The Book of Disquiet
by Fernando Pessoa
Translated and with an Introduction by Alfred Mac Adam
304 pages, paperback
The rediscovery in the 1990s of the Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935) is reminiscent of the rediscovery of Kafka in the 1950s.
Like Kafka, Pessoa left his work in disarray, much of it to be published posthumously. And Pessoa is fast becoming an icon of postmodernism, as Kafka was of modernism. Pessoa’s mystique comes largely from his practice of writing under “heteronyms,” each supplied with distinct biographies, life spans, even horoscopes. In The Book of Disquiet, Pessoa came as close as he would to autobiography. But this book is, like so much about Pessoa, an object of mystery. Left on disordered scraps of paper in a trunk, the fragments that make up The Book of Disquiet have no fixed sequence, and therefore each reader must make out of them a different text. This translation, published in hardcover by Pantheon in 1991, has been widely reviewed as the best available.
“Limpid, aphoristic, gorgeous, sometimes maddening and utterly original, this compendium of dull days and transfiguring epiphanies is so distilled it should be dipped into in small doses over a lifetime.” — New York Times Book Review
“There are in Pessoa echoes of Beckett’s exquisite boredom; the dark imaginings of Baudelaire (whom he loved); Melville’s evasive confidence man; the dreamscapes of Borges…” — Voice Literary Supplement