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Wednesday, February 19, 2020

The Book of Disquiet (2003) by Fernando Pessoa

Portrait of Pessoa, 1914
Fernando Pessoa, Portuguese writer
Book Review
The Book of Disquiet (2003)
by Fernando Pessoa

Replaces: Billy Bathgate by E.L. Doctorow

  Fernando Pessoa was a Portuguese poet and writer who defied the categorization that is part and parcel of gaining literary fame in the 20th century.  He died in 1935, but most of the listings in his bibliography date from the 1990's and beyond, including the first English language edition of The Book of Disquiet, which apparently came out in 1991.  The quirky publishing history stems from the fact that while Pessoa left a locked check with 25,000 unpublished pages of prose and poetry at his death.  These pages have been in the Portuguese national library since 1988, and The Book of Disquiet represents a posthumous editing and organization of a small part of some of these materials.

   The style of The Book of Disquiet is aphoristic, somewhere between Nietzsche and Joris-Karl Husmans.   Pessoa, in the guise of Bernardo Soares, is clearly a fan of the stoics and epicureans, and not a fan of humanity, or interacting with humanity.  He preaches withdrawal and self-deletion.  If you are inclined in the direction of the Decadent movement, on the late 19th century, or an existentialist or follower of one of the many iterations of 1960's spawned counter-culture, Pessoa is worth checking out- this being more or less the only book of his you'll ever see in English.

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