the painter isn’t skillful enough but because he chooses not to part from one, deliberately made imperceptible in the strokes, which is inherently his own. So while he did create 81 heteronyms* , each distinctly dissimilar in their style, we do not yet know who Pessoa actually was or what he believed in.

Fernando Pessoa, strictly speaking, doesn’t exist.*

Pessoa called this work as his “factless biography” I also came across the words “Psychography” and “geography of self awareness” for the book. In my opinion, it has distinct tones of the absurd, and can be looked upon as an absurdist writing albeit on an altogether different level, though the hints of stoicism and cynicism are apparently evident too. You will not notice the “babble/despair” - characteristic of Beckett’s writing or “Rational absurd” - quintessential trait of Camus’ writing, but a willful approach towards attaining the disquietude because his consciousness is a tedium resulting from the conclusion of senselessness of existence; an existence not of this world or life but his life.

“It sometimes happens, more or less suddenly, that in the midst of my sensations I’m overwhelmed by such a terrible weariness of life that I can’t even conceive of any act that might relieve it. Suicide seems a dubious remedy, and natural death – even assuming it brings unconsciousness – an insufficient one. Rather than the cessation of my existence, which may or may not be possible, this weariness makes me long for something far more horrifying and profound: never to have existed at all, which is definitely impossible.”

His conviction of being a passer-by reminds me of Beckett’s belief of being a passer-by who finds himself over and over again (The Unnameable).

“This is my morality, or metaphysics, or me: passer-by of everything, even of my own soul, I belong to nothing, I desire nothing, I am nothing – just an abstract center of impersonal sensations, a fallen sentient mirror reflecting the world’s diversity. I don’t know if I’m happy this way. Nor do I care.”

To overcome the anguish of life which he is so acutely aware of, he engages in imagination and dreaming. Perhaps this is the reason he created so many personalities, so as to be able to experience different lives within him. In fact, his approach is distinct in the sense that he is not only aware of his sensations, but he also exercises a control over them which is clearly visible from the number of heteronyms he created for himself, who could each write in distinct literary styles. According to him:

“My intellect has attained a pliancy and a reach that enable me to assume any emotion I desire and enter at will into any state of mind.”*

This writing, which is a compilation of over 500 fragments, where each fragment, written perhaps on different days, seemingly an attempt at expressing the flow of thoughts or imagination capturing writer’s mind, does seem to have a structure in thoughts and more than often talks about solitude, dream, tedium and rain.

“It’s so hard to describe what I feel when I feel I really exist and my soul is a real entity that I don’t know what human words could define it. I don’t know if I have a fever, as I feel I do, or if I’ve stopped having the fever of sleeping through life. Yes, I repeat, I’m like a traveller who suddenly finds himself in a strange town, without knowing how he got there, which makes me think of those who lose their memory and for a long time are not themselves but someone else. I was someone else for a long time–since birth and consciousness –and suddenly I’ve woken up in the middle of a bridge, leaning over the river and knowing that I exist more solidly than the person I was up till now. But the city is unknown to me, the streets are new, and the trouble has no cure. And so, leaning over the bridge, I wait for the truth to go away and let me return to being fictitious and non-existent, intelligent and natural.”

Keeping in mind that this work is written by Bernardo Soares, the heteronym considered to be the closest to Pessoa’s real self, these lines acutely express Pessoa’s yearning to live an imagined life, as if in a dream, so as to forget his actual self in real life. He writes about his dreams, their nature and importance and goes as far as giving advice regarding them:

“Live your life. Don’t be lived by it. Right or wrong, happy or sad, be your own self. You can do this only by dreaming, because your real life, your human life, is the one that doesn’t belong to you but to others. You must replace your life with your dreaming, concentrating only on dreaming perfectly. In all the acts of your real life, from that of being born to that of dying, you don’t act – you’re acted; you don’t live – you’re merely lived.”(Art of effective dreaming II)

Rain, which frequently appears in the text, seems a symbol of the incessant thoughts, pouring over writer’s mind and submerging his awareness in the disquiet that he experiences:

“Each drop of rain is my failed life weeping in nature. There’s something of my disquiet in the endless drizzle, then shower, then drizzle, then shower, through which the day’s sorrow uselessly pours itself out over the earth. It rains and keeps raining. My soul is damp from hearing it. So much rain… My flesh is watery around my physical sensation of it.” ( Rainy Landscape)

He profoundly expresses his tedium in words when he experiences it and also present to us different situations where one may feel tedium:

“Tedium… Perhaps, deep down, it is the soul’s dissatisfaction because we didn’t give it a belief, the disappointment of the sad child (who we are on the inside) because we didn’t buy it the divine toy. Perhaps it is the insecurity of one who needs a guiding hand and who doesn’t feel, on the black path of profound sensation, anything more than the soundless night of not being able to think, the empty road of not being able to feel…”

And what is still more astonishing is that though he wrote these fragments in solitude, over perhaps a decade or more, he wrote it as a dialogue between him and the future reader, allowing for either acceptance or rejection on the part of reader.

And I offer you this book because I know it is beautiful and useless. It teaches nothing, inspires no faith, and stirs no feeling. A mere stream that follows towards an abyss of ashes scattered by the wind, neither helping nor harming the soil..... I put my whole soul into making it, but without thinking about it as I made it, for I thought only of me, who am sad, and of you, who aren’t anyone. And because this book is absurd, I love it; because it is useless, I want to give it away; and because it serves no purpose to want to give it to you, I give it to you…

As I conclude my review, I want to admit that this book overwhelmed me immensely, I witnessed Pessoa seeping inside me slowly, making me quiver with the words he spoke to me, more as I understood them. Perceiving the disquiet which so fiercely plagued him, the solitude that he opted to dream to somehow conquer it, but still returning to the unrest because he understood the futility, made his thoughts trace through my mind, linger there for sometime before finally coming home to me. But my effort at writing a more personal review didn’t ensue because if written, it would have been nothing but babble.

I am yet to complete reading Philosophical essays by Pessoa and the poems he wrote by the name of Albert Caeiro, but still I feel privileged to place him on the altar alongside Camus and Beckett.


*source - wikipedia

*Written by his creation, Álvaro de Campos, Notes for the Memory of My Master Caeiro (Editorial Estampa, 1997).

*From a “Personal note”, 1910

223 reviews193 followers
January 13, 2013
Heternonymy 101

This be possibly the biggest, most self indulgent pre-PoMo existential angst wank fest. Ever. 500 pages of self centered, whiny, petulant, attention seeking, self important and self obsessed essays, which, were they written by a woman, would no doubt have been classed as the insipid diary blather of sexually frustrated spinster in need of a good seeing to.

The main thoroughfare here is a subdued Munchian scream about the ‘tedium’ of life, examined from every angle: a diary of emotional bowel movements which Pessoa attends to lovingly on practically a daily basis, with a German stool inspecting precision. And I’m not kidding about that neither. Who else but the Germans could conceive of an epic such as this? http://www.amazon.co.uk/Call-Human-Na... Huh, huh? Is this the ultimate dichotomy of a Buschean ‘oben und unten’ or what?

He’s in a dream, then waking from a dream, depressed, then a little better, then a little doldrummy, then dreaming again, then emotional, then done with emotions, then rediscovers emotions, then definitely, positively is done with them, then, perhaps they’re not so overdone after all......Ay Ay Ay Caramba. He’s worse than I am on the rag.

Pessoa wallows in misery like a pig in shit. ‘Cause some people get off on that type of thing. And if there is no misery to be found at hand, a malaise will be conjured, like a bunny out of a magician’s hat. Think I’m messing? Check this guy’s gripe out:


Tedium....To suffer without suffering, to want without desire, to think without reason.

Well isn’t that just dandy. To suffer without suffering. Exactly what the hell is that supposed to mean? Is it like, white man’s disease?

Here is Pessoa’s real problem in life: he’s in love with himself. It unrequited. He does nothing all day, every day, except gaze upon his navel , like an overbloated narcissistic hypochondriac, and bleats about it like a little girl.

I’ve got two words, mister:


Heteronymy PH

I don’t know what that crazy bitch is going on about up there. Its not even two words, is it? And Oben and uten? Puhlease. What the fcuk is that? Some people should just stick to 50 shades of grey and leave the big boys to those (e.g. us) who can appreciate a finely tuned study of the self. Because this genre has not really been attempted before: a prolific, no holds barred, intense and microscopic examination of the ‘self’, pared down to its core and microscopically dissected over the scope of thirty years: an elegiac etude of states of consciousness, terpischoreanily spanning the circle of life with juxtaposing nuances of acceptance and rejection, always seeking to align the individual with the vast cosmos of uncertainty, loneliness and dissonance of meaning which life throws our way. At times ebullient with joy, at times succumbed with sadness, this understated tapestry of febrile ruminations is sure to strike a chord with everyone at certain meeting points: particularly moments when the divide between self and others runs deepest.

What idiot on this earth does not question the meaning of life and crawl into a deep hole to lick away the wounds of a quotidian existence? Pessoa is a master dissector of the soul, and its multi-faceted permutations, a paladin of negation and confirmation, a harbinger of death and phoenixing. Sublime.

Heteronymy shteronymy

Holy Shit I just don’t ken. They’re both right. What the hell, who cares. Pessoa manstruates, and the world is alright.

451 reviews2,996 followers
February 20, 2012
...بداية يجب أن أذكر أني تعرفت على بيسوا مصادفة لم أكن أعرف هذا الشاعر ولم أسمع عنه قبل أن أمد يدي في معرض الكتاب على ديوانه رباعيات والذي كتب فيه أرق وأعذب قصائد الحب وهي القصائد الوحيدة التي كتبها في الحب لقد شدتني عذوبة هذا الشاعر وروحه الشفيفة وتصويراته الرقيقة كأن يقول
المريول الذي أخذته من الدرج
أليس له جيب
لأضع نفسي فيه
لأكون قربك دائما !


أدرتِ وجهك ِ حين
هممت أن أقول لكِ في النهاية
بأنك ِ لو أدرت ِ وجهك
لن يضايقني ذلك !

أجيء وحدي إلى الشاطىء
أجي إلى الشاطىء , أفكر
بالحركة التي تثيرها تنورتك
عندما تجيئين أنتِ إلى الشاطىء !

وهكذا نشأت بيني وبين بيسوا علاقة حب فطاردت حرفه حتى وجدتُ له ديوانه حارس القطيع وبحثت أيضا فوجدت له أيضا ديوان آخر بترجمة المهدي أخريف نسخة إلكترونية وأخذت أعبّ من نهل هذا الشاعر الممتلىء بالإحساس حتى قرأت مؤخرأ عن كتاب اللاطمأنينة وهو عبارة عن شذرات نصوص وتأملات , والحمد لله تيسر لي الحصول على الكتاب من خلال إحدى الصديقات التي جلبته لي من مصر ..

كتاب اللاطمأنينة عبارة عن مقاطع أطلق عليها بيسوا الوضع الراهن للاكينونة , وهي ليست يوميات كما يعتقد البعض إنما كما يقول المترجم هي حفريات في الذات , كتاب من الإحساس والتأمل الذي يمضي بالإفكار إلى أبعد حافاتها القصوى مطلا بقهقة واهنة على هاويات لم يختبر قرارها سوى بيسوا , هو كتاب نثر ولكنه كتب بلغة شاعرية وقد استغرق ظهوره للنور أكثر من عشر سنوات بسبب العراقيل التي وجدها المترجم , ويذكر أن الكتاب لم ينشر في حياة بيسوا بل هو مادة خام لم يتمكن بيسوا من التعديل أو الإضافة أو تحقيق الكتاب , إن الجهد الذي بذله المترجم فاق كل حدود التصور , كما يجب الإشارة إلى إن هناك الكثير من المقاطع الغير مكتملة والتي إضطر المترجم إلى ترك فراغ يشبه هذا ( --- ) إشارة إلى أن جزء من النص مفقود أو () إشارة إلى أن هناك إضافة من الناشر ..

يقول بيسوا في تقديمه لكتابه: واحدة من مآسي الروح الكبرى أن تنفذ عملاً ثم تدرك، فور انتهائك منه، أنه ليس من الجودة في شيء، تكبر المأساة خصوصاً عندما يدرك المرء أن هذا العمل هو قصارى ما يستطيع بذله، ولكن، أن تكتب عملاً، وأنت تعرف مسبقاً أنه مختل وناقص، وأنت تكتبه، مختلاً وناقصاً فهذه ذروة العذاب والذل الروحيين، لست راضياً عن القصائد التي أكتبها الآن فحسب؛ بل أعرف إني لن أرضى أيضاً عن القصائد التي سأكتبها في المستقبل، أعرف هذا فلسفياً وبلحم جسدي، من استشراف ضبابي لا أدرى من أين استقيته، فإذن، لماذا أستمر بالكتابة؟ لأني لم أتعلم بعد المزاولة التامة للتخلي الذي أعظ به، لم أتمكن بعد من التخلي عن ميلي إلى الشعر والنثر، عليّ بالكتابة، وكأنني أنفذ عقوبة ما، والعقوبة القصوى هي أن أعرف أن كل ما أكتبه عديم الجدوى، ناقص ويفتقد إلى اليقين

بيسوا اختلق شخصية برنارد سوارش الذي تسبب له وللقارىء الكثير من الإرباك فهو كثيرا ما يتساءل هل هو أنا آخر له، أم مجرد شخصية أدبية، والملاحظ إن هناك الكثير من الحوارات التي دارت بينه وبين هذه الشخصية المختلقة حتى إنها أحيانا تطغى على وجوده حتى يختفي هو ويبرز الآخر
و يوضح الناقد أنخيل كريسبو أن شخصية سوارش اخترعها بيسوا في أيامه الأخيرة،وهي تبدو مكتوبة بالأسلوب الأنضج والأكثر تطوراً، مما يستدعي التفكير بأنها كُتبت خلال أيامه الأخيرة ..

إن المتأمل في حياة بيسوا يرى أن أغلب كتاباته تميل للعزلة وتكشف عن معاناة حقيقية عاشها الشاعر وهو يتسكع في شوارع لشبونه أو وهو يطل على العالم من خلال نافذته في الطابق الرابع
( ثمة شيء يغمني , قلق مجهول رغبة غير محددة في شيء غير محدد , إحساسي بأنني حي ربما جاءني متأخرا , وعندما أطللت من النافذة العالية جدا على الشارع الذي رأيته بدون أن اراه , أحسستني فجأة واحدا من الخرق الرطبة المخصصة لتنظيف أشياء متسخة توضع على النافذة لتجف , لكنها تُنسى ملفوفة على الجدار الذي تمضي ملطخة إياه ببطء ! )

إن هذا الكتاب لا يمكن أن تتماشى معه أي تسمية أخرى هو كتاب خالي من الطمأنينة التي يبحث عن أي إنسان على وجه الأرض ستصلك أحاسيس الشاعر من خلال حرفه السوداوي وربما ينقلك لحالة من الكآبة والحزن والشعور باللامعنى !

Profile Image for David Katzman.
Author 3 books473 followers
November 29, 2018
The Book of Disquiet should be read slowly and thoughtfully, savored and sipped like fine wine. It’s a groundbreaking work of Modernist experimentation that consists of a collection of writings found on disorganized scraps of paper in a chest found in the author’s home after his death. These scraps were assembled into a book for the first time in the 1960s. Pessoa, who was Portuguese, wrote the segments over the course of the last twenty years of his life, which ended in 1935.

Pessoa invented multiple personas for himself that he called heteronyms, and each of his novels or collections of poetry was written from the perspective of an alter ego. He essentially invented multiple authors and wrote from their perspective. It’s a distinct approach from having a character narrate a novel, especially when it comes to writing a collection of poetry, but even in this “novel” because there is no plot to speak of, only an internal landscape. Pessoa makes no effort to distinguish his own critique of the “author’s opinions,” he merely embodies them. In other words, there is no authorial distance, no “unreliable narrator” theme, there is only the narrator. It is as if Pessoa had a multiple personality disorder in artistic form. The collection of writings in this book are measures of the interior life of one Bernardo Soares, which Pessoa described as being a “mutilated version” of himself, but perhaps the closest to his own beliefs of all his heteronyms. He describes Soares as rather like “himself minus the affection.”

Indeed, Soares comes across as so purely intellectual (although he does have the occasional overwhelming emotional response to small occurrences) that he is rather distant and cold—completely self-absorbed and narcissistic, in fact. Soares lives a life that is almost entirely metaphysical. In one of the 276 segments in the book, he refers to this collection as a “book of disconnected impressions.” Some might say that this isn’t a novel! But in the case of what is important to Soares (or to Pessoa), intellectual thought is apparently the only process that sustains his life. It is the story of his life, which was very little but intellectual.

We get glimpses of this persona at work, as an accountant poring over ledgers (which is what Pessoa did as well), and walking the streets of Lisbon, but for the most part, nothing ever happens. Soares lives a life only in his mind and in his daydreams. He is scared and reluctant to say hello or even shake hands with others. It is too shocking, too much for him. Much like Proust who wrote an entire series of book triggered by the taste of a single Madeleine cookie, Soares believes that an artist must be able to wring the greatest emotional effect out of the smallest incidents. So why write of large incidents when small ones suffice?

What subjects does Soares ponder as we make our way through this book? What is the book about? Walking and weather. Fame and ambition, rain and dreams. Banality, the banality of existence. Change or the lack there of. Dreams, especially dreams. Work. God. Writing and art. Identity and being.

At times he can seem quite humble, or more precisely, assured of his own inadequacy and contemptuous of himself, believing that everything he writes is worthless and a failure, railing at his own—and by proxy, every writers’—inability to truly represent ideas or thoughts in words (this being quite reminiscent of Wittgenstein’s view that language mediates our understanding of reality). Yet other times he can seem utterly arrogant in his narcissism. Other people are merely props for his internal dreams and thinking, and in fact he boldly declares at one point, “… of what importance is to me what life is to other people?” Because, he would say, we can only live life from our own perspective and to attempt “empathy” is a delusion. Other people aren’t even real to any of us—except as dreams.* Sometimes this seems almost Buddhist—we are dreaming life and because all is change, nothing is real and all there is is nothing. “The self is nothing more than all it is thinking in the moment.” Other times, it comes across as clearly Nietzschean, which would seem close to Pessoa's own ideology because he was a royalist of sorts. Soares believes that humans want to be enslaved not free. He has certain fascist tendencies that peek through his primarily apolitical musings. For example, he declares himself both anti-revolutionary and anti-reformist. Much like Nietzsche who sought to create amoral übermen, he is anti-social and believes that pursuing matters of social justice are not only a waste of time, but also a false presumption of pride and ambition in the self, to shape society. Furthermore, such actions support the premise that other people are “real” when in fact they are only dreams.** And then on the flipside of this, humans are unimportant and vulgar animals anyway: "Life disgusts me."

When he talks about work, he seems to say that work (not artist work, but paid commercial work) is an opportunity to become nothing—a mere tool, a non-thing—and to Soares, this is good, this is the enslavement that people want. The more the self can vanish as meaningless, the better. He criticizes ambition to “do something better” as pure vanity.

How can I give this book four stars when there are such disagreeable elements? Well, firstly, one doesn’t have to agree with everything in a book philosophically to find it a great book. Sometimes, finding a point of view that one can disagree with is just as valuable. And secondarily, he spends most of the book pondering apolitical questions on the nature of perception, emotion, and identity revealing brilliant bon mots that remind me of Montaigne such as, “There is nothing that shows poverty of mind more quickly than not knowing how to be witty except at the expense of others.” Admittedly, I did feel at times as though I were slogging through an ambiguous fog that didn’t quite make sense, but then I would come to a burst of insight like a spotlight that illuminates the way. In the end, these insights (whether they be about life in general, or whether they gave me insights into certain types of people with tendencies like the narrator), were often profound enough to elevate this book to quite a high status.

All in all, this book will only appeal to those readers comfortable with deep thoughts lacking a plot, and willing to persevere, but the rewards can be great.

*I counter this by noting that if everything is a dream and everyone is a dream then all that matters is dreams and empathy for dreams is just as valid as non-empathy for dreams.

**It’s important to recognize that someone is always shaping society—those who are already in power. Therefore, in fact, passively supporting the status quo is just as much a political action as resisting the status quo. It’s merely the path of least resistance…that is, until your freedom or means of survival are at stake.
Profile Image for Steven  Godin.
2,489 reviews2,373 followers
May 1, 2021

"The magical power of words, whether isolated or brought together to form a musical chord, full of intimate resonances and meanings that diverge even as they converge, the pomp of sentences placed in between the meanings of other sentences, malicious vestiges, hopeful woods, and nothing but the peaceful pools in the childhood gardens of my subterfuges… Thus, between the high walls of absurd audacity, among the lines of trees and the startled shivers of things withering, someone other than me would hear from sad lips the confession denied to the more insistent. Not even if the knights were to ride back down the road visible from atop the castle wall would there be more peace in the Castle of the Last Lost Men, where once lances clashed and clanged in the courtyard, nor would anyone recall another name on this side of the road, apart from the one that used to enchant us nightly, like the tale about the Moorish ladies, and the child who died afterwards from life and wonder."
Profile Image for Maria Espadinha.
1,027 reviews372 followers
October 15, 2020
O Grande Salto

Este livro retrata uma Humanidade Sonâmbula — embrenhada numa Escuridão Desconexa, Ela mexe e fala apenas porque vive!

Em Pessoa encontramos uma Permanente Avidez de Sentido que lhe rouba a Paz e o afasta do Trilho da Felicidade.
Será essa Busca Inglória?
Uma Pesquisa que gera no próprio ventre a Semente do Fracasso?

Estou em crer que Não desde que tenhamos presentes as Ferramentas Necessárias:


- "Eu só sei que nada sei" para Abrir Alas ao Conhecimento


- Para Descobrir e Analisar

Amor ao Todo:

- Para Mover Montanhas e Concretizar Milagres

Julgo ser esta, a Trindade Parteira Mágica do Sentido da Vida!
Se labutarmos nela, é provável que um dia sejamos recompensados com aquele Salto Qualitativo que nos aproximará da Solução do Enigma da Criação!... 😊😉
Profile Image for Georgia Scott.
Author 3 books196 followers
May 7, 2023
Lisbon is a place to fall in love. Doorways with mosaics promise romance. Outside, the air is salty as flesh from the sea. Inside, the soulful sound of fado is not a dream but wears a shawl or dark mustache. When you rise to leave, the owner stops you. "I'm going to play," he says and leads you back. He orders a table and chair brought next to the stage. You sit. He takes up a guitar. That's my Lisbon, not Pessoa's.

Yet, we share another Lisbon. That is the city in which writers, particularly poets, dwell. It is built on words that wind up narrow streets so steep there are stairs. We traverse this city with pens. Alone, yet never lonely. As Pessoa says, "words are tangible bodies, visible sirens, sensualities made flesh." And there are "delights in surrender." Suffering, too.

As a guidebook to that Lisbon of the mind, expect no maps. Just open The Book of Disquiet and wander its pages.
Profile Image for Aubrey.
1,358 reviews794 followers
September 17, 2014
A trifecta of absolute favorites? Well, not favorites. Existence definers, then. I'll have to say though, this self-discovery wasn't nearly as enjoyable as it was with Of Human Bondage or The Magic Mountain. I'd turn a page, and there was one of my innermost thoughts, laid out on the page in all its proud solitude.

Solitude. It takes one intimate with this word and all its facets of life to appreciate this book. The author created an entire world of characters in himself, seeing no journey more important than that of the one into oneself. I have not created my own host of fellow souls, but I am intimately familiar with the ever present malaise, the hesitance toward human interaction, the constant worry over ones reputation with others (strangers on the streets to valued friends to all levels of knowing). Ever present dreaming, ever present distraction, ever present evaluation alongside analysis of the self. Proclaiming the uselessness of everything, yet never making the final step. Dreaming of the novel yet knowing that the novel will never happen so long as the familiar remains itself. Playing mental games to deal with the thinking, the feeling, the hopes and desires suffocated in a soul with myriad reasons for not chasing them.What is the cause of this? What chemical pattern of brain influenced by the combination of genes sinks the self down into introversion, into deep safe waters, always craving yet disdaining yet loving yet loathing the concept and existence of the sun. Who knows.

I have not gone as deep as this one here though, and I would have to say that this is better. I don't envy his existence. I see what he has written and can claim multitudes of passages as original thoughts, made by myself upon analysis of our similar existences. There is a quote that says loneliness conveys the sorrow of being alone, while solitude expresses the joy. I look at this book, twenty years of solitude, and I see no solution beyond that of a mindset that I am unwilling to embrace. Falling back on religion is not something I plan on doing anytime soon. Nor will I turn the pain of loneliness into pleasure. I am not so vindictive against humanity as of yet.

This book defines a patch of my soul, but I will not let that patch define me; reading this is just another milestone in my path of figuring out my self, and how to allow myself to live as I desire. A wake up call, of sorts. It will be worth rereading if I ever start sinking into this train of thought; it'll definitely be a sign that I need a change, a vacation of sorts. I haven't yet lost the appreciation of the novel, and I'll be using this book as a reminder of what can happen if I ever do so. A resource against calamity indeed.
Profile Image for Ian "Marvin" Graye.
874 reviews2,266 followers
May 1, 2015
Like a Version (Touched for the Very First Time)

This is an exceptional book or work or whatever you want to call it.

However, ultimately, I found it both fascinating and (just a little bit) frustrating.

One source of frustration is that, upon completing it, I discovered that the version I had read (translated by Margaret Jull Costa) was 262 pages, whereas the Penguin Classics version (translated by Richard Zenith) is 544 pages. I hate it when this happens. I feel duped. Nothing had forewarned me of this possibility.

Readers have different views on the merits of the translations. I was perfectly happy with the quality of the text in the version I read (plus I love the cover!). However, the sheer difference in length has made me question whether and, if so, how much, text was omitted from the earlier version.

This might not be such a big deal. If indeed there is a difference in the amount of text, I imagine that much of it might have replicated what was included in the original version. There is already considerable duplication in the work. Alternatively, it might have consisted of complementary material, the absence of which did not detract from the content of the original version.

Regardless, the fact that this issue occurred at all points to another cause of my frustration.

Fragments from under the Floorboards

Both versions of the work have been presented to the reader as if it was a novel. It's even suggested that it's one of the great Modernist novels of the 20th Century.

I don't want to be precious about the definition of the word "novel". As far as I'm concerned, if the author thinks their work is a novel, that's good enough for me.

However, here, the work as a whole (in whatever version) has been assembled by a team of experts and editors from a trunk full of hundreds or thousands of fragments.

It's not clear whether Pessoa regarded the project as a novel. Nor is it clear whether he regarded any version or part of the project as a finished work. Or in what order he would have presented the work or novel, had he finished it.

The sequence in which the fragments have been ordered (presumably, from a selection) is actually a triumph of sympathetic editing.

However, I'm not sure whether, if the author intended the work to be a novel, it would have looked anything like what I read.

To the extent that its formal concerns might qualify it as a work of Modernist fiction, you have to ask whether they derive from the author or his editors.

Textual Personae

I am nevertheless equally fascinated by the metafictional pretence behind its submission to the reader.

The work purports to be the product of the heteronymic author, Bernardo Soares, a figment of Pessoa's imagination.

Soares was not just a pseudonym for Pessoa writing as himself. He was a fully-fledged persona, clearly differentiated from Pessoa and many other heteronyms he used to imagine and write other discrete aspects of his work.

Thus, the existence of the heteronym allowed Pessoa to fully explore aspects of his imagination, aesthetics and philosophy, without any limitation inferred from its ultimate source in the one person. (Mind you, Pessoa acknowledged that Soares most resembled his true self ["me minus reason and affectivity"], to the extent there might only have been one.)

The result is that this work is not just fragmentary in its own right. It is the product of a fragmented author.

Whether or not it was ever intended to be a novel (by either of its "authors"), the work itself (or at least the analysis of it) fits within the concerns of Modernism, if not Post-Modernism (which I maintain is a branch of Modernism, a sub-movement, not a separate movement).

Melancholy Nihilism

The fragmentation also reflects the philosophical concerns of the author(s).

Ultimately, I sense that this is a philosophical work, rather than a fictional work.

It's a fragmented, but ultimately comprehensive and systematic, contemplation of the narrator's world and his place in it. The narrator is a thinker, not a man of action. Little happens in the work other than thinking about the self and its relationship with others and the world. It's not quite solipsistic, because the narrator acknowledges the existence of the outside world. However, for him, his own mind is of paramount concern.

The editors have assembled the fragments in a thematic way, even though the same themes appear multiple times in the finished text. It could equally have been organised a different way. Or distilled into a short work of melancholy wisdom.

The work is a testament to inveterate egoism, miserabilism and misanthropy. Yet, it's been fashioned into a comprehensible philosophy.

If sub-headings were added as signposts, it would make a fantastic guide to nihilism or whatever you want to call this particular philosophy. I am reluctant to describe it as Existentialism, because of the apparent lack of Humanism.

Whatever you call it, it purports to be a philosophy made by a melancholy person for melancholy people, to the extent that there is any concern for others at all.

Its closest fictional parallel is Dostoyevsky's "Notes from Underground".

Prepossessing Aphorisms

It's hard to say how much readers are expected to distance themselves from the ostensible authors or their philosophy.

Even if it's serious, it would be ironic if only sad or self-pitying readers related to or enjoyed this work.

Its beauty resides in the quality of writing, which can be enjoyed by all readers with a metaphysical bent.

Indeed, if all philosophy were conceived and written this lyrically, it wouldn't be the preserve of desk-bound, incomprehensible polysyllabists and LL.B.'s that it seems to have become.

This work is as literary and aphoristic as Friedrich Nietzsche, Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw.

You can understand and enjoy it, even if you don't agree or sympathise with its underlying philosophy.

Ultimately, for this reason alone, it is a creative work, if not necessarily fiction.

Still, there is always the possibility that the fiction lies in the creation of a non-fiction work by a fictitious author, narrator or character (as ably assisted by the experts and editors)! It's hard to tell whether the metaphysics is bona fide or purely metafictional.

The whole text or philosophy might even be ironic. Who knows? Perhaps Johnny Marr could put it to music!

At least this prospect makes it good for a laugh or maybe even a dance. Roger Wilco Foxtrot!

"A Mercator Projection of the Soul"
[An Assemblage of Aphorisms]

Below are some aphorisms that map the metaphysical journey of the work:

Life and the Abyss:

Life would be unbearable if we were truly conscious of it. (212)

If there is one thing life gives us, apart from life itself, and for which we must thank the gods, it is the gift of not knowing ourselves: of not knowing ourselves and of not knowing one another. The human soul is an abyss of viscous darkness...no one would love themselves if they really knew themselves...(236)

Nihilism and Illusion:

In order not to demean ourselves in our own eyes, it is enough that we should become accustomed to harbouring no ambitions, passions, desires, hopes, impulses or feelings of restlessness.(186)

Once we believe this world to be merely an illusion and a phantasm, we are then free to consider everything that happens to us as a dream, something that only pretended to because we were asleep.(220)

Death and Inaction:

I've become a character in a book, a life already dead. Quite against my wishes, what I feel is felt in order for me to write it down.(139)

Living seems to me a metaphysical mistake on the part of matter, an oversight on the part of inaction.(114)

Looking and Feeling:

For me, humanity is one vast decorative motif, existing through one's eyes and ears and through psychological emotion. I demand nothing more from life than to be a spectator of it. I demand nothing more from myself than to be a spectator of life.(198)

I am an endlessly sensitive photographic plate. In me every tiny detail is recorded and magnified in order to form part of a whole. I concern myself only with myself. For me the external world is pure sensation. I never forget what I feel.(178)

Egoism and Disquiet:

That is my morality or my metaphysics or me myself: a passer-by in everything, even in my own soul. I belong to nothing, I desire nothing, I am nothing except an abstract centre of impersonal sensations, a sentient mirror fallen from the wall but still turned to reflect the diversity of the world. I don't care if this makes me happy or unhappy, and I don't much care.(151)

The generation to which I belong was born into a world devoid of certainty for anyone possessed of both an intellect and a heart...the world into which we were born had no security to offer us as regards religion, no anchor as regards morality, no stability as regards politics. We were born into a state of anguish, both metaphysical and moral, and of political disquiet.(206)

Love and Onanism:

We never love anyone. We love only our idea of what someone is like. We love an idea of our own; in short, it is ourselves that we love...The onanist may be an abject creature but in truth he is the logical expression of the lover. He is the only one who neither disguises nor deludes himself.(218)

To love is merely to grow tired of being alone: it is therefore both cowardice and a betrayal of ourselves (it is vitally important that we should not love).(240)

Futility and Nothingness:

The one reason we get on together is that we know nothing about one another.

Love disturbs and wearies, action dissipates and disappoints, no one truly knows how to know, and thinking confuses everything. Better then to put a stop to all our desires and hopes, to our futile attempts to explain the world, or to any foolish ambitions to change or govern it. Everything is nothing...(242)

Tedium and Worthlessness:

Tedium is not a sickness brought on by the boredom of having nothing to do, but the worse sickness of feeling that nothing is worth doing.(91)

Tedium is boredom with the world, the malaise of living, the weariness of having lived; in truth, tedium is the feeling in one's flesh of the endless emptiness of things.(122)

Silence and Emptiness:

I feel this because I feel nothing. I think this because this is all nothing. Nothing, nothing, just part of the night and the silence and of whatever emptiness, negativity and inconstancy I share with them, the space that exists between me and me, a thing mislaid by some god...(262)


Rather than doing updates, the text prompted me to write some mock "verse", inspired by either Pessoa's words (in which case I have simply versified them more or less intact) or the tone of his text.

I also wrote a story that I placed in comment #1 in the thread.

The Semi-Heteronym (Me Minus Reason and Affectivity)

As luck would have it,
If I was there, so was this
Particular man.

Transmitted by Concupiscence

Once I was
But that was
Only once
And many
Years ago.

On Making a Mockery

It doesn't matter
If you laugh at me,
For I too have scorn
In my armoury.

Just Doodles Haiku

These are the doodles
Of my incomprehension
Of my consciousness.

Lost in Analysis

I lost myself
In abstract thought,
But found myself
Once more again
In the pages
I wrested from

Heidegger's Children
[In the Words of Bernardo Soares]

Autumn will take
Ev'ry single
That Heidegger's
Drowsy children
Of the abyss
Play at making.

Anticipatory Retrospection
[In the Words of Bernardo Soares]

I remember him now
As I will in the future
With the nostalgia I know
I will feel for him then.

We Find One Another Wanting

Solitude torments us,
Though it's habitual.
Company oppresses us,
Despite its ritual.

Never Go Too Near

Know the difference
Between voluptuousness
And noble pleasure.

Fragments of a Rainy Season
[In the Words of Bernardo Soares]

These words are guesses
Made in the void,
Trembling on the brink
Of the deepest abyss.
Through them trickles
The plangent sound
Of the constant rain
Outside the window.

What She Offers to My Eyes
[In the Words of Bernardo Soares]

This is how I love:
I love with my eyes,
Not my fantasy.
I don't fantasise;
I don't imagine.
I keep whole a heart,
Given over to
Unreal destinies.

A Shot in the Arm
[In the Words of Roger Wilco]

What I once
Thought isn't
What I want
To believe
Any more.

No Self-Pity Them
[Assembled from the Words and Thoughts of Bernardo Soares]


Wise men achieve
Their happiness
By making life
For then, for them,
Tiny incidents
Are imbued with
Great significance.


Wise men protect their souls
With just their human senses.
At the onset of any sadness,
They assert their innocence.
The wise shirk the disquiet
Of other men's existence,
And defy successive tragedies
With consummate indifference.


See comment #2 in the thread.
Profile Image for MJ Nicholls.
2,049 reviews4,116 followers
August 26, 2014
The Book of Disquiet is a LiveJournal blog as written by E.M. Cioran or Albert Camus.

Bernardo Soares, Pessoa’s leading alter-ego, imagines “the corpse of [his] prose” being “lowered into general oblivion” upon his death. This might have been the case had not archivists rescued his fragmented idlings from the black void and published them in this volume.

It strikes me, given Soares’s desire for extinction, and the delusion of posterity, that this selection of writing is redundant. What impact can one man’s daydreams, solipsistic tracts, repetitive observations, written from a chronically depressed mind, have on another? What is the function of this book? If the writer is so intent on being ignored, on doting on life’s gloominess, why should we waste our time lauding the prettiness of his prose?

Would he care that a legion of people find this book a philosophical masterpiece, that we empathise with his eternal struggle with everyday life, with his permanent existential misery? No: he is only happy in dreams.

This is similar to Marcel Benabou’s nonbook: it is the very fact of its valuelessness that gives it its value. In practice, at least. With The Book of Disquiet, Soares has written himself into extinction.
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