The Book of Disquiet Fernando Pessoa | Adapted by Michel van der Aa


-2I’ve never done anything but dream. This, and this alone, has been the meaning of my life. My worst sorrows have evaporated when I’ve opened the window on to the street of my dreams and forgotten myself in what I saw there. What I basically do is convert other people into my dreams. I take up their opinions, which I develop through my reason and intuition in order to make them my own, turning their personalities into things that have an affinity with my dreams. My life inhabits the shells of their personalities. I reproduce their footsteps in my spirit’s clay, absorbing them so thoroughly into my consciousness that I, in the end, have taken their steps and walked in their paths even more than they. I have a world of friends inside me, with their own real, individual, imperfect lives. Some of them are full of problems, while others live the humble and picturesque life of bohemians. Others are traveling salesman. (To be able to imagine myself as a traveling salesman has always been one of my great ambitions – unattainable, alas!) Others live in the rural towns and villages of a Portugal inside me; they come to the city, where I sometimes run into them, and I open wide my arms with emotion. And when I dream this, pacing in my room, talking out loud, gesticulating – when I dream this and picture myself running into them, then I rejoice, I’m fulfilled, I jump up and down, my eyes water, I throw open my arms and feel a genuine, enormous happiness. Ah, nostalgia never hurts as much as it does for things that never existed!

-3The idea of traveling nauseates me. What can China give me that my soul hasn't already given me? Travel is for those who cannot feel. Eternal tourists of ourselves, there is no landscape but what we are.

I don’t need fast cars or express trains to feel the delight and terror of speed. All I require is a tram and my gift for abstraction, which I’ve developed to an astonishing degree.

On a tram in motion I am able, through my constant and instantaneous analysis, to separate the idea of the tram from the idea of speed, separating them so completely that they’re distinct entities. I can feel myself riding not inside the tram but inside its Mere Speed.

we don't. I fear the tedium of dangers. We do not possess our sensations and through them we cannot possess ourselves.And should I get bored and want the delirium of excessive speed. at least? We don't even possess our own sensations. Perhaps it is in your eyes. these unreal tediums. in dream form. -4I ask myself who you are. Listen to me. you this figure who traverses all my languid visions of unknown landscapes and ancient interiors and splendid pageants of silence. that I read these impossible landscapes. these feelings that inhabit the shadows of my weariness and the caves of my disquiet. till it becomes faster than any train possible. In all of my dreams you appear. And how could a soul ever be possessed? What do we possess? Our sensations. Not even our own soul is ours. lands that are perhaps your bodies of absence and inhumanity. increasing or decreasing it at will. perhaps the real and essential part? And how do I know it’s not I who am the dream and you the reality. To love is to possess. nor towards the train whistle cutting the empty distance. your essential body dissolved into the shape of a tranquil plain and a stark hill on the grounds of some secret place. And what does a lover possess? The body? To possess it we would have to incorporate it. to make its substance our own. to eat it. Listen and don't look out the window at the river's far shore. . A glimpse of open country above a stone wall on the outskirts of town is more liberating for me than an entire journey would be for someone else. I abhor running real risks. but it’s not because I’m afraid of feeling too intensely. so flat and smooth. It’s because they break my prefect focus on my sensations. With you I visit regions that are perhaps dreams of yours. Perhaps I have no dream but you. How do I know that you’re not a part of me. I can transfer the idea to the Pure Imitation of Speed. I who am your dream instead of you being mine? -5We cannot love. and this disturbs and depersonalizes me. I never go where there’s risk. keep listening. Perhaps the landscapes of my dreams are my way of not dreaming about you. Every landscape is located nowhere. nor at the twilight. when my face leans into yours. or you accompany me as a false reality. Do we posses the soul? No.

I can’t even imagine receiving affection out of pity. and nothing would horrify me more than the prospect of meeting and speaking to the real person whom the figure visibly manifests. But I only want to see it. what I feel isn't sorrow but an aesthetic discomfort and a sinuous irritation. and that figure captivates. For those who are closest to me I’ve always been a guest. quick comebacks to what no one said. A simple invitation to have dinner with a friend produces an anguish in me that’s hard to define.The tilted urn of twilight pours out on us an oil in which the hours. By myself. I suspect. but I always want the glass. who has caused so few to raise their voice. an icy halo. Bernardo Soares 2 (from video) When others are in difficulty. possesses me. But all of this vanishes when I face someone in the flesh: I lose my intelligence. so that it will in no way hinder my examination of what's behind it. -6Everyone everywhere has always treated me kindly. but always with the kind of attention accorded to a stranger and with the lack of affection that’s normal for an intruder. separately float. There’s an aureole of indifference. I want the glass to be perfectly clear. and after half an hour I just feel tired. . that surrounds me and repels others. obsesses. Bernardo Soares (live) Having never discovered qualities in myself that might attract someone else. and flashes of witty sociability with nobody. I can no longer speak. or speak angrily or askance. wrinkle their brow. Isolation has carved me in its image and likeness. All I want from myself is to observe life. But the kindness I’ve been shown has always been devoid of affection. I can think of all kinds of clever remarks. There's a glass sheet between me and it. Just a few acquaintances who imagine they feel something for me and who might be sorry if a train ran over me and the funeral was on a rainy day. I fix my attention on a beautiful or attractive or otherwise lovable figure. like rose petals. The mere thought of having to enter into contact with someone else makes me nervous. The logical reward of my detachment from life is the incapacity I’ve created in others to feel anything for me. I could never believe that anyone felt attracted to me. and as such treated well. Rare is the man like me. Friends: not one.

the facial muscles he used to say what I don’t recall. (Metaphysics has always struck me as a prolonged form of latent insanity. that I’m no one. which I momentarily embody. are stronger. by me or by him. I’m thinking of something else. or the way he listened with his eyes to the words I don’t remember telling him. in four photographic words. They’re better at carving out their place in life. (I’m two. No Christ died for me. BS2 I’ve never had anyone I could call ‘Master’. or ask him again what he’s already answered. but it's another I who speaks. that thinks. e ambos têm a distância – irmãos siameses que não estão pegados. No Buddha showed me the way.) BS2 Why should I look at twilights if I have within me thousands of diverse twilights? BS I hear without listening. Vincente Guedes (from video) Sou dois. in an inner flash. no Apollo or Athena ever appeared to enlighten my soul. Absolutely no one. And so I often repeat to someone what I’ve already repeated. they manage their intelligence more effectively.BS2 It's always one of my dreams. Other people. and both keep their distance – Siamese twins that aren’t attached. speaks and acts for me. I have all the qualities it takes to exert influence except for the knack of actually doing it. or even the will to want to do it. less intelligent than I.) BS I realized. Even in my loftiest dreams. If I was reincarnated. BS2 I've sculpted my life like a statue out of foreign matter. . it was without myself. I open my mouth. Vincente A metafísica pareceu-me sempre uma forma prolongada da loucura latente. without my I. BS I don’t have the qualities of a leader or a follower. and what I least catch in the conversation is the sense of what was said. But I’m able to describe.

dispersed without ever having been. how to want. To create. entre o que sonho o que a vida fez de mim. flor absurda. wafting in the air. (I've sculpted myself in quiet isolation and have placed myself in a hothouse. cut off from fresh air and direct light . cloistered in itself. I constantly create personalities. (I'm the gap between what I am and what I am not.Vincente Por isso me esculpi em calma e alheamento e me pus em estufa.) BS I’m no one.. how to think. (One of my life's greatest tragedies is my inability to feel anything naturally. among the dreams of someone who didn’t know how to complete me. floresça em afastada beleza. no one at all. I’m the character of an unwritten novel.) BS2 If only I had been the Madame of a harem! What a pity this didn't happen to me! . Vincente Sou o intervalo entre o que sou e o que não sou. I’ve destroyed myself. or they are and the trees loudly rustle all around me. I'm always in the next room. Vincente Repudiei sempre que me compreendessem. I don’t know how to feel. Assistant bookkeeper (from video) Uma das grandes tragédias da minha vida é a de não poder sentir qualquer coisa naturalmente. haunted by shy and furtive ghosts. To be understood is to prostitute oneself. Ser compreendido é prostituir-se. between what I dream and what life has made of me.) BS I’ve created various personalities within.) BS2 I'm a widowed house.where the absurd flower of my artificiality can blossom in secluded beauty. longe dos ares frescos e das luzes francas – onde a minha artificialidade. (I always rejected being understood.

snatches of music and syllables of voices all moving in a sinister and bottomless swirl. am a well without walls but with the walls’ viscosity. (I like to think of life as half light.) BS2 However clearly I can see and understand life. boxes.) BS I always think. Vincente Mas eu quero crer que a vida seja meio-luz meio-sombras. And in these waters which are more a churning than actual waters float the images of all I’ve seen and heard in the world – houses. what’s truly I. or of silk. ou de brocado! Ter emoções descritíveis assim! (To have emotions made of chintz. Retired Major (from video) Sou uma casa viúva. I can't touch it. no emotions in my emotion. I.BS My soul is a black whirlpool. cloistered in itself BS And amid all this confusion I. ou de seda. Vincente Entre mim e a vida há um vidro ténue. existing only so that it can spin. am the centre that exists only in the geometry of the abyss: I’m the nothing around which everything spins. I always feel. or of brocade! To have emotions that could be described like that!) Vincente Ter emoções descritíveis! (To have describable emotions!) . books. Streetsweeper (from video) Ter emoções de chita. the racing of an infinite ocean around a hole in nothing. a vast vertigo circling a void. what’s truly I. claustral de si mesma (I'm a widowed house. faces. (There's a thin sheet of glass between me and life. BS2 I'm the bridge between what I don't have and what I don't want. the centre of everything with nothing around it. being a centre only because every circle has one. half darkness. but there’s no logic in my thought.

Vincente Sou navegador num desconhecimento de mim. para que me iluminasse a alma. (I bear the wounds of all the battles I avoided. Vincente Durmo e desdurmo. (Even in my loftiest dreams.BS How much I've lived without having lived! Vincente Trago comigo as feridas de todas as batalhas que evitei.) BS I've overcome everything where I've never been. BS and sunlit things console me. (I sleep and unsleep.) Street sweeper No alto dos meus sonhos nenhum Apolo ou Atena me apareceu.) BS2 Clear things console me. (I'm a navigator engaged in unknowing myself. BS2 I'm suffering from a headache and the universe. no Apollo or Athena ever appeared to enlighten my soul.) Bookkeeper Não ter sido Madame de harém! (If only I had been the Madame of a harem!) .

Vincente Porque eu sou do tamanho do que vejo.BS I live of impressions that aren't mine.) BS For a long time I haven't been I.) BS2 Because I'm the size of what I see. And not the size of what I am. And not the size of what I am. que não dos homens. BS Because I'm the size of what I see.) BS How many am I? Vincente Quem é eu? (Who is I?) Bookkeeper A coisas nítidas confortam. E não do tamanho da minha altura. . (I'm suffering from a headache and the universe. (My habits are of solitude. Retired Major (from video) Pessimista – eu não o sou (I'm not a pessimist. (Because I'm the size of what I see.) Vincente Os meus hábitos são da solidão. not of men. (Clear things console me) BS2 What is this gap between me and myself? Street sweeper Doem-me a cabeça e o universo. And not the size of what I am.

Seeing you. and you came towards me and passed on by. forever a wandering silhouette in the fields. gentle ox. it was in a picture that I saw you. You’ll know you’re making progress when your own family and its troubles seem insipid and loathsome by comparison. Learn to give in completely to your reading. Yes. and all the peace that I’ve never known fills my soul when I think of you. never once turning around. and it revealed a vast clearing in your inner life: your consciousness of self had abandoned you. Your gaze had forgotten all memory. This should be attempted . and I get you all wrong when I try to put you into life. and the gesture (which I don’t remember) of your rustic hands was garlanded with flowers from the fields. The best way to start dreaming is through books.-7It was the most peaceful moment of my life. Novels are especially helpful for the beginner. detective novels are what I instinctively read. But where did I get this idea that I saw you approach and pass by me while I just kept going. seeing yourself smile in your mind . to live totally with the characters of a novel. I was never able to read romantic novels in any sustained way. -8The art of effective dreaming. If we call rocks and mountains ‘biblical’. flights and battles leaves his body really exhausted and his legs worn out – then he has passed beyond the first stage of dreaming. or into its semblance. I remember seeing you from afar. You walked with a light swing. The second stage is to construct novels for your own enjoyment. to your soul. You walked slowly and unmindful of the large ox. Your silence was the song of the last shepherd. It’s in the fleeting image of your anonymous figure that I place all that the country evokes for me. Strangely enough. but this is for personal reasons. since I could still see you. I remembered that cities change but the fields are eternal. It’s possible you were smiling – to yourself. then and always? Time suddenly stops to let you pass. a graceful herdswoman with a huge. it’s because they’re surely just like the ones from biblical times. a vague swaying. You didn’t seem to notice me. I being romantically disinclined even in my dreams. You calmly came down the wide stretch of road. When the dreamer experiences physical sensation – when a novel about combat.but your lips were as still as the outline of the mountains.

But they. and that the newspapers will show – to those who bend down to look at them – a different date from today’s. The day will come when I see no more of this. there being a bright sun in this happy South. although the same. At this point there’s hardly even any mental fatigue. They might not sell them to me as they should be sold. the pavement of the Rua da Prata. bananas that are yellower for having black splotches. We’ll be able to create second-hand. it’s time to advance to the supreme stage of dreaming. having created a picture with various figures whose lives we live all at the same time. pass on. The dissolution of personality is total. for the whole of today’s sun seems to be focused on them like a searchlight without a source. I could easily memorialize this moment by buying bananas. by symbols. We may no longer have the energy to write them. In the third stage all sensation becomes mental. the bananas for sale were tremendously yellow in the sunlight. that the saleswomen will be others. can write in countlessly different ways. Once our imagination has been trained. blue with a green-gold tint. because they don’t live. and by the daily papers that the boy has set out on the opposite corner of the street. while another poet will write in a different way. I’m well aware that the bananas will be others. we are jointly and interactively all of those souls. by the voices of the shrewd saleswomen. but that won’t be necessary. because I live.only once dreaming has become perfectly mentalized. when I’ll be survived by the bananas lining the pavement. The highest stage of dreaming is when. It really takes very little to satisfy me: the rain having stopped. The body no longer feels anything. not to feel a general weariness throughout one’s entire being. They might not wrap the bananas the right way. I. Having arrived this far. having refined this skill to a considerable degree. endure. and without any God. and it is hard. all of them original. by buying in the street. although as others. since I don’t know how to buy them . it’s our mind. I admit. It’s an asceticism without faith. the voices of the people who sell them. the Tagus at the end of it. God am I. Complete and autonomous plays can unfold in us line by line. this entire familiar corner of the universe. This leads to an incredible degree of depersonalization and the reduction of our spirit to ashes. I. But I’m embarrassed by rituals. But what a triumph! This is the only final asceticism. will and emotions that become slack and sluggish…. it will fashion dreams all by itself whenever we want. -9In the baskets along the pavement of the Rua da Prata. instead of weary limbs. we can imagine one poet writing in us in one way.

END . I feel free. No one knew me under the mask of similarity. My feet stepped like theirs over the floorboards and the flagstones. and the I that I know walks down no streets. as if I’d ceased to exist and were conscious of that fact. and dreams of sorrow. but the I that I am was never in their living rooms. and I saw myself in their ponds like a blind Narcissus who enjoyed the coolness as he bent over the water. I’m alone and calm. A great calm. The happiest moments of my life were dreams. but my heart was far away. no one knew I’d been swapped at birth. and I said nothing about the landscapes which I saw in dreams. their hands shook mine. but only to myself did I ever mention these lands. The pages I read. peace. the I whose life I live has no hands for others to shake. false master of an estranged and exiled body. This circular landscape is my soul's crown of thorns. They always supposed I was identical to myself. -10All around my dreamed mansion the trees were yellow with autumn. I had come from wondrous lands. gentle like something superfluous. later…. No one imagined that at my side there was always another. unless the streets are all streets. aware of his reflection to his abstract emotions and maternally adored in the recesses of his imagination. nor ever knew that I had a mask. even if it beat close by. Their houses sheltered me. perhaps…. because no one knew that there are masked people in the world. Later. Peace at last. from landscapes more enchanting than life. a scarcely visible halo circling something tranquil I can’t identify. Or perhaps not…… I was a foreigner in their midst. yes. perhaps… Yes. Peace. but no one realized it. suspected it. They all took me for a relative. the tasks I complete. and they saw me walk down the street as if I were there. unless he himself is all the others. the motions and vicissitudes of life – for me everything has become a faint penumbra. nor is seen in them by others. not even they should be bought. Another. I lived among them as a spy and no one. who was in fact I. descends on me to the depths of my being.

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