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The Poet's Disquiet
If we were to summarise Fernando Pessoa’s life in a single word, it would be “disquiet”. Anguish, restlessness and other synonyms would describe the daily life of the poet who found, in Lisbon’s nooks and crannies, the places of refuge for his strange way of life. Between cafés and offices he invented room to create the parallel life which made most sense to him.
We play at living
“Playing at living life” was the poet’s most striking achievement. The literary world called the characters he created heteronyms but of the more than 70 he invented, only four would stand out: Alberto Caeiro, Ricardo Reis, Álvaro de Campos and the semi-heteronym Bernardo Soares.
The reasons for creating these heteronyms were various (and the writer’s genius was only the most obvious). Some regard the death of his father and his brother Jorge as the catalysts. It is argued that he needed to create imaginary families due to the unravelling of his own. Besides the question of family, it is clear that he felt an intense need to see the world through the eyes of others.
A non-book written by a man who never lived
“These are my Confessions, and if in them I say nothing, it’s because I have nothing to say” – so writes Pessoa under the semi-heteronym Bernardo Soares in his introduction to The Book of Disquiet.
Pessoa began writing this book when he was 25 and would continue to do so for the rest of his life. It was a kind of maze where he sought to answer questions like “Who am I?” and “How can I explain reality?” It consists of over 500 texts without a beginning, middle or an end, just existential doubts, questions awaiting an answer and the latent disquiet of someone who never managed to understand the world.