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Pessoa Route

It is legitimate to say that Pessoa would never have existed without Lisbon, or that Lisbon would not be the same without Pessoa. 

A lyric poet and a nationalist, he cultivated a form of poetry that focused on traditional Portuguese themes and its yearning and nostalgic lyricism, expressing thoughts about his “inner self”, his anxieties, the solitude that assailed him and the states of tediousness he suffered. 

He was born in 1888, on the fourth floor of no. 4, Largo de São Carlos, Chiado – the area where, along with Baixa and Campo de Ourique, he would spend the most important moments in his life, a fact which would be repeatedly evidenced throughout his huge oeuvre. 

Pessoa did not like travelling. The exception to the rule were the nine years he spent as a child in Durban, South Africa, where his stepfather was consul. The fact that he travelled little meant that he maintained an intimate relationship with his home city. Pessoa loved Lisbon and insisted that others saw it through the same eyes as he did. 

He had no interest in a university degree, having attended only two years of the Faculty of Letters. As an autodidact, he turned the National Library into his second home, absorbing books on philosophy, religion, sociology and literature. 

A self-confessed loner, he devoted his life to words. He was a translator, advertising agent, editor, philosopher, playwright, essayist, astrologer... He founded Orpheu, with Mário de Sá-Carneiro, Raul Leal, Luís de Montalvor, Almada-Negreiros and the Brazilian Ronald de Carvalho. 

He wandered the streets of Lisbon between offices and cafés. In one of these offices he met Ophelia, the one and only love of his life. From the café A Brasileira, where he attended long soirées, he would walk down to Praça do Comércio to dine at Martinho da Arcada. 

Restlessness was a constant feature of the 47 years of Pessoa’s life. But if that were not the case, he would never have written. Fernando Pessoa and his multiple characters are more than a legacy. Rather, let us call them souls who lived and strived, but unsuccessfully, to understand the real meaning of life.