The Melancholic Soul of Fernando Pessoa | Reflections

“Literature is the most agreeable way of ignoring life.”

A few thoughts from “The Book of Disquiet” by Fernando Pessoa (1888 – 1935), a Portuguese writer who is the dearest to my heart. Fernando was a Portuguese poet, considered one of the most significant literary figures of the early 20th century, and one of the greatest poets in the Portuguese language .

Along with Patrick Modiano, E.M. Cioran, Clarice Lispector and Anita Brookner, Fernando Pessoa is undoubtedly my favourite writer.

If you have never read “The Book of Disquiet”, I would encourage you to get a copy of this book in translation of Richard Zenith and read a few paragraphs now and then.

“I wasn’t meant for reality, but life came and found me.”

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

“Why are there not islands for those who feel uncomfortable here, ancient avenues for the lonely to dream in and that others cannot find?”

“Could it think, the heart would stop beating.”

“There are no norms. All people are exceptions to a rule that doesn’t exist.”

“There are ships sailing to many ports, but not a single one goes where life is not painful.”

“The feelings that hurt most, the emotions that sting most, are those that are absurd: the longing for impossible things, precisely because they are impossible; nostalgia for what never was; the desire for what could have been; regret over not being someone else; dissatisfaction with the world’s existence. All these half-tones of the soul’s consciousness create a raw landscape within us, a sun eternally setting on what we are.“

“I suffer from life and from other people. I can’t look at reality face to face. Even the sum discourages and depresses me. Only at night and all alone, withdrawn, forgotten and lost, with no connection to anything real or useful – only then do I find myself and feel comforted.”

“We all have two lives: The true, the one we dreamed of in childhood And go on dreaming of as adults in a substratum of mist; the false, the one we love when we live with others, the practical, the useful, the one we end up by being put in a coffin.”

“I sometimes think, with sad pleasure, that if one day, in a future to which I will not belong, these sentences I write should meet with praise, I will at last have found people who understand me, my own people, a real family to be born into and to be loved by. But far from being born into that family, I will have been long dead by then. I will be understood only in effigy, and then affection can no longer compensate the dead person for the lack of love he felt when alive.”

“Life is an experimental journey undertaken involuntarily. It is a journey of the spirit through the material world and, since it is the spirit that travels, it is the spirit that is experienced. That is why there exist contemplative souls who have lived more intensely, more widely, more tumultuously than others who have lived their lives purely externally.”

– “The Book of Disquiet”-

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  1. One of the most important reads, to say the least. A rare kind to which one can come back time and again and still find some new meanings, and never get the feeling of having read enough. I would have loved to meet Pessoa, I wish I could for an evening tea conversation.

    1. Thank you for your beautiful comment 💜🙏💜 Pessoa’s Book of Disquiet is one of my favourite books, if not the most favourite one. I d also love to meet Pessoa 😍 ah… I just recently purchased Pessoa’s letters (in French edition). Unfortunately there is no English translation yet. Not sure if you know but in August there will be an English publication of Pessoa’s biography by the great Richard Zenith (the one who did probably the best English translation of The Book of Disquiet so far). So something to look forward to 😊😉

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