Monday, 30 November 2015

Fernando Pessoa ( 13/6/1888 - 30/11/35) Redicovering The Book of Disquiet


Today marks the 80th anniversary of Fernando Pessoa's  death the great Portugese, poet, writer, philosopher. Just  recently rediscovered his book  The Book of Disquiet courtesy of my dear friend Dave Datblygu,a book I have read in many different versions,various translations a timeless tome  to loneliness, melancholy, failure and the human condition I am often drawn to these subject matters. Like many of us, he spent much of his time in isolation, seemingly talking to himself. Living in a series of rented rooms in Lisbon, chain smoking, drinking heavily,mainly writing, reading and leading an introspective life, with a keen interest in the occult, he had a correspondence with the magician Aleister Crowley.Fernando considered himself as an outsider looking in on life in Lisbon.
In the opening lines of  one of his best known poems, The Tobacco Shop, he wrote :-

I'm nothing,

I'll always be nothing,

I can't wait to be something,

But I have in me all the dreams of the  world.


When Pessoa died in 1935 a few years short of 50 he left behind lots of unpublished writings. The Book of Disquiet is undoubtedly his  masterwork. He worked on it over  three decades, in the  end their was no definite order of its 500 or so sections, no order achieved or even hinted at, a random note to self. In the book  he took on many identities and personalities, eradicating any traces of  autobiographical feeling and experience, he seemed to be possessed by different characters and  fragments of personae that he found within himself. Significantly one name soars above the rest a ' Bernardo Soares' an assistant bookeeper in Lisbon.
It is a self depreciating reflection on the sheer distance  between the loftiness of feeling and the humdrum reality of life,meandering in sequences of unpredictablity,  this book  is a classic  of existentialist literature. Many people are still discovering this wonderful melancholic writer, conjurer of deep imagination.
So thanks /diolch Dave and if like me you are of a contemplative disposition, then this book  I heartily recommend. It will  truly change the way you see things.A beautiful journey nevertheless...
In the meantime here's an extract :-

" It's  one of those days when the monotony of everything oppresses me like being thrown into jail. The monotomy of myself, however.  Each face, even if seen just yesterday, is different today, because today isn't yesterday. Each day is the day it is,  and there was never another one like it in the world. Only our soul makes the identification - a genuinely felt but erroneous identification - by which everything becomes similar and  simplified. The world is a set of distinct things with varied edges, but if we're  near-sighted, it's a continual and indecipherable fog.
I feel like fleeing. Like fleeing from what I know, fleeing from what's mine, fleeing from what I love. I want to depart,  not for impossible Indias or for the great islands south of everything, but for any place  at all - village  or wilderness - that isn't this place. I want to stop seeing these unchanging faces, this routine, these days. I want to rest, far removed, from my inveterate feigning. I want to feel sleep come to me as life, not as rest. A cabin on  the seashore or even a cave in a rocky mountainside could give me this, but my will unfortunately, cannot.
Slavery is the law of life, and it is the only law, for it must be observed, there is no revolt possible, no way to escape it. Some are born slaves, others become slaves, and still others are forced to accept slavery. Our faint-hearted love of freedom - which, if we had it, we would all reject, unable to get used to it - is proof of how ingrained our slavery is. I myself, having just said that  I'd like a cabin or a cave where I could be free from the monotomy of everything, which is the monotomy of me - would I dare set  out for this cabin or cave, knowing from experience that the monotomy, since it stems from me, will always be with me? I myself, suffocating from where I am and because I am - where would I breathe easier, if the sickness is in my lungs rather than in the things  that surround me, I myself who long for pure-sunlight and open country, for the ocean in plain view, and the unbroken horizon - could I get used to my  new bed,  the food not having to descend eight flights  of stairs   in the streets and entering the tobacco  shop on the corner, not saying good morning  to the barber standing outside his shop.
Evdeerything that surrounds us becomes part of us, infiltrating our physical sensations and our feelings of life,  and like spittle of the great spider,  it subtley binds us to whatever is close, tucking us  into a soft bed of slow death which is rocked by the world.  Everything is us,  and we are everything but what  good is this, if everything is nothing? A ray of sunlight, a clud whose shadow tells us it is passing, a breeze that rises, the silence that follows when  it rises, ceases, one or another for a few voices, the incidental laughter of the girls who are talking,  and then night with the meaningless, fractured  hieroglyphs of the stars."





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