January 11, 2007

The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa is unlike anything I have read in the past. The book is a collection of fragments written by an invented author, Bernardo Soares- “he shyly observed that, having nowhere to go, and nothing to do, nor friends to visit, nor any interest in reading books, he was also in the habit of spending nights inside, in his rented room, writing.”

I can’t imagine anyone sitting and reading through this book in a few days. I am only through about 50 fragments and already I keep going back to reread segments that I read the night before because they keep coming back to me throughout the day. This is a book that can be picked up, opened, and read at random, although the fragments were arranged in a logical order.

a couple more…

“11 Litany
We never know self-realization.
We are two abysses – a well staring at the Sky.”

24 Literature – which is art married to thought, and realization without the stain of reality – seems to me the end toward which all human effort would have to strive, if it were truly human and not an animal superfluity. To express something is to preserve its virtue and take away its terror. Fields are greener in their description than in their actual greenness. Flowers, if described with phrases that define them in the air of the imagination, will have colours with a durability not found in cellular life.

To act is to live, to be expressed is to endure. There’s nothing in life less real for having been well described.

I love this one – ” to live a dispassionate and cultured life in the open air of ideas, reading, dreaming, and thinking about writing. A life that’s slow enough to be forever on the verge of tedium, but pondered enough so as never to find itself there.”

This book is going to take some time- a book to be savoured. The introduction describes Pessoa’s legacy as “a large trunk full of poetry, prose, philosophy, critisism, translations, linguistic theory, horoscopes and other assorted texts, variously typed, handwritten or illegibly scrawled in Portugese, English and French. He wrote in notebooks, on loose sheets, on the backs of letters, advertisements and handbills, on stationery from the firms he worked for and from the cafes he frequented, on envelopes, on paper scraps and in between the lines of his own earlier text.”

I once lucked out and had to travel to Portugal for a week of work, and I had a weekend left to walk the streets of Lisbon. So much of the city is preserved, and it was an unforgettable experience. What an interesting neighbor Pessoa would have been. Do you ever think about what it would be like to actually converse with one of the authors whose writings have endured over the years? I do.


2 Responses to “Fragments”

  1. w Says:

    Wonderful and inspiring, the snippets and your walk through Lisbon. Thanks for this. I have Pessoa’s book of selected prose on my shelf that I’ve been meaning to get to, and this just might push me to do it tonight. Plus will finally go out and get The Book of Disquiet, too.

    I used to bring a book of Borges interviews with me on walks a few years ago. Come spring/summer, I think I’ll go on long walks with him again.

  2. Dorothy W. Says:

    I think I’d be much too intimidated to converse with great authors! I’d be happy to hear them talk, however. This book sounds very interesting — thanks for the review.

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