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Adverse Genres in

Fernando Pessoa
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Adverse Genres in
Fernando Pessoa

K. David Jackson

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Jackson, K. David (Kenneth David)
Adverse genres in Fernando Pessoa / Kenneth David Jackson.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-0-19-539121-3
1. Pessoa, Fernando, 1888–1935–Criticism and interpretation.
I. Title.
PQ9261.P417Z719 2010
869.1′41–dc22 2009049012

1 3 5 7 9 8 6 4 2
Printed in the United States of America
on acid-free paper
To Jorge and Mécia
Argonautas das sensações verdadeiras
Poema de Cinza

À memória de Fernando Pessoa

1 Se pudesse fazer com que viesses

Todos os dias, como antigamente,
Falar-me nessa lúcida visão—
Estranha, sensualíssima, mordente;

5 Se eu pudesse contar-te e tu me ouvisses

Meu pobre e grande e genial artista,
O que tem sido a vida—esta boemia
Coberta de farrapos e de estrelas,
Tristíssima, pedante, e contrafeita,

10 Desde que estes meus olhos numa névoa

De lágrimas te viram num caixão;
Se eu pudesse, Fernando, e tu me ouvisses
Voltávamos à mesma: Tu lá onde
Os astros e as divinas madrugadas

15 Noivam na luz eterna de um sorriso;

E eu, por aqui, vadio da descrença,
Tirando o meu chapéu aos homens de juizo. . .
Isto por cá vai indo como dantes;
O mesmo arremelgado idiotismo

20 Nuns Senhores que tu já conhecias

—Autênticos patifes bem falantes. . .
E a mesma intriga; as horas, os minutos,
As noites sempre iguais, os mesmos dias,
Tudo igual! Acordando e adormecendo

25 Na mesma cor, do mesmo lado, sempre

O mesmo ar em tudo a mesma posição
De condenados, hirtos, a viver
Sem estímulo, sem fé, sem convicção. . . .
Poetas, escutai-me! Transformemos

30 A nossa natural angústia de pensar—

Num cântico de sonho! E junto dele,
Do camarada raro que lembramos,
Fiquemos, uns momentos, a cantar!
António Botto
Diário de S. Paulo, 24.08.1947
Poem in Ashes

To the memory of Fernando Pessoa

1 If I could only have you come by

Every day, as was your habit,
To speak to me from your lucid vision—
Strange, most sensual, biting;

5 If I could tell you, and you could hear me,

My poor and great and genial artist,
What life has been like—this bohemia
Covered by tattered rags and stars,
Supremely sad, pedantic, at cross purposes,

10 Ever since these eyes of mine in a mist

Of tears saw you in a coffin;
If I could, Fernando, and you could hear me
We’d return as before: You there where
Stars and divine daybreaks

15 Romance in the eternal light of a smile;

And I, around here, wandering disbeliever,
Taking off my hat before people of judgment. . .
At least around here it’s just as it always was;
The same astonishing idiocy

20 In some Gentlemen whom you already know

—Authentic well-spoken scoundrels. . .
And the same intrigue; the hours, the minutes,
The nights always the same, the same days,
Everything unchanged! Waking and sleeping

25 In the same color, on the same side, always

The same air, in everything the stance
Of those stiffly erect, condemned to live
Without stimulus, without faith, without conviction. . .
Poets, listen to me! Let’s transform

30 Our natural anguish of thought—

Into a canticle of dreams! And next to him,
That rare comrade whom we remember,
Let us for some moments keep on singing!
António Botto
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The essays in this book are the culmination of more than forty years of study and
teaching the works of Fernando Pessoa, which all began in the seminar led by Portu-
guese author and scholar Jorge de Sena (1919–1978) at the University of Wisconsin-
Madison between 1966 and 1967. Sena’s profound knowledge of Pessoa, whether
conveyed in his lectures or in his influential essays—from the 1977 “The Man Who
Never Was” to the collection Fernando Pessoa & C.a Heterónima (1982)—, remains
the foundation for my understanding of Pessoa and the inspiration for the further
work sustaining these essays. Sena’s dedication and brilliance left an indelible mark
on all who had the good fortune to study with him. During my first visits to Lisbon
in 1975 and 1976, thanks to the generosity of the Senas, I lived a few of the frag-
mented episodes and sensations of the Book of Disquiet in solitary wanderings
through the districts of the city, at that time still in the midst of revolutionary fever
and change, before publication and scholarship on Pessoa had reached the intensity
they were later to assume. After another twenty years, I could sit beside the statue of
Pessoa on his bench in front of the coffee shop “A Brasileira” for a photo alongside
the celebrated author.
When I became coeditor of the series of books on vanguard literatures of the
Iberian peninsula and Latin America, with Merlin Forster and Harald Wentzlaff-
Eggebert, I was responsible for the volume Portugal: As Primeiras Vanguardas
(“Portugal: The First Vanguards,” 2003), which is a bibliography of Portuguese mod-
ernism with a collection of scholarly essays by an array of distinguished authors on
the principal figures, journals, and works. I soon found it necessary to limit the bib-
liography on Pessoa to the 1990s, so that the citations would fill no more than one
hundred pages in small print. This vast explosion in scholarship did not include many
titles in English, thus one of the main purposes of these essays, which treat many of the

diverse forms and heteronyms used by Pessoa, is to provide an interpretative frame-

work for the continuing reception of his work in English. José Blanco has provided
thorough documentation of translations of Pessoa to English up to the present (“Pes-
soa’s Editorial and Critical Fortune in English: A Selective Chronological Overview,”
Portuguese Studies 24.2, 13–32), although most of his sources are no longer generally
available, nor did they attract the notice of anthologies of world literature, comparative
literature studies, or even have much impact on the field of modernist literary studies.
As a result, Pessoa has not taken up his deserved position alongside Ezra Pound
(1885–1972), T. S. Eliot (1888–1965), Marcel Duchamp (1887–1968), Constantin
Cavafy (1863–1933), Osip Mandelstam (1891–1938), Franz Kafka (1883–1924),
Rainer Maria Rilke (1875–1926), Jorge Luis Borges (1899–1986) and other
foundational figures of the European avant-garde to whom he is compared, notwith-
standing his inclusion by Harold Bloom in the list of twenty-six fundamental authors
of the Western tradition in The Western Canon: The Books and Schools of the Ages
(1994). Irene Ramalho Santos’s book, Atlantic Poets: Fernando Pessoa’s Turn in
Anglo-American Modernism (2003), made strides in placing Pessoa in the wider
English-language literary world of his time, however her notion of his constant
presence among English readers after translations began in 1955 is too optimistic,
confirmed by her observation that most of the international criticism on Pessoa is not
written in English. Of all Pessoa’s works ever translated to English, very few remain
in print, a discrete list that fortunately includes the diary-novel, The Book of Disquiet,
translated by Richard Zenith, and the useful bilingual editions of The Keeper of
Sheep, translated by Edwin Honig and Susan M. Brown, and Message, translated by
Jonathan Griffin.
I wish to thank Darlene Sadlier of Indiana University for her support of my pro-
jects over the years and especially for her keen critical perceptions, her attentive
reading, and her deep knowledge of Pessoa and his work. Her introduction to Pessoa,
An Introduction to Fernando Pessoa: Modernism and the Paradoxes of Authorship
(1998), is the indispensable predecessor that makes it possible for my essays to be
read in the context of Pessoa’s total production and existence, as an entity or phenom-
enon. Her suggestions are always pertinent and precise, and her critical reading of the
manuscript led to significant improvements in this book. Many conversations and
long correspondence with Seth Wolitz of the University of Texas at Austin have given
me the benefit of his knowledge and mastery of international literary modernism and
the arts, which has come full circle by returning to his studies of Portuguese language
and Pessoa during his undergraduate days at Yale. His thought-provoking knowledge
of modernism in its international dimensions and his insights into Pessoa encouraged
me to undertake this study and made a decisive contribution to the shape of the essays
in this book. I wish to acknowledge the students in my seminars on Pessoa over the
years for their ideas and creative interpretations, particularly Christopher Ballantyne
and Jacobo Sefamí at the University of Texas at Austin and Estela Vieira, Lisandro
Kahan, Norman Valencia, and Daniel Scarfó at Yale University. I also wish to thank
the anonymous reviewers from Oxford University Press who made valuable sugges-
tions toward the organization and content of the book. I am grateful to Philip Krum-
mrich for permission to quote from his clever translations of Pessoa’s popular verse,
to George Monteiro and Jean Longland for permission to use their poetic translations,

to Anthony Rudolf for permission to quote translations by Jonathan Griffin, to The

Sheep Meadow Press for permission to quote translations by Edwin Honig and Susan
M. Brown, and to Landeg White for permission to quote from his translation of
Camões. This book has benefited from the many translators and scholars of Pessoa,
but most of all from Jorge de Sena for his example sub specie aeternitatis.
Earlier versions of some essays in Adverse Genres were presented as lectures:
“Clearly Non-Campos! Álvaro de Campos’s Song of Non-Self” at Indiana Univer-
sity and “Alberto Caeiro’s Other Version of Pastoral” at NYU. I am grateful to the
academic journals that published two of the essays in earlier versions: “Adverse
Genres in Pessoa: Alberto Caeiro’s Other Version of Pastoral” in Portuguese Literary
& Cultural Studies 3 (Fall 1999), 149–60 and “The Adventure of the Anarchist
Banker” in Portuguese Studies 22 (2006), 209–18.
The very real “pessoas” in my family—Elizabeth, Sophia, Katharina, and Kenneth
Gregory—with their continual support, vitality, tolerance, and love, have made this
and every other written word possible.
The final and greatest debt of this book is to Fernando Pessoa, whoever he may
have been, for the genius, wit, and polish of a profound life of thought and letters,
and for the mystery of it all.
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Introduction: Deceiving the Messenger: To Be and Not To Be 3

1 Cannibal Rituals: Cultural Primitivism in
“A Very Original Dinner” 28
2 Waiting for Pessoa’s Ancient Mariner:
A Theater of Immanence 37
3 Feigning Real Life: Heart and Mind in the Cancioneiro 59
4 Clearly Non-Campos! Álvaro de Campos’s
Song of Non-Self 77
5 “All Love Letters Are Ridiculous”: Fernando’s Sentimental
Education 93
6 The Adventure of the Anarchist Banker: Reductio ad Absurdum
of a Neo-Liberal 108
7 Alberto Caeiro’s Other Version of Pastoral 117
8 Scientific Neoclassicism in the Odes of Ricardo Reis 132
9 History as Iconography: The Messages from Beyond 146
10 The Book of Disquietude: The Anti-Artist
and the Non-Book 161

11 The Mirror, the Coat Hanger, and the Pen:

Pessoa’s Labyrinth 177

Appendix 1: A Very Original Dinner by Alexander Search 191

Appendix 2: Ricardo Reis: A Note on the Texts 205
Notes 215
Bibliography 241
Index 257
Adverse Genres in
Fernando Pessoa
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Deceiving the Messenger: To Be and Not to Be

A paradox, a paradox, a most ingenious paradox

ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! a par-a-dox!
—Gilbert and Sullivan, Pirates of Penzance

Si tu veux tromper quelqu’un

par l’intermédiaire d’un messager,
commence par tromper le messager.
—Robert Bréchon, L’innombrable

Escrevo e paro. Pergunto a mim-próprio se

poderá julgar tudo isto,
porque não é transbordante de elogios, uma
crítica adversa.
—Fernando Pessoa, “Realidade e
Imaginação na Poesia”

In Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera, The Pirates of Penzance, which ran 373 per-
formances in London from April 1880,1 the Pirate King and Ruth reveal the Victorian
taste for paradox to young Frederic, who is entitled to leave the pirates’ ship on
reaching his twenty-first birthday: since he was born on the twenty-ninth of February,
“by a simple arithmetical process” he is but a little boy of five and therefore not yet
entitled to be free. Through the paradox, they can all be reunited; Frederic will no
longer be obligated to exterminate the pirates with whom he was raised, and they all
sing “We’ve quips and quibbles heard in flocks; But none to beat that paradox!” The
witty aphorism was a prominent genre among Victorian esthetes, practiced by Oscar
Wilde (1854–1900) in Epigrams and Aphorisms (1905). The Portuguese modernist
poet Fernando Pessoa (1888–1935) likewise showed a taste for the contradictory
philosophical aphorism: “To affirm anything is to deceive oneself from the start”
(Afirmar é enganar-se na porta); “To think is to limit. To reason is to exclude” (Pensar
é limitar. Raciocinar é excluir), “Keep substituting yourself. One you is not enough
for you” (Substitui-te sempre a ti-próprio. Tu não és bastante para ti).2 Pessoa admits


in a self-analysis that he is excessively cerebral; his passion for analysis and logical
reasoning overcomes both his will and emotions.3
Ingenious paradox and self-contradiction form the shifting foundation of the inte-
rior literary world of Fernando Pessoa, an anglophile in literary culture, who was raised
and educated through high school in South Africa.4 Returning to Lisbon in August,
1905, Pessoa initiated a lifelong literary project centered in the city he rarely ever left
again, marked by difference and genius. The biography of Pessoa by Robert Bréchon,
Étrange Étranger (Strange Stranger),5 recollects the otherness of his peripatetic nonexis-
tence in Lisbon, after his return from formative years in South Africa. His education in
English was alienating to the Portugal to which he returned, and he soon abandoned
university studies for a phantom literary life of modernist circles in the cafés and part-
time employment as a translator. Three of his four books were published in Lisbon in
English in 1918 and 1921, amounting to yet another mask confirming the enduring in-
fluence of his English education and his linguistic estrangement from Portugal.6 Alone
in the city in 1914, he wrote to Armando Côrtes-Rodrigues, “I am no longer myself. I
am a fragment of myself kept in an abandoned museum” (Eu já não sou eu. Sou um
fragmento de mim conservado num museu abandonado).7 He began to consider himself
to be multiple: “I am like a room filled with fantastic mirrors that falsely reflect a single
previous reality that isn’t in any of them and is in all of them” (Sou como um quarto com
inúmeros espelhos fantásticos que torcem para reflexões falsas uma única anterior
realidade que não está em nenhuma e está em todas).8 When asked what literary works
had most influenced him, Pessoa first translated the question: “What were the books that
most made me change into that different person we all want to be?” (Quais foram os
livros que mais me transmudaram em mim mesmo para aquela pessoa diferente que
todos nós desejamos ser?). His answer to José Osório de Oliveira, naming “Dicken’s
Pickwick Papers, Shakespeare, Milton, Shelley and the romantic poets, Greek and Ger-
man philosophers,” carried the witty proviso that “all of them have a supreme impor-
tance that disappears the next day” (Todos ele têm uma suprema importância que passa
no dia seguinte). If you find some apparent paradox in that, he concludes, that’s just the
way I am (Se há nela, aparentemente, qualquer coisa de paradoxo [. . .] sou eu).9 The
“ten thousand thoughts” that constantly besiege his mind are no more permanent: “they
are not my thoughts, just thoughts that pass through me” (não são pensamentos meus,
mas pensamentos que passam através de mim), he observes.10 From his earliest writings
he differentiated between a conscious self and its ideas and experiences.
No greater apparent contradiction to the ephemeral witticism could be found
than in Pessoa’s 1915 letter to Côrtes-Rodrigues about a psychic crisis, in which
he confesses a deep awareness of his duty as a man of genius to make a difference
through art for humanity and civilization. Rejecting the futility of “mere art” (mera
arte) or any desire to “shine for the sake of shining” (brilhar por brilhar), Pessoa
describes his mission as “absolute perfection in realization” and “total seriousness
in writing” (uma perfeição absoluta no realizado, uma seriedade integral no escri-
to). His imperative to take art and life seriously, he continued, is “to look reli-
giously at the sad and mysterious spectacle of the World” (o espetáculo triste e
misterioso do Mundo).11 His entire literary project was dedicated to discovering
the true nature of cognitive perceptions and deeper realities. The negative dimen-
sions of his mission are conveyed in his constant metaphysical speculations (“My

worst defect is that I can never forget my metaphysical presence in life” / O meu
pior mal é que não consigo nunca esquecer a minha presença metafísica na vida)
and his conflictive conjugation of mystery and meaning (“Everything is mystery
and everything is full of meaning [. . .] Hence the horror [. . .]” / Tudo é mistério e
tudo está cheio de significado [. . .] Em conseqüência, o horror [. . .]).12 Critic Edu-
ardo Lourenço coined the phrase “negative ontological adventure” to refer to
Pessoa’s participation in the journal ORPHEU (1915). Pessoa’s letter affirms
the metaphysical seriousness of his ideal for the heteronyms he invented to replace
his own self: “In any one of them I put a profound concept of life, different in all
three, but in all gravely attentive to the mysterious importance of existing” (Em
qualquer destes pus um profundo conceito da vida, diverso em todos três, mas em
todos gravemente atento à importância misteriosa de existir).13 Darlene Sadlier
sees in the heteronyms different stylistic responses to elementary existential
constants: the meaning of life, the inevitability of death, conflicts between rational
and emotional sides of human nature and cultural history.14
At this moment of ferment, circa 1914, Pessoa invented a decentered, fragmented
literary universe characterized by reciprocal relationships among multiple authors,
works, and ideas. His invention is the culmination and resolution both of a literary ideal
and a psychic crisis. The pain of a divided, disperse, and alienated self is described in a
fragment written as a reflection in the 1930s by the literary personality close to Pessoa,
Bernardo Soares, author of his Livro de Desassossego (Book of Disquietude):

We all live far away as distant strangers, disguised, our suffering is unknown. For
some, however, the distance between being and the self is never revealed; for others
it occasionally shines forth, in horror or in grief, in a limitless lightning flash; but for
others it remains that painful constant of daily life.
Vivemos todos longínquos e anónimos; disfarçados, sofremos desconhecidos.
A uns, porém, esta distância enter um ser e ele mesmo nunca se revela; para oturos
é de vez em quando iluminada, de horror ou de mágoa, por um relâmpago sem lim-
ites; mas para outros ainda é essa a dolorosa constância e quotidianidade da vida.
[LD 433]15

From his earliest writings, Pessoa had the habit of creating many heteronyms in
poetry and prose, including Alexander Search, who wrote in English, three Crosse
brothers, the Chevalier de Pas, and other minor figures.16 The creation of major
imaginary poets held to be separate from his own writing is further foreshadowed
by the separation of person, speech, and meaning in his 1913 play, O Marinheiro
(The Mariner): “And it seemed to me that you, your voice, and the meaning of
what you said were three different beings, like three creatures that walk and talk”
(E parecia-me que vós, e a vossa voz, e o sentido do que dizieis eram três entes
diferentes, como três criaturas que falam e andam). Pessoa sets into motion the
perception of fragmented and multiple other selves, which opened European liter-
ature and psychology to freedom and escape from the determinism of an original
or authentic self of childhood formation. While emptying out his own inner self,
Pessoa fills the vacuum with the names, biographies, and works of a large number
of “authors” of his imagination.

Contrasting with the use in the literary tradition of pseudonyms, alter egos, or
character-narrators, Pessoa claimed a form of real existence for the major hetero-
nyms, for whom he created horoscopes and biographies, and in addition he made
their collective work greater than that in his own name. The pretension is that it is the
heteronyms, rather than Pessoa’s person, who pen some of the greatest poems, let-
ters, manifestos, and essays of the century. By populating his interior world with
other writers of his invention, the heteronyms, he makes the point that the works
themselves, be they truthful or beautiful, are completely independent of the intention
or personality of any “real” authors, who are at odds with their “own” expression.
Pessoa anticipates T. S. Eliot, who would not propound his theory of objective cor-
relative until 1920.17 Pessoa further argues, more radically, that the heteronyms make
of him “not just one author alone” but rather an entire literature, which confirms the
mysterious and occult ways of reality: “With such a total lack of literature as there is
today, what can a man of genius do except to convert himself, alone, into a whole
literature?” (Com uma tal falta de literatura, como há hoje, que pode um homem de
génio fazer senão converter-se, ele só, em uma literatura?).18 The heteronyms con-
firm that no one author can cover all the avenues of literary expression; at the same
time, their wish to constitute an entire literature would compress all of literary his-
tory into a modernist synthesis, a “tremendous abbreviation,” with the possible aim
of confirming the omnivorous heterogeneity of modernity.19 Pessoa stands out among
the writers of the nineteenth and early twentieth century who use imagined, multiple
authorship to structure a comprehensive literary project because his selection of
authors challenges and replaces the centrality of a single creative and responsible
self, while focusing the entire literary tradition on the present moment of writing.
Pessoa could be visualized as the conductor of a literary orchestra in which he also
played all the instruments, while critiquing the performance from the audience as a
music critic, before archiving the scores for future performances as a librarian.

The second number of the revolutionary journal ORPHEU (July 1915) that
launches Álvaro de Campos’s epic “Ode Marítima” (Maritime Ode) and “Chuva
Oblíqua, poemas interseccionistas de Fernando Pessoa” (Oblique Rain, intersectionist
poems by Fernando Pessoa), opens with unpublished poems by Ângelo de Lima
(1872–1921), who had been interned since 1898 in the Rilhafoles hospital and asylum
because of complications of aural hallucinations. In his final lines, Lima wonders if his
old verses will be remembered in some Book of Forgotten Things, because they come
from non-being and go to sleep in nothingness (Vindo do Não-Ser, Vae, Finalmente, /
Dormir no Nada).20 If we were to imagine that the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa
were director of a literary asylum, it would be peopled by other non-beings, the per-
sonalities or selves whom he created and whose existence replaced, multiplied, or
challenged the certainty of a singular self. His coterie of heteronyms, resembling a
bizarre extension of the eighteenth-century literary academies with the atmosphere of
a Victorian gentleman’s club, has been described by critic Teresa Rita Lopes as a “the-
atre of being,” an apt and encompassing metaphor suggested by Pessoa himself: “To
create, I’ve destroyed myself [. . .] I’m the empty stage where various actors act out
various plays” (Para criar, destruí-me [. . .] Sou a cena viva onde passam vários actors
representando várias peças).21 The heteronyms are more than literary characters or

dramatis personae, however; life is their stage, and they are selves who must live out
the literary forms in which they write and exist. Their gentlemen’s club is filled with
authors and thinkers who not only perform but also live Pessoa’s theatrical and literary
drama of the self. The heteronyms read and critique each other’s works, and at least
one is fully aware of the existence of his author, whom he considers less than an equal:
“Tell Fernando Pessoa that he’s not right” (Diga ao Fernando Pessoa que não tenha
razão).22 In this art of illusion, drawn from symbolist theatre, Victorian aestheticism,
and the commedia dell’arte, Pessoa projects identities that deny any possible inner
coherence to his individual self and further question such dichotomies as self versus
other, signifier versus signified, imagination versus reality, or being versus identity. By
putting into action the “negative subjectivity” that characterizes the modern lyric,
“[. . .] the writing on the page into which the ‘I’ disappears,” in the phrase of Irene
Ramalho Santos,23 Pessoa brings into play forms of non-self, foregrounded in the het-
eronyms whose work is “clearly non-Pessoa.”
The major poetic works published in the two numbers of the 1915 avant-garde
journal ORPHEU were signed by Álvaro de Campos, the “Scottish naval engineer” with
whom Pessoa has come to be identified in American criticism through studies by Susan
Brown, Harold Bloom, and Irene Ramalho Santos. His first poem expressing alienation
both from self and society, a soul sickness, and a consciousness estranged from life is the
“Opiário” (Opium Voyage). The narrator writes from onboard ship at Port Said, passing
through the Suez Canal, after having visited China and returning from India in the com-
pany of British Colonial civil servants. His travels were useless, he muses, because the
world is all the same, and the only possible India for the sensitive modern traveler is to
be found within his soul and imagination, which finds itself traveling “between somno-
lence and anxiety” (entre sonolência e a ansiedade), in Jacinto do Prado Coelho’s suc-
cinct phrase.24 The opportunities for an epic or even meaningful life disappeared with
the end of the voyages of discoveries and the mystery of the Orient, which is now
reduced to opium, “an Orient to the orient of the Orient” (Um Oriente ao oriente do
Oriente) and to a generation without horizons, denied the quest for being or paradise that
energized the voyages of discovery: “I belong to a generation of Portuguese who, once
India was discovered, were thrown out of work” (Pertenço a uma geração de portu-
gueses / Que depois de estar a Índia descoberta / Ficaram sem trabalho). The narrator
is existentially unemployed, sailing in a futile voyage belittled in its inevitable compar-
ison to the adventurous voyages to India and the Orient of a Luís de Camões or Fernão
Mendes Pinto,25 and he lacks the impenetrable optimism of his English shipmates. In
response, he falls into opium to disguise a banal, useless, and absurd life to which he
reacts with fever and tumultuous inner sensations. His escape into opium references the
romantic tradition described in Thomas De Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium-
Eater (1822),26 implied in the poem’s satire of English travelers on board. De Quincey
sketches the opium-eater as a philosopher “in the phantasmagoria of his dreams,” who
claims to possess a superb analytical intellect and an eye for the mysteries of human
nature (1927: 12–13). Campos’s poem plays on De Quincey’s aphoristic and witty
themes, whereby he affirms that consciousness is a greater burden than a wife or a car-
riage (p. 34), the sense that his own self has been counterfeited (p. 44), and that Oriental
dreams have left him with sensations of astonishment and abomination, “a sense of
eternity and infinity that drove me into an oppression as of madness” (p. 123). Campos

recasts De Quincey’s “confessions” into a modernist voyage of alienation, played out

between the hearty “English constitution” that De Quincey satirizes (p. 12) and the Por-
tuguese sense of loss and absence expressed in the movement of Saudosismo, a search
for the Portuguese soul, to which Pessoa contributed in 1912.
Campos expresses Pessoa’s wish to become everyone, everywhere in the second
poem in ORPHEU, the “Triumphal Ode” (Ode Triunfal), in which the poet celebrates
and merges with the very noise and epic movement of mechanical modernity. The poet
shouts ecstatically while the wheels and gears grind productively throughout the city:

Hey-ho façades of the great department stores!

Hey-ho elevators of the great buildings!
O great train wrecks! [. . .]
O delicious shipwrecks of great transatlantic liners!
Hey electricity, sick nerves of Matter!
Eh-lá-hô fachadas das grandes lojas!
Eh-lá-hô elevadores dos grandes edifícios! [. . .]
Eh-lá grandes desastres de comboios! [. . .]
Eh-lá naufrágios deliciosos dos grandes transatlânticos!
Eia electricidade, nervos doentes da Matéria!

The poet’s carnivorous love for the universal energy of machines replaces his indi-
vidual consciousness:

I love you all carnivorously,

Pervertedly [. . .]
Ah not to be me to be everyone everywhere!
Amo-vos carnivoramente,
Pervertidamente [. . .]
Ah não ser eu toda a gente e toda a parte!

To operate from a universal perspective would be a way of escaping the confines of a

biographical self. By becoming another, or everyone, Pessoa could empty out and
reconstitute his inner self, filling the external image of Fernando Pessoa with very dif-
ferent contents. He would not assume the identities of the poetic personalities whose
presence would dominate his literary work after 1914, rather he would allow them to
occupy and to become Pessoa, thereby achieving a form of high modernist universality,
on the one hand, while emptying the inner self and erasing biographical authorship, on
the other. To empty the self is to create a vacuum of absence that is compensated only
by an excess of existence, a surfeit of Pessoas overflowing the limits of genre, language,
and being. Absence and excess form the borders of his dialectical oscillations. To pro-
mote individual relationships with each heteronym, like donning a mask, would have
constituted a reversible passage to otherness; however, Pessoa constructed a critical
discourse purely among the heteronyms, who reviewed and commented on each other’s
work and significance, totally independent from their “creator.”27 With the autonomous
world of the heteronyms, Pessoa created and entered a labyrinth, a path to the mystery
of non-being, full of the “perpetuation of Nothing” and an escalation to the “infinitizing

of otherness.”28 As author, the black ink of his pen flowed in obfuscation, so as to admit
only the initiate into the hidden selves working to comprehend reality. Pessoa con-
trolled the instruments of poetic creativity, searching for meaning with an unsettled
vision aimed at attaining elusive truth through the technical bonds of rhythm, form, and
sound. The idea of negative universality, the questioning of existence and the percep-
tion of it, established an oscillating rhythm, or alternating current, flowing between the
occult author of a whole dramatic literature and the insufficiency of any one of its het-
eronymic authors or works to explain or represent that whole; between the inheritance
of literary tradition and its insufficiency to express the revolutionary, depersonalized
modern aesthetic. In the acumen of his critical essays, Pessoa demonstrated the reason-
ing of a logician, or pure intellectual, which he carried to a perfection that he himself
described as “almost breathless” (quase sem fôlego).29 Applying the same logic, Pessoa
accepted no limits on the imagination; he was acutely aware that the window of
consciousness comprehended an increasingly narrow and incomplete explanation of
reality, and he actively explored the occult and esoteric sciences: “Everything is some-
thing else in this world where everything is sensation” (Tudo é outra coisa deste mundo
onde tudo se sente), writes Álvaro de Campos.30 Only imagination can compensate for
the deficiencies of sensations used to apprehend or describe reality.

Pessoa’s professional career, which unfolds within his imagination, can be con-
trasted to that of the Cambridge mathematician G. H. Hardy, who described in his
memoirs the limitations under which the applied mathematician operates:

But is the position of an ordinary applied mathematician in some ways a little pathetic?
If he wants to be useful, he must work in a humdrum way, and he cannot give full play
to his fancy even when he wished to rise to the heights. “Imaginary” universes are so
much more beautiful than this stupidly constructed “real” one; and most of the finest
products of an applied mathematician’s fancy must be rejected, as soon as they have
been created, for the brutal but sufficient reason that they do not fit the facts. (135)
I have never done anything “useful.” No discovery of mine has made, or is likely
to make, directly or indirectly, for good or ill, the least difference to the amenity of the
world. I have helped to train other mathematicians, mathematicians of the same kind as
myself, and their work has been, so far at any rate as I have helped them to it, as useless
as my own. Judged by all practical standards, the value of my mathematical life is nil;
and outside mathematics it is trivial anyhow. I have just one chance of escaping a verdict
of complete triviality, that I may be judged to have created something worth creating.
And that I have created something is undeniable: the question is about its value.
The case for my life, then, or for that of any one else who has been a mathema-
tician in this same sense in which I have been one, is this: that I have added some-
thing to knowledge, and helped others to add more; and that these somethings have
a value which differs in degree only, and not in kind, from that of the creations of the
great mathematicians, or of any of the other artists, great or small, who have left
some kind of memorial behind them.31

Pessoa’s hidden life in Lisbon, useless “by all practical standards,” would in his estima-
tion surpass that of the Cambridge mathematician, since Pessoa conceives and sets into
motion an entire “imaginary” universe, whose practical value or utility, of no concern

to him and apparently nil for almost fifty years, has at present grown to be propor-
tional to the heights of his imagination.32

The earliest essays on Pessoa emphasize the paradoxical nature of his works and
personae: writing in Paris in 1961, poet Octavio Paz addressed the problem of his
personae in “The Man Who Didn’t Know Himself” (El desconocido de si mismo),
which begins like a literary manifesto, affirming that poets have no biography since
their works are their biography. In 1954, poet Adolfo Casais Monteiro focused on
truth and pretense in “Fernando Pessoa: The Insincere Truth-teller” (Fernando Pes-
soa: O Insincero Verídico), finding in authorial insincerity a path to greater truths,
whereas in 1977 Portuguese poet and scholar Jorge de Sena characterized Pessoa
with the phrase “The Man Who Never Was.”33 What Sena meant was that Pessoa
sacrificed a personal life, a biography in the usual sense, for a totally literary life,
in which he invented and coexisted with numerous other writers and personalities
with their own biographies, whom he called heteronyms; even poetry written under
his name should be read as another heteronym because of its primary, literary iden-
tity. Because he was occupied living the lives of such a numerous coterie, he chose
to live a daily life completely absorbed by literary essays, letters, and the poetry of
the personae:

Caught in these ways of understanding that I don’t understand,

Caught in the midst of these wills unwillingly
So contrary to mine, so contrary to me?!
De meio d’estas maneiras de comprehender que não comprehendo,
Do meio d’estas vontades involuntariamente
Tão contrarias á minha, tão contrarias a mim?! (Livro de Versos, p. 219)

He actively sought to exchange an individual identity for the contradictory and

ephemeral existence of the heteronyms, a point illustrated in the essays and prefaces
in which his group of poets introduce and criticize each other’s poetics, to the point
that George Monteiro speaks of the “empty labyrinth of Pessoa’s inner being.”34 Pes-
soa scholars Leyla Perrone Moisés and Ettore Finazzi-Agrò continued to describe his
labyrinth of absence with titles foregrounding inner tensions and contradictions,
Aquém do Eu, Além do Outro (Before the Self, Beyond the Other) and O Álibi Infini-
to (The Infinite Alibi), respectively.35 Pessoa can be compared to a playwright who
lives so intensely through his characters that he denies himself a personal life, prefer-
ring to lives the lives of his characters. His fascination with the occult even leads him
to speculate that he may be living the life of imaginary persons from another time: “I
don’t know what I was thinking about [. . .] Perhaps about the past of others [. . .], the
past of wondrous people who never existed [. . .]” (Eu já não sabia em quem pensava
[. . .] No passado dos outros talvez [. . .], no passado de gente maravilhosa que nunca
existiu [. . .]) [O Marinheiro / The Mariner].
The empty inner self of Fernando Pessoa opened up the multiple selves of modernity,
confirmed the freedom to escape from the confines of a self, and wrote in different styles
to express contradictory ideas. In the move from late symbolist and decadentist influ-
ences in early works, seen in his 1913 play, to sudden avant-garde innovations in style,

structure, and expression, Pessoa joins the company of other twentieth-century figures
in literature and the arts who followed a similar transformative path, from Picasso’s
Cubism (Les Demoiselles d’Avignon,1907) following the Blue Period, to Schoenberg’s
atonality in the Op. 11 piano pieces after the chromatic postromanticism of Verklarte
Nacht (“Transfigured Night,” 1899), to Ezra Pound’s precise rhythms and synthetic
language in the Cantos (begun in 1915) after the Imagism of Personae (1909).36 Pes-
soa’s invention of the aesthetic schools of “intersectionism” and “sensationism” marked
his entrance into the European vanguards, confirmed by the appearance of two of the
major poetic works of international modernism, Álvaro de Campos’s “Ode Triunfal”
(Triumphal Ode) and “Ode Marítima” (Maritime Ode) printed in ORPHEU (1915), as
well as by Pessoa’s refusal to ally himself with any other movement than his own. The
quintessential modernist, Pessoa created a form of universalism, as did James Joyce
(1882–1941) in Ulysses, although he did not stop at the boundary of the work itself,
rather he embraced the totality of a literary life and art. His work was circular in form,
comparable to the principles of equidistance and indeterminacy in Finnegans Wake per-
ceived by poet and critic Haroldo de Campos (1929–2003):

Finnegans retained ownership of the circle, equidistance of all points in relation to

the center: the work is porous to reading in whichever of its parts the reader tries to
attack it. Thus, reading Finnegans must be a topological reading in progress, that
never ends, that is always on-going and always still to be done, such are the meander-
ings of the text, the difficulties that fill it, the multiple planes of that marvelous son
of the kaleidoscope.
Finnegans retinha a propriedade do círculo, da eqüidistância de todos os pon-
tos em relação ao centro: a obra é porosa à leitura por qualquer das partes através
das quais se procure assediá-la. Assim, a leitura do Finnegans há de ser uma leitura
topológica, em progresso, que não termina nunca, que se está fazendo sempre e que
está sempre por fazer, tais os meandros do texto, as dificuldades que o inçam, as
multifacêtas desse maravilhoso caleidoscópio.37

Michel Butor adds: “Joyce begins his book in the middle of a sentence and ends in
the middle of another that returns us to the first, an assemblage that forms a circle.”38
Pessoa likewise embraced universality, porosity, and indeterminacy, but avoided the
unity of the circle, as demanded by his adverse definition of authorship by which he
acted in the role of medium or intermediary. His circularity is impenetrable and infi-
nite, like the never-ending paths of a labyrinth. Continuing to ply the witty aphorism,
Pessoa allowed Álvaro de Campos to reject the great isms that launched his most
important works, while claiming to be none other than his natural self: “My Trium-
phal Ode, in ORPHEU number 1, is the only thing that comes close to futurism [. . .]
All considered, I am not an intersectionist [. . .] or futurist. I am myself, just me, pre-
occupied only with myself and with my sensations” (A minha Ode Triunfal, no. 1 do
número do “Orpheu,” é a única coisa que se aproxima do futurismo [. . .] Eu, de
resto, nem sou interseccionista [. . .] nem futurista. Sou eu, apenas eu, preocupado
apeans comigo e com as minhas sensações).39
Pessoa’s contribution is to radicalize the separation of authorship from production
and personality from expression; he made his dramatis personae, as it were, completely

independent potentialities, with biographies, works, literary styles, and philosophies

considered separately from their creator. He would not be, like Joyce, an author-god
paring his fingernails above the work, but above an entire literature, with the intention
of rewriting and reshaping the Western canon. The poetry written by Alberto Caeiro,
Ricardo Reis, Álvaro de Campos, or under the name Fernando Pessoa, along with their
many companion poets, is as a consequence both more and less than itself: the poem is
more than it appears to be because it is the work not only of one of the heteronyms, but
belongs to the entire complex of Pessoas, and has to be read at least to some extent in
that context, as part of an entire literature. The poem is less than itself because it oc-
cupies an ambiguous position between authenticity in art and life; its authors, although
similar to actual authors, works, and ideas, are a creation of the imagination and purely
literary inventions, while the poems are real and sincere.

In a much quoted letter to the young poet and critic Adolfo Casais Monteiro,
dated January 13, 1935, Pessoa provided a detailed account of the genesis of his
heteronymic personalities.40 It is yet another of his apocryphal explanations, but one
that became immediately canonical in view both of the intense interest in his coterie
of fictional non-selves and his own deft promotion of it. As a final word coming in
the year of his death, the Casais Monteiro letter became a definitive counterpart to
the excessively psychoanalytical explanations Pessoa had written previously, one in
1919 being an extended analysis of his “neurasthenia” to two French psychiatrists,
and another in 1931 to critic João Gaspar Simões (1903–1987) containing a long
and detailed critical analysis of Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) and Freudianism. The
1935 interpretation describes two principal sources for the heteronyms, the first
being an innate tendency, visible since early childhood, to surround himself with a
fictional world of nonexistent persons, beginning with a certain Chevalier de Pas,
from whom Pessoa wrote letters to himself. Sadlier reproduces the front page of one
of Pessoa’s handwritten “newspapers,” titled O Palrador, from 1902, as well as his
attempts to find the right calligraphy for the signature of “Alexander Search,” one
of his early fictional authors who wrote in English.41 The act of writing letters, which
Pessoa mentions only in passing, is in fact of prime importance in shaping and
influencing his literary project. He wrote to members of his literary circle and to
critics, and his love letters to Ophelia Queiroz (1901–1991) in the 1920s dramatize
the ascendancy of literary discourse over private life. His commitment to a totally
literary life eventually ended a possible marriage with Ophelia, with whom he main-
tained an extended amorous relationship and correspondence. That correspondence,
however, soon became part of his multifaceted literary project and, while he may
have wanted to convince himself that marriage to Ophelia was possible, one won-
ders if their exchanges ever had any hope beyond literary playfulness and stylistic
The second source is a single event, the “triumphal day” (dia triunfal) when, after
he had almost given up creating the kind of bucolic poet he had contemplated with his
companion, the Portuguese poet Mário de Sá-Carneiro (1890–1916), everything came
to him unconsciously in a flood of intense writing: “It was the 8th of March 1914—I
stood by a tall chest of drawers, and taking a piece of paper I began to write standing
up [. . .] I wrote more than thirty poems in a row in a kind of ecstasy that I can’t

define” (foi em 8 de Março de 1914 — acerquei-me de uma cômoda alta, e, tomando

um papel, comecei a escrever, de pé [. . .] E escrevi trinta e tantos poems a fio, numa
espécie de êxtase cuja natureza não conseguirei definir). First the name Alberto
Caeiro came to him, and then some disciples, Ricardo Reis and Álvaro de Campos: “I
created an inexistent coterie. I made it all real [. . .] It seems that everything happened
independently of me [. . .] you will see how they are different, and how I have nothing
to do with them” (Criei, então, uma coterie inexistente. Fixei aquilo tudo em moldes
de realidade [. . .] Parece que tudo se passou independentemente de mim [. . .] verá
como eles são diferentes, e como eu não sou nada na matéria).42 The heteronyms
became Pessoa’s messengers, long before he would title his only book published in
Portuguese, Mensagem (Message, 1934).
Pessoa continues to intensify the story in his letter to Casais Monteiro with
long physical descriptions of each heteronym whom he “sees” before him, accom-
panied by their brief biographies, and he further describes in detail how each one
of them differs from his own personality and even refers to future publication of
their esthetic debates among themselves. Other quirks of Pessoa in the letter
would suggest that he was carrying out an elaborate and private ruse by taking on
the self-consciously dramatic role of an unknown writer’s intimate confession to
a prominent critic, who represents the prestigious Coimbra literary journal, Pre-
sença (54 numbers, 1927–1940). After assuring the critic that he has promptly
attended to all the critic’s questions, the writer apologizes for his incoherence,
assuring the recipient that he is “neither crazy nor drunk” (Não estou doido nem
bêbado). If there are other questions, the writer will attempt to answer “as best he
can” (conforme puder o melhor). In a postscript, the critic is told that there is an
extra copy of the letter, in case it gets lost in the mail, and the writer requests “as
they say in commercial correspondence” (como se diz em linguagem comercial)
that the critic immediately advise him of its receipt. Pessoa had confessed else-
where that his goal was to be a “creator of myths” (Desejo ser um criador de
mitos),43 which is in part how the famous letter should be read. It is also a test of
the critic’s gullibility and of the author’s skill in dissimulation. Luciana Stegagno
Picchio (1920–2008) nevertheless defended the triumphal day hypothesis, because
of her conviction that triumphal days do exist for the creative artist—Pessoa tells
that Descartes was resting in bed one morning when the thought of coordinates in
geometry suddenly came to him44—and because the invention or aggrandizement
of the triumphal day was important for Pessoa, notwithstanding his witty and dis-
ingenuous letter. Without his myth, affirms Picchio, the creation of his poetry
cannot be explained.45

What all of the heteronyms have in common is their non-being; they are fragments
of a presumed totality that also does not exist, since Pessoa promotes fragmentary
and contradictory positions in a sleight of hand to disguise his artistry. Their
nonexistence as non-selves undermines the genres in which they “write,” from the
point of view of authorship, while they allow Pessoa “to be” as a poet. Poetry written
by the heteronyms subverts genre and questions the role of personal experience in
literature. They cast a negative shadow over their chosen genres, since the writing of
verses and their publication is also independent of them. Imagination dominates

reality and authenticates the assembly of non-existent writers through their pure
potentiality. Of the heteronyms he says, “None of them ever met me, personally,
except Álvaro de Campos (A mim, pessoalmente, nenhum me conheceu, exceto Álva-
ro de Campos),46 a confession that intimates the significant interplay of wills through-
out his career between these two inseparable “persons.” The fragmentation of
authorship, form, and content allowed Pessoa to set in motion his alternating current,
a self-negating literary construct with no fixed reality or identity, not even that of his
personal existence as a writer.
Pessoa’s system, or non-system, oscillates between dialectical extremes of
being and non-being in a dynamically unstable and self-referential flux. His work
succeeded in deferring critical characterization as a whole, or as a coherent system,
although the interplay among its parts implied a tantalizing unforeseen or inherent
coherence, or totality, which he denied.47 Pessoa rejected critical interpretations
based on authorship, complete works, or any notion of totality. Pessoa was aware
that there was no “whole” or cohesion to his coterie of writers, as there could not
have been by definition, since each came about by attending to the demands of
different genres (he first though of “a kind of different bucolic poet”). Part of the
game was to create self-reflexive and self-canceling writers, each representing a
different style, for whom the imperative of comparison and the critical demands of
conclusion would collapse onto their lack of being and their amorphous position
in the mind and “literary travels” of Pessoa himself, who likewise claimed non-
existence, if only to intensify the mysterious nature of reality. In a reply to Casais
Monteiro (January 20, 1935), Pessoa clearly finds the idea of a consistency or
unity to be strange and inapplicable to his still largely unpublished literary project,
and he refers with irony to the critic’s desire to carry away an overall impression
of his works (impressão de conjunto): “supposing that there were something in me
resembling a group” (supondo que em mim haja qualquer coisa tão contornada
como um conjunto).48
Pessoa exploits traditional modes and habits of reading: which reader will even-
tually not lose track in the heat of reading that a major poem by Alberto Caeiro,
Ricardo Reis, or Álvaro de Campos is not the work of a real, physical author? The
consequent impulse to locate an authentic or inner Pessoa falls back upon a reader’s
own need to summarize or explain, to find a literary completeness, a theoretical
model or comprehensive explanation or basic personality, a natural reaction that Pes-
soa exploits. In his case, the parts are less than a whole. Readers who attempt a uni-
versal interpretation of Pessoa are remitted to his circuitous “empty labyrinth,” vainly
to question his relationship with the other selves who replaced his own. While there
is doubtlessly an element of avant-garde play in the labyrinth—Teresa Rita Lopes
cast Pessoa as the theater director of a “drama with people” (drama em gente)—there
is a more serious and overriding contradiction: the art of avoiding a single inner core
of being is Pessoa’s real condition. The invented and incompatible non-selves for
whom Pessoa would exchange his own personal identity made it possible for him “to
be” a whole literature, and, while not-being, they “wrote” some of the most impor-
tant poetry in early twentieth-century literature.
The essays in this book will speak especially to readers who are interested in
Pessoa’s philosophical challenges to many of the principal constructs of Western

metaphysics and literary representation, in the scope of his imagination, and in his
contribution to modernism in all its dimensions. The objective is to discern how
Pessoa’s writings in different genres and under the guise of other selves, the hetero-
nyms he invented, allowed him, as the mythical creator of himself, both to be and
not to be. Pessoa’s “startling paradox,” in the words of the Pirate King, is that he
could only be Pessoa when he was not Pessoa, but instead a fragment of the collec-
tivity of authors for whom he wrote, or by whom he was written. Only then, as if on
a fleeting 29th of February, could he become Pessoa again. One must accept the
labyrinth he invented, as Picchio argues, in order to read him. His only self was the
pretend stage of the dramaturge, where a cast of characters assembled, ever increas-
ing in number. With Pessoa, the romantic idea of individual and original authorship
came to a definitive end, substituted by the fragmentation and invention of person-
ality, and by interplay among historical literary genres and their philosophical and
imaginative contents. He wrote in a later essay, probably from 1935, that he felt less
real and less personal than the “others” and easily influenced by them (Sou, porém
menos real que os outros [. . .] menos pessoal, eminentemente influenciável por eles
todos).49 The hypothesis of the essays in this book is that Pessoa invented and
refined a technique of adverse genres, playing content against formal conventions.
Stylistic alteration preceded and propitiated his “trunk full of people,” Antonio
Tabucchi’s phrase referring to the 25,000 manuscript archival pages deposited in a
large wooden chest that were discovered after his death. His unorthodox system of
virtual authorship energized Pessoa’s literary world and epitomized both the uni-
versality and the negative philosophical charge of Western literary modernism,
marked not by the disappearance of the author but by the splitting of him like an
atom in Pessoa’s room of mirrors.
Mas como causar pode seu favor
Nos corações humanos amizade
Se tão contário a si é o mesmo Amor?

The rewriting and rethinking of Western literary traditions in the work of Fer-
nando Pessoa involves the question of genre as much as it does that of personality
and authorship. The “drama of persons,” the theme that has dominated critical
readings, extends as well to a “drama of genres.” From his earliest works, Pessoa
began crossing genres: does the title “Mad Fiddler,” a collection of early poems
written in English by Alexander Search, for example, mean that the verses are as
mad as the music or the musician, or is the performer merely an exceptionally vig-
orous virtuoso? Pessoa wrote that he was a dramatist above all, and that he treated
genre dramatically, thereby producing a mixed genre wherein one mode is written
in the style of another, i.e., an epic or lyric work written dramatically.50 His ideal,
hidden in a “Note” in the Book of Disquietude, would be an exchangeability of
forms and sensations: “The sensibility of Mallarmé in the style of Vieira; to dream
like Verlaine in the body of Horace; to be Homer in the moonlight [. . .] to be able
to think with the emotions and feel with the mind (A sensibilidade de Mallarmé
dentro do estilo de Vieira; sonhar com Verlaine no corpo de Horácio; ser Homero

ao luar [. . .] saber pensar com as emoções e sentir com o pensamento) [LD 131].51
Mixed genres, however, are only a first step. Pessoa lives at odds with tradition, and
adverse genres—defined by tensions between form and thought, writer and text,
language and meaning—dominate every major facet of his literary world. His mo-
tivation is in part a purely avant-garde attitude of absurdity, based on the paradox
that since we cannot know what we are in reality, the “only way to be in agreement
with life is to disagree with ourselves (O único modo de estarmos de acordo com a
vida é estarmos em desacordo com nós próprios) [LD 23]. A theory of purposeful
and willful incongruity is a blueprint for futuristic opposition and contradiction,
anticipating Dada in its methodical absurdity, or what Sena terms “the mystifica-
tion of mystification as mystification”:52

To develop theories, patiently and honestly considering them, only then to act against
them—we act and justify our actions with new theories that go against them. To
tread a path in life and then immediately to refuse to follow that path. To adopt all
the gestures and attitudes of something we aren’t, and never wish to be, nor do we
ever wish to be seen as being.
To buy books so not to read them; to go to concerts not to hear the music or to
see who’s there; to take long walks because we’re tired of walking; to spend days in
the country because the countryside bores us.
Estabelecer teorias, pensando-as paciente e honestamente, só para depois agir
contra elas—agirmos e justificar as nossas acções com teorias que as condenam.
Talhar um caminho na vida, e em seguida agir contrariamente a seguir por esse
caminho. Ter todos os gestos e todas as atitudes de qualquer coisa que nem somos,
nem pretendemos ser, nem pretendemos ser tomados como sendo.
Comprar livros para não os ler; ir a concertos nem para ouvir a música nem
para ver quem lá está; dar longos passeios por estar farto de andar e ir passar dias
no campo só porque o campo nos aborece. [LD 23]

Pessoa aims in his literary project to undermine genre and its stylistic formulas
by changing, subverting, or altering their conventions until they can be understood
differently. This task he approaches in two ways: first, Pessoa violates traditional
esthetic codes. In a study of his early, neglected play O Marinheiro [The Mariner],
for example, Robert Anderson notes that Pessoa violates all the Aristotelian princi-
ples of drama by writing a play that has no action whatsoever and whose high
drama is accomplished solely through speech. In the play’s prologue, Pessoa
explains his new set of principles that redefines dramatic action in terms of language
alone and proclaims the advent of “static theater,” following Maurice Maeterlinck
(1862–1949). Anderson concludes that Pessoa has reformulated the drama by vio-
lating Aristotle’s rules: “By violating an esthetic code, Pessoa wrote different
The second way Pessoa attacks genre is to make full use of its rhetorical and
referential repertoire. He emphasizes and exploits the inner tensions such that the
genre is redefined, or a new genre results from the poet’s occupying the estranged
space in between language and meaning. The dramatization of this space in Pessoa’s
poetic language makes genre impossible, while its failure and emptiness provide the
necessary precondition for its redefinition and rewriting:

All I dream or pledge

Whatever fails my bet
Is like a ledge
Over another thing yet
Where true beauty is set.
Tudo o que sonho ou passo
O que me falha ou finda
É como que um terraço
Sobre outra coisa ainda
Essa coisa é que é linda. (Isto)54

Through rewriting in this different space, Pessoa composes the great modernist works
that both reference and replace the classics of Western genres. The Book of Disqui-
etude is a prime example: assuredly one of Pessoa’s lifelong projects, the fragments
he wrote were, however, neither assembled nor organized. They never were and are
not a book; they are not the diary of a clerk in Lisbon, as they pretend, and they can
never have a definitive form. The Book is nevertheless—or because of these very
characteristics—one of the supreme works of twentieth-century fiction, a challenge
to and reformulation of the modern novel, comparable to a Kafka or Joyce.

Pessoa founded his heteronymic project based on adverse genres, part of a paradoxical
juxtaposition whereby poetic genres selected from different historical periods in the
Western tradition are filled with an incongruent and inauthentic content, subverting the
familiarity of generic expression. In Pessoa, genres do not confront each other; rather
the heteronyms make changes or alterations in gesture, style, and expression within
each major genre. At the same time, each historical genre contributes to an imaginary
literary circle, or an entire literature as Pessoa pretended, to be reshaped or rewritten
with modernist traits. Pessoa’s coterie of authors is a synchronic collection based on
poets drawn from across Western literature who are reinvented in his imaginary
authors. As a professional writer, he is aware that he is not creating anything new,
rather, he is inventing “a new way of using an already old process” (uma maneira nova
de empregar um processo já antigo).55 In her introduction to Fernando Pessoa, Sadlier
makes valuable contributions toward the analysis of Pessoa’s method of composition.
She refers to a “turnabout technique,” in which philosophies are “cancelled out”
through continual contradiction, and notes that Pessoa takes advantage of grammatical
shifts and stylistic variations, while always maintaining several elementary constants
in “the way he managed to weave different traditions or poetic ideologies into an array
of personae who, at bottom, were remarkably alike.”56 If Pessoa is constructing a bri-
colage of radical variations on a repeating theme, I offer here the hypothesis that he
does it by combining diverse poetic traditions using a technique of adverse genres, a
strategy by which he revives and reproduces a particular traditional literary form in his
heteronyms, such as the lyric or pastoral, then fills it with a diverse content, incongru-
ent with what the form traditionally expresses, its stylistic commonplaces, yet conso-
nant with the epistemological doubt, existential despair, and imaginative power that all
of the heteronyms share to some degree. By practicing adverse genres, which are his-
torical literary forms with diverse or estranged content, Pessoa makes a revolution in

the way language is used and understood, leading a radical revision of Western literary
practice. Pessoa recognizes the supremacy of form in literary history, a position that
underlies the operational method of his aesthetics, and in the role of author of authors,
he invents a way both to revive and to subvert diverse historical forms as the basis for
his own vanguard current of radical contradiction. The adverse genres are energized
by the alternating current of familiar form and mismatched content:

If I speak to you, I instinctively adapt phrases

With a meaning that I forget to follow [. . .]
Everything is something else in this world where everything is sensation.
Se te fallo, adapto instintivamente phrases
A um sentido que me esqueço de ter [. . .]
Tudo é outra coisa neste mundo onde tudo se sente.57

It was the original idea of adverse genres, notwithstanding, that gave rise to the
heteronyms, each of whom practiced the art of writing in an adopted literary form or
genre, which characterizes each one of them, yet who add expressive content reflect-
ing Pessoa’s metaphysical doubts and aesthetic theories. He refers to his procedure
as cutout (recorte), which is similar to the Cubist collage, and considers the practice
of formal simultaneity, or juxtaposition, to belong to dramatic literature: “What I am
essentially is [. . .] a dramaturge (O que sou essencialmente [. . .] é dramaturgo).58
Pessoa was thinking of genre when, about 1912, he became interested in writing
poems in a paganist style (uns poemas de índole pagã);59 thus the origin of the het-
eronyms is generic, form dominating expression and even authorship. In retrospect,
he even traced the birth of Ricardo Reis to those paganist sketches. Álvaro de Cam-
pos confirms Pessoa’s privileging of genre when he proclaims “in art the form of
composition is what characterizes and distinguishes currents and schools (e em arte
a forma de realizar é que caracteriza e distingue as correntes e as escolas).60
Some two years later, Pessoa returned to the theme, attempting in a game with
his friend, the poet Sá-Carneiro to conceive of a “bucolic poet of a complicated
nature” (um poeta bucólico, de espécie complicada), as part of his reconstitution of
a Portuguese neopaganism, before these forms had names to go along with them.
The names came to him in due course as part of the dramatic depersonalization of
authorship, ruled by form and style, on the triumphal day: “I opened with the title,
The Keeper of Sheep. And what followed was the appearance of someone in me, to
whom I immediately gave the name of Alberto Caeiro. Pardon me the absurdity: my
master had appeared in me” (Abri com um título, O Guardador de Rebanhos. E o
que se seguiu foi o aparecimento de alguém em mim, a quem dei desde logo o nome
de Alberto Caeiro).61 Picchio points out the iconoclastic, witty twists of Pessoa’s
creative method, writing about metaphoric sheep for a colleague whose surname
means “sheep,” and whose name gives “Caeiro” with the simple elimination of two
letters. Other major heteronyms followed as disciples of the master, Caeiro: “This
Alberto Caeiro had two disciples and a philosophical extenuator” (Este Alberto
Caeiro teve dois discípulos e um continuador filosófico). In Pessoa’s account, Ricar-
do Reis next came about in order to make Caeiro’s “false” paganism artistically
orthodox; then Álvaro de Campos appeared to go in the opposite direction, creating

a paganism of the sensations. The name António Mora, who plans to write “one or
two books,” comes with a promise that he will prove the metaphysical and practical
truth of paganism (proverá completamente a verdade, metafísica e prática, do
paganismo).62 All the heteronyms wrote in traditional genres, from Alberto Caeiro’s
pastoral poetry to Ricardo Reis’s odes to Bernardo Soares’s or Vicente Guedes’s
philosophical diary, while Pessoa kept filling them with fin-de-siècle ideas from
sources in post-symbolism, aestheticism, and decadentism. Placing content within a
genre that alters the style or meaning of its historical literary expression is what
created and energized the adverse genres. Juxtaposing incongruent form and content
was the heart of Pessoa’s technique, and his interest in neopaganism underwrote it.
In an undated essay, “Os Heterónimos e os Graus de Lirismo” (Heteronyms and
the Degrees of Lyricism),63 Pessoa provides a blueprint for the invention of adverse
genres based on his work as a dramaturge who distinguishes among emotions,
thoughts, and representation. His theory of adverse genres separates literary genres—
lyric, elegiac, epic, dramatic—from the style of expressive content usually associ-
ated with them: “Aristotle divided poetry into lyric, elegiac, epic and dramatic. As
all well-considered classifications, this one is useful and clear; as all classifications,
it is false. Genres cannot be separated with such intimate ease” (Dividiu Aristóteles
a poesia em lírica, elegíaca, épica e dramática. Como todas as classificações bem
pensadas, é esta útil e clara; como todas as classificações, é falsa. Os géneros não
se separam com tanta facilidade íntima). The substitution of adverse for conven-
tional content constitutes the incongruent use of form. Referring on one end of the
continuum to the romantic or sentimental lyric poet, who creates multiple characters
to represent his varied and variable feelings, Pessoa posits on the other a depersonal-
ized poet of the imagination, whose mental states are so perfectly equilibrated and
analyzed that they change his expression into that of other persons, with different
styles: “If I speak to you, I instinctively adapt phrases whose meaning I forget” (Se
te fallo, adapto instintivamente phrases/A um sentido que me esqueço de ter), writes
Álvaro de Campos.64 And, ultimately, Pessoa foresees a poet who writes through
difference, such as a dramatic poet writing lyric poetry. The supremely depersonal-
ized poet, a category in which Pessoa places Shakespeare, has the right to create
fictional characters with ideas and feeling opposed to those of their authors: “we
shall have a poet who is various poets, a dramatic poet writing lyrical poetry [. . .]
without yet giving it the form of drama, neither explicitly or implicitly” (teremos um
poeta que seja vários poetas, um poeta dramático escrevendo em poesia lírica [. . .]
sem todavia, se lhe dar a forma do drama, nem explicita nem implicitamente).65 With
each expressive state another poet is invented, each with a distinct style, perhaps
directly opposed to that of the living poet who creates them. Thus a particular genre,
in this case lyric poetry, will have been dramatized, without, however, having taken
on the form of drama. Pessoa was perhaps thinking of the witty pastoral satire
between the country wench Audrey and the clown Touchstone in As You Like It:

AUDREY: I do not know what “poetical” is: is it honest in deed and work? Is it a
true thing?
TOUCHSTONE: No, truly; for the truest poetry is the most feigning, and lovers are given
to poetry, and what they swear in poetry may be said as lovers they do feign. (III.3)66

Significantly, it is the comic clown who feigns best and true, even suggesting that the
most poetical lovers are those who are engaged in dramatic feigning.
On October 14, 1914, Pessoa answers Côrtes-Rodrigues, who has cited the “clas-
sic odes of Ricardo Reis”: “They are actually contemporary, considering the eternal
age of Nature” (Essas são em verdade contemporâneas por dentro da idade eterna da
Natureza).67 Just as Pessoa wishes “to be” an entire literature, he brings literary genres
as well as orthography from all periods into his workshop for emendation, where he
repeats the older literary genres, now filled with his contemporary metaphysical
doubts and anxieties. Pessoa makes the point in a letter to Casais Monteiro that there
is no evolution or improvement in his writing over time, only change: “I write differ-
ently” (Escrevo diferentemente).68 Rather than evolution, Pessoa suggests the meta-
phor of travel, which is a way of changing personalities as he moves among the
heteronyms, as in a voyage. In the letter to Casais, he puts it in capital letters, VIAJO,
and although excusing the unintentional slip of the capital keys on his typewriter, he
accepts it. The ocean voyage had been the constant backdrop in the first poems of
Álvaro de Campos. Pessoa himself, however, almost never left the city and outskirts
of Lisbon after returning in 1905; his travels were entirely mental, captured by Bréchon
in the epithet “unmovable traveler.”69 What most characterizes Pessoa’s adverse world
of characters, which is also the key to its modernist invention, is its comprehensive
universality, its infinite number of persons and roles, and the metaphysical anxieties of
a world of representations without any corresponding realities.

The subversion or alteration of generic expression is an accepted method of

effecting change in modern Western literature and arts. Pessoa cites Shakespeare
as a depersonalized dramatist capable of creating characters with opposing feel-
ings and ideas, signaling an evolution in the dramatic genre that predicates his
own heteronyms as an authorial drama. The injection of counterpoint into the
norms of generic form and expression in any period of the arts may largely
be responsible for motivating change and evolution of aesthetic periods and
taste. Countercurrents open creative differences that may provoke either a change
of expression or a permanent alteration in the constitution of a genre. In Walt
Whitman’s (1819–1892) adaptations of popular humor, for example, David S.
Reynolds perceives a mixture of qualities that ran contrary to his philosophical
poetry. In the New York roughs and middle-class urban workers, Whitman appre-
ciated the “fertile but also potentially dangerous” potential of American humor.70
In a thesis on subversive strategies affecting genre, Craig Harwood demonstrates
how Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791) used strategies in his compositional
method to alter gesture and syntax of the classical style.71 Harwood argues that
Mozart exploits listeners’ expectations of particular rhythms, gestures, and har-
mony associated with the conventions of the classical style by introducing un-
usual syntax. He increases the flexibility of the musical material by repeating it in
different syntactical contexts, using three main techniques: “works that open with
a closing gesture, works that close with an opening gesture, and works involving
thematic reordering.”72 Mozart’s playful stylistic image results, Harwood con-
cludes, from an Ars combinatoria of deception that relocates conventions of the
classical style.73 Mozart looks not only for opportunities to subvert norms, but in

doing so he also “comments on the language of the Classical style itself.”74 The
sense of nonconventionality associated with his music can result from the lack of
a clear sense of function to the listener in terms of the norm. Since Mozart’s sty-
listic manipulations are always subtle, “handled with the utmost sophistication
and eloquence,” they never seem academic or misplaced. David Schroeder con-
cludes that Mozart’s procedure does not undermine or challenge the classical style
that he exploits with such skill; to the contrary, the changes prove that Mozart
relies on the generic and stylistic foundation, “even revels in it.”75 In comparable
fashion, Pessoa’s heteronyms alter the gesture and syntax of the genres in which
they write, while relying both on norms and the standard expectations of readers.
Three main strategies that he uses to reconstitute genre are displacement of ges-
tures (bucolism to nihilism, song to interior monologue, metaphor to metonymy),
suppression of individual authorship, and change in meaning through a sense of
belatedness and cultural repetition.
Pessoa’s verbal exploitation of formal expectations of style, being highly
self-conscious, may lack the level of sophistication and eloquence attributed to
Mozart on the level of performance, while he prefers to emphasize nonconven-
tionality and deviation from the norm. Notwithstanding Pessoa’s level of stylistic
dexterity, none of the heteronym’s alterations or changes could make sense except
in the context of standard, accepted features of a style or expressive genre, which
are maintained and even celebrated, although repositioned or reconstituted in an
estranged setting. Helena Buescu characterizes Pessoa’s relationship with the
past as a regresso ao passado presente (“the return to a past made present”),
which is the natural historical basis of any renovation or renaissance.76 Even for
the historical avant-garde movements that promoted rupture and rejection of the
past, reference to a standard remained equally vital for advancing any deviation
in content or style, or to support any rejection of the past or to destabilize the
Indeed, Pessoa’s interest in historical genres is one of the foundations of his
modernist aesthetic, confirmed in his return to classical themes and taste for
archaic orthography, even while his use of the past is omnivorous and assimilative.
His present moment subsumes and integrates the past in terms consonant with
theories of arrière-garde, retroavantgarde, or après-derniers.77 The incorporation
of literary forms drawn into Pessoa’s work from different historical periods creates
a personal library of references, which are the literary antecedents of modernist
invention; a synchronic library or archive, selected perhaps for its affinities to his
personal themes, provides material for stylistic reconstructions that lie at the core
of Pessoa’s innovation, his own Ars combinatoria.78 Rather than the presence or
repetition of the past, his synchronic reference library of genres and authors is Pes-
soa’s comprehensive overview of all previous literature, folded into his own con-
temporary moment, so that its apotheosis corresponds with the present time of
modernist writing. His personal library is a gathering of diverse styles and tech-
niques, the basis of a repertoire for invention and variation, as well as a chorus or
cast of polyphonic and polytonal voices, in the dramatic sense that one voice
speaks with many other voices. The library of references exemplifies the Poundian
paideuma, as a template of culture and complex of ideas corresponding to the

author’s intelligence and sensibilities, and in Pessoa’s case it reflects his unique
multilingual literary education and intellectual environment and is a source for the
coterie of heteronyms. If classical antiquity for example, one of the dimensions of
the library, was rediscovered through its ruins, represented in the art works of Gio-
vanni Battista Piranesi (1720–1778), later to be enshrined as a lost Edenic world
by nineteenth-century artists, Pessoa sculpted these same ruins into a modernist
design that recaptured their former stature, taking on as a poet the role of literary
archaeologist with a chisel and nostalgia for the totality of the past. While Pessoa’s
interest in Camões, Milton, Shakespeare, Dickens, Poe, and Whitman, among
others, is well known, his role in the recovery of the late nineteenth-century poets
Cesário Verde (1855–1886) and the strange symbolist from Macau Camilo
Pessanha (1867–1926) demonstrates his search for experimental precursors who
predict and prepare his own compositions. The library represents both the univer-
sality of tradition and its reinvention for modernity.79 Pessoa’s creative method
gives full dimension to the poetic statement on literary invention by his companion
in ORPHEU, José Almada Negreiros (1893–1970), that illuminates the synthetic
yet fragmentary method of modernist poetics: “Our century is not one that invent-
ed words. Words had already been invented. Ours is the century that will reinvent
the words that had already been invented” (Nós não somos do século de inventar
as palvaras. As palavras já foram inventadas. Nós somos do século de inventar
outra vez as palavras que já foram inventadas).80 As Álvaro de Campos writes in
the 1915 “Ode Triunfal”:

I sing the present, and also the past and future,

Because the present is all the past and all the future.
Canto o presente, e também passado e o futuro,
Porque o presente é todo o passado e todo o futuro.

Common to all of the major heteronyms is a nascent Portuguese neopaganism

that would recuperate the classical worldview. Neopaganism provided Pessoa with
a second blueprint for his adverse technique. In multiple essays on paganism, most
dating from 1917, Pessoa makes blistering, devastating, and unrelenting attacks on
Christianity and its distortion of the classical tradition. Rejection of Catholicism
was common throughout the Orpheu generation, reaching its apogee in Raul Leal’s
poem Antéchrist et la gloire du Saint-Esprit: hymne-poème sacré.81 Pessoa slyly
excuses himself from the heretical poems in Keeper of Sheep through fragmentation
of authorship:

I wrote the eighth poem of Keeper of Sheep with astonishment and repugnance, with
its infantile blasphemy and its complete antispiritualism. In my own person, the ap-
parently real one with which I live socially and objectively, I do not use blasphemy
nor am I antispiritualist. Alberto Caeiro, however, as I conceived him, is this way.
Escrevi com sobressalto e repugnância o poema oitavo de Guardador de Reban-
hos, com a sua blasfêmia infantil e o seu antiespiritualismo absoluto. Na minha pessoa
própria, e aparentemente real com que vivo social e objetivamente, nem uso da blas-
fêmia, nem sou antiespiritualista. Alberto Caeiro, porém, como eu o concebi, é assim.82

With the goal of restoring lost classical harmony, Pessoa promoted a return to the
intellectual vision (visão intelectual) that brought tranquility, equilibrium, and con-
trol of life to Greek civilization. Álvaro de Campos sails classical seas in his verses:

And the rhythm of the Homeric sea beating into my brain—

From the old Homeric sea, oh this wild Greek brain
E o rhythmo do mar homerico trepa por cima do meu cerebro—
Do velho mar homerico, ó selvagem d’este cerebro grego83

Pessoa characterizes modern Western literature as a spurious interiorizing under

Christianity of a more vigorous classical model, whereby emotion had replaced
rational objectivity. He argues that, unlike Caeiro, who has an absolute understand-
ing of paganism and is “more pagan than the paganists,” other European writers and
philosophers interested in its principles had neither a full understanding nor a true
sensibility for it: Oscar Wilde, for example, could not judge between Epicureanism
and Stoicism, while Walter Pater (1839–1894), who understood paganism, was nev-
ertheless never more than a “sick Christian with paganist anxieties” (cristão doente
com ânsias de paganismo). Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900), who should have
defended paganism, was “completely Christianized through his weak and sick
mentality.”84 The Portuguese, as Iberians, were in Pessoa’s opinion captives of a
religion far removed from the influence of Arabic science, now marked instead by
monotheist fanaticism, violence, and morbidity. In Greek paganism, Pessoa envi-
sioned a perfect science of civilization because it centered reality objectively in
Nature. In reconstructing a Portuguese neopaganism, the heteronyms adapted genres
from different stylistic periods in Western literature, into which they injected Pes-
soa’s synthesis of paganism: “simply the concept of the universe that posits, above
all, the existence of an implacable and abstract Destiny, to which men and gods are
equally subject” (simplesmente o conceito do universo que estabelece, acima de
tudo, a existência de um Destino implacável e abstrato, a que homens e deuses estão
igualmente sujeitos).85 Mirroring in structure the polemic paganism-Christianity in
Pessoa is the attempted rewriting by the heteronyms, according to paganist princi-
ples, of what he thought to be a Western literature distorted by Christianity. In
Caeiro’s Keeper of Sheep, there lurks without a doubt a philosophical, ethical, and
religious wolf in sheep’s clothing.

By inventing other selves, Pessoa was following both literary tradition and the
convention of the day. There are predecessors in the play of authorship that under-
write Pessoa’s abandonment of self. Søren Kierkegaard practiced a theory of “indi-
rect communication” in which multiple authors represented different ways of
thinking, in order to avoid systematic presentation of ideas: “In the pseudonymous
works, there is not a single word which is mine. I have no opinion about these works
except as a third person, no knowledge of their meaning, except as a reader, not the
remotest private relation to them.”86 Kierkegaard maintains an authorial self, separate
from the individuality of his pseudonyms. In literary academies since the eighteenth
century, writers had chosen special or pen names by which their works were known.
Robert Browning’s (1812–1889) Dramatis Personae (1855) presented poems written

by diverse dramatic characters. In an 1871 letter to Paul Demeny, Arthur Rimbaud

(1854–1891) writes “Je est un autre,” a phrase that accelerates the separation of
author from character and even personality. Portugal’s major realist novelist J. M.
Eça de Queirós (1845–1900), along with companions of the Generation of 1870, poet
Antero de Quental (1842–1891) and diplomat Jaime Batalha Reis (1847–1935),
invents the literary alter ego, poet Carlos Fradique Mendes, skeptic and intellectual
for whom he produces a full biography, whose travels and correspondence were pub-
lished posthumously in Correspondência de Fradique Mendes (1900). In Brazilian
fiction, J. M. Machado de Assis (1839–1908) creates the narrator-novelist Counselor
Ayres as author of his two last novels, while remaining in the background in notes
and prefaces. In England, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle invents Sherlock Holmes,87 well
known to Pessoa. Paul Valéry’s (1871–1945) withdrawn and intellectual Monsieur
Teste made his first appearance in print in 1896, while in 1907 Valéry Larbaud intro-
duces the “first edition” of the works of the phantom South American, A. O. Barna-
booth, followed in 1913 by the “complete works.”88 William Butler Yeats’s
(1865–1939) “masks” create a double for the self, while Ezra Pound’s Personae
(1909) and Hugh Selwyn Mauberly (1920) continue the trend to disguise or erase
authorship.89 Eliot uses an ironic persona in his “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”90
Luigi Pirandello’s Sei personaggi in cerca d’autore (Six characters in search of an
author, 1921) separates characters from a hidden but presumed author or creator.91
The play of authorship would continue throughout the European avant-garde move-
ments, from Gertrude Stein’s Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas92 to Duchamp’s saucy
alter ego, Rrose Sélavy.93 Pessoa is the first to cede his poetry and self completely to
the heteronyms, or personae, dedicated to reforming and rewriting Western literature.
In doing so, he deceived his messengers into believing in their own messages. Pes-
soa’s most “ingenious paradox” of all allowed them “to be and not to be.”

Adverse genres in Pessoa form part of his literary game of deception and sleight of
hand. Teresa Rita Lopes suggests ways that adverse genres came into being in Pessoa
through the creation of personae with literary styles different from his own. The primary
one is derived from Pessoa’s foundational essay, “Notes for a Non-Aristotelian Esthetics”
and written in the tone of a manifesto.94 If the goal of Aristotelian art is beauty and all
that is required to produce it, the end of non-Aristotelian art is based on the idea of force,
interpreted as vital energy, perhaps influenced by Henri Bergson’s (1859–1941) “élan
vital” and a contribution to futurist esthetics in the wake of Marinetti’s futurist mani-
festo launched in Paris in February, 1909. Campos’s essay argues against art created by
the intelligence and in favor of that created by our senses, which are “the life of art” (a vida
da arte). In non-Aristotelian art, the external should become internalized, and art recog-
nized by its intensity. Two thrusts of Campos’s exposition are relevant here: the first is
his return to the Greeks, who he asserts practiced their sensibilities with such violence
and exclusivity that the Western world is still subject to them; and the other is the final
claim, expressed almost as an aphorism, that only three works of non-Aristotelian liter-
ature have ever been made: “The first is in the astonishing poems of Walt Whitman; the
second is in the more astonishing poems of my master Caeiro; the third is in the two
odes—the “Triumphal Ode” and the “Maritime Ode”—that I published in ORPHEU”

(A primeira está nos asombrosos poemas de Walt Whitman; a segunda está nos poemas
mais asombrosos do meu mestre Caeiro: o terceiro está nas duas odes—a Ode Triunfal
e a Ode Marítima—que publiquei no ORPHEU). Thus the non-Aristotelian poet is one
of daring assertion, imposing an entirely personal aesthetics, and capable of doing so
dramatically and abstractly by assuming the identity of another person, as summarized
by Teresa Rita Lopes: “Le poète anti-aristotélicien devrait donc être capable de sentir
d’une façon, dirions-nous, abstraite, ‘dans la personne d’un autre’ ou, en d’autres
termes, dramatiquement.”95 Through Campos, the non-Aristotelian poet validates the
adverse genres as the only true expression since the Greeks, valuing intuitive, expressive
alteration of standard forms.
The function of adverse genres has a basis in the English romantic poets revered
by Pessoa, studied by Morag Harris in what the critic calls “cannibalizing regres-
sion” in the treatment of genres by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772–1834). By cut-
ting out references to a true passion and happiness he had experienced, substituted
only by a vague universal expression of it, Harris claims that the poet made a “trav-
esty of true genre.” He erased his account of changing a brief and insignificant
moment into one of permanence and significance, eliminating in the process the
“emotional and psychic truth” of his experience, which was plainly retained in his
Notebooks but missing from his Immortality Ode. Harris sees in his procedure “a
distorting plagiarism of himself, another gesturing, ‘acting’ lie in the face of his own
creativity, a false semblance.”96 Regardless of the motive, genre was separated from
its emotional and psychic roots, and the author wrote from a position of disguise.
Other examples of an incipient adverse technique in the romantic period are found in
Browning’s play Pippa Passes, composed in 1839, in which a classical model is
given a contemporary dramatization: “una cotaminazione tra un modello classico
delle origini, attraverso cui articolare le istanze drammatiche del-l’uomo nella soci-
età contemporanea;”97 and in Edgar Allan Poe’s (1809–1849) stories, divided between
a European narrative technique and North American social themes: “Poe vende sui
giornali del Nord storie che attingono a un sistema di codici molto più indebitato con
la tradizione europea di matrice romantico-teatrale.”98
In literary theory, adverse genres can be placed within a historical current of hy-
bridity in Western literature. Wladimir Krysinski affirms that hybridization, which
became of prime importance during the modernist phase, is actually the most notice-
able characteristic of European literature.99 He cites Don Quijote as the first modern
hybrid narrative structure, a tradition leading to Giambattista Vico (1668–1744) and
examples of Menippean satire found from François Rabelais (1494–1553) and Law-
rence Sterne (1712–1768), to the contemporaries Louis-Ferdinand Céline (1894–
1961), João Guimarães Rosa (1908–1967), and Alejo Carpentier (1904–1980). During
Pessoa’s creative period, Lautréamont’s (1846–1870) Chants de Maldoror was mak-
ing use of dreams and the grotesque to create incongruous juxtapositions within sur-
realist images, and in Joyce the practice of hybridity had reached an apex, with the
inclusion of “all languages” (toutes les langues). Krysinski’s critical reservation, ap-
plicable to the case of Pessoa, is that with universal hybrid composition, materials and
meanings come to a separation, whereby communication is lost; language becomes an
autonomous object in itself, and the form a victim of hypertrophy.100 Such is precisely
the case of Pessoa’s adverse genres, whereby language is separated from form, so as

to take on an autonomous existence of its own, materialized in the heteronyms. At the

same time, the historical genres are the victims of a hypertrophy caused by the loss of
content and context. Following Krysinski’s thesis, it can be said that Pessoa carries the
current of hybridity in Western literature to its most radical, perhaps inevitable conclu-
sion, which is the dramatic separation of its prime hybrid materials into autonomous
“persons,” poetic language and genre, or expressive content and external form.
In terms of currents in critical theory, the adverse genres technique fits within the
framework of literary deconstruction. The interfaces between poet and genre, in the
case of Pessoa’s adverse genres, conform to the ambiguous relationship described by
Jacques Derrida in an essay, “The Law of Genre” (“La loi du genre”).101 Derrida
arrives at a position consonant with that of the adverse genres by considering what he
calls “the law of participation in genre, yet without membership in it, or contamina-
tion by it.” The distance between genre and the perception of it, as a theoretical
space, enters into play at a point at which one’s identification with a genre, or partic-
ipation in it, is neither totally inclusive nor exclusive, such that form is not allowed
to identify with itself alone, to become closed to assimilation or addition. In adopting
a particular genre without belonging to it, the artist makes form transparent (Derrida
uses the term “invisible”), because it is denied its integrity, self-control, and ability to
engender meaning. Nonparticipation and nonidentification are methods of compro-
mising form and its normal function by denying or abrogating meaning. Pessoa’s
three major heteronyms adopt the pastoral, the ode, and the song (or romantic rhap-
sody or caprice), respectively, yet their relationship to form is ambiguous, since as
authors they are nonexistent, and also indeterminate, suspended between inclusive
and exclusive, since they fill the genre with gestures and meanings that are not natu-
ral to the form.
The essays in this book follow the theme of adverse treatment of traditional
genres, beginning in the first chapter with an early short story that combines horror
with primitivist taboo, followed by Pessoa’s only play, a “static theater” without
movement. In subsequent chapters, Álvaro de Campos loudly sings the epic poetry
of a non-self subsumed in mechanical modernity, while Pessoa practices love letters
to his Ophelia with an artificial infantile naïveté. A wealthy banker explains why he
is the only true or possible anarchist left in society. Alberto Caeiro equates poetic
language with the unpremeditated reality of Nature itself by combining Oriental con-
cepts with a philosophy of immanence. Ricardo Reis practices the stylistic anachro-
nism of Horatian odes to disguise the nihilism and despair of his attempt to salvage
artistic beauty from the ravages of inexorable fate. The heraldry of Portuguese heroes
across time transforms history into iconography and chronology into the mysterious
course of unfathomable events. The factless autobiography of a clerk as artist amounts
to a philosophical search for being in the form of a diary. In the conclusion, having
surveyed diverse writings, readers finally enter Pessoa’s labyrinth, made up of mul-
tiple paths and mirrors, guarded by the minotaur that embodies his reformulation of

The success of Pessoa’s adverse genres after 1914, the date of his growing status
as the consummate modernist of European literature, seems comparable to the split-
ting of the literary atom, for he anticipated the concerns of an entire age to come,

while in his works he marshaled the panoply of avant-garde tools of the time. Most
of the twenty-five thousand manuscript sheets left in a large wooden trunk at his
death are now in the National Library; the price of fame, as his niece Manuela
Nogueira said in 1996, is that publication of his works has been for some time
beyond any form of control. The editions, some vastly different, continue to pile up
and to draw more readers into his world. His writings grow in interest because they
explored elusive truths of poetry and the mind in a way that exhausted all the pos-
sibilities of his craft. His mission to revitalize both the self and the nation makes
him our postmodernist contemporary. His poetry is superior in composition and
content to most poets of his age, ranking along with Paul Célan (1920–1970), Eliot,
Rilke, and Mandelstam for profundity and concern with the direction of the West
and mankind. The sculpture of Fernando Pessoa sits outside the “Brasileira” cof-
feehouse in Lisbon, near the Largo de Camões where a much smaller bust of the
great Renaissance epic poet resides. Anyone who visits Pessoa’s sculpture to have
a photo taken on the bench beside him, as if to challenge the cancellation of his
existence, will immediately recognize his unmistakable figure, an unmoved mover,
sitting publicly as Portugal’s greatest poet since Camões and one of the most
prominent figures in European modernism. It is the same universally recognized
silhouette of the author that the Portuguese modernist Almada Negreiros painted in
1954 (“Reading Orpheu” / Lendo Orpheu)102 against a background of colored tiles,
sitting in formal attire at a coffeehouse table in Lisbon with a demitasse, a copy of
ORPHEU 2, hat, glasses, cigarette, fountain pen, and paper.

Cannibal Rituals
Cultural Primitivism in “A Very Original Dinner”

Of the seven short stories assembled in his archive under the rubric “Stories of
Rationality” [Contos de Raciocínio], Pessoa published only one, “The Anarchist
Banker” [“O Banqueiro Anarquista”] in the first number of the journal Contem-
porânea in May, 1922. Some stories follow the tradition of the police, detective,
or horror story that Pessoa knew well by reading Edgar Allan Poe, Arthur Conan
Doyle, Arthur Morrison’s Chronicles of Martin Hewitt (1896), or Oscar Wilde’s
Picture of Dorian Gray (1891),1 while others resemble philosophical treatises in
which deductive reasoning and intelligence is applied to the investigation of
crimes. Beginning with the oxymoron in its title, one of his most polished and
intricate stories, “The Anarchist Banker,” is filled with paradox, contradictions,
ambiguity, and irresolvable conflicts in the manipulation of logic, for the purpose
both of political theorization and self-justification, accompanied by a taste for the
bizarre, strange, and unusual. Soon after, Pessoa translated several stories by Poe,
“The Masque of the Red Death” in 1924 and the following year “The Gold Bug,”
“William Wilson,” and “Ligeia.” George Monteiro traces his interest in “Ligeia”
to 1915, while Pessoa’s writing circa 1910 confirms his main literary interests as
a youth: “The earliest literary food of my childhood was in the numerous novels
of mystery and of terrifying adventures” (A primeira nutrição literária da minha
meninice foi a que se encontrava em numerosos romances de mistério e de aven-
turas horríveis).2 In 1903, he requested as a prize from the University of the Cape,
South Africa, a book of Poe’s stories,3 in which he annotated the most macabre
cases of sadism and criminal analysis: “The Black Cat,” “The Cask of Amontil-
lado,” and “The Tell-Tale Heart.” Pessoa appropriated Poe’s “Tales of Ratiocina-
tion” with the agile detective M. Auguste Dupin to create his own “stories of
rationality” with Dr. Quaresma as detective. Describing his interests during his
school years, Pessoa wrote that “I was fascinated by the unbelievable and not the
probably, not even the impossible by degree, but by what was impossible
by nature” (Ansiava pelo incrível e não pelo provável, nem mesmo pelo impos-
sível em grau, mas pelo impossível por natureza).4 His interests were decidedly
psychological and philosophical, captivated by strange mental states, perverse-
ness, and hallucination that pointed to a primitive dimension within the civilized


and rational. His interests combined qualities of the gothic novel —madness, the
supernatural, and decay—with those of mystery and detective fiction, particularly
the use of intuition and astute logic. The most celebrated stories of the genre avail-
able to Pessoa, Charles Dickens’s The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1870), Joseph
Sheridan Le Fanu’s In a Glass Darkly (1872), Robert Louis Stevenson’s The
Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886), George du Maurier’s Trilby
(1894), Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897), Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw
(1898), and Arthur Machen’s Fantastic Tales (1890) involve ethical degeneration
and question the social structures of the time.5
In 1978, literary scholar Maria Leonor Machado de Sousa reveals for the
first time and brings into print a complete story written in English by Alexander
Search, Pessoa’s early English-language heteronym, dated 1907 and titled “A
Very Original Dinner.”6 The story is presented in photocopies of the original
handwritten manuscript on sixty-nine numbered pages, followed by her printed
translation into Portuguese (“Um Jantar Muito Original”). No transcription of
the original English text has been published to date; in Sousa’s reproduction, the
handwriting of the original is legible, and readers interested in the English text
can make their way through it, although the edition was very limited. A Portu-
guese translation from 1988 was republished in 2008, following in 2007 a book
and CD with reading by São José Lapa, finally making the story available to Por-
tuguese readers.7 Machado de Sousa considers Pessoa a failure as a prose story-
teller and attributes it to an inability to go beyond psychological analyses to
create contexts and action (p. 10); at the same time, she reveals the existence in
the poet’s archive of a considerable number of fragmentary titles and drafts of
gothic and macabre stories of suspense and invention, not included in his com-
plete works, which attest to the extent of his early attempts to write in this genre,
under the names of Horace James Faber (“The Case of Science Master” and
“Case of the Quadratic Equation”), around 1904, and Alexander Search (1906–
1907). Most are undated fragments, some no more than titles, which include
“The Door,” dated March 1906 to October 1907 and one of the most complete,
“The Cave of Supreme Horror” (“A Caverna do Horror Supremo”), “Jacob Der-
mot,” “The Inquisitor” (“Isaías Coelho’s Revenge”), (“O Inquisidor, Vingança de
Isaías Coelho”), “The Case of the Claver Street Murder”, “The Black Spider ”,
“The Stolen Parchment” (“O Pergaminho Roubado”), “Marcos Alves”, “In the
Cascais Hospital” (“Na Casa de Saúde de Cascais”), “The Loss of the Yacht
‘Nothing’” (“A Perda do Iate ‘Nada’”), “The Conquest of Monte Velho” (“Morbid
Allusion”) (“A Tomada do Monte Velho” (“Alusão Mórbida”), “Czarkresko,”
and “The Impossible Prince” (“O Príncipe Impossível”). Their themes range
from madness and horror, abolition of time and space, science fiction, and strange
realities to crimes against nature.
The key ingredient in Pessoa’s story, “A Very Original Dinner,” is the uncon-
scious mind and its hidden instincts, which, in the person of the president of the
Gastronomical Society of Berlin, Herr Prosit, is controlled by the death instinct,
Thanatos, manifested by aggression, self-destruction, and cruelty under the dominion
of the enhancement, however bizarre, of bodily pleasure of a low nature. The name
“Prosit” introduces double entendre and black humor into the story, as the word used

for drinking a toast to someone’s health turns into a macabre and sick parody. Prosit’s
behavior is nonetheless symptomatic of some of the main themes to be developed in
Pessoa’s poetry, particularly in Álvaro de Campos, which include his taunting of the
guests to test the limits of his craftiness, his strange behavior as if to defy the limits
of civilized rationality, and his twisted pleasure in revealing the genial secret of his
primitive banquet. Pessoa’s aesthetic purpose in presenting the tale as he does is also
conveyed by Prosit, who takes pleasure in his ability to conceal, “in masking a thing
to appear other than it is,” in the words of the story. The phrase from 1907 is more
than indicative; indeed, it constitutes a clue or shorthand for Pessoa’s compositional
and conceptual method throughout his career as a writer, through the use of adverse
content. It is, in fact, a concise and clear manifesto of his use of adverse genres, illus-
trated by this early case in which strange circumstances and a bizarre character com-
mon to the detective novel take on quite a different meaning. The story transforms an
apparently simple mysterious puzzle into one of psychological perversity and primi-
tive mentality, by placing it in the midst of the most elaborate and civilized of societal
functions, the formal banquet.
The setting of the Society in Berlin is itself a dissimulation, since Pessoa is most
likely referring to the more than fifty London social, professional, and political gen-
tlemen’s clubs that have abounded since the eighteenth century, whether the oldest
and most celebrated, such as White’s (1693), Brook’s (1764), and Boodle’s (1762),
or those reminiscent of colonial society, the nineteenth-century Oriental Club (1824),
open to anyone serving with the British Empire in the East, or the East India Club,
for servants of the East India Company (1849). The Oriental Club clearly states that
it will offer occasional house dinners, a crucial function that Pessoa chooses for his
story of suspense. It is possible that Pessoa set his story in Berlin in veiled reference
to German South West Africa, which, during the time Pessoa was a youth in South
Africa in the mid 1890s, was challenging the British and putting down rebellions
against German rule by the Herero and Nama peoples, ending in the deaths of more
than one hundred thousand native peoples. Pessoa’s story is from the beginning a
sardonic critique of the high civilization of the German Gastronomical Society in the
character of Prosit, who “had been, we knew—though I remember not—by whom—
in the Colonies, in Africa or in India or elsewhere—and had there made a fortune
upon which he lived.” Thus, the origin of Prosit’s wealth and culture is made suspect
from the outset, tinged with colonial economic and racial associations.
In a parody of the pretensions of a London club, the Gastronomical Associa-
tion is described as a pathological social manifestation, uniting its high and low
elements, particularly upper-class men and lower-class women, in a curious syn-
thesis likened to a chemical reaction. The Society is dedicated to what were
obligatorily called “arts,” which were in reality eating, drinking, and sex. The
narrator obviously considers it all uncouth, artistic but coarse, yet after all a rather
harmless association that united the city’s social elements and satisfied their per-
verse tendencies under the imprimatur of the city’s respectable restaurants and
hotels. The Society provided an outlet for the libido, while giving lip service, at
a minimum, to the repressive mechanisms of social organization. Members found
release in mindless revels, or their inverse, the chaste masculine sessions of the
Society that for the narrator represented their spiritual side, without any comment

on the sublimation of the sexual instinct present in their repasts. The atmosphere
of “decay” reflects the wider perception of the decadence of European culture,
encouraged by the esthetes of the 1890, circulated widely in Max Nordau and
Otto Seeck, and culminating in Oswald Spengler’s notable book on the decline of
Western civilization.8
Prosit’s challenge to the members of the association came at the conclusion of
the fifteenth annual dinner and in the form of a dinner invitation: “Gentlemen [. . .]
my challenge to any man is contained in this, that ten days from now, I shall give a
new sort of dinner, a very original dinner. Consider yourselves invited.” The mem-
bership was to guess what was original in Prosit’s “very original dinner”:

“I defy any man here (and I could say any man anywhere, for the matter) to say,
having finished it, in what it is original. No one, I assert, will guess. This is my
challenge. Perhaps you thought it would be that no man could give a more original
banquet. But no, that is not it; it is as I have said. As you see it is much more original.
It is original beyond your expectation.”

Prosit’s disquisition has a secondary meaning, in that his idea of what is original in-
troduces a lightly veiled definition of what avant-garde originality means to Pessoa;
it stands as a guideline to the labyrinthine, paradoxical, and impenetrable world that
he constructed. Prosit is parodied by the narrator not only for his single-minded in-
terest in gastronomy alone, but for his repetition, via Schopenhauer, that the way to
maintain the value of gastronomy is through the dynamic of perpetual revolution, or
preservation by destruction. At the dinner, Captain Grecive insisted on the constant
need for new dishes: “He contended, falsely gave to understand, that in gastronomy
alone newness was of preeminent value. And this may have been a subtle way of
saying that gastronomy was the only science and the only art.” These arguments
make clear that for the narrator destruction was not a valid path to the creation of
original art, or gastronomy either, and novelty for its own sake was far from a supreme
value. The “decay” presently felt in gastronomical circles was attributed to similar
false ideas of the new, then in vogue. Mere variations of existing recipes, different
sauces, seasonings, and spices were called “new,” but were judged not to be real
novelties. The discussion concerning the meaning of “originality” was aimed far
beyond change, destruction, or some other substitution, to encompass some com-
pletely different way of conceiving of the field. Pessoa’s own thinking in 1907 must
have reflected this direction, rejecting both surface newness of the approaching avant-
gardes and the destructive tendencies that the Futurist Manifesto would glorify in
1909. Originality would per force have to be of another dimension entirely.
In his extended analysis of Prosit’s character, personality, and mentality, the
narrator subtly confesses that he has been excessive in details while missing key
elements that are beyond his powers: “I have ventured beyond my ability.” Belying
his modesty, the narrator eventually takes up Prosit’s challenge, and he is the only
member of the Society to propose a theory to explain the dinner’s originality; yet his
failure of rational deduction, predicted in the above confession, pales besides Pros-
it’s ultimate revelations, which themselves are proof that the narrator was indeed a
shrewd observer of germane details that he had noticed in Prosit’s character and

inner nature. The terms of the narrator’s psychological analysis are rooted in seem-
ingly strange revelations found in the investigation of primitive societies, expounded
in Sir James George Fraser’s greatly influential study on magic and religion, The
Golden Bough.9 After Fraser, an analysis of abnormal character or customs would
lead to more direct ties with primitive cultural practices that might be seen to under-
lie, if not explain, unusual psychic mechanisms within civilized behavior and belief;
Fraser’s work is seminal for anthropology and psychology, an essential reference for
Bronislaw Malinowski (1884–1942) and Freud. Pessoa’s story dramatizes some of
Fraser’s cultural data in the narrator’s analysis, which heavily implies, long before
the story’s denouement, a strange and unsuspected presence in the Germanic Soci-
ety of a totem, a fertility cult, a dying and reviving god, and seasonal ritual murder.
To these can be added Fraser’s chapter, “Eating the God,” which presents the exam-
ple of La Palisse, France, where a dough man representing the harvest is served and
eaten at a celebratory feast; throughout primitive societies humans are eaten sacrifi-
cially at harvests.10 If the “Original Dinner” is read as a critique of cultural repres-
sion of instinctual urges, whereby the quest for originality at all costs serves as a
code word to open the libido to desires proscribed by rigid social norms, Alexander
Search’s story likewise anticipates some of Freud’s theorizations in Totem and
Taboo (1913) and Civilization and Its Discontents (1930), which in turn depend
heavily on Fraser.11
The psychological sketch and analysis of Prosit, occupying the central pages of
the story, goes far beyond characters in the gothic, mystery, or macabre stories of
Pessoa’s youth to draw instead on theories of biological instinct, from Charles Dar-
win (1809–1882) to Bergson. The mysterious subject, Prosit, embodies the separa-
tion of instinct from intellect described in Bergson’s L’Évolution créatrice (1907),12
while projecting a discomforting élan vital, corrupted by his coarseness and vulgar-
ity. His humor and jokes, a category studied by Bergson and Freud, receive the nar-
rator’s special attention, since Prosit’s wit was sharp but at the same time coarse,
almost offensive, and indulgent to the point of being not only spontaneous, but also
unthinking and impulsive, outside of conscious control, yet full of the ardor that he
was known to invest in cooking and sex. His impulsiveness in humor, corresponding
to Freud’s later description of the sexual instinct, contained a touch of violence. It
can be read as a response to the restrictions placed by civilization on sexual life,
described in Civilization and its Discontents: “a large amount of the psychical en-
ergy which it uses for its own purposes has to be withdrawn from sexuality [. . .] a
stratum of its population [. . .] has subjected another one to its exploitation.”13 Class
exploitation, justified by libidinal release, finds its counterpoint in the chaste ban-
quets, catalysts for Prosit’s influence over the group in a disguised form of colonial
control of desires.
Yet Prosit galvanized the entire group in a more mechanical manner consistent
with Bergson’s explanation of humor: “As contrary electricities attract each other
and accumulate between the two plates of the condenser from which the spark will
presently flash, so, by simply bringing people together, strong attractions and repul-
sions take place, followed by an utter loss of balance, in a word, by that electrification
of the soul known as passion.”14 Prosit destabilizes the group with aggressive humor,
at the same time that he binds it with his electric manner. The narrator is equally

susceptible to the attractions and repulsions of his personality, revealed through

jokes. The opposite side of Prosit is his uncanny ability to restrain himself, to main-
tain equanimity, never showing rage or aggressiveness: “It was curious to observe
how he restrained his ire, how he held it in hand with a firmness no one had given him
credit for, least of all those who knew him impulsive and ardent, his most intimate
friends.” Although the narrator sees in this contrast a possible enigma of personality,
perceivable through intuition, one may conclude that he sees in Prosit the figure of a
totem; the obviousness of his coarse mirth diffuses offense, aided by his eagerness to
please, even by his ardent indulgence in the practice of carnal degustation to which
his humor makes subliminal if constant reference, such that the darker impulses in
his behavior slip into the realm of the unconscious and imperceptible, in the narra-
tor’s opinion. Yet, as he recognizes, something is missing, or troubling, in his
The fundamental contradiction in Prosit’s character is said by the narrator to
appear during his rare moments of silence, which had the force of a prelude to stormy
outbursts. These mood changes, which punctuated his usual cheery demeanor, corre-
spond to Bergon’s explanation of the need for repression of the comic, recognizing
the terrible freedom that it releases, beyond moral law: “Were man to give way to the
impulse of his natural feelings, were there neither social nor moral law, these out-
bursts of violent feeling would be the ordinary rule in life. But utility demands that
these outbursts should be foreseen and averted. Man must live in society, and conse-
quently submit to rules.”15 Prosit, in fact, appeared as natural in this mood as he did
artificial while telling his witty jokes and vivacious stories, and the narrator mulls
whether there was some earlier sorrow, great pain, spiritual ill, or fundamental un-
happiness masked by his mirthful displays. The narrator notes that his face became
unnaturally pained when he seemed to forget to laugh and fell into a trancelike state,
sad, sullen, and heavy. He even suggests a biological origin for his depression, noting
that Prosit was the son of an epileptic and had rakes and neurotics in the family back-
ground. For both narrator and Society members, to the contrary, Prosit’s moments of
despair disappeared in the context of his universal merriment, so brief and different
as to be dismissed as out of character. Anticipating Freud’s discussion of unhappi-
ness in Civilization and Its Discontents, Prosit provides an example of “displacement
of libido” through his mysterious pained moments: “The task here is that of shifting
the instinctual aims in such a way that they cannot come up against frustration from
the external world [. . .] But their intensity is mild as compared with that derived from
the sating of crude and primary instinctual impulses; it does not convulse our physi-
cal being.”16 Prosit’s challenge to the Society is the primal force for the substitution
of intellect for libido, and the kernel of his original recipe originates in the lesser
satisfaction of solving higher problems, as Freud suggests; in his case, however, the
new terms he proposes to the Society are no more than masks for a primal stratum,
communicated in a clever rhetoric of displacement in adverse mode; thus the plea-
sure he will receive is equal to that of satisfying the most crude and primitive
impulses or desires.
Having transmuted his pathological humor with its often cruel practical jokes,
its swings from wild laughter to sullen heaviness, into an intellectual challenge,
Prosit introduces another kind of aggression into the circles of the Society, whose

aim is to dominate and exploit the membership by proof of his superior powers of
thought. His challenge struck the narrator as malicious, mysterious, sarcastic, and as
strange as Prosit’s eerie countenance, with a foreboding that drives the perceptions
and revelations of this minor Sherlock Holmes to the story’s shocking conclusion.
While the membership supposed Prosit’s challenge to be another joke, or motivated
by vanity, a third reason, rivalry, would unlock the deeper motivation on which the
story turned. Five young men of Frankfurt considered themselves greater gastrono-
mers than the President, and they engaged in contentious arguments. Prosit brags that
he has bettered them in a previous contest; his retort is hardly veiled, as he assures
them that contrary to their desires they will all participate “materially” in his ban-
quet, and “in body.”
After Prosit’s coded suggestion of cannibalism, it would be suggestive to inter-
pret the story in the light of Freud’s Totem and Taboo, which is a possible source for
Pessoa after Fraser. In discussing the totemic meal in primitive cultures, Freud
describes it as a ceremonial spectacle featuring the devouring of raw blood, flesh, and
bones.17 The event is also a form of carnivalization, as later theorized by Mikhail
Bakhtin (1895–1975), here prefigured in the description of the festival spirit: “every
instinct is unfettered and there is license for every kind of gratification.” The meal is
controlled by the clan totem, who is Prosit in the case of the Society, and it promises
to be the opposite of their chaste reunions; as a society devoted to sex as well as food
and drink, within the conventions of institutionalized society, the promised totem
meal will represent a sublimation of the sexual instinct celebrated with obligatory
excess, a formal violation of prohibition and the festive exuberance of full freedom
from injunction. The true nature of the forbidden act, in this case, is disguised by the
challenge, made more opaque by the mysterious behavior of Prosit as clan totem.
There exists a general taboo against the killing of a totem, but at the same time Freud
presents many examples of the killing of a king or ruler, and of ambivalent emotions
about the father figure. Using Darwin’s hypothesis of the primal horde, the banquet
proposed by Prosit would serve to dominate and usurp for himself the sexual func-
tion of the Society, through his incontestable ceremonial challenge. The “five young
men from Frankfurt,” a “band of males” in the language of the horde, contest his
authority as totem: they possess equal rights and, although subject to the restrictions
of the totem, represent “the germ of the institution of matriarchy,”18 including inher-
itance through the female line. Their violent argument with Prosit over gastronomy
may be read as an attack on the father, who will be devoured so as to put an end to
patriarchal domination over access to sexual gratification: “a band of prehistoric
brothers expelled from the alpha-male group returned to kill their father, whom they
both feared and respected.” It is the father or totem who under the theory is to be
devoured, so that the sons can acquire a portion of his strength and identity by devour-
ing his flesh. Mourning and sexual abstinence are among the compensations gener-
ally observed by sons after the preparation of the “food” for their ritual banquet. The
hidden “originality” of Prosit’s devilish dinner scheme is, in fact, a reversal in the
story, whereby a psychotic patriarch who is capable of undercutting this rebellion by
his “sons,” in the persons of the five young men of Frankfurt, directs a scheme to
retain his control over the festive freedoms. The unusual meal in which the members
would celebrate not only freedom from any prohibition, uniting food with sex, but

also rejoice in overturning or “killing” the patriarchal totem is reversed by the force
of Prosit’s very literal primitivism. His low cannibalism lies in the ingestion of an
enemy who is reviled, rather than revered, and it is the young men’s flesh that is
“masked to appear other than it is.” It is telling that the true cannibal food being
served in the banquet is unmasked through another of Prosit’s crude jokes to the
members at table after the main course: “I see nowhere anything fishy, unless in a
decent sense, in the fish.” General laughter was not, however, enough compensation
to reward his masterly stratagem, and his feelings of elation carry the story to a
denouement of madness, echoing the colonial system of racial and economic exploi-
tation earlier introduced.
The narrator Meyer comes to the logical conclusion, as a solution to the riddle,
that the five black-faced servants at the dinner are in fact the five young men of
Frankfurt, an interpretation compatible with the history of colonial racial domina-
tion, in which Africans are pressed into service to reinforce the hierarchy of the So-
ciety and themselves prohibited from participating in the symbolic ceremonial fare.
In this case, Meyer postulates a “dark” humor on the part of Prosit in compelling the
young men to be present materially, as he had predicted, and to contribute to the
dinner in mockery, their faces painted black in a reprise of colonial rule; the anthro-
pologist Herr Kleist inquires as to their race and manner of arrival in Germany. To
oblige the men to act as servants struck Meyer as repugnant and grotesque, and his
mermaid comparison, “a woman’s body on a fish’s tail,” connects unconsciously
with the double symbolism of the food, of sexual significance to the membership and
cannibalistic to Prosit. Meyer nevertheless chooses to reveal his discovery to Prosit
and claim his prize as the only one to solve the challenge, yet receives the same kind
of lightly veiled allusions to the five young men: “It’s as secret as death” [. . .] “They
won’t run away [. . .] Absolutely impossible.” It is the necessity of contradicting
Meyer’s findings, and his claim to genius, that sends Prosit into a state of great
excitement and makes the revelation of his terrible secret imperative, although he
presents it at first within the usually acceptable limits of a joke and a toast, but
accompanied by uncontrollable physical reactions. When he thanks the five young
men from Frankfurt for having been present “in body” at the dinner and points to
remnants of flesh in a dish left on the table, he releases the “unthinkable revelation”
that is a violation of taboo and of his totemic duty to protect the Society.
The members’ reaction serves a double interpretation, reflecting in the first case
Fraser’s description of the conditions for killing a monarch: “his life is only valuable
so long as he discharges the duties of his position by ordering the course of nature for
his people’s benefit. So soon as he fails to do so, the care, the devotion, the religious
homage which they had hitherto lavished on him cease and are changed into hatred
and contempt; he is dismissed ignominiously, and may be thankful if he escapes with
his life. Worshipped as a god one day, he is killed as a criminal the next.”19 While
chiefs are given wide latitude in primitive societies, and here it is evident that the
highly civilized Gastronomical Society of Berlin is so classified, Prosit has addition-
ally violated a taboo against bodily contact with the dead and the evil spirits con-
nected with them, and failed as well to show the respect due a sacrificial victim.
The horror and terror of the revelation provoked the membership to react with
maniacal and uncontrollable rage, madly striking bloody blows against the President.

The scene of defenestration is one of diabolical violence, savagery, cruelty, and bru-
tality; in his retrospective account, Meyer cannot explain the state in which he and the
members fell: “Thinking upon it now, I cannot realise how it is possible that I should
have done an act to my normal self of such dreadful cruelty, however just, for mostly
by the passion that inspired it was a cruel, a most cruel deed. How great then must
have been any rage and my madness! And that of others, how great!” Freud quotes
anthropologist Northcote W. Thomas’s (1844–1930) article on “Taboo” to the effect
that “The violation of a taboo makes the offender himself taboo.”20 Taboos are also
said to carry tremendous electric charges that can have destructive effects on those too
weak to resist them, leading to the need for purification ceremonies. The unconscious
murder of Prosit by rational members of the society can be explained under these
conditions as an atonement to ward off taboo status for all who partook of the ban-
quet. It conforms to Freud’s classification of unconscious hostility against a ruler, in
which “the suppressed impulse and the impulse that suppresses it find simultaneous
and common satisfaction.”21
Common prejudices against primitivism appear in Meyer’s final explanation of
the happenings at the dinner. He identifies the five servants as “old Asiatic pirates of
a murderous and abominable tribe” in whom Prosit had “awakened [. . .] brutal
instincts which slumbered in civilization.” In this phrase, he seems to recognize the
symbolic functions of the Gastronomical Society, hors la carte. Meyer the detective
is not above equating the primitive with the criminal, and he ends his narrative with
the apparent satisfactory news of fit punishment for the captured pirates. One
escaped, however, and readers may wonder if the naïve narrator, who faced the
trauma of taboo, had not composed his story out of a continuing mysterious fascina-
tion with Prosit’s colonial Society, its oscillation between the chaste and the ceremo-
nial, and the strange jokes that concealed a primitivism whose taboos, fetishes,
masks, and statuettes would soon enter the “Musée ethnographique du Trocadéro”
and the art of Europe’s avant-gardes. Holmes’s combination of logical deductions
enhanced by opium is a suitable parallel to Meyer’s narrative questioning in Alexan-
der Search’s “very original dinner,” which subjects the high colonial Victorianism of
the fin-de-siècle to the lessons of ethnographic research of the day into “primitive

Waiting for Pessoa’s Ancient

A Theater of Immanence

Fermando Pessoa’s only play, O Marinheiro / The Mariner (1913),1 is one of the
most daring experimental plays of the European avant-garde. The play is constructed
on allusive referents, paradoxes, and absences; there is a voyage without movement,
a maritime idyll without the sea. The title character never appears, yet is called the
only thing real in the play. It is the sole work published under Pessoa’s name in the
first number of the celebrated vanguard journal ORPHEU (Lisbon, 1915), and draws
on the symbolist theater of Maurice Maeterlinck and his contemporary Villiers de
L’Isle-Adam to carry the sense of mystery and inner life to unexpected extremes of
paradox and depersonalization. Pessoa wrote the play in only a few hours during the
night of 11 to 12 October. As in L’Isle-Adam’s Axel (Axël, 1890)2 or Maeterlinck’s
Ariadne and Bluebeard (Ariane et Barbe-bleue, 1901),3 and contemporaneous with
Béla Bartók’s opera Bluebeard’s Castle, with a libretto by Béla Balázs (A kékszakállú
herceg vára, 1911),4 Pessoa sets the scene in a medieval castle, reminiscent of an oral
or fairy tale where fatal overtones of the love-death theme are transmuted into exis-
tential drama:

A room that is obviously in an old castle. From the room, we can tell that the castle
is circular. In the middle of the room on a bier there rises a coffin with a young
woman in white. Four torches in the corners. To the right, almost in front of whoever
is imagining the room, there is a sole window, long and narrow, from which one can
see only a small stretch of sea between two distant hillsides.
Three young women keep watch beside the windows. The first is sitting in front
of the window, with her back to the torch on the upper right. The other two are
seated one on each side of the window.
It is night, with just a vague glow of moonlight.
Um quarto que é sem dúvida num castelo antigo. Do quarto vê-se que é circu-
lar. Ao centro ergue-se, sobre uma eça, um caixão com uma donzela, de branco.
Quatro tochas aos cantos. À direita, quase em frente a quem imagina o quarto, há
uma única janela, alta e estreita, dando para onde só se vê, entre dois montes
longínquos, um pequeno espaço de mar.


Do lado da janela velam três donzelas. A primeira está sentada em frente à

janela, de costas contra a tocha de cima da direita. As outras duas estão sentadas
uma de cada lado da janela.
É noite e há como que um resto vago de luar. (ORPHEU, 1915)

After the play’s title listed on the cover of ORPHEU, Pessoa placed the explanation
“static drama” (drama estático) in parentheses, a mode on which he elaborated in a
manuscript fragment thought to be from 1914:

I call “static drama” the one in which the plot doesn’t include action, that is, drama
in which the characters not only don’t act (for they never change position or talk
about changing position) but also don’t even have feelings capable of producing
action—where there is no conflict or refined plot. Someone may say that this is not
theater. I believe that it is, for I believe that theater tends toward merely lyric drama
and that plot in theater is not the action or the progression and consequences of
action—but more broadly the revelation of souls through the exchange of words
and creation of situations [. . .] Souls can be revealed without action, and situations
of inertia can be created, moments of the soul without windows or doors out onto
Chamo teatro estático àquele cujo enredo dramático não constitui ação—isto
é, onde as figuras não só não agem, porque nem se deslocam nem dialogam sobre
deslocarem-se, mas nem sequer têm sentidos capazes de produzir uma ação; onde
não há conflito nem perfeito enredo. Dir-se-á que isto não é teatro. Creio que o é
porque creio que o teatro tende a teatro meramente lírico e que o enredo do teatro
é, não a ação nem a progressão e conseqüência da ação – mas, mais abrangente-
mente, a revelação das almas através das palavras trocadas e a criação de situações
[. . .] Pode haver revelação de almas sem ação, e pode haver criação de situações
de inércia, momentos de alma sem janelas ou portas para a realidade.5

What Pessoa had not thought to reveal is that the concept of “static theater” is defined
in an almost identical manner by Maeterlinck in his book of essays Le Trésor des
Humbles,6 which Pessoa was undoubtedly invoking. In the essay “The Tragical in
Daily Life” (“Le tragique quotidien”) Maeterlinck ponders static theater, whether an
immobile character would be possible dramatically, to which he appends the thought
that Greek tragedies are already immobile, a sentiment that must have attracted the
attention of a young Pessoa:

I shall be told, perhaps, that a motionless life would be invisible, that therefore
animation must be conferred upon it, and movement, and that such varied movement
as would be acceptable is to be found only in the few passions of which use has been
made. I do not know whether it be true that a static theatre is impossible. Indeed,
to me it seems to exist already. Most of the tragedies of Aeschylus are tragedies
without movement.7
On me dira peut-être qu’une vie immobile ne serait guère visible, qu’il faut
bien l’animer de quelques mouvements et que ces mouvements variés et acceptables
ne se trouvent que dans le petit nombre de passions employées jusqu’ici. Je ne sais
s’il est vrai qu’un théâtre statique soit impossible. Il me semble même qu’il existe.
La plupart des tragédies d’Eschyle sont des tragédies immobiles.8

Teresa Rita Lopes confirms Pessoa’s intention to better Maeterlinck, “Pessoa writes
‘The Mariner,’ by his own declaration, to compete with Maeterlinck—to feel supe-
rior, which means that he considered him to be great” (Pessoa escreve O Marin-
heiro, segundo declaração feita, para pedir meças a Maeterlinck—para se sentir
maior, o que quer dizer que o considerava grande).9 Pessoa’s debt to Maeterlinck,
as well as his intention to surpass the symbolist master, is expressed in “his own”
brief comment about the play cast in the third person: “Fernando Pessoa is more
purely intellectual; his strongpoint is the intellectual analysis of feeling and emo-
tion, which he carried to a perfection that leaves us almost breathless. About his
static drama ‘The Mariner’ a reader once said: ‘It makes the outside world com-
pletely unreal,’ and it really does. There is nothing more remote in all literature.
The greatest nebulosity and subtlety of Maeterlinck are, by comparison, gross and
carnal” (Fernando Pessoa é mais puramente intelectual; sua força jaz mais na
análise intelectual do sentimento e da emoção, que ele levou a uma perfeição que
nos deixa quase sem fôlego. De seu drama estático O Marinheiro, disse uma vez
um leitor: Torna o mundo exterior completamente irreal e é mesmo. Não existe
coisa mais remota em literatura. A melhor nebulosidade e sutileza de Maeterlinck
são, em comparação, grosseiras e carnais).10 In Lopes’s groundbreaking study of
Pessoa and symbolist drama, she finds a precursor in Maeterlinck’s play Les aveu-
gles (“The Blind,” 1890) in regard to distancing of space, time, and characters
through dreaming, while at the same time reaffirming the originality of The Mari-
ner.11 The medieval tower also figures prominently in Maeterlinck’s Aglavaine and
Sélysette (1909).12
Downplaying the identification of the play with Maeterlinck, Italian author
Antonio Tabucchi finds the originality of The Mariner in the mechanism by which
Pessoa exploited his theater in order to create its adverse. Pessoa maintains a symbol-
ist flavor in the play’s language, while his construction and meaning are entirely
different, being dominated by the dichotomy fiction/truth and Pessoa’s unmistakable
taste for the esoteric.13 Tabucchi finds a prototype not in the symbolist theater of
Maeterlinck, but rather sees the play shaped around what Pessoa called his “Shake-
speare problem.” Tabucchi thinks that Pessoa created a set of plays within the play to
reflect labyrinths of identity, such that The Mariner begins where Prospero leaves off
in The Tempest: “We are such stuff / As dreams are made on; and our little life / Is
rounded with a sleep.” Denied identity, memory, or time, the three women watchers
in The Mariner are allegorical and the stage a dream. The Shakespearean strategy
enters with the recitation of a play with a play within a play, which is the story of the
mariner who creates a fictional country and imaginary biography on the island where
he is shipwrecked. Descending into the circularity of the dream, however, the play
does not reveal whether the mariner ever will retain a residue of his true origin or
whether he will return.

Pessoa’s principal theme, the idea that consciousness and memory of past time
could be no more than illusions, indeed that the universe can recur endlessly, has
points in common with the cosmological implications of what is known as the
Boltzmann brain paradox, a controversial theory of order and disorder in matter
developed by Austrian physicist Ludwig Boltzmann (1844–1906). Working with

the behavior of gases, Boltzmann attempts to explain why the arrow of time points
forward, when the laws of physics work in both directions. Whereas, according to
Boltzmann, organization of matter tends to high entropy, which is successively less
ordered and more unpredictable, our observable low entropy world may be
explainable as an unlikely fluctuation. Under certain conditions, the flow of matter
could be reversed. The Boltzmann paradox states that if our current organization
into many distinct self-aware entities results from random variation, it is much less
likely than a situation that would create a single entity; thus statistically it is more
likely that a single brain would form randomly, floating in space with false mem-
ories of its life, than that there would again form an entity with multiple self-aware
brains. This world may be therefore no more than a chimera, a fluctuation or
distortion. Whether or not Pessoa was aware of the Boltzmann paradox, it was a
subject of contention in Europe during his formative intellectual years, and Pessoa
does refer in the play to a “consciousness floating” (consciência bóia) in space,
independent of a body or sensations.

The Treasure of the Humble

The Mariner, written in 1913, contains all the elements of the mature author who, on
March 8, 1914, would proclaim the “triumphal day” on which three major hetero-
nyms appeared to him; Zenith suggests that the three major heteronyms may have
been foreshadowed by the three characters in the play. Maeterlinck’s essays in Les
Trésors des Humbles are an even more significant source, however, for not only do
they provide the parameters for philosophical depersonalization in The Mariner but,
like the play, they can also be seen to contain the germ of the mature author’s range
of themes. In Maeterlinck’s essays one finds the spark of depersonalization between
actors and ideas as well as the sense of profound mystery of being that would moti-
vate Pessoa to write The Mariner and five months later to encounter full heteron-
omy. In a letter to Luís de Montalvor (1891–1947) dated 1914, Pessoa attests to the
enervation of his own ideas and writings because of having lived intensely those of
others: “I have lived so many philosophies and so many poetics that I already feel
old” (Tenho vivido tantas filosofias e tantas poéticas que me sinto já velho).14 From
living diverse ideas and poetics, it was a natural step to imagine a personal coterie
of authors; what was surprising was to present them as vectors intersecting within
his own person, individuals with characteristic ideas and styles who wrote through
Central concepts of the play correspond directly with Maeterlinck’s thoughts in
the essays. “The Pre-Destined” (“Les avertis”) repeats the theme that we are not truly
ourselves, nor are we living something real, in and of itself:

Our real life is not the life we live, and we feel that our deepest, nay, our most inti-
mate thoughts are quite apart from ourselves, for we are other than our thoughts and
our dreams. And it is only at special moments—it may be by merest accident—that
we live our own life. Will the day ever dawn when we shall be what we are? . . . In
the meantime, we felt that they were strangers in our midst. (1925: 71)

Nous vivons à côté de notre véritable vie et nous sentons que nos pensées les
plus intimes et les plus profondes même ne nous regardent pas, car nous sommes
autre chose que nos pensées et que nos rêves. Et ce n’est qu’à certains moments et
presque par distraction que nos vivons nous-mêmes. Quel jour deviendrons-nous ce
que nous sommes? En attendant, nous étions devant eux comme devant des étran-
gers. (1986: 41)

The essay “Mystic Morality” continues to explore the deeper laws and transgressive
power of unseen forces, which like waves of the sea haunt us with an inexpressible

How strangely do we diminish a thing as soon as we try to express it in words! [. . .]

perhaps more power has come to the waves of the sea within us? And wherein lies
their significance? Are there laws deeper than those by which deeds and thoughts are
governed? Whence comes the shadow of a mysterious transgression that at times
creeps over our life and makes it so hard to bear? One cannot speak of these things—
the solitude is too great. (1925: 77–88)
Dès que nous exprimons quelque chose, nos le diminuons étrangement.
[. . .] les oscillations de la mer intérieure deviennent plus puissantes? Ou’est-ce
que cela signifie? Et quelles nouvelles ces choses apportent-elles? Il y a donc des
lois plus profondes que celles qui président aux actes et aux pensées? Et d’ou pro-
venait donc l’ombre de ces transgressions mystérieuses qui s’étendait parfois sur
notre vie et la rendait soudain si redoutable à vivre? Il n’est pas possible de parler
de ces chose, parce qu’on est trop seule. (1986: 45–50)

In the essay “Silence” (“Le silence”), Maeterlinck decries the impossibility of any true
communication in words, as well as the weight and metaphysical burden it entails:

It is idle to think that, by means of words, any real communication can ever pass
from one man to another. (1925: 20)
Il ne faut pas croire que la parole ne serve jamais aux communications vérita-
bles entre les êtres. (1986:16)
We can bear, when need must be, the silence of ourselves, that of isolation: but
the silence of many—silence multiplied—and above all the silence of a crowd—
these are supernatural burdens, whose inexplicable weight brings dread to the might-
iest soul. (1925: 24)
Nous supportons à la rigueur le silence isolé, notre propre silence: mais le silen-
ce de plusieurs, le silence multiplié, et surtout le silence d’une foule est un fardeau
surnaturel dont les âmes les plus fortes redoutent le poids inexplicable. (1986:17)

Pessoa’s letter to Montalvor theorizes that silence, when it replaces expected speech,
produces an esthetic effect. Pessoa defends the pleasure of silence and reserves his
own expression for moments when, paradoxically, the pain is too great to feel:

There is a great esthetic pleasure at times in leaving unexpressed an emotion whose

occurrence demands our words. From our interior gardens we should only pick the
most remote roses and at the best hours and describe only those twilight moments
when it hurts too much for us to feel them. No poet has the right to write verses
because he feels the necessity of doing so. One need only write those verses whose
inspiration is perfumed by immortality.

Há um grande prazer estético às vezes em deixar passar sem exprimir uma

emoção cuja passagem nos exige palavras. Dos nossos jardins interiores só deve-
mos colher as rosas mais afastadas e às melhores horas e fixar só aquelas ocasiões
do crepúsculo quando dói demasiado sentirmo-nos. Nenhum poeta tem o direito de
fazer versos porque sinta a necessidade de os fazer. Há só a fazer aqueles versos
cuja inspiração é perfumada de imortalidade. (1982: 271–272)

Silence is perceived as an absence, a space that is inhabited by unseen, abstract

entities outside the human sphere that control fate, denying to human voice any
possible knowledge either of its own destiny or of the ultimate nature of its real

The other great silences, those of death, grief, or destiny, do not belong to us. They
come towards us at their own hour. (1925: 36)
Les autres grands silences, ceux de la mort, de la douleur et du destin, ne nous
appartiennent pas. Ils s’avancent vers nous, du fond des événements, à l’heure qu’ils
ont choisie. (1986: 22)

When the three watchers in The Mariner contemplate death and absence, the only
possible dramatic actions left to them are silence and waiting for the end. Because of
the dramatization of existential doubt, and in spite of its medieval and ritualistic
character, spectators commonly see in The Mariner a precursor of Samuel Beckett,
since the characters wait without hope for what they do not know or when, anticipat-
ing by forty years the January 5, 1953 production of En attendant Godot (Waiting for
Godot) in the Théâtre de Babylone.15
In addition to providing aesthetic and philosophical material for The Mariner,
Maeterlinck’s essays directly address the creation of heteronymic personalities in a way
that could have led Pessoa to his “triumphal day.” “The Deeper Life” (“La vie profounde”)
provides a blueprint for the fashioning of a different coexistent personality, originating in
an external moral ideal, which may inhabit even the most humble person:

It is well that men should be reminded that the very humblest of them has the power
to “fashion, after a divine model that he chooses not, a great moral personality, com-
posed of equal parts of himself and the ideal; and if anything lives in fullest reality,
of a surety it is that.” (1925: 187)
Il est bon de rappeler aux hommes que le plus humble d’entre eux “a le pouvoir
de sculpter, d’après un modèle divin qu’il ne choisit pas, une grande personnalité
morale, composée en parties égales et de lui et de l’idéal; et que ce qui vit avec une
pleine réalité, assurément c’est cela. (1986: 137)

Beyond the fact of universal creation of synthetic, divided personalities, Maeterlinck

further asserts that one who listens without knowing, interprets without understanding,
little suspecting the indifference of the universe and not suspecting that he has at his
disposal all the powers of the earth, has a more profound life than an man of action:

I have come to believe that an old man seated in his armchair, waiting quietly under
the lamplight, listening without knowing it to all the eternal laws which reign about

his house, interpreting without understanding it all that there is in the silence of
doors and windows, and in the little voice of light, enduring the presence of his soul
and of his destiny, bowing his head a little, without suspecting that all the powers of
the earth intervene and stand on guard in the room like attentive servants, not know-
ing that the sun itself suspends above the abyss the little table on which he rests his
elbow, and that there is not a star in the sky nor a force in the soul which is indiffer-
ent to the motion of a falling eyelid or a rising thought—I have come to believe that
his motionless old man lived really a more profound, human, and universal life than
the lover who strangles his mistress, the captain who gains a victory, or the husband
who ‘avenges his honour.’” [. . .] “It is only the words that at first sight seem useless
which really count in a work.”16
Il m’est arrivé de croire qu’un vieillard assis dans son fauteuil, attendant sim-
plement sous la lampe, écoutant sans le savoir toutes les lois éternelles que règnent
autour de sa maison, interprétant sans le comprendre ce qu’il y a dans le silence des
portes et de fenêtres et dans la petite voix de la lumière, subissant la présence de son
âme et de sa destinée, inclinant un peu la tête, sans se douter que toutes les puissan-
ces de ce monde interviennent et veillent dan la chambre comme des servantes atten-
tives, ignorant que le soleil lui-même soutient au-dessus de l’abîme la petite table
sure laquelle el s’accoude, et qu’il n’y a pas un astre du ciel ni une force de l’âme
que soient indifférents au mouvement d’une paupière qui retombe ou d’une pensée
que s’élève,—il m’est arrivé de croire que ce vieillard immobile vivait, en réalité,
d’une vie profonde, plus humaine et plus générale que l’amant que étrangle sa maî-
tresse, le capitaine qui remporte une victoire ou “l’époux qui venge son honneur”
[. . .] Il n’y a guère que les paroles qui semblent d’abord inutiles qui comptent dans
une oeuvre. (1986:104–105; 107)

Maeterlinck’s scenario could serve as well for the dialogue in The Mariner as for the
discovery of the master heteronym, Alberto Caeiro, the village sage conceived as a
subtle master of the art of unknowing.

Enigma Variations

Sir Edward Elgar’s (1857–1934) much performed “Variations on a theme for orches-
tra” Op. 36, which premiered in London in 1899, became known as the “Enigma”
variations not only because of a question of what they overtly represented, but also
and more significantly because of a suspected external occult melody or motive dis-
guised within them. The enigmatic existence of inner worlds of reference was like-
wise a key ingredient of symbolist theater of the fin-de-siècle. If the goal of
Maeterlinck’s theater, as gleaned by Arthur Symons (1865–1945),17 is to reveal the
“strangeness, pity, and beauty” of the soul, the significance of mystery in life and art,
and to give voice to the silence of mysticism, then Pessoa’s objective is to recast
Maeterlinck’s theater of interior meditation into its adverse through his own enigma
variations. Pessoa’s “variations” on an enigmatic theme of absence and suspended
animation, are meant to carry the sense of paradox and contradiction to its most
remote by questioning existence. Symons finds in Maeterlinck “a drama founded on
philosophical ideas, apprehended emotionally”; Pessoa, to the contrary, founds his
drama on emotion apprehended philosophically, at times exclusively by the intellect.

The Axel of his play is the imagined absent mariner, whose return is expected and
awaited by the three women watchers in the early morning hours. His purpose is
ontological argument rather than dramatic feeling. The play maintains the childlike
simplicity and imagination of women astonished by their own unawareness, yet who
face the horror revealed verbally by their uncertainties about reality. The dead damsel
in the coffin represents the question of the meaning of life and the “terrifying eternity
of the things about us,” which Symons places at the heart of mysticism.18 The choice
of women for the role of communication with the beyond is again supported by
Maeterlinck, who attributes to them a special affinity with the occult, the capacity to
experience at a deeper level than a man, and considers that they have a special rela-
tionship with the infinite: “For women are indeed the veiled sisters of all the great
things we do not see. They are indeed nearest of kin to the infinite that is about us”
(1925:108) / Elles sont vraiment les soeurs voilées de toutes les grandes chose qu’on
ne voit pas. Elles sont vraiment les plus proches parentes de l’infini que nous entoure
(1986: 59). The three watchers confront silence, emptiness, and nothingness; while
waiting for the mariner who never appears, they raise doubts about who they are and
even whether they actually exist. The crux of their ontological crisis lies in the reali-
zation that intellectual consciousness comes about only after the formative experi-
ences and ideals on which it can reflect are but past, lyrical reminiscences, should
they have any basis in reality at all; in the paradox, Ricardo Sternberg perceives a
source of Pessoa’s heteronymic world,19 yet there is a much darker strain that would
dissolve any positive identity, founded on the present moment, into a revolving and
irresolvable paradox of time and memory. When the second watcher offers to tell her
dream, the first affirms the pleasure and supremacy of potentiality over memory: “If
it’s beautiful, I’m already sorry I’ll have heard it” (Se é belo, tenho já pena de vir a
atê-lo outvido).
While Lopes muses that The Mariner is perhaps the play that the French sym-
bolists imagined but were never able to write themselves (esse drama estático que
os simbolistas franceses imaginaram sem conseguirem, contudo, realizar),20 Pes-
soa’s idea is much more radical; he borrows Maeterlinck’s theory of static theater as
a foundation on which to create a different theater of immanence. Pessoa’s three
damsels imagine an existence beyond the empty, circular castle and confront the
horror of knowing the truth about how distant their consciousness lies from reality,
should it even exist at all. Present time is likewise denied its validity, since any
words spoken are already in the past: “My present words, as soon as I have spoken
them, will belong immediately to the past, they’ll be somewhere outside of me, rigid
and fatal” (As minhas palavras presentes, mal eu as diga, pertencerão logo ao pas-
sado, ficarão fora de mim, não sei onde, rígidas e fatais). The women seem to know
their fates are sealed: “It’s always too late to sing, just as it’s always too late not to
sing” (É sempre tarde demais para cantar, assim como é sempre tarde demais para
não cantar). Their doubts yield to desperation and finally resignation, in what Lopes
describes as a “theater of ecstasy.”21 With The Mariner, Pessoa pushes static theater
as tragic drama over an abyss; using techniques of myth and ritual with a medieval
aura so particular to Portugal’s own historical formation, his play disarticulates the
interior voice of the self from its own consciousness, questions the meaning of
enunciations or dialogue, and dissolves any certainty about either the characters’

existence or external reality. In his own terms, Pessoa closes all windows and doors
on reality. The drama is made of existential doubt rather than psychological or emo-
tional; it is, in Eduardo Lourenço’s phrase, a negative ontological adventure. Virtual
states of being both substitute and produce the perceived real, as the three characters
oscillate from mental states of fatal ennui to dreamlike states of tantalizing mystery,
while watching over the dead maiden and awaiting the absent mariner.

A Wake or a Sleep? Latency, Immanence,


The discourse of the three women is located in an ephemeral space between waking
and sleeping, where “what sleepiness, what sleep clouds my way of looking at things”
(Que sono, que sono que absorve o meu modo de olhar para as coisas) is equated
with time past, from which the speakers are afraid to awake. Like amnesiacs, they
struggle to remember the past, yet tremble at the actual possibility that they might
remember what it was: “But it was something huge and frightening like the existence
of God” (Mas foi qualquer coisa de grande e pavoroso como o haver Deus). If they
lose their memory of the past, they are no longer themselves, and their past becomes
someone else’s, and is as if it never existed for them: “And then, my whole past
becomes another, and I cry for the dead life that I carry with me and that I never
lived” (E depois todo o meu passado torna-se outro e eu choro uma vida morta que
trago comigo e que não vivi nunca). Even the women who remember are left to won-
der whether their memories are their own or have come from some other life: “Who
knows [. . .] whether I was the one who lived what I remember?” (Quem sabe [. . .]
se fui eu que vivi o que recordo?). These presentiments are conveyed in torturing
expressionism. They hear themselves screaming on the inside, they feel a burning
need to be afraid, they no longer recognize their own voices, it is as if they were
watching themselves helplessly from the outside: “My consciousness floats on the
surface of the terrified somnolence of my sensations through my skin” (A minha
consciência bóia à tona da sonolência apavorada dos meus sentidos pela minha
pele). They sense the presence of a horror that is separating them from their souls
and thoughts: “Who is the fifth person in this room who holds up an arm and stops us
every time we’re about to feel?” (Quem é a quinta pessoa neste quarto que estende
o braço e nos interrompe sempre que vamos a sentir?). Meaning splinters and strat-
ifies, as if the speaker, word, and sound had separate individual identities: “And it
seemed to me that you, and your voice, and the meaning of what you were saying
were three different beings, like three creatures who walk and talk” (E parecia-me
que vós, e a vossa voz, e o sentido do que dizieis eram três entes diferentes, como três
criaturas que falam e andam). The entrapment they sense before the impossibility of
knowing or feeling becomes the black web of a gigantic spider: “an enormous spider
that weaves, from one soul to another, a black web to capture us” (uma aranha
enorme que nos tece de alma a alma uma teia negra que nos prende?). The women
are aware that they are the prey of a latent reality or being much vaster and more
powerful than themselves, a ghastly and unnerving presence in the presentiments of
their imaginations, and they tremble with the thought.

In their clairvoyant stupefaction, the three women watchers in The Mariner

fulfill multiple interpretive roles through the paradox; they wait in what seems
to be suspended time for an imagined or expected bearer of truth, the mariner, to
arrive. The women are abstract and interchangeable, having no names or individual
identities, only numbers; they observe a wake for the dead maiden throughout the
night, and their conversation opens another dimension of fervent desire: the
intensely expected arrival of meaning and the possibility of being, latent states that
the dead maiden invokes from the beyond. Reflecting late medieval and renais-
sance society, the castle and the convent are as confining as death itself; here, in
circular ruins, in the presence of a dead maiden like themselves, and observing a
religious solemnity through the torches, the women wait for release through the
return of a betrothed, the mariner, from his epic voyage. While they fulfill a histor-
ical fatality of Portuguese society from the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries, in
which wives waited for the return of sons and husbands sailing in the seaborne
empire, they recall medieval damsels waiting for a prince in their ivory tower,
whose circular structure annuls time and suggests eternal repetition of stories
within stories, dreamlike realities, and suspended time. The stilled atmosphere in
the tower, in the context of the oral tale, is reminiscent of the eerie lull in the winds
that stopped Vasco da Gama’s fleet in the Indian Ocean when, to pass the time,
Paulo da Gama told the tale of the twelve knights who went to England to defend
the honor of English ladies.22

Three Watchers and a Dead Maiden

Center stage is occupied by a young woman in a coffin dressed in white, while three
young women, who are described as “donzelas” in the original, as if medieval
maidens in a tower, lack personal names or identifiable surroundings in their circular
castle chamber. They are identified only by ordinal numbers. They cannot hear a
clock strike the hour (“There is no clock near here” /Não há relógio aqui perto),
neither can they see outside (“No, the horizon is black” / Não, o horizonte é negro).
In this in-between and ambiguous space and time, the women decide to tell stories,
“beautiful and false” (belo e falso), of what they once were; the stories are consecu-
tive monologues, constituting a false or incomplete dialogue among the women and
superimposing a virtual reality onto the setting. Their aphoristic observations and
questions are frequently cast in the subjunctive tenses or the past perfect, which
makes them more literary, while dislocating and removing time from the scene.
Silence is valued more than telling: “The hours have gone by and we have remained
silent” (As horas têm caído e nós temos guardado silêncio). The ephemeral and
mysterious nature of time, memory, and language pervades the atmosphere and dis-
course, so as to destabilize a moment that already symbolizes suspension of identity
and meaning. The “static theater,” which does not permit any physical movement on
stage, thus propitiating a steady, continuous, and seamless setting, exists in a dra-
matic tension with the women’s speech, which questions meaning and evokes active,
although imagined, maritime voyages and adventures. It is a play of philosophical
speculation in which the foundations of cognition and rationality are abolished.

Reflecting a historical past, the iconic and defining figure of Portuguese nationality
and religious faith is the mariner who sailed away, whether in the Crusades or in the
voyages of Prince Henry to the seaborne empire.23
Even beyond its defiant status as “static theater,” the play foregrounds prob-
lems of genre. The symbolist language and ambience is undercut by the existential
doubt and horror of the three damsels. The interior romance of the shipwreck
story contrasts incongruously with the static, circular tower; and the temporal wait
for the return of the mariner gains messianic or mythological import. The drama
is not found in the language alone, but in the question of being. The damsels tell
their stories between being and nothingness. The women question whether the
past, as remembered, ever actually existed (“a past we might not have ever had” /
um passado que não tivéssemos tido) and whether words have any real meaning
beyond their sound (“You’re saying nothing but words” / Não dizeis senão pala-
vras). If the present is only suffering and separation from meaning, their response
is not only ascetic but primarily aesthetic: to enter the illusion of a ubiquitous
dream, eternal and beautiful: “Only dreams share eternity and beauty” (“De eter-
no e belo há apenas o sonho”). Stasis is better than action (“No, sister, nothing is
worth doing” / Não, minha irmã, nada vale a pena), for the material world hides
a “stony secret” it refuses to tell. Expanding on Pedro Calderón de la Barca’s
(1600–1681) baroque conceit in his 1635 play, “life is dreaming, and even dreams
are dreams” (La vida es sueño y los sueños sueños son),24 Pessoa’s sisters create
their own conceit to deceive death: if they forget life by living in dreams, then
perhaps death will forget them: “wouldn’t it be better just to shut ourselves up in
our dream and forget life, so that death would forget us?” (Não valeria então ape-
nas fecharmo-nos no sonho e esquecer a vida, para que a morte nos esquecesse?).
Within the rhetorical conceit, dreams could have the power to forestall death:
“Why do people die? [. . .] Perhaps because they don’t dream enough” (Por que é
que se morre? Talvez por não se sonhar bastante). Rhetorical conceits are sugges-
tive but insufficient to arrive at the levels of negation and circularity, which are the
play’s thematic depths.
For the three watchers, the sea is a liminal territory with the potential of con-
necting them with other times and worlds, and above all with the ideals of beauty
and contentment that they seek: “I was looking at the sea and forgetting to live [. . .]
Only the sea of other lands is beautiful” (olhava para o mar e esquecia-me de viver
[. . .] Só o mar de outras terras é que é belo). The “sisters,” as they call themselves,
seem to remember an archetypal idyllic youth, happily picking flowers in innocence,
whereas now they see only a cycle of meaningless repetition: “It always dawns in
the same way, always, always, always” (Ele vem sempre da mesma maneira, sem-
pre, sempre, sempre). The dream-memory of a halcyon childhood on the other side
of the hills, living in a primitive communion with Nature, becomes the first myth
created as an interior narrative episode. The reference to tamarind trees (tamarindus
indica) suggests a tropical setting, since it is a monotype that spread from tropical
Africa to India and the East Indies; the Jesuit order was known for its gardens of
tropical fruit trees in Portuguese India. Pessoa could have absorbed the idealization
of a colonial isle from Daniel Defoe (Robinson Crusoe, 1719), Bernardin de Saint-
Pierre’s romance, Paul et Virginie (1787), or from the travel adventures of Robert

Louis Stevenson, (Treasure Island, 1883), or Rudyard Kipling’s stories of India

(The Jungle Books, 1894):25

On the other side (of the hills), where my mother lives, we used to sit in the shade of
tamarind trees and talk about going to see other lands [. . .] There everything was
distant and happy like the song of two birds, one on either side of the path [. . .] The
forest had no clearings except those in our thoughts. And we dreamed that the trees
would cast on the ground some other calm besides their shadows [. . .] I lived among
rocks and looked out at the sea [. . .] The hem of my skirt was fresh and salty beating
against my bare legs [. . .] I was young and wild.
Do lado de lá, onde mora minha mãe, costumávamos sentarmo-nos à sombra
dos tamarindos e falar de ir ver outras terras [. . .] Tudo ali era longo e feliz como
o canto de duas aves, uma de cada lado do caminho [. . .] A floresta não tinha outras
clareiras senão os nossos pensamentos [. . .] E os nossos sonhos eram de que as
árvores projetassem no chão outra calma que não as suas sombras [. . .] Eu vivi
entre rochedos e espreitava o mar [. . .] A orla da minha saia era fresca e salgada
batendo nas minhas pernas nuas [. . .] Eu era pequena e bárbara.

In their discourse, the “sisters” represent the theological debate of the convent and
medieval Catholicism, whereas their questioning undermines any basis of belief.
Nonetheless, their souls are at risk, and they fear the immaterial: “Our hands are not
true or real. They’re mysteries that inhabit our lives [. . .] Sometimes, when I stare at
my hands, I fear God” (As mãos não são verdadeiras nem reais [. . .] São mistérios
que habitam na nossa vida [. . .] Às vezes, quando fito as minhas mãos, tenho medo
de Deus). Their love of the dream lies at the opposite spectrum of their fear of the
forbidden, the prohibitions of God: “I’m deathly afraid that God might have forbid-
den my dream. It is undoubtedly more real that God allows” (Tenho um medo disfor-
me de que Deus tivesse proibido o meu sonho [. . .] Ele é sem dúvida mais real do que
Deus permite). The women treat all sensory perceptions as symbolic systems that
have, if any at all, only tenuous connections with an exterior reality, as if there were
a truer perception that needed no representation: “I stare at you both and don’t see
you right away [. . .] I have to wear out the idea that I can see you to be able finally
to see you” (Fito-vos a ambas e não vos vejo logo [. . .] Tenho que cansar a idéia de
que vos posso ver para poder chegar a ver-vos).
Pessoa takes advantage of the women’s eerie questioning of their tenuous exis-
tence to posit a series of theses in the form of questions that recapitulate philosoph-
ical argumentation on the subject of ontology and being, beginning with the Greeks.
The first thesis-question, “But do we know, my sisters, why anything happens?”
(Mas sabemos nós, minhas irmãs, por que se dá qualquer cousa?), returns to the
debate between Leucippus, Democritus, and Sextus on the questions of whether
anything has to happen, whether nothing happens without a reason, and whether
everything that happens has to happen. Pessoa follows the skeptical claim that, rather
than misrepresenting reality, the senses can know nothing whatever about it; reality
is totally inaccessible. The second thesis-question concerns the nature of being:
“What is anything? How does it happen? What is the way it moves inside like?” (O
que é qualquer cousa? Como é que ela passa? Como é por dentro o modo como ela
passa?). Departing from Parminides’s questioning of what being is, the play hinges

on the distinction between being, in the abstract, and actual existence. Being can
be conceived by the imagination alone, as in the tale of the mariner, whereas actual
existence, embodied in the women who are speaking, cannot exist on its own with-
out being, in the abstract, which is but cannot be defined. Following Hegel, Pessoa
implies that being without all of its predicates is reduced to nothing: “What if
everything were, in a way, absolutely nothing?” (Se tudo fosse, de qualquer modo,
absolutamente coisa nenhuma?). The Third Watcher remembers a stream from
childhood and questions its purpose: “Not far from my mother’s house there flowed
a stream. Why should it flow, and why shouldn’t it flow father away, or closer?”
(Ao pé da casa de minha mãe corria um riacho [. . .] Por que é que correria, e por
que é que não correria mais longe, ou mais perto?). This question synthesizes
the poetic philosophy of Alberto Caeiro, Pessoa’s master heteronym, who observes
the village stream whose flow is either always different or always the same, tran-
scendent when it flows into the ocean and only itself when in the village. Both deny
instrumentality and conceive a Nature whose purpose is nothing other than itself.
In poem XX of The Keeper of Sheep (O Guardador de Rebanhos) Caeiro will

No one’s ever wondered what lies beyond

The river of my village
The river of my village makes no one think of anything
Anyone standing alongside it is just standing alongside it.26
Ninguém nunca pensou no que há para além
Do rio da minha aldeia.
O rio da minha aldeia não faz pensar em nada.
Quem está ao pé dele está só ao pé dele.

With the fourth thesis-question, the debate between a planned and purposeful or
chaotic and random universe leads the discussion from philosophical into theological
dimensions: “Is there any reason for anything to be what it is? Is there any real and
true reason, like my hands?” (Há alguma razão para qualquer coisa ser o que é? Há
para isso qualquer razão verdadeira e real como as minhas mãos?). The question
undercuts rational materialism, which supposes the sister’s hands to be true and real,
by denying any design or reason for them to be so; thus, even if everything is what
it is, there is no intentionality or inevitability for it to be so. The apparent truth of
matter conceals, therefore, purposelessness and incoherence. Pessoa plays with the
paradox of being-in-itself by rejecting our perception of change, first expressed as a
simple observation about the temperature, yet leading to the axiom that things cannot
be any more or less than that are: “It has turned colder, but why is it colder? There’s
no reason for it to be colder. It’s not really much colder than it is” (Está mais frio,
mas por que é que está mais frio? Não há razão para estar mais frio. Não é bem mais
frio do que está). Change is only apparent; things are inevitable and fatally only what
they are. The fifth question, “Why doesn’t someone knock at the door? It would be
impossible” (Por que não bate alguém à porta? Seria impossível), is a predecessor of
existential nothingness. That someone is a “Godot” who would confirm the sisters’
doubts and anguish about the existence of God.

Pessoa’s Absent Mariner

The existence of the absent mariner is implied by the stretch of sea between two
distant hills that is visible from the castle’s long, narrow window. The archetypal
figure of the mariner, whether imagined or real, sustains, deepens, and underlies
every facet of the play’s meaning and interpretation. In a purely existentialist vision,
the mariner is a Godot, while theologically the mariner may stand for any awaited
authority, truth, or messiah. For the expectant watchers, the glimpse of ocean marks
the immanence of a greater unknown: the knowledge and power to unite the past and
the present, to resolve the Camonian “disconcert of the world”: distance versus prox-
imity, dream versus reality, movement versus stasis, reunion versus solitude, identity
versus alienation, plenitude versus loss, existence (history) versus potentiality.27 The
tension implied by this constant dialectic breaks with the theory of stasis and creates
dramatic conflict, even if only conveyed through dialogue. Although abstract and
messianic, the figure of the mariner carries historical and cultural meanings equally.
The figure resonates with Portugal’s age-old connection with the sea, from the Cru-
sades to the voyages begun under Prince Henry (1394–1460) that would round Afri-
ca and carry the Portuguese to Japan by 1543. The fate of all who sailed on the ships
of empire was at risk, and accounts of shipwrecks that claimed one third of all who
traveled were collected by Bernardo Gomes de Brito (1688–1760) in The Tragic
History of the Sea (História Trágico-Marítima, 1735–1736).28 Women who wait anx-
iously for a mariner’s return are commonly found in Portuguese theater, as in Gil
Vicente’s Auto da Índia (1509).29 The mariner reflects not only the heroes of the
Portuguese voyages, for example the Vasco da Gama of Camões’s Lusiads, but also
confirms the theme of the voyages as a necessary experiential quest for meaning, a
confirmation of the existence of the Portuguese. A principal quest in the voyages was
the phantom Nestorian Christian known as Prester John, believed to be in Ethiopia;
in distinguishing between human and divine essences and postulating the existence
of two persons, Nestorianism supports Pessoa’s idea of heteronomy and the exis-
tence in the play of two distinct mariners, real and imagined. The mariner’s quest
further reflects a biblical theme repeated by Camões in “Babel e Sião,” his poem on
a mariner’s exile (Babylon) from the imagined paradise or home (Zion).30 The poem’s
narrator questions whether he can have any memory of an ideal place, the dreamed
Zion, which he has never known but intensely imagines:

Mas, ó tu, terra de glória, O glorious Land of Light,

se eu nunca vi tua essência, If I saw not your essence plain,
como me lembras na ausência? How remember the absent again?31

Pessoa’s play effectively postulates a quantum gap between memory of timeless spir-
itual experience and affective consciousness, in its realm of existential and aesthetic
Complementing the figure of the mariner who united Portugal with the distant
unknown is a parallel catalyst in the play, the young woman in the coffin, whose body
represents occult truths; she likewise unites incomprehensible, opposing spheres of
life and death, presence and absence, being and nothingness. Both cross thresholds of

time and space, being and non-being. The mariner, imagined to have existed and
whose providential return is awaited, is key to an epistemological restoration and mes-
sianic epiphany awaited by Western theology and philosophy: the return and recovery
of divine authority, identity, truth, and salvation, now lost in ineffable, lyrical memory.
The mariner, ostensibly comparable to the classical gods of the sea, holds power over
life and death because he bestows and confirms meaning, knowledge, and purpose; his
return will release the watchers from doubt and disbelief. For the women, he becomes
their creator, and they begin to suspect that they exist only as figments of his primal
imagination: “Why can’t the mariner be the only thing that’s real in all of this, and we
and everything else here just one of his dreams?” (Por que não será a única coisa real
nisto tudo o marinheiro, e nós e tudo isto aqui apenas um sonho dele?).
The trope of the waiting female gives the scenario mythical import, as a recapit-
ulation of Penelope and Ulysses, where the hero’s return restores continuity and qui-
escence in place of epic dislocation. Like Ulysses, the mariner is also the wandering
husband and adventurer, whom the women await to fulfill an existential, a biological,
and a social role, sustaining the ideals of union, fecundity, and regeneration. Tying
Portugal to the construct of Western classicism and medieval Christianity, the mari-
ner is husband and lord, awaited savior, a quasi-mythical entity emanating from the
sea, whose purpose is teleological, national, and existential. Foreshadowing Pessoa’s
Mensagem (Message, 1934), a chronological poetic sequence on the heroes of Portu-
guese nationality and the epic of maritime expansion, the mariner may be interpreted
as a precursor of the poet-Argonaut, Vasco da Gama, whom Pessoa describes ascend-
ing into heaven in an apotheosis of Portuguese voyages under divine guidance.
Viewed historically, the mariner is identified with Sebastianism, a messianic current
created after D. Sebastião (1554–1578), Portugal’s king, who disappeared in the bat-
tle with the Moors at El-Ksar el-Kebir in Morocco in 1578, leaving no heirs. Portu-
guese captives were spread among the Arab kingdoms of the Middle East, and their
return was spread sporadically over subsequent decades. Sebastião’s body was never
located, and he was presumed to be alive as a captive. His lost body came to signify
the loss of Portuguese independence to Spain in 1580 and gave rise to one of the most
enduring myths in Portuguese cultural and political history, a millennial expectation
of the country’s transformative restoration by a miraculous return of the absent mon-
arch. The mariner’s voyage is nothing less than a full archetype of Portuguese being,
personifying national experience since the twelfth century in mythical and historio-
graphical constructions: his role is consonant with that of a knight of the militant
Christian Order of Christ,32 explorer of unknown worlds, and god of the sea.

By the spring of 1915, Pessoa had written one of his most complex and certainly his
longest poem, the “Ode Marítima” attributed to the Scottish naval engineer, Álvaro
de Campos, and published in the second number of ORPHEU (April-May-June
1915). The Mariner introduces the oceanic theme of the incipient “Maritime Ode”
and shares literary characteristics with the voluble and voluminous ode that it antici-
pates. In Campos’s long, rambling ode, the poet imagines that an Argonaut departs
on a voyage from a point of stasis at a Lisbon pier; gyrations of the ship’s wheel carry
the Argonaut to heights of ecstasy on distant seas in an orgiastic pirate voyage with
no ethical limits. The self disappears to merge with the lives and passions of sailors

who pass beyond any limits of morality or society. Finally, from their adventures the
voyagers return in exhaustion to the pier and to quiescence. As a precursor, the play
is a maritime ode without the sea, glimpsed from the narrow window of a castle
chamber, whereas in the later ode the vast sea is imagined from a pier; in both works,
the sea is viewed from a distance. Both works present the sea from a static point of
view, as a manifestation of the imagination or poetic dream of a narrator; the immo-
bile women in the play fear the collapse of time and memory, whereas the narrator of
the ode is horrified by imagined, fantastical scenes of euphoric primitivism, beyond
good and evil. In both works, past connections with the sea are projected spatially as
problems of identity, historical and individual consciousness, and existential authen-

But my soul goes with what I see the least [. . .]

With the maritime sense of this Hour,
With the sorrowful sweetness that rises up in me like seasickness.
Mas a minh’alma está com o que vejo menos [. . .]
Com o sentido marítimo desta Hora,
Com a doçura dolorosa que sobe em mim como uma náusea.

The ode recasts many of the existential concerns of the play: the pier is a “stony
melancholy” (saudade de pedra) and the space opened between the departing ship
and the pier is one of anguish that revives presentiments of a forgotten past and met-
aphoric present. The rational construction project in stone of the Great Pier of fre-
netic modernity (Entidades em Pedra-Almas) is the point of departure for a voyage
into the solitude and incomprehensibility of an “impossible universe” (Deste impos-
sível universo), the inchoate origin of anxiety and absurdity. Both the mariner in the
play and the sailor in the ode are identified with the Portuguese seaborne empire and
sixteenth-century voyages in Asia, as well as with archetypes of travel and adventure
literature. The sailors chant and shout:

Fifteen men on the Dead Man’s Chest.

Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!

The mariner fills the role of hero-sailor, sharing a fantasy theme invoking Portugal’s
historical seaborne empire, within the haze of an awaited historical and theological
apotheosis. In his travels, Fernão Mendes Pinto recreates cruel and fantastic sce-
narios in Southeast Asian seas that lend both works historical verisimilitude, and
both envision the possible messianic return of a lost national past.
Just as the mariner is distant from the women in the castle, the sailor in the ode
is equally absent, a mysterious memory of perhaps another previous self: “like some-
one else’s memory / That might be mysteriously mine” (como uma recordação duma
outra pessoa/Que fosse misteriosamente minha). The ode recapitulates and augments
the second watcher’s dream, in that the narrator, who feels a strange identity with the
phantom sailor, also imagines having sailed at some previous time in another self
(antes de mim) and from a different kind of port (outra espécie de porto), outside
space and time (Espaço e Tempo). Both works exploit the essential mystery of reality

and the anguished wait for the revelation of a divine ecstasy (divino êxtase revela-
dor). In both works, narrators fear their atavistic and primal dreams. The voyage is
both an ultimate adventure, yet no more than a dream. The mariner is trapped in a
never-ending voyage of virtual realities, while archetypal voyages carry the ode into
occult, primitive dimensions of behavior and mentality. The former presents existen-
tially what the latter dramatizes as a battle between Eros and Thanatos.

The Homeland that Never Was

The inner story on which the play is focused is the myth of the shipwrecked mariner
told by the Second Watcher. The story is introduced with a prelude, in which there
are presentiments of amnesia and the sighting of a distant, metonymic sail, which can
never be bound for any port.

One day when I realized I was leaning back on top of a cold cliff, and that I had
forgotten I ever had a mother and father, or ever had a childhood or lived other
days—on that day I saw distantly, as something that I might have only thought about
seeing, the slow passing of a sail in the distance [. . .] Then it vanished [. . .] When I
came to, I saw that I had now made my own dream.
Um dia que eu dei por mim recostada no cimo frio de um rochedo, e que eu
tinha esquecido que tinha pai e mãe e que houvera em mim infância e outros dias –
nesse dia vi ao longe, como uma coisa que eu só pensasse em ver, a passagem vaga
de uma vela [. . .] Depois ela cessou..Quando reparei para mim, vi que já tinha esse
meu sonho.

Cast onto an isle without any hope of rescue or return to his country, the mariner
avoids the suffering brought on by memory by slowly constructing a new life, as if it
were a never-ending dream. Over the years, he constructs a new homeland. Pessoa
here inverts expectations of the adventure and survival story into a continuum, by
making the mariner’s virtual life take the place of his lost, previous existence, sup-
planting and replacing it in his memory and consciousness until he is unsure whether
the original ever existed at all; he even imagines a happy, nonexistent youth. He loses
all memory of a previous life, whereas in the one he was dreaming everything became
real; it was yet a new past for another substitute life. It is possible that Prospero and
the shipwreck in The Tempest is a source, as Tabucchi thinks, given Prospero’s
twelve-year isolation and reference to life as a dream; yet the mariner’s reconstruc-
tion of a full life in the manner of his true country and previous existence suggests
that Pessoa is inverting the Robinson Crusoe story, such that adaptation and survival
skills, the ability to reconstitute identity, lead to a very strange form of survival: loss
of self and national or cultural origin, from which there is no return, but instead eter-
nal change and voyage, “the vague passing of a sail” (a passagem vaga de uma vela).
The three watchers, unsure of their own existence, create and repeat the myth, ideal-
izing the mariner’s dream that they have conjured. If possible, they would encapsu-
late themselves into the mariner’s dream and inhabit “his” imagined real and brave
new world.

The fate of the mariner is left inconclusive, although it is certain that he will
never return to his original country or regain his lost past. The Second Watcher
remembers only a fragment of the end: “One day a boat arrived, and passed by that
island, and the mariner wasn’t there” (Veio um dia um barco, e passou por essa ilha,
e não estava lá o marinheiro). Not only does no one have an answer to what hap-
pened to him; the Second Watcher has also become absorbed in the dream and is
unsure whether it is still going on.

A Theater of Immanence

The question of what became of the mariner is left unanswered: “And then what
became of the mariner? Does anyone know?” (E o que teriam feito do marinheiro?
Sabê-lo-iam alguém?) or unanswerable, and at this point Pessoa’s “ontological
adventure” takes a sharp turn toward all the horror (o nosso horror) felt and sensed
by the women. The challenge to the foundations of identity and cognition have now
become so heavy that the watcher becomes afraid of transgressing a divine prohi-
bition and inciting unknown horrors: “I already weigh too much in my lap of
self-awareness [. . .] I’m deathly afraid that God might have forbidden my dream
[. . .] It is undoubtedly more real than He allows [. . .] Who knows where it might
lead?” (Peso excessivamente ao colo de me sentir [. . .] Tenho um medo disforme
de que Deus tivesse proibido o meu sonho [. . .] Ele é sem dúvida mais real do que
Deus permite. Quem sabe o que está no fim dela?). The sense of immanent pres-
ence that has inhibited words and thought throughout the play is condensed into the
sense of a fifth person present in the room, the forbidding God whose existence had
been felt with dread and strangeness: “How strange I feel! [. . .] I no longer know
in what part of my soul things are felt [. . .] They threw a leaden shroud over my
awareness of my body” (Que estranha que me sinto! [. . .] Já não sei em que parte
da alma é que se sente [. . .] Puseram ao meu sentimento do corpo uma mortalha
de chumbo). The women’s dream, described only in the negative, is to restore unity
and to find authenticity by once again uniting voice with soul, sensations with
thoughts, and in silence to receive the new day and participate in the “unconscious-
ness of life” (a inconsciência da vida). The God that forces them to “talk and feel
and think” (nos faz falar e sentir e pensar) separates them from themselves with a
deep sleepiness separating signifier from signified, the feeler from what is felt, and
dulls their perceptions, making life appear strange: “It’s so strange to be alive [. . .]
Everything that happens is unbelievable, as much on the mariner’s island as in this
world” (É tão estranho estar a viver [. . .] Tudo o que acontece é inacreditável,
tanto na ilha do marinheiro como neste mundo).
Are dreams forever and beautiful, as the women wish? One of the dimensions
of the horror that the second watcher expresses is the sudden realization that the
mariner’s dream in all its artificiality and loss, might, in fact, be real: “There’s
something, although I don’t know what it is, that I haven’t told you [. . .] something
that would explain all this [. . .] My soul makes me shiver [. . .] I’m hardly aware if
I’ve been speaking [. . .] Talk to me, shout at me, so that I’ll wake up, so that I’ll
know that I’m here with you and that there are things that are just dreams” (Há

qualquer coisa, que não sei o que é, que vos não disse [. . .] qualquer coisa que
explicaria isto tudo [. . .] A minha alma esfria-me [. . .] Mal sei se tenho estado a
falar [. . .] Falai-me, gritai-me, para que eu acorde, para que eu saiba que estou
aqui ante vós e que há coisas que são apenas sonhos). If “dreams are dreams,” and
“life is rounded with a sleep,” following the mannerist conceits, may there be no
reality at all to be found on any level in the constructs of identity, memory, and con-
sciousness? Perhaps, like the mariner’s story, reality is only false and circular, and
destined to be repeated without meaning or our being aware of it? The only thing
worse than unavoidable fate is for there to be no fate at all, no story, no necessary
continuity or connection in anything: “Can it be absolutely necessary, even within
your dream, that that mariner and that island existed? —No, my sister. Nothing is
absolutely necessary” (Será absolutamente necessário, mesmo dentro do vosso
sonho, que tenha havido esse marinheiro e essa ilha?—Não, minha irmã; nada é
absolutamente necessário).
With the approaching end of the play, Pessoa carries his argument to a more
intense level of existential doubt and anguish. The Third Watcher assumes that
dawn will come, people will wake up, and the suspended phantasmagorical time
of the early morning will come to an end. The watchers must wait, however, for
someone actually to wake up and appear. Day has already come, and the natural
assumption is that a sense of place and reality will be restored with the return of
the diurnal rhythm, the world as the women remember it. With the awakening,
what the women have undergone will be placed in perspective as the horror of a
long sleep. Yet the awaited change, “Everything’s going to end [. . .] And what’s
left from all this” (Vai acabar tudo [. . .] E de tudo isto fica), does not occur,
although it is imminently expected and implied: “Yes, someone has awakened
[. . .] People are waking up” (Sim, acordou alguém [. . .] Há gente que acorda).
The women wait for someone to appear, just as they waited during the early morn-
ing for the return of the mariner. The Third Watcher assumes that the other two are
happy, because they believe in the dream, but she has not been following the im-
plications of the stories. The Second Watcher delivers a final negative twist to the
philosophical exposition by stating her disbelief in the dream: “Why do you ask
me about it? Because I told it? No, I don’t believe” (Por que é que mo perguntais?
Por que eu o disse? Não, não acredito). The dream within a dream within a dream,
like the play within a play, has become a condemnation to anonymity, dread, and
unreality. Will the expected worldly reality return, to bring an end to the cycle of
dreams and resolve the suspension of meaning, allowing the play to conclude?
Here, Pessoa only increases the level of metaphysical doubt. The question of
whether any real, outside person wakes up is left suspended without an answer, as
was the question of the fate of the mariner: “The day never dawns for those who
rest their heads in the laps of dreamed hours” (O dia nunca raia para quem encos-
ta a cabeça no seio das horas sonhadas). In the sudden daylight, the watchers
remain silent, looking at each other in their dread. No one appears or speaks. A
rooster crows, an augury of denial, while outside, an “indefinite wagon creaks and
groans” (um vago carro geme e chia). Is it a wagon with a driver, headed for a
certain port; or is it a wagon, like the mariner’s sail, a Flying Dutchman that could
not be bound for any port?

While elements of Pessoa’s play can be found throughout fin-de-siècle theater,

a predecessor for the suspended ending of The Mariner can be found in the clos-
ing scenes (Part IV, I, scene 5, II) of L’Isle Adam’s Axël. Sara and Axel have
passed a night of passion in the cavern of a castle, and Sara imagines a sea voy-
age covering the most exotic destinations over the earth, from India and Ceylon
to Spain and Hungary, Italy and the Nile, following celestial signs toward an
oriental dream; her imagination even admits a simple existence in a hut in some
Florida, listening to hummingbirds. Sara considers that youthful passion has
made them all-powerful, and thus all dreams are equally acceptable and benefi-
cent: “What difference does it make whether we prefer one dream or another?”
(que nous importe de préférer tel rêve entre les rêves?). In Sara’s soliloquy in
Scene IV, she covered the world’s potential exotic destinations for a lover’s

SARA The sea, O my beloved, I want the limitless sea! [. . .]

—O voluptuousness of living!
Past: [. . .] Old world, you cannot last.
SARA La mer, ô mon bien-aimé, je veux la mer sublime!
O volupté de viver!
LE CHOEUR Tu meurs, ancien monde.

Rays of dawn reaching the cellar of the castle of Axël d’Auersperg represent a return
to the world of existence, where villagers awake:

SARA [shouting] Day! dawn! [. . .] Look! It is the future rising!

CHORUS: [. . .] If an awakening there be!
SARA Soon we shall fly into the luminous mist [. . .] Soon here are people on the road!
then a village! [. . .] then a city! [. . .] more cities! then the sun itself! then the world!
SARA Le jour! l’aurore! [. . .] Quel avenir levant!
LE CHOEUR [. . .] S’il est un réveil!
SARA Nous voici fuyant dans une brume radieuse [. . .] Bientôt voici des humaines,
sure les reoutes! puis un village! [. . .] puis une ville! des villes! [. . .] puis le soleil!
puis le monde!

Axel fears the jealousy of a god, just as the sisters are afraid “that God might have
forbidden my dream” (que Deus tivesse probido o meu sonho):

AXEL: What is the point of following them? [. . .] they are too beautiful!
[. . .] No doubt at this very moment some god is jealous of me, I who am able
to die [. . .] Life? What hourglass could measure the hours of this night! The future?
[. . .] we have just exhausted it [. . .] What is the point [. . .] in buying the effigies of
dreams! The quality of our hope forbids the world to us now [. . .] it is the Earth
which has become illusion.33
AXEL: A quoi bon les réaliser? [. . .] Ils son si beaux!
[. . .] Sans doute, un dieu me jalouse en cet instant, moi que peux mourir.
[. . .] Vivre? [. . .] Quel sablier comptera les heures de cette nuit! L’avenir?
[. . .] nous venons de l’épuiser [. . .] A quoi bon monnayer [. . .] à l’effigie du rêve!

La qualité de notre espoir ne nous permet plus la terre [. . .] C’est elle, ne le voit-tu
pas, qui est devenue l’Illusion!34

When Axel determines that through the heights of passion he and Sara have become
their own souls, he moves beyond any voyage: if they accepted a return to mere
reality, they would be committing a sacrilege. Sara had planned to live a dream that
bears comparison with that of the sisters in The Mariner, and Axel’s fateful coun-
terpoint on the futility of awakening came as an unexpected shock to the joy she
expressed in all life.
Whereas Axel embraces death in order to eternalize a supreme reality, in The
Mariner the sisters have explored the horror of a circular existence, their inability to
confirm that any state is anything but an illusion, and wait to be recalled from their
suspended animation to a common village reality. The “funerary splendor of this cav-
ern” (le splendeur funébre de ce caveau)35 where Sara and Axel consummate their
passion is accepted by Axel as a superior reality, perhaps the single intense hour that
gods allow; the funerary castle room in The Mariner converts the womb symbol, to the
contrary, into a threshold between states of reality, expressing doubt, anxiety, and am-
biguity. It is a passionate state of immanence, which undermines and replaces Axel’s
fatal confidence. The damsels are condemned to wait for Time to fulfill its mystery.
Pessoa’s Theater of Immanence prolongs the unbearable weight of conscious-
ness, in its questioning and search for being, while carrying the theme of life as a
dream to dizzying levels of unreality and abstraction, as the watchers continue their
potentially eternal wait for the return of a savior. As Pessoa the critic confirmed,
“There is nothing more remote in all literature” (Não existe coisa mais remota em
literatura). Pessoa did not limit his critique of the play to the third-person review,
however. In 1915, he added a postscript by the heteronym who would appear along-
side the play in the first number of Orpheu with his voluble poems “Ode Triunfal”
and “Opiário.” Álvaro de Campos, dismissing the play in a few tart lines, sent his
own comments to Pessoa in a note:



After twelve minutes
Of your drama The Mariner,
In which the most agile and astute
Feel sleepy and brutish,
Without an inkling to its meaning,
One of the watchers speaks
With a languorous magic:
Only our dreams are eternal and beautiful.
Why are we still talking?
Well now, that is exactly what I was going
To ask those ladies. . .




Depois de doze minutos

Do seu drama O Marinheiro,
Em que os mais ageis e astutos
Se sentem com somno e brutos,
E de sentido nem cheiro,
Diz uma das veladoras
Com langorosa magia:
De eterno e bello ha apenas o sonho. Porque estamos nós fallando ainda?
Ora isso mesmo é que eu ia
Perguntar a essas senhoras. . . .

Campos is brimming with impatience and shows no sympathy for the experimental
“static drama” or for its prolonged metaphysical questioning. He represents those
who find the experimental technique and ethereal abstractions to be tedious; if the
symbolists sought “divine monotony” in style for its beauty and self-concealment,37
Campos wrote at the opposite spectrum, loudly singing of his “non-self” and the
esthetic of an encompassing universality. Perhaps Pessoa was using Campos’s dev-
astating “criticism” to stimulate wider interest in his play and to stir debate about its
experimental method? Even so, the insouciant critic gives us evidence that Pessoa
was sensitive to the limits of performance and reception of his dense drama, undoubt-
edly impenetrable for theatergoers of the day who were uninterested in experimental
theater or abstract existential speculation. Campos’s poem-critique, while confirm-
ing the “utter lack of meaning”38 of the play for those incapable or unwilling to fol-
low its inner depths, may be meant as incentive through its arrogant humor to arouse
renewed curiosity about the veiled secrets of “those ladies,” as well as a defense
against the charge of incomprehensibility. Pessoa is reminding the reader that the
distance between occult symbolism and cosmopolitan modernism, apparently irrec-
oncilable, was no greater than the pages that separated Campos’s poems from his
play in the same journal that launched the avant-garde in Portugal.

Feigning Real Life

Heart and Mind in the Cancioneiro

Entro o sono e o sonho,

Entre mim e o que em mim
É o quem eu me suponto,
Corre um rio sem fim.

Não sou eu quem descrevo. Eu sou a tela

E oculta mão colora alguém em mim.
Passos da Cruz, XI

The most well-known and widely translated and quoted poem by Fernando Pessoa
“himself” is the “Autopsychograph” (Autopsicografia) that begins with the line “The
Poet is a feigner” (O poeta é um fingidor).1 It has become a signature poem standing
for Pessoa’s poetic world as a whole, although it belongs only to those poems written
for his Cancioneiro collection and is not always read with the irony and distance
required, as befits a poem in the form of traditional popular Portuguese verse:

The poet is a feigner.

So completely does he feign
that the pain he truly feels
he even feigns as pain.

And those who read his writings

will feel the printed pain,
not the two that he has suffered
but the one that they must feign.

And so around its trackage

the little clockwork train
we call the heart, goes spinning
to entertain the brain.


O poeta é um fingidor
Finge tão completamente
Que chega a fingir que é dor
A dor que deveras sente.
E os que têem o que escreve,
Na dor lida sentem bem,
Não as duas que ele teve,
Mas só a que eles não têm.

E assim nas calhas de roda

Gira, a entreter a razão,
Esse comboio de corda
Que se chama coração.2

Written in April, 1931, the “Autopsychograph” is one of the last poems belonging to
the Cancioneiro, the genre of song-poems that Pessoa suggested as a title for a collec-
tion of poetry, never published in his lifetime, written under the name “Fernando Pes-
soa,” which would be “a large volume of small poems” (grande volume de poemas
pequenos). The title is found in a letter to João Gaspar Simões in 1932, in which Pes-
soa proposes a “Cancioneiro (or another title equally inexpressive), where I would
bring together (in Books I to III or I to IV) various of the many individual poems that
I have, and that are by nature unclassifiable except in that unexpressive manner” (Can-
cioneiro (ou outro título igualmente inexpressivo), onde reuniria (em Livros I a III ou
I a V) vários dos muitos poemas soltos que tenho, e que são por natureza inclassi-
ficáveis salvo de essa maneira inexpressiva).3 The poem is composed of four rhymed
verses, written in the seven-syllable redondilha maior, which along with the five-syl-
lable redondilha menor are the forms used in Portugal’s traditional oral and popular
poetry, dating from a poetic flowering in the early thirteenth century, later collected
into large manuscript songbooks.4 In quatrains drawn from themes such as love and
nature, traditional Portuguese verse expresses with simplicity, generosity, and direct-
ness the profundity of age-old truths of human relationships. Pessoa’s use of the genre
dates to a precocious 1893 quatrain titled Ó terras de Portugal (Oh Portuguese Lands),
and in 1908 he wrote more quatrains under the title Cantares (Songs). That year he
began to study Portuguese poetry by reading such contemporary authors as António
Nobre (1867–1900) who, reflecting the English Pre-Raphaelites and Aesthetes, revived
interest in medieval themes and traditional verse; Pessoa himself created a setting in a
medieval castle for his 1913 play, “The Mariner.” In a 1914 preface to Missal de Tro-
vas, on which he collaborated with Augusto Cunha (1894–1947) and António Ferro
(1895–1956), Pessoa defended the popular quatrains as part of a national soul:

Whoever makes Portuguese quatrains communes with the soul of the people, hum-
bly for all of us and errantly within his own self.5
Quem faz quadras portuguesas, comunga a alma do povo, humildemente de todos
nós e errante dentro de si próprio.6

In Portugal, the fin-de-siècle was a period of intense linguistic and folkloric

research, drawn not only from medieval traditions, but also from the diaspora of

empire. Portuguese philologist José Leite de Vasconcelos (1858–1941) had collected

and published numerous volumes of popular verse since 1881, including the Roman-
ceiro Português (1886) and founded the journal Revista Lusitana (1899), replete with
folk poetry. Scholar Theophilo Braga (1843–1924) had published a Cancioneiro
Popular and Romanceiro Geral (1867), followed by a critical edition of the Cancio-
neiro da Vaticana (1878). Yale philologist Henry R. Lang (1853–1934) had published
the Liederbuch des Königs Denis von Portugal (Cancioneiro d’el- rei D. Dinis, 1894),
and medievalist Carolina Michaëlis de Vasconcellos (1851–1925) edited the Cancio-
neiro da Ajuda (1904). Between 1910 and 1917, the University of Coimbra was
publishing the Cancioneiro Geral of Garcia de Resende. Pessoa’s interest intensified
through contact with the Saudosista group led by Teixeira de Pascoais (1877–1952)
circa 1912, poets interested in recovering and defining a national soul. In his 1935
letter to critic Adolfo Casais Monteiro, Pessoa gave priority to writing “a large
number of short poems” (um grande volume de poemas pequenos) because of a
poetic imperative to be brief and precise (sejamos breves e precisos), although his
unusual dedication to the genre in the 1930s cannot be equated with his earlier limited
practice of the genre. The seven-syllable quatrain, nevertheless, had become one of
Pessoa’s most frequently used forms, appearing in some of his heteronyms but more
pervasively in the poems attributed to “Fernando Pessoa,” regardless of whether he
called them cantigas, cantares or canções.
Pessoa used both the terms quadras and cantigas to describe the poems belong-
ing to the Cancioneiro tradition. While he turns to the redondilha more frequently in
the early 1930s, as one observes in the Cancioneiro, his fascination with popular verse
to the point of writing hundreds of popular quatrains in a concentrated period between
1934 and 1935, compiled in his archive under the designations “Quadras” (Quatrains)
and “Outros Cantares” (Other Songs), remained unknown. In 1965, Georg Rudolf
Lind and Jacinto do Prado Coelho revealed their existence in the collection Quadras
ao gosto popular,7 which contained 325 quatrains. This facet of Pessoa’s writing was
all the more surprising because it seemed to conflict with the image of a highly abstract
and erudite figure: “Who could have supposed that such a cerebral and speculative
spirit would condescend to cultivate such a simple and popular genre, which he him-
self […] had considered to be the most elemental of poetic genres, the spontaneous
expression of an emotion” (Quem podia supor que um espírito tão cerebral e especu-
lative condescendesse em cultivar um género tão simples e popular, que ele próprio
[…] considerara o mais elementar dos géneros poéticos, expressão espontânea duma
emoção).8 Many remaining unpublished popular quatrains took another thirty years to
appear, in Teresa Sobral Cunha’s Quadras e Outros Cantares (1997) and in Luísa
Freire’s Quadras (2002).9 The role of traditional and popular verse in Pessoa, as can
now be more fully appreciated, played a significant role as a genre in his poetic devel-
opment. Lind suggested that with the quatrains Pessoa saw the opportunity to create
“another mask,” a popular poet of national, folk, and telluric material.10
Why was Pessoa increasingly drawn to popular and traditional Portuguese
verse? In the early 1930s, Pessoa was finishing his book of historical and na-
tional mysticism, Mensagem (1934), which may have led him to a more intimate
interest in the oral tradition, in whose spontaneity and expressive imagery he
could commune with the national character and psychology. Prado Coelho

describes popular verse as subtle, synthetic, and lapidary, combining economy of

means with an attention to words that repeat in different forms and with different
meanings, qualities that Pessoa sought in his poetics.11 Cunha notes Pessoa’s
striving for perfection in his work (“the dream of a perfect, finished work” / son-
ham a obra realizada, e como a sonham, a sonham perfeita) and quotes his
reflection in 1927 about the ease of writing perfect poems of four verses, as op-
posed to the almost impossibility of writing perfect ones of four hundred.12 He
further saw in the national oral tradition a “pure lyricism” that overcame its lack
of a sufficient basis in ideas or emotions (insignificante base ideativa ou mesmo
emocional), and he was undoubtedly attracted by the biting satirical tone of the
cantigas de escárnio, which denounced through a “truth teller” (dizidor) both
individual and social foibles. Freire sees in the mask of popular poetry another
paganism, perhaps representing the possibilities of a national, secular poetics of
nature and folk origins, contrasting with Alberto Caeiro’s pre-Hellenic revivals.
Darlene Sadlier sees in the folk verses a mode of displacing emotion by deper-
sonalizing the setting: “One way in which Pessoa keeps excessively personal or
emotional material at bay is through the use of highly traditional verse forms,
especially the Portuguese quadra, which has been given insufficient attention in
commentaries on his work.”13
In the “Quadras” composed between 1934 and 1935, Pessoa fills folk quatrains
with the philosophical themes found in the poems of his Cancioneiro; the latter could
be read as incomplete quatrains, or the adverse of their popular origins. While the
first two lines of the quatrains maintain the folk expressions, vocabulary, and context
found in the popular oral tradition of Portugal, the final two lines convert the qua-
trains into their adverse, by using them to express Pessoa’s constant philosophical
themes. When writing the “Quadras,” Pessoa had his “own” short poems in mind.
Prado Coelho reencounters the author of “Autopsicografia” in folk quatrains on feel-
ing, thinking, and pretending, where “the poet is a feigner” and the heart is a “little
clockwork train”:14

There’s no great truth that can’t be warped

to lie once in a while.
Some people hurry the climb up
So to come back down with a smile.15
Não há verdade na vida
Que se não diga a mentir.
Há quem apresse a subida
Para descer a sorrir.16

Your skirt is short enough to leave

a lot of your leg showing:
my heart’s already sneaking off
to feel without my knowing.
(Krummrich 137, 65)

A tua saia, que é curta,

Deixa-te a perna a mostrar.
Meu coração já se furta
A sentir sem eu pensar.
(Freire 161, 51)

The quatrains address the theme of writing as a form of lying, understood as inevita-
ble separation from the referent, or signified:

I have a pen I use to write

whatever I may feel.
It flows when what I write is false,
runs dry if it is real.
(Krummrich 223, 99)

Tenho uma pena que escreve

Aquilo que eu sempre sinta.
Se é mentira, escreve leve,
Se é verdade, não tem tinta.
(Freire 111, 38)

The quatrain “I have a pen” (Tenho uma pena) can be directly related to the poem
Liberdade (Liberty) in the Cancioneiro, which it reflects in style, humor, and content:

Books are papers painted with ink

Studying is something that makes indistinct
The distinction between nothing and no thing at all.
Livros são papéis pintados com tinta.
Estudar é uma coisa em que está indistinta
A distinção entre nada e coisa nenhuma.

The writer responsible for the “autopsychograph” is a captive of the self, whose
thought annuls feeling and whose verses are lies:

No mal-estar em que vivo,

No mal pensar em que sinto,
Sou de mim mesmo cativo,
A mim mesmo minto

In the malaise that my days refine

In the dark thoughts I use for feeling

I do my own very self confine

I lie to myself reeling

But how nonsensically neat

Is what I think and feel ad lib.
I hear my heart beat, beat
And if I dream, I fib, I fib.
Mas que grande disparate
É o que penso e o que sinto.
Meu coração bate, bate
E se sonho minto, minto.
(Freire 138, 45)

Water that flows by singing is

water that lulls to yawn […]
Dreaming is an enchanting thing:
think, and the feeling’s gone.
(Krummrich 316, 137)

Água que passa e que canta

É água que faz dormir […]
Sonhar é coisa que encanta,
Pensar é já não sentir.
(Freire 145, 47)

Following conventions of the love complaint in the male-voiced cantigas de amor,

Pessoa’s quatrains recognize both the value and the deceit of pretending in courtship:

Your tenderness, put on, gives me

this solace in the end:
at least you haven’t quite forgot
the right way to pretend.
(Krummrich 103, 51)

Teu carinho, que é fingido,

Dá-me o prazer de saber
Que inda não tens esquecido
O que o fingir tem de ser.
(Freire 68, 27)

Through their pretense and routines of the heart, both the lady and her suitor become
aware of their essential otherness:
O head of softly dimming gold
with eyes blue as the sky,

who taught you the bewitchment that

makes me no longer I?
(Krummrich 236, 105)

Cabeça de ouro mortiço

Com olhos de azul do céu,
Quem te ensinou o feitiço
De me fazer não ser eu?
(Freire 108, 37)

There’s something funny in our tones

we notice when we talk:
unease between us—we perceive
each other, and we balk.
(Krummrich 140, 67)

Há um doido na nossa voz

Ao falarmos, que prendemos:
É o mal-estar entre nós
Que vem de nos percebemos.
(Freire 162, 51)

The consequent sense of alienation and otherness runs throughout poems of the Can-
cioneiro, as Pessoa addresses a distracted muse: “She doesn’t even hear me, and I
keep speaking” (Nem me ouve, e eu prossigo, 10.29.1935, Freire, 120).

Love I never fail to savor.

The one loving me will never fail.
But it would have another flavor
If all this could sail
Up to that tall windowsill.
Não tenho falta de amor.
Quem me queira não me falta.
Mas teria outro sabor
Se isso fosse inteiro
Àquela janela alta.


We always love the one who’s ours,

Who’s not ours when our love’s bold.
The boat stops, I release the oars

We give our hands to each other to hold.

Whose hand is in mine?
The Other’s.

Amamos sempre no que temos
O que não temos quando amamos.
O barco pára, largo os remos
E, um a outro, as mãos nos damos.
A que dou as mãos?
À Outra.

I say now, in sadness,

What so many times I have told you […]
I think you never heard me
So entirely yours are you.
Digo o que já, de triste,
Te disse tanta vez […]
Creio que nunca o ouviste
De tão tua que es.

You are not who I proposed

But there’s no problem in that,
Neither am I whom you supposed
And I find no sickness in that.
Tu não és quem eu julgava
Mas isso não faz diferença,
Também não sou quem supunha
E não acho isso doença.
(Freire 100, 35)

The unfeeling heart, put through its emotional routines, runs on the rails of the little
clockwork train:

There blows strong in the leaves

A gust of belonging
As if there came in the breeze
A reason for longing.
Vai alto pela folhagem
Um rumor de pertencer
Como se houvesse na aragem
Uma razão de querer.
(Obra Poética, 9.5.1933)

Light dream, you have no being, though

you walk across the floor.
You’re very like my heart, which feels
though it has nothing more.
(Krummrich 51, 31)

Leve sombra, vais no chão

A passar sem teres ser.
És como o meu coração
Que sente sem nada ter.
(Freire 37, 20)

Light comes the wave, the gentle wave,

lullaby soft and wet;
brief comes the wave that teaches us,
and fleeting, to forget.
(Krummrich 100, 51)

Leve vem a onde breve

Que se estende a adormecer,
Breve vem a onda leve
Que nos ensina a esquecer.
(Freire 67, 27)

The anesthetized heart often takes solace in the festivities of others, in music and
revelry, and in drink:

Any music, ah, any music at all,

That soon purges my soul
Of this uncertainty that desires
Any impossible calm.
Anything that isn’t life!
Bolero, fado, the whirl
Of the living dance […]
Just so I don’t feel my heart!
Qualquer música, ah, qualquer,
Logo que me tire da alma
Esta incerteza que quer
Qualquer impossível calma […]

Qualquer coisa que não vida!

Jota, fado, a confusão
Da última dança vivida […]
Que eu não sinta o coração!

You danced at night to music that

was fractured, off-key, bad.
It’s only good to dance that way
when nothing makes you glad.
(Krummrich 233, 103)

Bailaste de noite ao som

De uma música estragada.
Bailar assim só é bom
Quando se não pensa em nada.
(Freire 196, 37)

And when these verses reach an end,

verses in minor key,
it’s fitting to pay tribute to
the singer’s drunken spree.
(Krummrich 206, 93)

E ao acabar estes versos

Feitos em modo menor
Cumpre prestar homenagem
À bebedeira do Autor.
(Freire 97, 35)

The paradox of being held captive by life, the only possible poetic expression
being through lies or displacement, underlies the black humor with which Pessoa
captures the predicament of a situation for which there is no cure, or reason to
resolve it:

Life is a district that’s a beast

If I don’t flee veritably
May I in dreams at least
Escape from reality.
A vida é um bairro tristonho
Se não fujo em verdade
Faze ao menos que em sonho
Viaje da realidade.
(Freire 9, 13)

Life is a hospital, where most

of what we need is missing.
That’s why no one is ever cured,
and dying’s the dismissing.
(Krummrich 300, 131)

A vida é um hospital
Onde quase tudo falta.
Por isso ninguém se cura
E morrer é que é ter alta.
(Freire 159, 50)

My feelings are the ash

Of my imagination,
And I’ll deposit that ash
in the ashtray of ratiocination.
O meu sentimento é cinza
Da minha imaginação,
E eu deixo cair a cinza
No cinzeiro da Razão.
(Freire 163, 51)

The negation of self that emerges from the paradox and deceit of the world sustains
some of the bleakest verses of the Cancioneiro, which apply the ironic humor of the
quatrains to the themes of the limitation of knowledge and paradoxical nature of

All this is nothing,

But on life’s road
But on a road of life
There’s a lot that’s
Incomprehensible […]
Tudo isto é nada,
Mas numa estrada
Como é a vida
Há muita coisa
Incompreendida […] 17

In the “Quadras” of 1934–1935, Pessoa returned to the medieval oral tradition,

which he had revived in one of his earliest works, the 1913 play. Rather than providing
Pessoa with a new heteronym, it would perhaps be more plausible to consider that Pes-
soa composed the folk quatrains as an extension of his Cancioneiro, through the
adverse conjunction of the folk truths of the quatrains with the philosophical and aes-
thetic concerns of Pessoa’s “great number of small poems.” The incongruities of the
cantigas, in which descriptions of folk life and nature supported ironic, humorous, or
aphoristic syntheses, would allow him to incorporate the singular, often absurd, para-
doxes of the poetic self. Rewritten into folk quatrains, Pessoa’s poetic philosophy
would become part of Portugal’s traditions in song, dance, and verse.

Besides their obvious popular and national expression, Pessoa may have been espe-
cially drawn to an adverse element in their composition. In a 1935 essay on new

poetry in Portugal, Pessoa commented on “the emotive juxtaposition of disconnected

lines, by which [the first and third verses] are related by a vague, imperceptible tie of
sentiment, by a comparable and impalpable emotive rhythm, being intellectual ele-
ments that have little to do with each other, or nothing at all” (justaposição /emotiva
/ de inconexos, pela qual ficam ligados, por um vago, imperceptível fio de sentimen-
to, por um igual e impalpável ritmo emotivo, elementos intelectuais que entre si têm
pouca relação, ou relação nenhuma). In 1890, Leite de Vasconcelos described a
similar dichotomous structure:

A very large number of cantigas have two morphologically distinct parts: one, constituted
by the two first verses; the other by the last two. The distinction is very clear through
comparisons and antitheses […] The first group closes usually with a general sense,
taken from natural things; the second, a particular sense, applied to a specific case.
Grandíssimo número de cantigas têm duas partes morfologicamente distintas:
uma, constituída pelos dois primeiros versos; a outra, pelos dois últimos. A distinç-
nao aparece muito nítida em certas comparações e antíteses […] O primeiro grupo
encerra ordinariamente um sentido geral, tirado quase sempre das coisas naturais;
o segundo, um sentido particular, com aplicação a dado facto.18

The incongruous relationship between the first two lines and last two of the qua-
trains, often evoking humor and irony going beyond the striking novelty of their
juxtaposition, itself constituted a disconnect that Pessoa intuitively grasped as a pros-
pect for giving the genre a central role in his adverse poetics. He was drawn, Freire
suggests, to the loss of the logical connection between the two parts of the quatrain:
“Pessoa often opts for the bipartite quatrain, in which the logical connection between
the two parts is lost” (Pessoa opta, muitas vezes, pela quadra bipartida, onde se
perde a ligação lógica entre os dois membros que a compõem).19 The incongruity
often exposed unresolved psychological states of desire, grace, or beauty, particu-
larly in love and courtship:

The little olive tree

How much oil can it give?
I’m a poor man’s daughter
For what loves can I live?

A oliveira pequena
Que azeite pode dar?
Sou filha dum homem pobre
Que amores posso tomar?
(Quadras ao gosto, 25)

The orange you picked hardly was

The very best in sight.
Likewise the love you gave me was
What any woman might.
(Krummrich, 47)

A laranja que escolheste

Não era a melhor que havia.
Também o amor que me deste
Qualquer outra mo daria.
(Quadras ao gosto, 27)

According to Lind and Prado Coelho, the popular quatrain exhibits “intermediate
states of soul,” between hope and disillusion or joy and pain, with a tendency to par-
adox, often using plays on concepts and words through puns, repetition, and tautol-
ogy. The quatrains code Nature with emotion by using a common language of motifs,
“cloud/dream, river bank/solitude, rose/distant beauty,” and so on, which allows for
a double meaning and reading. The intermediate states of mind and emotion, as well
as the style of symbolic association, opened to Pessoa the possibility of exploiting
the genre through an adverse philosophical content, which itself would play with the
open form and ambiguity of the folk originals. It is a play enacted within the literary
conceits of the genre, however, as Sadlier adverts readers.20 There the quatrains allow
Pessoa another mask, that of the popular poet, yet they relinquish their rural and
village themes and vocabulary to adopt themes of Pessoa’s Cancioneiro, which plac-
es them in close, though adverse relationship with the short poems.
Although Prado Coelho greatly admired Pessoa’s faithfulness to the language,
rhythm, and themes of the genre, he noticed nevertheless that in many quatrains
Pessoa had bent the genre to his own thematic and expressive characteristics.
These include the relationship among feeling, thinking, and pretending or lying; the
illusion of happiness; nostalgia for the past; control of intelligence by the irrational;
existence of the nonexistent; the use of the word nada with a positive meaning; and
the paradox of a presence that is suppressed.21 Freire makes editorial use of Prado
Coelho’s observations by dividing the quatrains in her edition into two large groups,
one that imitates popular themes and language and another that is distinguishable
from the purely popular quatrain by its borrowed vocabulary, syntactical structure,
thematic complexity, and even its resemblance to others poems by Pessoa. Recogniz-
ing the difficulty of finding the border separating a “typically Pessoan” quatrain from
that written by another cultured poet with populist intentions, Freire creates four
subcategories: the truly popular quatrain, the quatrain that although popular intro-
duces cultured vocabulary or expressions; the popular quatrain that shows the marks
of Pessoa’s peculiar expressions; and finally, the autonomous poem that maintains
the form only, being an independent poem-synthesis belonging to Pessoa’s oeuvre.22
In this process, the original natural and rural vocabulary in a light and carefree set-
ting is substituted by some of Pessoa’s habitual themes, which include dreaming,
sleeplessness, pretending, forgetting, lying, thinking, and feeling. The traditional
motifs of melancholy, night, wind, clouds, hair, eyes, mouth and heart are substituted
by the common Pessoan themes—the dream, thinking, feeling, lying, feigning, will,
postponing, childhood, others’ joy, sleeplessness, forgetfulness. Prado Coelho
expressed his high opinion of the quality of Pessoa’s quatrains, praising their
mimetic character and their “really admirable impregnation with the spirit of the
Popular Cancioneiro” (o grau de impregnação, realmente notável, do espírito do
Cancioneiro Popular.23

The popularity of “Autopsicografia” can be attributed in this line of analysis to

the crossing of quatrains in simple popular form with a complex and adverse psycho-
logical portraiture, in order to create an adverse version of the genre. The often quoted
first line, “The poet is a feigner,” might suggest that the poet resembles a mime who,
like the celebrated Marcel Marceau (1923–2007), uses gestures so precisely and
sparsely that the deceived spectator sees real objects and emotions in his mimicry. In
the verses that follow, however, Pessoa unfolds a theory of representation and recep-
tion, based on an objective correlative, expressed clearly in a quatrain from the poem
“Isto” (“This”):

They say I feign or lie

In everything I write. No.
I very simply feel
With my imagination.
I don’t use the heart.
Dizem que finjo ou minto
Tudo que escrevo. Não.
Eu simplesmente sinto
Com a imaginação.
Não uso o coração.

No communicable emotion exists behind the poet’s mask: the feigned pain and the
one the poet-mime feels become the same. Even if the poet were to dramatize his true
pain directly with gestures and expressions, his act would not be the pain itself. All
representation is feigning. The gap between substance and representation recapitu-
lates Ferdinand de Saussure’s (1857–1913) contemporary theory of signifieds and
signifiers in the Cours de linguistique générale (1916). Mirroring the gulf between
language and what it signifies, then, the poet-mime’s actions are only symbols or
semblances of their referents within a textual experience and reality. Pessoa adds a
third level of separation to their reception in a book, as opposed to the theater, where
a reader has access only to a third level of feeling, through the printed communication
of the poet’s pains, neither the feigned nor the felt. The reader and the text both exist
at a level removed from experience, author, and mime, where experience is either
imagined, removed, or absent. At the same time, there is something predictable, anon-
ymous and perhaps even repetitious about the poet’s pretending, which is that the
tracks of the heart and its emotions run along the same well-known circles. Pessoa’s
poet is caught in a paradox: he can create only feigned representations of what he
really feels; he is a captive of reality but can express it only through distortion or
pretense. In Pessoa’s conclusion in the final quatrain, the spectator-reader is left in an
even more dejected condition, since the ritualizing of performance, first theatrical
then textual, inevitably distant from real feeling, must pass for entertainment for the
rational mind, even though one suspects that the spectator-reader has seen it all before.
The signifier’s role, just as the mime, is purely representational. In that all true sensi-
bility can be communicated only as something other than itself, Pessoa posits an early
form of existential alienation. His “psychograph” is a mini-drama on the abstract gulf

separating emotion, representation, and reception. Notable in the small allegory is the
distance separating the poet of the first line from the objective narrative voice, from a
kind of dramaturge who is highly conscious of the paradox by which life becomes
communicable art. The “Autopsicografia” thus contains two main strains of Pessoa’s
personality as an artist: “I am a dramatic poet; I have continuously in everything I
write the intimate exaltation of the poet and the depersonalization of the dramaturge”
( sou um poeta dramático; tenho continuamente, em tudo quanto escrevo, a exaltação
íntima do poeta, e a despersonalização do dramaturgo).24
Pessoa’s art of pretending, as expounded in “Autopsicografia,” is an essential
expression of the philosophical dimensions by which he changes the popular, oral
genre into its adverse. The basis for the radical separation of experience and repre-
sentation is located in the mind and body problem, which Pessoa addresses in his
philosophical essays that critique the Platonists and state his own positions on abso-
lutes, the self, change, and negation. His main interest does not lie in defining exis-
tence, but in the individual or self and its relation both to phenomena and to thought.
His position follows the dualism theorized by Plato and formulated by René Des-
cartes (1596–1650), holding the separation of mind and body; however, Pessoa posits
a more extreme idealism in which the individual or self is separate both from the
world of sensations and the world of ideas. He points out errors of the Platonists
caused by their confusion of ideas with perceptions:

The essence of Platonic philosophy consists in dividing “Reality” into two parts:
things that can be sensed, that is, those that fall under the perception of the senses,
and that constitute Matter, that which is composed of parts and is changeable, per-
ishable, and concrete; and intelligible things, that is, those that fall under the percep-
tion of the Intelligence, and are ideas and notions, that which is not composed of
parts, which is immutable, lasting, and abstract. On these bases Plato and the Pla-
tonists built the similar diversity of their idealistic systems […] Let us verify the
fundamental error at the heart of the system. It consists (that error) in attributing the
qualities that Experience identifies in concrete things to abstract ideas, in giving
Consciousness the attributes of Reality. But it is not exactly to Consciousness that
the attribution is made. It is to elements of Consciousness with the character of
exterior entities, or beings.
A essência da filosofia platônica consiste em cindir a “Realidade” em duas
partes: as coisas sensíveis, isto é, as que caem sob a percepção dos sentidos, e que
constituem a Matéria, aquilo que é composto de partes, e que é mutável, perecível e
concreto; e as coisas inteligíveis, isto é, as que caem sob a percepção da Inteligên-
cia, e que são as idéias e as noções, aquilo que se não compõe de partes, que é
imutável, imperecível, e abstrato. É sobre estes alicerces que Platão e os platonists
erguem a diversidade semelhante dos seus sistemas idealistas […] Basta que, em
um traço, verifiquemos o erro fundamental do sistema-fonte. Ele consiste (esse erro)
em atribuir às idéias abstratas as qualidades que a Experiência nota nas coisas
concretas, em ligar à Consciência os atributos da Realidade. Mas não é bem à
Consciência que a atribuição é feita. É a elementos da Consciência com caráter já
de entidades, ou entes, exteriores.25

Pessoa critiques Descartes’s famous phrase, “I think, therefore I am” (Je pense, donc je
suis), as excessively individualistic, confusing the thinker with thought itself: “I think

that [Descartes] erred in placing the principle of stability in an ‘ego’ that is something
changeable and sensitive. It seems to me first that the principle of immutability is not
found in me as a thinking subject, or even in my thought, but in thought itself, pure
reason, unconditional and absolute” (Creio que está errado ao colocar o princípio da
estabilidade num “ego” coisa variável e sensível. Parece-me antes que o princípio da
imutabilidade não sou eu como um sujeito pensante, nem mesmo o meu pensamento,
mas o pensamento, razão pura, incondicional e absoluta).26 The “I” as a self and in-
dividual is thus separated as a category from those considered as absolutes, or external
to the self as an entity. For Descartes’s phrase, Pessoa substitutes his own: “If I exist,
it’s a mistake for me to know about it” (Se existo, é um erro eu o saber).27
From this position of existential dualism, Pessoa presents his own position on the
individual self in terms of what is intrinsic and what is exterior, defined in terms of
self and non-self, in which the commonly held notion of “being oneself” is a paradox,
almost a contradiction in terms, for Pessoa’s self requires a negotiation with all reality
that is exterior to it, or non-self. He defines individuality as a separate entity, capable
of representing external reality. Abstract ideas are received in three stages, which we
may compare to the pain, its representation and reception in “Autopsicografia”:

Individuality—any Individuality—contains 3 elements: (1) individuality strictly

speaking; (2) the individual (re)presentation of Reality—that is, Reality passed
through the individual nervous system; (3) abstraction—that is, the work that the
individuality does on those elements presented, which is to say, Reality passed
through the superior nervous system.
A Individualidade—toda a Individualidade—contém 3 elementos: (1) a indivi-
dualidade propriamente dita; (2) a (re) presentação individual da Realidade—isto
é, a Realidade passada através do sistema nervoso individual; (3) a abstração—isto
é, o trabalho que a individualidade faz sobre esses elementos presentativos, quer
dizer, a Realidade passada através do sistema nervoso superior.28

The autonomous self defines itself not by its intrinsic nature but through its negotia-
tion with external phenomena and ideas in actions of representation or thinking; the
basis for Pessoa’s paradox is thus set in an individual entity, in and for itself, whose
being is nonetheless dependent on representation and communication with “others,”
even abstract categories, which are non-self:

Thus, to feel purely Oneself each being must be in relation with all, absolutely all,
other beings; and with each one of them in the deepest relationship possible. Now,
the deepest relationship is one of identity. Thus, to feel purely Oneself, each being
must feel with all the others, and be totally con-substantiated with all of them.
Now as this cannot imply fusion (of any kind) with others, for then the being
would not feel its own self; it will feel not-oneself, and not itself-others. So as not to
stop feeling itself, it must continue to be distinct from others, yet at this point of the
relationship, others are others-himself. Remaining distinct from the others-himself
can only occur if he is distinct from himself.
To be distinct from himself without becoming the others, because in such
case he would not be himself […] he must be neither others nor himself; he must

be the Essence of others and of himself, because by being the essence of himself,
he can be distinguished from his self—just as the very words used to say so are
distinguished from each other,—and being the common essence of himself and
of others, he cannot be distinguished from the others, or one could say that he is
not distinguished from others by the same process by which he is distinguished
from his self.
Assim, para se sentir puramente Si-próprio cada ente tem que estar em relação
com todos, absolutamente todos, os outros entes; e com cada um deles na mais
profunda das relações possíveis. Ora a mais profunda das relações possíveis é a
relação de identidade. Por isso, para se sentir puramente si-próprio, cada ente
tem que sentir-se todos os outros, e absolutamente consubstanciado com todos os
Ora isto não pode implicar fusão (de qualquer espécie) com os outros, pois
assim o ente não se sentiria a si-próprio: sentir-se-á não-si-próprio, e não si-
próprio-outros. Para não deixar de ser si-próprio, tem que continuar a ser distinto
dos outros. Como, porém, nessa altura do relacionar-se, os outros são outros-ele.
Ser distinto dos outros-ele só pode dar-se sendo ele distinto de si-mesmo.
Para ser distinto de si-mesmo sem ser outros, porque nesse caso não seria ele-
mesmo […] ele tem que ser nem outros nem ele-mesmo, ele tem que ser a Essência
de outros e de ele-mesmo, porque assim, sendo essência d’ele mesmo, de si-mesmo
se distingue—como as próprias palavras, em que isto se diz, distinguem—e sendo
essência comum d’ele e de outros não se distingue dos outros, ou antes se indistin-
gue dos outrospelo próprio processo por que se distingue de si-mesmo.29

There is a heavy sense of negation in this paradoxical process, by which a self can
only be itself by being a bit “other,” or non-self, at best an essence of the self as an
individual entity and at the same time all the rest of universal humanity, or external
feelings and ideas also. In its comprehension and identity with non-self, individual
consciousness runs the risk of its own erasure; consciousness of self is irretrievably
alienated from its intrinsic being-in-itself. Pessoa expresses the conundrum in the
poem, “I am nothing” [Nada sou] dated January 6, 1923:

I am nothing, do nothing, follow nothing,

Deluded, I bring my being along with me.
I do not understand understanding, or know,
Being nothing, if I must be what I will become.

Nada sou, nada posso, nada sigo,

Trago, por ilusão, meu ser comigo.
Não compreendo compreender, nem sei
Se hei de ser, sendo nada, o que serei.30

The paradox of being both self and non-self, or an essence of each in a territory in
between categories of being, isolates the superior narrative poetic voice outside of time
or reason; it must resolve the challenge of an identity with no intrinsic attributes and an
illusory identification with exterior realities. In this world, all knowledge involves a play
of illusions, which amounts to a new theology of pure categories and occult motives:

The Only, of whom God, the God Creator of Things, is only a manifestation, is an
illusion. All creation is fiction and illusion. Just as Matter is probably an illusion for
Thought; Thought is an illusion for Intuition; Intuition is an illusion for Pure Idea;
Pure Idea is an Illusion for Being. And Being is essentially Illusion and Untruth.
God is the Supreme Lie.
O Único, de quem Deus, o Deus Criador das Coisas, é apenas uma manifesta-
ção, é uma Ilusão. Toda a criação é ficção e ilusão. Assim como a Matéria é uma
ilusão, provavelmente, para o Pensamento; o Pensamento uma ilusão para a Intui-
ção; a Intuição uma ilusão para a Idéia Pura; a Idéia Pura é uma Ilusão para o Ser.
E o Ser é essencialmente Ilusão e Falsidade. Deus é a Mentira Suprema.31

In Pessoa’s system, he considers the changes that the self undergoes to be rela-
tively stable, because everything in the system changes at the same pace and to the
same degree, thus the same relationship is maintained. The stability of the system,
however, depends on its contrast with an external absolute; otherwise, he alleges,
change would be chaotic and knowledge would have no basis:

Heraclitus says that as all things are in permanent change no knowledge is possible.
My answer will be that if all things change, I also change, and therefore I am at
a relative stability. The subject and object that vary perpetually are stable in relation
one to the other.
The world is only in perpetual variation when contrasted to something un-
Diz Heráclito que como todas as coisas estão em permanente mudança nen-
hum conhecimento é possível.
A minha resposta será que se todas as coisas variam eu também vario, e por-
tanto estou numa relativa estabilidade. O sujeito e objeto variando perpetuamente
são estáveis em relação um ao outro.
O mundo está apenas em variação perpétua quando em contraste com algo
imutável […].32

The absolute categories of reality and ideas that Pessoa posits become the basis both
for stability and change in the perception and knowledge of phenomena external to
the self, which otherwise would have no truth or knowledge beyond the illusion of its
own existence. In the ultimate adverse equation, paradox alone assures stability of
the self, yet isolates it in a world of illusion and pretending, which is the theme of his

Clearly Non-Campos!
Álvaro de Campos’s Song of Non-Self

Fernando Pessoa faleceu Stop Parto para Glasgow

Stop Álvaro de Campos
José Saramago, O Ano da Morte
de Ricardo Reis

É taça que pode ter lavôres de igual escola, mas

leva outro vinho.
Machado de Assis, Memórias Póstumas
de Brás Cubas

On the theme of the self in twentieth-century poetry, there is no more intriguing and
instructive case than that of Álvaro de Campos, one of the most exuberant and self-
expressive persons created by Fernando Pessoa. Naval engineer and poet of modernity,
both Portuguese and English, who from 1915 to 1917 captured the shock and novelty
of a new age at its onset by publishing four of his most significant works—“Opium
Voyage,” “Triumphal Ode,” “Maritime Ode” and the manifesto “ULTIMATUM”—
Álvaro de Campos is the most versatile of the heteronyms and the “person” most asso-
ciated with Fernando Pessoa as a companion in the literary life he led under his own
name. Pessoa writes, “None of them knew me personally, except Álvaro de Campos”
(A mim, pessoalmente, nenhum me conheceu, excepto Álvaro de Campos),1 whom he
calls “one of the most original and brilliant spirits of what we may not be able to keep
calling the ‘new generation’” (um dos espíritos mais originais e brilhantes do que talvez
já se não possa continuar chamando ‘a nova geração’).2 Physically he was, in Pessoa’s
description, “in between white and brown, vaguely the Portuguese Jewish type, how-
ever with smooth hair that’s usually parted on one side, monocle” (entre branco e
moreno, tipo vagamente de judeu português, cabelo, porem, liso e normalmente apar-
tado ao lado, monóculo).3 As an author in his “own” right, Álvaro de Campos signs
many of the most important theoretical and critical essays that expound Pessoa’s phi-
losophy and aesthetics, always printed in capital letters: “WHAT IS METAPHYSICS”;


poet, Campos is the notable “author” of one of the most important single poems of
twentieth-century literature, the extensive “Maritime Ode” (“Ode Marítima”), pub-
lished in the journal ORPHEU 2 (1915). In his futurist avatar he launches one of the
greatest of all manifestos in literary vanguardism, the “ULTIMATUM,” published in
the inaugural and final number of the ephemeral journal, Portugal Futurista (Futurist
Portugal) in October 1917.5 The manifesto rails against the cult of personality, since the
artist cannot be satisfied to live only one life, a position that solidifies a principal tenet
of Pessoa’s enterprise, “not one writer alone, but a complete literature” (não um só
escritor, mas toda uma literatura).6 Campos lives on, continuing his literary life and
intervening in Pessoa’s writings and affairs up to the date of their deaths in 1935. In a
letter to the editor of the Diário de Notícias (June 4, 1915), Campos clearly emphasizes
a sharp awareness of his individual self, “And finally, I am not an intersectionist [. . .]
or futurist. I am myself, just me, preoccupied only with me alone and with my sensa-
tions” (Eu, de resto, não sou interseccionista [. . .] nem futurista. Sou eu, apenas eu,
preocupado apenas comigo e com as minhas sensações),7 and he often indulges in
self-analysis, “I am a formidable dynamism kept in equilibrium” (Sou um formidavel
dinamismo obrigado ao equilibrio);8 “I am exasperatingly sensitive and exasperatingly
intelligent” (Eu sou exasperadamente sensivel e exasperadamente inteligente).9 Cam-
pos’s poems obsessively repeat the personal and possessive pronouns “I” and “my” (eu
and meu).

Pessoa described his own procedure as an “bricoleur of paradoxes” (recortador de

paradoxos),10 and, following this prescription, Álvaro de Campos demonstrated his
own expertise in their construction. In his notes on aesthetics, Campos intimates that
an art of contradiction and paradox itself recapitulates the phenomenological gap
between sensibility and intelligence, since our sensibilities can only be communi-
cated intellectually and cannot be felt a second time or reproduced authentically for
others. On these premises, Campos concisely asserts his own aesthetic doctrine of
paradox, cast in the style of philosophical aphorisms much practiced at the turn of the

To live is to belong to someone else. To express oneself is to say what one does not
feel. To feign is to know oneself. Viver é pertencer a outrem. Exprimir-se é dizer o
que se não sente. Fingir é conhecer-se.11

In selecting Campos to produce a logical theoretical explanation and justification for

his collection of paradoxes, Pessoa assures that even its articulation by a clever theo-
retician is not ascribed to himself as author, but remains merely a subsidiary doctrine
of a heteronym. With the multiplication of selves comes a splintering of authorship
and of aesthetic theory, such that even Campos’s theory of paradox takes its place as
yet another contradiction to theories put forward by other heteronyms in this peculiar
academy. They stand, paradoxically, as parts without a whole, works without an
author. By denying authorship and by subjecting each heteronym’s work to cancella-
tion or contradiction by another’s, Pessoa effectively puts into action the art of “a
positive negative,” that is, in his own words, “a positive feeling about the existence
of someone absent” (um sentimento positivo da existência do ausente).12 His authors

have no material existence, yet they live and write among themselves as active and
productive non-selves, more individual and present than their elusive author. At times
Pessoa wrote humorous sketches about their theatrical nonexistence: “Álvaro de
Campos is the character in a play; what’s missing is the play” (Álvaro de Campos é
o personagem de uma peça; o que falta é a peça!).13
The poet whose surname means person in Portuguese created an elaborate play
on his name, creating his own cast of improbable persons to act out the fecund,
voluble, and multiple imaginings that would not be limited to one self alone:

In the midst of these ways of understanding that I don’t understand,

In the midst of these wills unwillingly
So contrary to mine, so contrary to me?!
Do meio d’estas maneiras de comprehender o que não comprehendo,
Do meio d’estas vontades involuntariamente
Tão contrarias á minha, tão contrarias a mim?!14

Álvaro de Campos puts into practice Pessoa’s technique of adverse genres by sepa-
rating song from self and form from content, preferring a pure form independent
even of publication or readership. In describing why the poets of ORPHEU cannot be
collectively described as “futurists,” he distinguishes the “Ode Triunfal” for being
close to futurism in content but not in its artistic realization, since he thought form to
be most important in characterizing and distinguishing currents and schools.15 On
this point he discovers a dynamics that is key to the survival of his literary production
over time: “a literary work, living as it does from form alone (in the complete sense)
can remain unpublished for a long time” (uma obra literária, vivendo como vive só
da forma (no sentido completo) pode ficar inédita durante muito tempo).16

The biography that I never had / A biografia

que não tive

“Born” on October 13, 1890, Campos is the only heteronym to “experience” an or-
ganic, dynamic, and chronological evolution in his mental and literary self-develop-
ment. Campos’s artistic and conceptual growth as a critical literary personality
allowed his “works” to be grouped into four distinct phases by Pessoa specialist
Teresa Rita Lopes: “Decadent Poet, 1913–14” (before Caeiro); “Sensationist Engi-
neer, 1914–23;” “Metaphysical Engineer, 1923–30;” and “Retired Engineer, 1931–
35.” Being the most prolific of the heteronyms, as well as the most difficult for Pessoa
to compose, considered by Lopes to be “le plus contradictoire des Ficções,”17 Cam-
pos plays out the most complicated of the literary deceptions perpetrated by his
author. He personifies all the qualities and contradictions of a writer and intellectual
of early modernism: brash, vulgar, lucid, probing, incisive, despairing, a transgres-
sor, violator, and rebel. Campos becomes the quintessential modernist in Pessoa’s
pantheon because of the successful creation of a multiple personality active over a
lifetime, made up of self-expression without experience and existence without being.
To readers, his brash modernist “self’” overrides his nonexistence because he personifies

Pessoa’s captivating vanguardist defiance and disquietude. Campos speaks and

shouts with a convincing modernist voice, heightened by his inexorable logic, acute
self-consciousness, and original literary execution. He appears close, even identical
to a persona that his author never assumed; yet that basic identity as a super-futurist
Pessoa is also deceptive, since it never existed outside of Campos, and even within
Campos’s works, the prose writer and the lyric poet could be different persona. Fi-
nally, his supposed chronological development carries him beyond the scope of rad-
ical modernists, allowing him a last ironic stage of poetic and reflective “retirement,”
in Lopes’s phrase.
Campos’s status as paradigmatic poet/engineer of modernity constitutes his first
and primary adverse identity, in that his nonexistence substitutes for what cannot be
ascribed to any single living author who alone could put into play the principles of
fragmentation, synthesis, collage, and simultaneity of the modernist aesthetic. As if
a living author, he signs his own writings with what amounts to a forged signature.
Campos self-describes as an “elastic being” trapped in “an incomprehensible abyss,”
a “mad admiral,” an “emissary without credentials,” while addressing a category of
non-self caught between different modes of existence: “I am the one who failed at
being” (Sou quem falhei ser); “I am a sensation without a person to feel it” (Sou uma
sensação sem pessoa correspondente).18 His self-definition is deepened by the pur-
ported chronological development that separates his life and literary activity into
discrete stages, because the suggestion of dynamic, dialectical change makes him
appear more individualistic and obscures Campos’s relationship with the other major
heteronyms with whom he is intimately connected and whose ideas he shares. It is
the latter relationship that concentrates the metaphysical enigma of being, the con-
frontation of the self with the solitude and silence of the universe. Campos’s sense of
failure is his individual initiation to the strange paradox of selfhood, expressed in the
many roles of his expansive dramatic repertoire that includes alienation, anesthesia,
hallucination, rage, mystical reverie, or depressive despair.
The second major adverse identity of Álvaro de Campos is located in the contra-
diction between his refined powers of analysis, logic, and narration and the natural
limitations placed on his powerful sensations. Campos is an “engineer of sensations”
who would apply exact science to subjective sensory experience; he is the poet-
mathematician of a closed, symbolic language, the futurist engineer who would
divine truth out of the data of sensations. Yet his analytical prowess can effectively do
no more than destabilize any pretensions to knowledge, because of the gap between
our senses and knowledge, or truth, “That abyss carved between our seeing and
understanding” (Esse abysmo cavado entre vermos e entendermos).19 As scholar
Eduardo Lourenço writes, “The Pessoan consciousness of being consists [. . .] in the
paradox that one can be conscious of being only in language, and language is not
being.”20 Campos’s heightened consciousness of language as a poet is a constant
problematic reminder of his non-self. From his “master” Alberto Caeiro, he owes the
lesson that, although language of any kind is irretrievably separated from its real
referent, language can lead us to the “other side of meaning,” in Lourenço’s phrase.
Campos searches in his odes for that other side.
A third adverse role of Álvaro de Campos is public philosopher who warns of
the new physics of modern times. Writing about the financial crisis of 2008,21 Peter

Applebome reasons, “But can anyone doubt that the demands on people to make
reasonably intelligent choices with their money has so far exceeded their wisdom to
do it, that maybe we should at least try to figure out some way to close the gap?” With
this advice, the journalist unwittingly repeats a version for the world of finance of
Campos’s “Malthusian Law of Sensibility” (A Lei de Malthus da Sensibilidade)
printed in the manifesto “ULTIMATUM” (1917): “The stimuli to sensibility increase
in a geometric progression; sensibility itself increases only in an arithmetic progres-
sion” (Os estímulos da sensibilidade aumentam em progressão geométrica; a própria
sensibilidade apenas em progressão aritmética). Campos argues that the creation of
stimuli in the cultural milieu, being the combined and interactive work of many indi-
viduals, far outstrips the capacity of the sensibility of generations of individuals to
adapt, above all in times when stimuli—whether cultural, scientific, or financial—
reach every level of society. The end result, Campos continues, is maladaptation,
incapacity, and the breakdown of our civilization.

From Suez to the “Maritime Ode”

In the poem “Opiário” (Opium Voyage), published in the premier number of

ORPHEU, the song of a highly self-conscious traveler passing through the Suez
Canal on board praises the ethereal influence of opium while lamenting his torpor
and exhaustion, “If at least I were as interesting on the outside as I am inside” (Se ao
menos eu por fôra fôsse tão / Interessante como sou por dentro!) as well as the
absence of a purposeful national enterprise, “I think it’s useless to have gone / to the
Orient and seen India and China. . . Today, after all, here, I’m no more than / a pas-
senger on just any ship” (Eu acho que não vale a pena ter / Ido ao Oriente e visto a
Índia e a China. . . Hoje, afinal, não sou senão, aqui, / Num navio qualquer um pas-
sageiro). He associates opium with an exchange of identities: “Ah, the opium of be-
coming just any other person!” (Ah, o ópio de ser outra pessoa qualquer).22 The two
major odes published in ORPHEU are early masterpieces of adverse identity, being
the songs of a strong self whose literary form does not correspond or belong to its
content. The “Ode Triunfal,” poetic counterpart to Igor Stravinsky’s (1882–1971)
Rite of Spring (Le Sacre du printemps), celebrates the harsh and violent mechanics of
modernity by a feverish author who metamorphosed into “everyone everywhere”
(toda a gente e toda a parte), a dispersion of self and voice that brings the poem to
an end, while the voluminous “Ode Marítima” exults in exotic reveries and brutal
reenactments of grand archetypes of the Portuguese historical voyages in Africa and
Asia by a singer who never leaves the Lisbon pier and perhaps never even utters an
actual sound. In the narrator’s imagination, he follows a ship’s turning wheel to
become a bloody pirate in the Asian seas, raping and pillaging with the Portuguese
fleets, or a cannibal. In these odes, synesthesia over high and low seas brings to life
pseudohistorical memories as well as hallucinations of nautical eroticism. Such ex-
cessive reality, as Campos calls it, implies violence and strange visions; in “Maritime
Ode” the ship’s turning wheel is the centrifugal fury of psyches and souls, dispersed
into a strident, simultaneous, primitive voyage so timeless that it represents being
before self, rhythm before meaning. By recalling this voyage with his raging lyric

voice and reliving every moment and persona, Campos identifies with a primal totality
in a desperate attempt to bring himself into being. The ocean voyage, begun in
“Opiário” and continued in “Ode Marítima,” a preferred mode of traveling at the
time, sails the poet through imagined experience to encounter the “excess” of all
things, a reality beyond self or moment: “After all, the best way of traveling is to feel.
To feel everything in every way. To feel everything excessively” (afinal, a melhor
maneira de viajar é sentir. Sentir tudo de todas as maneiras. Sentir tudo excessiva-
mente). Even more than the voyage, the excitement of departure is a catalyst for a
complete change of life:

Depart! To depart is to live excessively. What is anything except departure [. . .]

But do we know about where we are going, oh pain, and what we are,
And what protean and fluid God is tutoring the departures?
Partir! partir é viver excessivamente. O que é tudo sendo partir [. . .]
Mas que sabemos nós para onde vamos, ó dor, e o que somos,
E que proteico e fluido Deus é tutelar das partidas?23

By establishing both a rhythm and a cancellation of self-definition, Campos can

be, in critic Jorge de Sena’s words, both “I and Anti-I.” As an author, Campos’s acute
consciousness of his own personal evolution is made apparent in his poetry; accord-
ing to Sena, Campos “felt the tragedy of non-being, as a being would feel it.”24 Cam-
pos’s account of this awareness amounts to an adverse autobiography written in
poetry, in which the poet details the intellectual dilemma of his non-being, fashioned
to imitate that of a “real” poet of his time and age. Just as Pessoa, Campos is a
feigner; he reproduces the anguished awareness of an author separated both from
reality and being, trapped within the limits of language and imagination, where he is
the creator of the expressive non-biography of an imagined self. At the same time that
Campos composes his autobiography as a poet of modernity, his verses empty and
betray the genre because they are devoid either of experience or of a self. His analyt-
ical autobiography is an absent, fragmented construct of a pure imagination, a simu-
lacrum that pre-exists, yet predicts a future state of true being. It “is,” or appears to
be, yet at the same time it still “is not.” He acts the biographical role of a feeling
human, as a being would feel, yet his depersonalized verses limit and objectify his
feelings as purely mental sensations, truthfully expressing the impossibility of know-
ing reality, exposing the fatal, melancholy, and damning flaw in the calculations of
the “engineer of the ‘mathematics of being’.” Young brilliant poet of the new gener-
ation, or a phantom of cosmic absence and disquietude?

Engineer of Sensations

The confessional, critical autobiography in verse that we think defines his intimate
philosophical preoccupations is the main literary form, or mode, in Campos’s varied
output to be given an adverse content. Campos constantly wishes himself into being
but is never able to escape the gravitational force of a universe of artificial symbols
and virtual reality. He questions whether language can exist apart from the consciousness

of it, whether there must be both a mind and a speaker, and whether language is irre-
trievably separated from being. Representation equals non-self, and Campos’s entire
energy is devoted to pass from non-self and simulation to actual selfhood, from non-
being into being, and from language into the divinity of material reality:

What infuriates all the emotions of my intelligence

Is the inability to exchange my rhythm that mimics the bubbling brook
For real refreshing water running over my hands.
O que me enfurece em todas as emoções da intelligencia
É não trocar o meu rhythmo que imita a agua cantante
Pelo frescor real da agua tocando-me nas mãos.25

Language is not sufficient to our need to understand and grasp the material world
around us, rather it is a constant reminder of our separation and isolation; it limits us
to the symbolic world of mere referents, whereas “the true modern poem is life with-
out poems / It’s the real train and not the verses that sing of it” (o verdadeiro poema
moderno é a vida sem poemas / É o comboio real e não os versos que o cantam)
[ULTIMATUM]. As an engineer of being, Campos negotiates the abyss between his
exterior consciousness of the sensory world and an idealized entity that seems to lie
at the core of existence, which is immediate, participatory being. While Campos is
oppressed by an excessive awareness of language, language forever interrupted by the
consciousness of itself, as Lourenço describes it, he learns through the lessons of his
master Caeiro to accept that non-self is another form of being, and that “to have being
is greater than the gods” (E ser possível haver ser é maior que todos os Deuses).26
Campos’s adverse inventions become his defining characteristic, carried to levels
of contradiction and paradox in the game of non-self. Campos is aware that he is a
fiction, or non-self, who simulates a self: “I don’t exist. I am the interval between what
I desire to be and others made me” (Não existo. Sou o intervalo entre o que desejo ser
e os outros me fizeram).27 He compares himself to a broken china vase, but he finds
more pieces than were originally in the vase. As a radical vanguardist, perhaps Campos
gains more stature and density than he could have achieved were his autobiography that
of an existent poet, for not only does Campos destabilize language, but he denies any
certainty whether to our sensory perceptions or to their material referents, finally de-
claring that “All Matter is spirit” (Toda a Matéria é espírito).28 With this twist, Campos
validates his art, animating the game he is playing with perception and being, by inti-
mating that no solution is possible. The “turnabout technique” in Campos folds back
upon itself: his condition as the creator of heteronyms, supplanting his control of writ-
ing, propitiates the paradoxical game that his autobiography intensifies. As a result,
Álvaro de Campos’s consciously false autobiography is the only possible true one for
him, since consciousness, literary form, and identity are inconstant, indefinable, and
changeable entities. What is elemental is not self, but outward expression; not content,
but form. For this reason Campos’s literary existence seems much more dramatic and
convincing than Pessoa’s. With the aid of a transcendent imagination, Campos’s poetic
autobiography replaces the one that Pessoa never wrote, in which the poet records his
memories of what never existed, thereby writing what his author thought to be the only
true autobiography possible:

Ah, who will write the history of what might have been?
That will be, if anyone should ever write it,
The true history of humanity.
Ah, quem escreverá a história do que poderia ter sido?
Será essa, se alguem a escrever,
A verdadeira história da humanidade.29

Campos’s probing analysis of the non-self casts into doubt the verisimilitude of
poets of any age: “no age transmits its sensibilities to another [. . .] Each age
transmits to the following only what it was not” (nenhuma época transmite à
outra a sua sensibilidade [. . .] Cada época entrega às seguintes apenas aquilo
que não foi).30 In a further contrary operation embedded in the autobiography,
Campos enmeshes the futurist play on identity, based on paradox, with the elab-
orate plays of baroque conceptism, where on the uncertain, changeable, and un-
predictable stage of the world as comic theater, life may be a dream, and even
dreams are dreams:

Did I by any chance buy a ticket for this show?

What guffaws would come from anyone who could laugh! [. . .]
Comprei por acaso um bilhete para esse espectáculo?
Que gargalhadas daria quem pudesse rir!31

Clearly Non-Campos!

A case discussed with fascination by Irene Ramalho Santos,32 that of the poem titled
in English “Clearly Non-Campos!”—never signed or attributed by Pessoa, although
the manuscript is lost—succinctly illustrates many of the problematic intersections
between self, writing style, and literary identity:

I know not the feeling, as yet unexpressed,

That, suddenly, as if suffocating, sickens
My heart which, suddenly,
Among what lives, forgets.
I know not the feeling
That swerves me from the path
And makes me loathe, suddenly,
What I was following,
A desire never to go home,
A longing for the indefinite.
A lucid longing for the indefinite.

Four times the false season changes

In the false year, in the unchangeable course
Of consequent time;
Dry follows green, green follows dry,

And nobody knows which comes first,

Or last, and they end.
(Atlantic Poets 260–261)

Não sei qual é o sentimento, ainda inexpresso,

Que, subitamente, como uma sufocação, me aflige
O coração que, de repente,
Entre o que vive, se esquece.
Não sei qual é o sentimento
Que me desvia do caminho,
Que me dá de repente
Um nojo daquilo que seguia,
Uma vontade de nunca chegar a casa,
Um desejo de indefinido,
Um desejo lúcido de indefinido.

Quatro vezes mudou a ‘stação falsa

o falso ano, no imutável curso
Do tempo conseqüente;
Ao verde segue o seco, e ao seco o verde,
E não sabe ninguém qual é o primeiro,
Nem o último, e acabam.

The “Equipa Pessoa” [Pessoa team] working on his archive has included this title
within Campos’s production, however Lopes rejects it, suggesting a number of intrigu-
ing possibilities. Perhaps Pessoa wrote the verses, decided that they were not suffi-
ciently Campos to be Campos, then scribbled the title “Clearly Non-Campos!” above
them? The first eleven lines do read like Campos, or Pessoa, however the last six lines
remarkably resemble a stanza by Ricardo Reis. Was Campos imitating or borrowing
from Reis? Did Pessoa compose both on the same sheet of paper as two different
works, even at different times, and whoever found that page in the archive mistakenly
connected them? Or did Pessoa, jokingly, mean to say that Campos was having a bad
day; for whatever reason he was, in the popular expression, clearly not himself. A
further possibility not mentioned by either Ramalho or Lopes is that “Clearly Non-
Campos!” is actually meant to delimit what Campos “himself” is. Since individual
literary style can be defined as much by what it is not as by what it is, composing
a poem that is clearly not written in one’s usual, identifiable style would constitute
another way, although unorthodox, of defining and demarcating a personal style.
Through this poem, could Pessoa be remitting the reader to the stylistic limits that
describe the existence a single literary self? Or was Pessoa simply constructing a puz-
zling labyrinth to fool future researchers in his papers? Indeed, the poem is anomalous,
and a clear solution to the problem of authorship, if there ever was one, is elusive. What
is clear to us from Pessoa’s clever ruse, however, is that poems and selves can become
indecipherably confused, even to the point that neither exists. Whatever Pessoa had in
mind, this non-poem by a non-self adds nonessential data to help us distinguish what is
“Clearly Non-Campos!”

Song of Non-Self

Álvaro de Campos planned to sing his songs of non-self in five major odes, only two
of which were completed, the “Ode Triunfal” (Triumphal Ode) and “Ode Marítima”
(Maritime Ode). The others, “Passagem das Horas” (Passing Hours), “Excertos de
Duas Odes” (Excerpts of Two Odes), and the “Saudação a Walt Whitman” (Saluta-
tion to Walt Whitman) were left in disconnected, incomplete fragments in Pessoa’s
archive, and as translator-scholar Richard Zenith observes, “there are other, fragmen-
tary odes whose various pieces date mostly from 1914–1916.”33 In the case of the
poem to Whitman, there are more than twenty fragments which, in Zenith’s descrip-
tion, “are not even complete units in themselves, being sprinkled with blank spaces
for missing words and unfinished sentences. Most are handwritten, and certain phras-
es and even entire stanzas have not thus far been convincingly deciphered.”34 On these
grounds, Teresa Lopes attacked the 1990 critical edition for cutting out and gluing
together isolated fragments in order to compose a finished poem for the volume:

Separate sheets are put together without any sequence, the meaning of one text is
interrupted to introduce some verses cut from another, texts are cut up to extract
from them the passage that helps to compose the building that one wants to obtain—
what the Engineer would have planned [. . .] Only that the Engineer never built the
building. And only he, in this case, could have done it.
Juntam-se folhas soltas sem qualquer seguimento, interrompe-se o devir de um texto
para introduzir alguns versos recortados noutro trecho, esquartejam-se textos para
se lhes extrair a passagem que ajude a compor o edifício que se quer obter—que o
Engenheiro teria projectado [. . .] Só que o Engenheiro não chegou a construir o
edifício. E só ele, neste caso, o poderia ter feito.”35

Campos begins his salutation to Whitman in a state of ecstatic incantation in the

form of a letter, dated June 11, 1915 from “Portugal-Infinity”: “From here in Portu-
gal, thinking of every historical epoch, / I salute you, Walt, I salute you, brother in the
Universe, / Oh forever modern and eternal, the singer of absolute certainties” [. . .]
(De aqui de Portugal, todas as epocas no meu cerebro, / Saudo-te, Walt, saudo-te,
meu irmão em Universo, / Ó sempre moderno e eterno, cantor dos concretos absolu-
tos); “I belong to your Bacchic orgy of sensations set loose” (Pertenço a tua orgia
báquica de sensações em liberdade). Whitman is inducted into Campos’s personal,
syncretic fraternity:

Jean-Jacques Rousseau of the world inevitable producer of machines,

Homer of the elusive carnal flow,
Shakespeare of sensations that began to be powered by steam,
Milton-Shelley on the horizon of future Electricity!
Starting point of all gestures,
Inner spasm of all objects outside,
Souteneur of the whole Universe,
Slut of all the solar systems, God’s gay!
Jean-Jacques Rousseau do mundo que havia de produzir machinas,
Homero do insaisissable do fluctuante carnal,

Shakespeare da sensação que começa a andar a vapor,

Milton-Shelly do horizonte do Electricidade futura!
Inculto de todos os gestos,
Espasmo pra dentro de todos os objectos de fóra
Souteneur de todo o Universo
Rameira de todos os systemas solares, panelleiro de Deus!

Pessoa channels his discovery of Whitman into the odes of Álvaro de Campos, yet
the latter’s ode of salutation was never finished. Campos’s admiration for Walt Whit-
man, coupled with his goal of completing five odes, has nevertheless led to his de-
scription as a Portuguese Whitman by some critics writing in English. In The Western
Canon, the American critic Harold Bloom, quoting from a doctoral dissertation by
Susan Brown on Pessoa and Whitman, presents the whole of Pessoa as a Whitman
reborn in Portugal, with Campos as his self:

Pessoa was neither mad nor a mere ironist; he is Whitman reborn, but a Whitman
who gives separate names to “my self,” “the real me” or “me myself,” and “my
soul,” and writes wonderful books of poems for all three of them as well as a sepa-
rate volume under the name of Walt Whitman. The parallels are close enough not to
be coincidences, particularly since the invention of the heteronyms (Pessoa’s term)
followed an immersion in Leaves of Grass [. . .] Walt Whitman, one of the roughs,
an American, the “myself” of Song of Myself, becomes Álvaro de Campos, a Portu-
guese Jewish ship’s engineer.36

Bloom invokes Whitman/Campos to explain the full range of Pessoa’s literary uni-
verse, extrapolating the whole from a part in his reading of Campos. Inevitably, his
unwarranted promotion of Campos misreads the nature of Whitman’s influence, and
as a result mischaracterizes the heteronyms as types of selves, as separate parts of
their author’s real self.
Campos clearly expresses his debt to Whitman and his fascination with Whitman’s
revolutionary concept of the universal self in verse, summarizing his admiration in the
fragments of “Saudação a Walt Whitman” (Salutation to Walt Whitman). Richard
Zenith reviews the argument regarding Whitman’s influence and presence in Campos:

Whitman, though, seems to have acted as a key to open up Pessoa and the power of his
own personality. Song of Myself is a song of the whole cosmos—the cosmos felt and
substantiated in the self, and it was this audacity [. . .] that galvanized Pessoa and his
heteronymic cosmos, which otherwise might not have been more than a curious psy-
chological phenomenon and stylistic exercise, without real literary consequence.37

In fact, the presence of the cosmos, in the context of the universal voyage of the self,
had been present since Campos’s earliest major poem, the “Opiário,” in which the
passage through Suez reflects both Pessoa’s first return voyage from South Africa to
Portugal as a youth and posits the voyage as a passage through unreality and a phan-
tasmagoric exoticism, “the Orient of the Orient of the Orient” (o Oriente do Oriente
do Oriente), recapitulating Portuguese voyages of the early sixteenth century and
now a phantom empire.

The Brazilian critic and editor Cleonice Berardinelli affirms that Campos’s fas-
cination with Whitman can be seen as a pretense, or feigning, of only one moment of
his mental evolution: “the feigning corresponding to one moment of his path” (o
fingimento correspondente a um momento de seu caminho).38 Lopes cites a verse
from an unpublished fragment, “I am a deaf-mute shouting his gestures out loud”
(Sou um surdo-mudo berrando em voz alta os seus gestos), to argue that Campos is
mimicking the catharsis of Pessoa’s own “mental excitement” (agitação mental) as a
theatrical pose.39 It is the line immediately following, however, that completes the
trilogy of deaf, dumb, and blind (“A blind man staring his glance around an invisible
everything” / Um cego fitando á roda do olhar um invisivel tudo), thereby challeng-
ing the poet’s perception of and brotherhood with the great material universe, adding
the fatalism of a Greek poet. Campos’s separation from Whitman is further marked
by the heteronym’s characteristic withdrawal and impersonality: “It says nothing,
however, about camaraderie with Whitman: it is always distant from the multitude
[. . .]” (Não possui, porém, nada de camaradagem de Whitman: está sempre distan-
ciado da multidão).40 In fragments of the poem “A Partida” (The Departure), Cam-
pos evokes the name of a “Great Liberator” (“Grande Libertador”) who has broken
the bonds of death, the body and the soul; Cleonice thinks that the reference is to
Pessoa’s master of all the heteronyms, Alberto Caeiro, and not to Whitman: “I’m
convinced that the Liberator is Caeiro and not Whitman” (Estou convencida de que o
Libertador é Caeiro e não Whitman).41 Lopes’s chronology of Campos’s evolution
supports this view, in that she divides Campos’s work and philosophy into phases
before and after Caeiro.
The universal song or ode as a form may itself inevitably imply a diminution or
dissolution of the self, because the evocation and enumeration of absolute categories
merges the singer’s consciousness with an abstract and infinite series. On similar
grounds, the American scholar Jackson Wilson argues the case for non-self in Whit-
man’s Leaves of Grass.42 Wilson notes that, reflecting the stance of a rough, careless
man wearing a hat, whose photograph can be found on the first left-hand page of the
1855 edition, Whitman, similarly, can only watch the multitudes whom he celebrates,
but never join them: “He had known perfectly well what it meant to be, at the end of
the day, ‘the sum and result of small profits and quick returns.’ [. . .] his ‘I, Walt’ was
a renunciation of it” (p. 280). And the poem, the critic notes, has almost no first-
person active transitive verbs that would indicate some action on the poet’s part that
might cause something to happen in the real world; the narrator lacks transitive par-
ticipation. Wilson traces the root of the loss of self to Emerson’s idea of the effect of
Nature on the scholar: “leading him toward the exhilarating discovery of his oneness
with a world that is not fact but spirit, whose laws are the laws of mind, and so the
laws of the scholar’s own intellect” (p. 198). Grounded in their respective schools of
transcendentalism, Whitman’s and Campos’s participation in universal processes
became the poetic voice of spirit created in their poems, which, through its rhetoric,
concealed the dissolution of the individual self into a universal voice. Campos
inscribes his persona within the very substance of the page:

I, feverish percussionist,
For whom the paragraph of verses is a entire person,

For whom, underneath the obvious metaphor,

Like strophes, antistrophes, or epodes of the poem I write
Where I build behind the delirium
Where I think behind feelings
Where I love, explode, rage, in occult order and measure.
Eu, o rhythmista febril
Para quem o paragrapho de versos é uma pessoa inteira,
Para quem, por baixo da metaphora apparente,
Como em strophe, antistrophe, epodo o poema que escrevo,
Que por detraz do delirio constrúo
Que por detraz de sentir penso
Que amo, expludo, rujo, com ordem e occulta medida.43

Whitman’s song likewise projected his poetic “I” as hero in a grand epic, while
occluding the dissolution of the epic self in its condition as outside observer in the
photograph, for example, and, at the end, in a silent and quiescent spirit.
Perhaps sensing this rhetorically decadent consequence, Campos rushes even
more fervently into his odes of triumphal individualism, so the more to feel the
absence and loss of self, as exultation wears away to reveal the rhetorical posture and
solitude of the voyeur. The deeper brotherhood of Campos and Whitman lies in this
common awareness of rhetorical selves fragmented by transcendence into non-selves,
as they are either absorbed into the universal cauldron or recede into their solitary
posts of observation. If publication of an ode fixes its author’s heroic posture for
posterity, as in the developing of a photographic negative, Campos’s advantage is
that he never finished or published the ode to Whitman, thus never fully assumed or
embraced the epic persona with whom he shared the song of the world’s commotion
as a liberating yet leveling spectacle: “Wherever the station may be, we shall meet
there [. . .] There I’ll be without the universe, without life, without my self, with
nothing” (Seja onde for a estação, lá nos encontraremos [. . .] Lá estarei sem o uni-
verso, sem a vida, sem eu-próprio, sem nada).
Campos exploits the affirming song of self both by leaving it incomplete and by
filling it with an incongruous content, while he derives rhetorical excitement and
erotic arousal from its deleterious effect on the self. His song of non-self advances
another of the major adverse schemes that marks Pessoa’s fascination with paradox
and cancellation. Campos questions and denies his own affinity and approximation
to Whitman throughout the fragments of his salutation, characterizing his “own”
conversations with Whitman as a catharsis of opposites: “To greet you was my way
of wanting to perk up” (Saudar-te foi um modo de eu querer animar-me).44 When he
is singing his great odes, Álvaro de Campos spreads his imagination throughout time
and space; from his earliest poem of the voyage, “Opiário,” he travels as an empty
self with no personality, attempting to feel the exile of a permanent voyage. He makes
a point of defining his nationality in the negative—“My country is where I am not”
(“A minha Pátria é onde não estou”)—and in the third fragment of his salutation to
Whitman Campos describes his syndrome as an illness, which he calls “universalitis”
(universalite), characterized by “a vague anxiety, absurd happiness, and indecipher-
able pain” (a ansia vaga, a alegria absurda, a dôr indecifrável).

Campos’s philosophical urgency to travel in the universe as one is part of his

desperate attempt to save consciousness from the abyss of separation from experi-
ence. To invoke universal consciousness for him is a specific, particular act. Campos
exploits the genre of lyrical song to express a possible escape from the fatal limits of
being and consciousness, rather than an all-embracing and triumphal celebration of
self in the world. Far from a singer of the universal self, Campos is lost in an invisible
and unknowable totality, as if a deaf, dumb, and blind poet in an unknowable uni-
verse. Anchored in the guise of the baroque cosmology of the Portuguese voyages,
Campos’s search is based on a metaphysical longing for revelation of a union with
the divine, of which he is but an indivisible atom, an avatar cast in the midst of great
oceanic and universal movement: “O external part of me lost in God’s labyrinths!”
(Ó parte externa de mim perdida em labyrinthos de Deus!). For Campos, as for all of
Pessoa, the problem is not fundamentally one of self, or being, but of knowing, more
exactly of the isolation of our sensory perceptions from a greater universal reality or
truth: “May lightning strike the absence we feel for not being God” (Todos os raios
partam a falta que nos faz não ser Deus).45 With the lesson of his master Caeiro,
Campos escapes into a reverie of total unity and transcendent materiality; he rejects
metaphor or symbol, following the principle in his essay on non-Aristotelian aes-
thetics: “To feel everything in every way” (Sentir tudo de todas as maneiras). His
forceful voice in the odes could convince listeners of the opposite, with its passion,
hyperbole, and strong individual voice; yet he reduces that same song into infinite
fragmentation and philosophical dispersion, erasing it into nothingness and paradox.
It is Campos the non-Whitman who exclaims, “O futile shadow called people” (Ó
sombra futil chamada gente!).

Truth and Aspirin / Verdade e Aspirina

It is not the falseness of Álvaro de Campos’s “existence” (both in the sense of his
non-self and of his conscious separation from real experience outside the imagina-
tion) that is foregrounded in his writings, rather that his nonexistence is keenly “felt”
and put forward as an argument and a performance, a neo-baroque drama about the
deceitfully solid appearance of reality and language. As in a soliloquy on stage, Cam-
pos ponders the strangeness and absurdity of our reality; in his precise language of
logical propositions we find an adverse system of coherent incoherence, in which the
strangeness of things that shouldn’t exist submits to clearly futile attempts at analyt-
ical questioning:

And what is the absurd point of all this?

Where here is the error that I feel?
[. . .] what bridge/ lies between what is false here and what is true?
[. . .]
If this is not, then why is it?
If this cannot be, then why could it be?
E o ponto de absurdo de tudo isto qual é?
Onde é que está aqui o erro que sinto?

[. . .] que ponte / Há entre o que é falso aqui e o que é certo?

[. . .]
Se isto não é, por que é que é?
Se isto não póde ser, então por que pôde ser?46

The language of lyric already contains the adverse of its genre: its contents empty
onto the plane of pure imagination and become the chronological and existential
drama of the nothingness, absence, anguish, and nausea of Álvaro de Campos’s inner
struggle to exist. The universal totality overwhelms the self into insignificance, since
everything can be felt but nothing can be known, thus the drama of universal song
doesn’t go beyond the edge of the stage, to repeat Lopes’s theatrical image. In the
song, the apparent struggle “to be” and “to know” is subsumed into the rituals of
departure and the voyage; Campos “embarks” on opium or pirate voyages without
any certain cartography, guided only by the phantom memory of historical and myth-
ical voyages of the past.
As a “retired engineer” after 1931, Campos’s wry, acid humor and withering
self-criticism constitute a final adverse genre, a light, humorous poetry whose game
is the fatal labyrinth, the dead end of being versus consciousness. Absurd humor is
the product of his final years and is perhaps his most memorable and endearing form
of literary personality, because it disguises the anguish, doubt, and despair of his
non-self through a versatile, mature, and entertaining wit. To wit, the poet has a cold:
“And as everybody knows, colds change the whole system of the universe, they make
us angry against life and even make metaphysics sneeze” (E como toda a gente sabe,
as grandes constipações alteram todo o sistema do universo, zangam-nos contra a
vida, e fazem espirrar até a metafísica). The prescription: “I need some truth and
aspirin” (Preciso de verdade e de aspirina). Describing his situation as without hope
or liberty, Campos demands: “Give me something to drink, quick, because I’m not
thirsty” (Dêem-me de beber, que não tenho sede). In “Dobrada à Moda do Porto”
(Tripe Oporto Style), Campos enters a restaurant to enjoy its specialty, tripe, which
is always served warm, never eaten cold. Inexplicably, it came cold, and Campos
abandons his plate, dutifully pays the bill, and goes out into the street stunned and
astonished, wondering “Who knows what all this means? I don’t know, and it hap-
pened to me” (Quem sabe o que isto quere dizer? Eu não sei, e foi comigo). The
serving of cold tripe is more than the adverse of custom; it is an ultimate negation,
because it substituted what the poet had really ordered, which was love: “if I ordered
love, why did they bring me cold tripe Oporto style?” (se eu pedi amor, porque é que
me trouxeram dobrada à moda do Porto fria?).
In “Todas as cartas de amor são ridículas” (“All love letters are ridiculous”),
Campos demonstrates his capacity for combining playful variation with clever

All love letters are

They wouldn’t be love letters if they weren’t
Ridiculous [. . .]
Todas as cartas de amor são

Não seriam cartas de amor se não fossem
Ridiculas [. . .]

Varying the thesis that “all love letters are ridiculous,” Campos confesses that he too
wrote them, like everybody else; that the only ridiculous people are those who never
wrote ridiculous letters; that love letters are by their very nature ridiculous; that only
our memories of those love letters are ridiculous; and finally that all words accented
on the antepenultimate syllable and all dactylic sentiments are, naturally, ridiculous.
Once again, form and rhythm are superior to content, even humorous, confessional
content. One of Campos’s final poems from 1935 is “Estou tonto” (“I’m dizzy”). The
dizzy poet doesn’t know whether or how he can even get out of his chair; he is defin-
itively dizzy. It was brought on, he says, by the nothingness of his life (“What life did
I make out of life? Nothing”/ Que vida fiz eu da vida? Nada) and the incomprehen-
sible and indeterminate nature of things (“Everything a function of the irregular and
absurd”/ Tudo função do irregular e do absurdo). Now, when he gets up in the morn-
ings, dizzy, he is a vacant or absent self; he no longer knows his name, where he is,
or what he was, nothing: “without knowing my name deep down, without knowing
where I am, without knowing what I was, without knowing anything” (sem saber em
mim o meu nome, sem saber onde estou, sem saber o que fui, sem saber nada). His
conclusion recalls the fatal acceptance of limits and conditions on the self, indeed our
existence as a whole that runs throughout his poetic evolution: “But if that’s the way
it is, that’s the way it is” (Mas se isto é assim é assim). Thus, the poet concludes,
“Just leave me in my chair [. . .] yes, dizzy, dizzy, dizzy” (Só me deixa na minha
cadeira [. . .] sim, tonto, tonto, tonto). Perhaps Campos’s close resemblance to Pessoa
here, and his final adverse trick, is that his human biography, as well as his poetry, are
clearly useless and futile texts when contrasted with his racing mind and ebullient
creative ideas and feelings. We may conclude that he was most “himself” when he
was “non-Campos.”
Reader, the next time you feel the urgent need to ask “Who am I?” remember the
case of Álvaro de Campos and think of the great advantage in your material existence
that you hold over one of the most brilliant minds and greatest poets of the twentieth
century. To understand him well, or perhaps not at all, look into the mirror and repeat
aloud his most revealing, intimate, and consoling poetic line: Coitado do Álvaro de
Campos! (“Poor Álvaro de Campos!”). He has already left us his insouciant and
pessimistic farewell, “Good night and merde!” (Boa noite e merda!).47

“All Love Letters Are

Fernando’s Sentimental Education

Quantos gozam o gozo de gozar

Sem que gozem o gozo!
Porque o sonho de um gozo
No gozo não é sonho.
Ricardo Reis

Eu nunca fui dos que a um sexo o outro

No amor ou na amizade preferiram.
Por igual amo, como a ave pousa
Onde pode pousar.
Ricardo Reis

“My naughty and pretty little Baby” (“Meu Bébézinho mau e bonito”), began
Fernando Pessoa on March 27, 1920 in one of a series of love letters to Ophelia
Queiroz, the young woman of nineteen who became a victim of the genre that Pessoa
was adding to his repertoire, because she read for content in letters that were pure
form. Ricardo Reis’s tricky lines quoted in the epigraph above make it clear that true
enjoyment of a pleasure resides in the dream of it, and not in the actual experience.
In the love letters, it seems that true enjoyment of a pleasure for Pessoa resided more
in the writing of it, and less in the actual experience. The published letters, in recon-
structing the romance with Ophelia, are shorthand for an actual life experience that
took place outside of them, yet the true enjoyment of it, the reading and interpretation
of it, unfolds within the bounds of the love letter genre. The strictures of genre dom-
inate the underlying experience because, in the conservative Portuguese society to
which they conform, the mutual passion and encounters of Ophelia and Fernando
were largely and of necessity confined to the paper and ink of their notes, cards, and
letters. To meet in person involved planning and concealment. Neither could show
feelings openly, and Ophelia later commented that Pessoa never showed what he felt,


“even inside.”1 Theirs is also a secret correspondence, since Pessoa stresses that he
has not taken anyone into his confidence: “Now, let’s begin with one thing: no one
knows if I like you or not, because I didn’t take anyone into my confidence on the
matter” (“Ora, comecemos por uma cousa: não há quem saiba se eu gosto de ti ou
não, porque eu não fiz de ninguém confidente sobre o assunto”).2 As if part of their
secret code, both freely adopted the stereotyped language of love letters, to which
their inventiveness added personalized and coded layers of content. While avidly
practicing the genre, Pessoa’s commitment to his literary work, although conflicted,
finally would admit no compromise with domestic engagements; as a solution, the
love letters themselves would gravitate into the orbit of his literary enterprise, and the
dreams of marriage that Ophelia stubbornly nourished for more than a decade would
come to an end with the last letters and telegrams, and Pessoa’s silence. The problem
of existence, the compulsion “to be,” and the pursuit of an absolute ideal that could
correspond to the vastness of his imagination were the forces that brought Pessoa’s
amorous adventure to an end, or internalized it within his expansive work-drama.

Between March 1 and November 29, 1920, Pessoa wrote thirty-six love letters to the
young secretary whom he met at the firm of Félix, Valladas & Freitas on the Rua da
Ascenção, 42, 2o, where he translated commercial correspondence directly into French
or English, and twelve more letters in a second phase some ten years later, from Sep-
tember 1929 to January 1930. Their existence came to light when after Pessoa’s death
the young poet Carlos Queiroz, Ophelia’s nephew, referred to them in July1936 in the
journal Presença, and they were mentioned in João Gaspar Simões’s monumental
biography;3 only in 1978, however, were these surviving letters collected and published
by Ophelia’s grand niece, Maria da Graça Queiroz, with a preface by the critic David
Mourão Ferreira and a revealing interview with D. Ophelia Queiroz on their courtship.
In 1996, a selection of 110 letters from Ophelia to Pessoa appeared, making possible a
more nuanced and complete portrait of their relationship.4 The definitive form of their
publication in books nonetheless betrays the esthetic and changeable character of the
originals, further providing a retrospective chronology not available to the authors at
the time of writing. Was Pessoa exploiting the amorous and confessional correspon-
dence to explore new emotions in his drama of persona? Read from that perspective,
the letters lose logic or chronology to become an aleatory self-portrait of the author’s
metamorphoses, an exposition of feigned sentiments both common and strange in love
letters. For her part, Ophelia’s letters are described by Pessoa’s niece, Manuela Noguei-
ra, as “ingenuous, pathetic, passionate and a bit obsessive, revealing painful human
disparities” (Ao ler estas cartas ingénuas, patéticas, apaixonadas e um pouco obsessi-
vas sentimos os meandros dolorosos das disparidades humanas).5 At the same time,
the letters present an Ophelia who worked and led a daily life that was independent for
the times and restricted social customs, when women’s lives were consumed by pater-
nal oversight and marriage. Although they contain many commonplaces of amorous
correspondence, she understands and replies in kind to Pessoa’s linguistic inventions;
her letters are spirited, strong, demanding, and at times highly original responses to
Pessoa’s eccentric personality and expressions.
The love letters were one more genre added to the literary world of Fernando
Pessoa, and must be read in their fragmentary and incomplete condition as if their

author were experimenting with the style. Love letters were an unlikely vehicle for
the appearance of another Pessoa heteronym—the writer of love letters—apt at sty-
listic playfulness, in what was clearly a posture or a game under the passionate spell
of the rhetoric of genre. Their publication was evidence of how much was still
unknown and unread of his continually varied writings; yet the love letters promised
to be something different, and even shocking, because of the revelation of an unsus-
pected personal, amorous, and playful side to their serious author. The letters did
reveal dimensions affecting the unresolved question of his personal situation in
Lisbon and his literary career, yet the prospects of finding in the love letters a Pessoa
“if not totally naked, at least undressed or partially dressed” (não direi tão nu [. . .]
mas pelo menos tão quase ‘despido’ ou tão sumariamente “vestido”),6 in the words
of critic David Mourão Ferreira, and expressing true personal sentiments, was an
unjustified expectation fed by the personal nature of the genre. Attentive reading of
the letters actually confirms, to the contrary, Pessoa’s able manipulation of the ste-
reotypes of the genre, what Mourão Ferreira called the “feigned sincere.”7 Beyond
his working of the genre, there was Pessoa’s skillful use of an adverse technique that
injected counterthemes into the amorous discourse, suggesting psychological and
erotic deviance from the expected and usual course of love correspondence. These
adverse themes introduced concealment, distancing, and depersonalization disguised
in the discourse of infantile sexuality. Consciously, and perhaps subconsciously, Pes-
soa began to reject any compromise with Ophelia. He never introduced her to his
family; moreover, social and existential constraints generated peculiar stylistic and
linguistic forms. Only in his thirty-sixth letter, the final one of the first phase in
November, 1920, did Pessoa attempt a discursive and reasoned explanation for his
exit both from the relationship and the correspondence; even there, he failed to pro-
test the breakup as Ophelia expected, and his gratuitous request to keep her letters
belied an interest that went beyond the personal.
To dialogue with his muse, Pessoa called up stylistic techniques from the avant-
garde repertoire, from paronomasias to subconscious processes, used to invoke,
invent, or control the feminine voice, which had become an object of esthetic manip-
ulation. The paradigm is the encounter of a masculine diarist-narrator with feminine
passion. Confined to a virtual existence within the narrator’s imagination, inscribed
by an intimate genre and located by an epistolary address, the muse is captive to her
textual roles, in which letters substitute for courtship. To paraphrase Tabucchi, the
poet and muse exist, but have no physical location; their true existence is in the texts
of the letters.8 In Haroldo de Campos’s expression, they are dialogic muses who speak
through a narrative that had given them textual and semiotic existence, while making
it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for them to live real, exterior lives.9 In the
complex game of love letters, the role of “automatic muse”10 describes women’s
position in surrealistic novels of the period, such as André Breton’s Nadja, the Rus-
sian immigrant who was made into a character by Breton after he found her wander-
ing the streets of Paris.11 In the excess of languages, narrative feigning, and subversion
of conventions, Pessoa creates a current of surrealist prose in the letters.
Mourão Ferreira proposed that Pessoa worked the genre of love letters by hiding
within his clever verbal play what he pretended to make transparent; when he rode
the streetcar with Ophelia from Lisbon’s Rossio to Estrela and back, he called it a

“transatlantic” voyage that would better have been a lifelong voyage (“transvidi-
ana”), and he mused that in the future they might, through an unexplained lapse, take
a car bound for a further destination (Lumiar, Poço do Bispo), which would give
them more time together.12 Such musings are indeed extravagant as the prelude to a
simple telephone conversation proposed for the following day. Pessoa implied eter-
nity while living on chance of the moment. It seems that rather than hiding what he
pretended to make transparent, his actual technique was the inverse: the transparent
language of the genre came first, the perfect vehicle for hiding inner motives and
feelings about which he felt ambivalent and which were contrary to those he more
openly expressed. His streetcar voyage across life contrasted endless traveling to a
temporal and tentative telephone call, “What if I were to call you today? Perhaps I
will” (E se eu lhe telephonasse hoje mesmo? Talvez telephone).13
Continuing the play between the transparent and the hidden, Rui Feijó discov-
ered language from Alberto Caeiro’s Keeper of Sheep repeated in the love letters,14
and as we shall see, Álvaro de Campos played a major role in the affair both as a
personality and a writer. George Monteiro discovered the possible authorial and
stylistic influence of Poe’s short story “Ligeia” in the concept and composition of the
letters; Pessoa translated it and wrote a short poem about Ligeia’s early death:

I do not want to go where there is no light

Down beneath the useless soil, not to see
Flowers or the rivers flowing in sunlight,
Nor the renewing seasons reiterate the land.
Already the hollowing fear that I will not be
Depresses my trembling eyelids, the fear
That I will not see or savor, nor feel warmth
And love, not know life’s evil or life’s good.

Não quero ir onde não há a luz,

De sob a inútil gleba não ver nunca
As flores, nem oc urso ao sol dos rios,
Nem como as estações que se renovam
Reiteram a terra. Já me pesa
Nas pálpebras que tremem o oco medo
De nada ser, e nem ter vista ou gusto,
Calor, amor, o bem e o mal da vida.15

Monteiro sees in Pessoa’s communications with Ophelia in the second phase a sublimi-
nal death wish, verified in a poem from August 26, 1930, whose real purpose, supported
by passages from the letters, was to confirm that his love is forever unrealizable:16

Let there be a tomb

Or dusty attic.
Baby has gone away.
My soul is all alone.17
E ou jazigo haja

Ou sótão com pó,

Bebé foi-se embora.
Minha alma está só.

Pessoa himself warned Ophelia about reticence in his writing—“Don’t be surprised

by the laconic style of my letters. My letters are for people to whom I no longer have
anything to say; I write to them cheerfully” (Não te admires do laconismo nas min-
has cartas. As cartas são para as pessoas a quem não interessa mais fallar; para
essas escrevo de boa vontade)—part of an art of synthesis and suggestion.18 Mourão
Ferreira confirms that the individuality of Pessoa’s letters is less marked than their
generic character, since what is said on their “apparently anodyne surface” (super-
fície aparentemente anódina) must be read as illusory and deceptive.19 Their main
interest to the theme of adverse genres is their use of a stereotyped infantile language
of the love letter to mask an extremely conflicted content, in which Pessoa’s reaction
to the course of passion is dramatized through spells of illness, inebriation, perver-
sion, absolute autonomy, anger, and madness. The rhetoric of the letters remains
faithful to the genre, while its aporias and insufficiencies amount to an adverse con-
tent that denies all that the genre would confirm.

“I went mad, I lost my head”/“Fiquei louco,

fiquei tonto”

Pessoa’s letters paint the dilemma of choice between his love for Ophelia and a daily
life more normal than his genius would allow, on one side, and the duty of complet-
ing, organizing and publishing his literary work, on the other. His interior struggles,
as his niece states, had always been won by his rationality and the dream of complet-
ing his literary work.20 Part of the interest of these letters is that Pessoa’s struggle
with withdrawal from Ophelia is rarely expressed rationally, with the singular excep-
tion of his final letter of November 29, 1920; most of the others have purely expres-
sive material rife for psychological or psychoanalytic analysis. The novelty of the
love letters is that they incorporate his interior struggle with his passion for Ophelia,
given full expression in a genre often not counted as literary, in which even his niece
saw plenty of material for the psychological study of behavior. Signs of the negative
charge in their relationship are somehow picked up by each of them from the very
first letters. Pessoa criticizes her disdain and lack of frankness, and Ophelia, whether
motivated by passion or curiosity, asks if he will be steady and sincere to the sacrifice
she is making. From the start she sensed a danger in Fernando’s loyalties: “Very frankly,
I often fear that your transports of love will be of short duration, that one day you’ll be
bored and reject me [. . .] don’t you think I’m right to think what I do? Will I receive
the recompense I desire?” (Vou ser franca, receio muitíssimas vezes que esses seus
transportes d’amor sejam de pouca duração, que um dia se sinta já aborrecido e me
despreze [. . .] não me acha com razão de pensar o que penso? Terei eu de si a rec-
ompensa que desejo?)21 Fernando’s abandonment of the muse is announced as if
it were a natural consequence.

The passage from individual to generic in the love letters is itself a first stylistic
mechanism of depersonalization and distancing. Feigning and role-playing, Fernando
pretends, is better than the naked truth. Reacting against the flirtatious oscillation in
love play between excessive interest and excessive indifference, Pessoa asks Ophelia
in his fifth letter to feign the affection and simulate the interest she feels for him, on
the grounds that it is less hurtful than her mood swings: “do whatever you can to like
me truly, to share my sufferings and wish me well; at least, feign it as best you can”
(Adeus, amorzinho, faze o possivel por gostares de mim a valer, por sentires os meus
soffrimentos, por desejares o meu bem-estar; faze, ao menos , por o fingires bem).22
Fernando’s complaints against female indifference and insensitivity run from his
very first letter. Another vivid example of feigning is found in the story of one of Pes-
soa’s sudden suggestive, erotic comments to Ophelia, playfully implying an intimacy
that had not yet developed in their relationship, as remembered by Ophelia: “One day
he sent me a short note like this: ‘My love is tiny and has pink panties.’ I read it and
became indignant. When we went out, I said to him angrily: ‘Oh, Fernando, how do
you know if I have pink panties or not, you never saw them,’ and he replied laughing,
‘Don’t get mad, Bebé, all the tiny Bebés have pink panties’” (Um dia me mandou-me
um bilhetinho assim: “O meu amor é pequenino, tem calcinhas côr-de-rosa.” Eu li
aquilo, e fiquei indignada. Quando saimos, disse-lhe zangada: “Ó Fernando, como
é que você sabe, se eu tenho calcinhas côr-de-rosa ou não, você nunca viu” [. . .] E
ele respondeu-me a rir: “Não te zangues Bebé, é que todas as Bebés pequeninas têm
calcinhas cor-de-rosa”).23 To begin, Pessoa converts the couple into dramatic charac-
ters who must play their roles. Indulging in the playful stereotypes and nonsense
permitted by the genre, Fernando and Ophelia invented pet names for each other:
Fernando is “Ibis,” the Egyptian bird associated with the god Thoth, used by Pessoa
to name the failed publishing house he began after he returned from South Africa;
and Ophelia’s name for him is “Nininho,” an affectionate diminutive construction
derived from “Pequenino” (Little one). He calls her “Bebé” and at times the feminine
form of his nickname, “Nininha,” reminiscent of the operatic pair Papageno and
Papagena in Mozart’s The Magic Flute. Both resort to baby talk in the letters, imply-
ing greater intimacy and protective role-playing. Names and appellatives are the first
signs of the infantilization of the genre, implying the innocence of Eros, while in the
process both become depersonalized, like dramatic characters in the letters known by
their new stage names.
One of the first scenes that Ophelia tells about their courtship, which frightened
her with its impulsiveness, is a rehearsal of lines from Hamlet to Ophelia: Pessoa
enters her office after hours, takes a candlestick in hand and exclaims, “Oh dear
Ophelia! I am ill at these numbers: I have not art to reckon my groans; but that I love
thee best, O most best! believe it. Adieu” (Oh, querida Ofélia! Meço mal os meus
versos; careço de arte para medir os meus suspiros; mas amo-te em extremo. Oh!
até do último extremo, acredita!).24 In the denouement of his office drama, as Oph-
elia rapidly excused herself from the room, Fernando grabbed her by the waist,
embraced her and without saying a word, “kissed me passionately like a madman”
(beijou-me, beijou-me apaixonadamente, como louco). Pessoa used this scene as
the topic of a poem of circumstance he dedicated to Ophelia, humorously confess-
ing his madness, yet injecting two rhetorical twists characteristic of his poetry: the

first is that in her arms he will not be obliged to feel life, an idea common to the
orthynomous poetry; followed by the baroque conceit that while anxiously search-
ing for his beloved he must pass through torture, fire, and mystery. He unites mod-
ernist paradox with mannerist disconcert of the world. To “go crazy” is his way
of surrendering personality to the generic action of passion while also rehearsing
literary strategies:

Fiquei louco, fiquei tonto, I went crazy, in a tizzy

Meus beijos foram sem conto, I gave so many kisses I was dizzy,
Apertei-a contra mim, I squeezed her close to me
Enlacei-a nos meus braços Held her in my arms
Embriaguei-me de abraços Got drunk on her charms
Fiquei louco e foi assim. I went crazy, so you see.

Dá-me beijos, dá-me tantos Give me kisses, give me swarms

Que enleado em teus encantos, Swooning under your charms
Preso nos abraços teus, Captive in your arm’s ties
Eu não sinta a própria vida May I not feel of life a word
Nem minha alma, ave perdida Or my soul, lost bird
No azul amor dos teus céus. In the blue love of your skies.

Roquinha dos meus amores, Hoarse from my loves

Lindinha como as flores, Pretty as the flowers,
Minha boneca que tem My doll who has true
Braçinhos para enlaçar-me Tiny arms to hold me
E tantos beijos p’ra dar-me And so many kisses to give me
Quantos eu lhe dou também. As many as I give her too.

Botão de rosa menina, Girl like a budding rose,

Carinhosa, pequenina, Affectionate, small pose,
Corpinho de tentação, A tiny frame of tempting sort,
Vem morar na minha vida, My life for you to share,
Dá em ti terna guarida Give me your warm care
Ao meu pobre coração. So my heart won’t part.
Nao descanso, não projecto, I can’t rest, I have no plans,
Nada certo e sempre inquieto Nothing sure and always bland
Quando te não vejo, amor, When I don’t see you, my dream,
Por te beijar e não beijo, Want to kiss you and I don’t
Por não me encher o desejo So to enflame my desire I won’t
Mesmo o meu beijo maior. Even with a kiss supreme.

Ai que tortura, que fogo, Oh, what torture, what fire

Se estou perto d’ela é logo When near her soon I desire
Uma névoa em meu olhar, A mist in my sight, a blur,
Uma núvem em minha alma, A cloud in my soul
Perdida de toda a calma, All calm lost in my role,
E eu sem a poder achar. 25 And I not able to find her.

The Hamlet-Ophelia context must have occurred to Pessoa from an obvious pun
based on her name and his interest in Shakespeare, but even in play Pessoa is never-
theless casting a shadow from the beginning, perhaps subconsciously, since in the
real play Hamlet is aware that he will never be in a position to formalize his love for
Ophelia in marriage. Pessoa’s choice of this dramatic scenario to declare himself,
while highly original, assigns the couple roles in a play both spontaneous and con-
trived, whose plot is ambiguously enacted, whether hiding what is transparent or
making transparent what is hidden.
The language of infantile sexuality in the love letters has its own built-in coun-
terthemes, since the inherent implications of physical contact conflict with the inno-
cent Eros of the surface. Infantilization in language further freezes the relationship in
terms of the roles adopted, while elevating play and desire to a level above the more
restricted social reality. Terms of address cast Ophelia as “Bebé,” “Bebézinho,”
“Bebé pequeníssimo,” “Bebézinho mau e bonito,” “Bebézinho do Nininho-ninho,”
“Bebé Nininha,” “Bebé anjinho,” and variations. He invents diminutive or infantile
language through linguistic play, as in the portmanteau form “Ouvistaste?” which
suggests a child’s mistake; through syncope, as in “O Nininho também tem tado;”
and by referring to each other in the third person, using their nicknames. The form
“jinhos” (from beijinhos), for “kisses,” is a common abbreviated closing that runs
repeatedly throughout the letters.
Pessoa carried his theater into the streets: he appeared before her window, mak-
ing faces and throwing kisses on the sly, among other eccentricities that charmed
Ophelia. Nonsense and forms of non sequitur keep their communication on the level
of fantasy, invention, and theatricality; Ophelia mentions many examples, as when
suddenly while strolling together Fernando would say something to her apparently
absurd, with no relation to circumstances, such as calling her “sulfuric acid” (ácido
sulfúrico), pronounced with the greatest passion.26 Their use of code words appears
in the word “pombos” (doves), which are her breasts;27 Fernando makes veiled and
apparently absurd references to his longing for doves and desire to hunt them. Verbal
fantasy and infantalization, while expected and even obligatory ingredients of the
love letter, at the same times gave rise to counterthemes that Pessoa would exploit as
his letters progressed. Out on a stroll with Ophelia, Fernando declared “Your love for
me is as great as that tree over there” (O teu amor por mim é tão grande, como
aquela árvore). When Ophelia protested, “But there is no tree there” (Mas não está
ali árvore nenhuma), he replied “Exactly” (Por isso mesmo).28
Mock-logical forms of exposition usually imply the “authorship” of Álvaro de
Campos, who comes into play early on as a protagonist attempting to confound the
courtship. Jorge de Sena saw in Campos the British dandy and homosexual, in the
mold of an Oscar Wilde, while a “pan-sexual exuberance”29 or polymorphously per-
verse sexuality is clearly present in his major odes, especially in the mutilation scenes
of the “Maritime Ode.” Pessoa also may have associated Campos with his favorite
Dickens novel, The Pickwick Papers, in order to challenge the social coercion of
marriage. At this point, it is clear that Pessoa is composing in the name of his hetero-
nym: “Don’t be surprised if my handwriting is a bit odd. There are two reasons for it.
The first is that this paper (the only kind available) is quite slippery, and my pen goes
over it very fast; the second is my having discovered here at home a splendid Port

wine, from which I opened a bottle and have already drunk half. The third reason is
that there are only two reasons, and thus no third reason at all (Álvaro de Campos,
engineer)” (Não te admires de a minha lettra ser um pouco exquisita. Ha para isso
duas razões. A primeira é a de este papel (o único acessível agora) ser muito corre-
dio, e a penna passar por elle muito depressa; a segunda é a de eu ter descoberto
aqui em casa um vinho do Porto esplêndido, de que abri uma garrafa, de que já bebi
metade. A terceira razão é haver só duas razões, e portanto não haver terceira razão
nenhuma [Álvaro de Campos, engenheiro]).30 The third “reason” is actually, as
Mourão Ferreira notes, a warning of the presence of Álvaro de Campos, which is by
his own description “strange” (esquisito).31 Ophelia senses Campos’s opposition to
the courtship from the onset and disingenuously asks Fernando to keep it a secret:
“Don’t say anything to the engineer A.C., otherwise he will give you bad advice, and
when he’s with me he’ll blurt nonsense and shout at me” (Não diga nada ao Sr. Engo.
A.C. senão ele dá-lhe maus conselhos, e quando estiver comigo diz-me disparates e
rala-me).32 Tautological and absurd is Fernando’s announcement that he will appear
below Ophelia’s window: “If my little Baby comes to the window, she will see Nin-
inho go by; if she doesn’t, she won’t see him (This last sentence was written by my
dear friend Álvaro de Campos)” (Se o Bébéziho estar á janella, vê o Nininho passar.
Se não quiser, não o vê (É autor desta última frase o meu querido amigo Alvaro de
Campos.)33 In the twenty-second letter, Fernando promises Ophelia the help of his
old friend Álvaro de Campos, “who in general has only been against you” (que em
geral tem sido só contra ti), although this moment of neutrality will not last, as we
shall see. The strange, thirteenth letter (April 5, 1920) comes full of comparable ab-
surdities; Fernando signs off to put his head in a bucket of water, as do all great men,
he continues, especially if they have “1. spirit ; 2. a head; 3. a bucket” (1. espírito, 2.
cabeça, 3. balde onde meter a cabeça). The rationally irrational is the calling card of
Pessoa’s “old friend.”

“The sweets, as you can see, are not for me” /

O doce, enfim, Não é para mim

Pessoa showed himself to be adept at working both within the genre and its adverse
meaning concurrently, with the objective of denying or truncating his romance.
Ophelia recounts receiving a box of candy, for which she had a known weakness,
containing a short poem:

A bonbon is a sweet,
I heard it said.
Not that it should
Go to my head.
The sweets, as you see
Are not for me.
Bombom é um doce
Eu ouvi dizer
Não que isso fosse

Bom de saber
O doce enfim
Não é para mim.34

With a box of candy and a poem, Pessoa conflates the semantic fields of totem and
taboo. The bonbons will incite intense pleasure, but when eaten the pleasure is inter-
nalized in taboos or prohibitions of the Baby’s body. Ophelia recognizes the taboo
and complains that “it seems that everything that could give me pleasure is prohib-
ited” (Mas como tudo quanto possa dar-me prazer, parece que me é proibido).35 The
bonbons gain the weight of a perverse pleasure principle, and the taboo is manifested
in Pessoa’s second and third letters by his reports of strange physical symptoms and
illnesses. At night, he writes Ophelia openly, he suffers from angina and excess sali-
vation, requiring constant spitting at all hours, with fever and headaches. In the third
letter, his illness, for which Ophelia’s correspondence rather than her bodily presence
will be the apparent cure, turns autobiographical and confessional: in the early morn-
ing hours he becomes delirious, thinks he is losing his mind, and yearns to shout in-
coherently. He attributes this incident to the pressure of obligations brought on by the
arrival of his family from South Africa, leading some critics to infer a conflict between
the poet’s mother and Ophelia. The delirium includes the sensation that he is com-
pletely alone, as if in the desert with nothing to drink; cold in his bed, he writes that
he will feign rest.
Pessoa’s self-doubts and physical symptoms are crystallized into imagined
rejection by Ophelia, expressed in a quatrain of unlove:

My lover no longer will pine

She soon forgets and unloves me
It takes women so little time
To prove that they don’t love me.
O meu amor já me não quer
Já me esquece e me desama
Tão pouco tempo a mulher
Leva a provar que não ama.36

Prohibitions to their public courtship are sublimated into perversity and aggressive
Eros. The childishly erotic use of “naughty” as a form of address intensifies, as
Fernando comes to address her as “Naughty and Mischievous Baby,” “Terrible
Baby,” “Beastly Baby,” and finally “Viper,” as the stress and demands of the relation-
ship increase. The play of affection in such oxymorons reveals the author’s sadomas-
ochistic undercurrents. Fernando complains: “My mouth feels strange, you know, not
having been kissed for such a long time. My Baby to sit in my lap! My Baby good
for biting! My Baby for [. . .] (and then Baby’s bad and beats me” (Sinto a bocca
estranha, sabes, por não ter beijinhos há tanto tempo. Meu Bébé para sentar ao
collo! Meu Bébé para dar dentadas! Meu Bébé para . . . (e depois o Bébé é mau e
bate-me).37 Putting Ophelia in the role of evil flirt (“Bad, bad, bad, bad, bad!!!!!!”)
(Má, má, má, má, má!!!!!!), he reaches the zenith of his delusion in a scene where
she is beaten: “You need to be whipped” (Açoites é que tu precisas). Monteiro even

postulates a death wish filtered through Poe, since Pessoa not only had translated three
of Poe’s poems about a young woman’s death, but also had possibly associated Ophelia
with “Ligeia,” who was condemned to a dark tomb. Under the influence of Álvaro de
Campos, he sends Ophelia a poem “to be read in a dark room,” (deve ser lido de noite
e num quarto sem luz) in the context of the madness that he thinks will make their con-
tinued relationship impossible. It is the last letter he will ever write to her.38
In distancing himself from Ophelia, almost literally, the letters are maps of
missed encounters in the shops and streets of Lisbon, as well as a daily diary of dis-
quietude.39 They mark locations to meet, coming out of the C. Dupin offices where
she works or near the Livraria Ingleza where he buys newspapers at eleven o’clock,
or near the Conde Barão, where Fernando writes in the Padaria Ingleza, between
12:30 and 1:00 p.m., or in the Baixa commercial district. He mails his letters at the
Terreira do Paço and waits for her along the Avenida Almirante Reis or at the end of
the Rua da Victória. The couple can converse publicly only on the short trajectory
from Corpo Santo down the Rua do Arsenal to her sister’s house. He crosses the city
on foot daily from bar to bar, from the Cafe Martinho da Arcada to the other Cafe
Martinho at the Largo do Camões. From there, he can wait for her to appear at the
window. Ophelia begins working in Belém, some ten kilometers from the center. He
cannot take the streetcar to Belém to accompany “Ninha” back to Lisbon because the
factory there has no telephone, thus he begins to enter the trains of the Cascais line at
the Santos stop to travel with Ophelia up to Belém. Fernando makes a point of nam-
ing the bars and coffeehouses where he composes his letters, principally Café Arcada
and Abel Pereira da Fonseca. Their interiors, visualized in the famous paintings by
Almada Negreiros, increasingly imply the substitution of Ophelia by the literary com-
position and drink that fill Pessoa’s final years: “The Abel,” he writes, “has sweet
aguardente, but Baby’s mouth is sweet and perhaps a bit spicy, and I like it that way”
(E o Abel tem aguardente doce, mas a bocca do Bébé é doce e talvez um pouco
ardente, mas assim está bem).40 The correspondence of the second phase begins
when Ophelia requests a copy of a snapshot of Fernando standing at the Abel bar,
which he dedicates to her with the pun In flagrante delitro. Inebriation is conflated
with madness and the reduction of the genre of love letters to meaningless babble;
writing at the Abel, Fernando alleges that he is crazy and writes only nonsense.
Madness is a current that Pessoa introduces early in the correspondence through
illness and the company of heteronyms; it runs to a climactic finish in 1930, when he
uses graphics, incoherence, and mental illness to dramatize his feigned, or perhaps
real, instabilities. Ophelia comments that after 1930 Fernando had changed; he was
always nervous and obsessed with his literary work. Early on, the imaginary Mr.
Crosse makes an appearance in connection with a literary prize in England, which he
hoped to win out of twenty thousand applicants: he has a “pound sterling of health”
(uma libra de saúde) and checks his mailbox daily.41 Next, Álvaro de Campos returns
as foil to the romance and methodically usurps Fernando’s role as author and suitor.
When Ophelia’s telephone rings, she hopes that the caller is not “that engineer
again;”42 even Fernando, who knows of the antipathy, wishes that he could accom-
pany her from Belém without the presence of Álvaro de Campos, suggesting as early
as June, 1920 the transferal of his personality to the heteronym.43 Could there be a
subtle allusion to Fernando’s loss of personality in Ophelia’s addressing him in the

feminine? “Goodbye my doll,” she explains, “because Nininho is also a girl.” (Adeus
minha boneca—porque o Nininho também é menina).44 By October 15, Fernando
makes a final diagnosis in his letter with a comic touch: “So what happened? They
exchanged me for Álvaro de Campos!” (Afinal o que foi? Trocaram-me pelo Alvaro
de Campos!)45 In order to recover from the “black wave” washing over his spirit, he
tells Ophelia that he plans to enter a psychiatric hospital for treatment. By 1929, not
only the author but the genre itself has been sequestered by the heteronym Álvaro de
Campos, who “himself” writes a formal letter to Ophelia on September 25 as Pes-
soa’s personal secretary. It contains the touches of sardonic futurism for which he is
known: describing Fernando as abject and miserable, even incapable of communica-
tion, he advises Ophelia to toss the mental image she may hold of his intimate friend
down the drain. The author’s author lists five prohibitions, which include “thinking
about the said individual” (pensar no indivíduo em questão), meant to bring any
personal attachments or emotional reaction on her part to an end. Fernando will
repeat the litany in a subsequent letter on September 29: “Goodbye little Ophelia.
Sleep and eat, and don’t lose grams” (Adeus, Ophelinha. Durma e coma, e não perca
gramas). Finally in October, Fernando resorts to graphic display to represent the
broken belt of an old automobile he has in his head, which is his reason: “fez tr-tr-r-
r-r.” “r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r.”46 He has become the “ex-Ibis, the extinct Ibis, the Ibis
beyond repair” (o ex-Ibis, o extinto Ibis, o Ibis sem concerto) who is headed for the
well-known mental asylum of Rilhafoles, where he imagines that his return will be
celebrated. He writes, “I am sad, and I am crazy, and no one likes me, and why
should they?” (eu estou triste, e sou maluco, e ninguem gosta de mim, e tambem
porque é que havia de gostar).47
One month before Pessoa’s death in 1935, it is Álvaro de Campos who has the
last word concerning the Ophelia courtship, which he reduces to a nostalgic reminis-
cence of love letters as a genre, a stage in life:

All love letters

Are ridiculous.
They would not be love letters if they
Were not ridiculous.
In my time I too wrote love letters,
Like the others,
Love letters, if there is love,
Have to be
But, finally,
It is only children who have never written
Love letters
Who are
Oh how I wish I were back in the time
When I wrote (without being aware
Of it) ridiculous

Love letters.
The truth of it is that today
It is my memory
Of those love letters
That is
(All antepenultimate meters,
Like antepenultimate feelings,
Are naturally

Todas as cartas de amor são

Não seriam cartas de amor se não fossem
Também escrevi em meu tempo cartas de amor,
Como as outras,

As cartas de amor, se há amor,

Têm de ser

Quem me dera no tempo em que escrevia

Sem dar por isso
Cartas de amor

A verdade é que hoje

As minhas memórias
Dessas cartas de amor
É que são
(Todas as palavras esdrúxulas,
Como os sentimentos esdrúxulos,
São naturalmente

Álvaro’s clever poem can be taken as a final victory of a genre used to deny the heart
of its meaning and the defeat of an author controlled by his own imaginary persona.
Pessoa’s professional obligation as a writer is the final antidote to sweets in his
arsenal, and his appeals to it end both sequences of letters. His complaint is identical
to a verse in Álvaro de Campos’s 1923 poem, “Lisbon Revisited”:

Did they want me married, futile, normal and taxable?

Did they want me to be the opposite, opposed to anything?
If I were another person, I’d do what everyone wanted.
But given the way I am, let me be!

Queriam-me casado, fútil, quotidiano e tributável?

Queriam-me o contrário disto, o contrário de qualquer coisa?
Se eu fosse outra pessoa, fazia-lhes, a todos, a vontade.
Assim, como sou, tenham paciência!50

While he complains that his life is on hold, uncertain of how his literary project is
progressing, Pessoa increasingly describes himself as in the hands of an inexorable
fate or law and at the service of totally demanding masters: “My destiny belongs to
another law, of whose existence Ophelia has no knowledge, and is subordinated more
and more to the obedience of strict Masters who are unforgiving” (O meu destino
pertence a outra Lei, de cuja existencia a Ophelinha nem sabe, e está subordinado
cada vez mais á obediência a Mestres que não permittem nem perdoam).51 By 1929,
he announces that he has reached the height of his literary powers and talents, a mo-
ment that demands the solitude necessary to bring his literary works to fruition. His
urgency is felt: “My whole future life depends on my being able to do this, and right
away. For me, everything else in life is secondary” (Toda a minha vida futura depen-
de de eu poder ou não fazer isto, e em breve.)52 The desired marriage to Ophelia will
depend on its service to literature, far beyond the genre in which they are indulging.
To pretend otherwise, he says, would be to turn him into some other “person.” Open-
ing his hand to the game of love letters, Pessoa confesses: “So there you have it, and
by chance it’s the truth” (Ora, ahi tem, e, por acaso é a verdade).53 There is a demonic
note in his urgent confession of domination by a craft that suggests involuntary servi-
tude; he writes from obligation, even while being careful to define his efforts as a
vocation rather than a profession. That it is in fact an obsession is belied by Fernando’s
confession that writing is a malediction that has him trapped. The common life that
Ophelia offers him, her kisses and affection, like everything else ordinary, will be
“indefinitely postponed” (addiado indefinidamente)54 and literature become Pessoa’s
“infinite alibi.”55 A fragment of the Livro do Desassossego (Book of Disquiet), hidden
in his literary archive, to the extent it can be considered autobiographical, implies that
its author was unwilling or unprepared for a relationship of mutual commitment:

But that time when a malicious opportunity led me to suppose that I was in love, and
to verify that I was truly loved, I was first astonished and confused, as if I’d won the
lottery in an unconvertible currency. And then I felt, because no human is human
without it, a certain vanity; this emotion, however, which might seem the most nat-
ural one, quickly passed. There followed a feeling hard to define, but in which there
were prominent sensations of tedium, humiliation, and exhaustion.
Mas daquela vez em que uma malícia da oportunidade me fez julgar que
amava, e verificar deveras que era amado, fiquei, primeiro, estonteado e confuso,
como se me saíra uma sorte grande em moeda inconvertível. Fiquei, depois, porque
ninguém é humano sem o ser, levemente envaidecido; esta emoção, porém, que
pareceria a mais natural, passou rapidamente. Sucedeu-se um sentimento difícil de
definir, mas em que se salientavam incomodamente as sensações de tédio, de
humilhação e de fadiga. [LV 235]

Avoidance of love is justified for purity (“Women are a good source of dreams.
Don’t ever touch them” / A mulher—uma boa fonte de sonhos. Nunca lhe toques),

the oppression of attachment (“Nothing is more oppressive than the affection of

others” / Nada pesa tanto como o afecto alheio), or the inability to understand
others (“No one understands anyone else” / Ninguém compreende outro).56
In an effort to keep Fernando close, Ophelia attempts to convert the taboo of
sweets into a totem by turning her body into food for Fernando to eat, by presenting
him daily with a “splendid menu” of her own confection: “Not to throw the soup
bowl at you, just to give you kissy soup, kissy stew, sautéed kisses, boiled kisses,
fricassee of kisses, mayonnaise of kisses, compote of kisses, pudding of kisses, fruit
kisses and liqueur kisses, as you see” (Quero ter o Nininho ao pé de mim—mas não
é para lhe atirar com a terrina da sopa—é para lhe dar sopa de jinhos, cozido de
jinhos, assado de jinhos, guisado de jinhos, fricassé de jinhos, mayonaise de jinhos,
compota de jinhos, puding de jinhos, fruta de jinhos e licores de jinhos como vê é
esplêndido o menu que lhe apresento).57 The meal is her body, and by dining
Fernando will consummate the marriage and convert the taboo into totem: “these
kisses served with a napkin that I pass around Nininho’s neck, which are my arms,
the fork that is my fingers to caress Nininho’s head, and the spoon by mouth to carry
kisses to Ibis’s mouth. Wouldn’t that be a pleasant meal for my pretty love?” (que
esse jinho fosse servido com um guardanapo que eu passava ao pescoço do Nininho
que eram os meus braços, o garfo os meus dedos a afagarem a cabeça do Nininho, e
a colher a minha boca que levava o beijinho à boquinha do Ibis. Não seria agradáv-
el ao meu lindo amor uma refeição assim?).58 The kind and understanding Ophelia
offered a highly original solution, serving Pessoa a dose of his own cannibal meta-
phors in an elegant offer of civilized self-sacrifice, not raw but cooked. The recipe
was Ophelia’s reply to the metaphor in the box of candy, and the best evidence avail-
able to support her assertion that she understood and accepted Pessoa as he was: “I
understood him and accepted him exactly as he was” (Eu compreendia-o e aceitava-
o exactamente como ele era).59
In revealing the existence of love letters in 1936, Ophelia’s nephew Carlos
Queiroz offered the optimistic assessment of a first reading: “In the obvious sponta-
neity of these letters [. . .] there is not a vestige of formal premeditation, of willful
intellectuality [. . .]. How was it possible for the most poetic of men [. . .] to free his
heart from literature to such a point?!” (Na evidente espontaneidade destas cartas
[. . .] não se encontra um vestígio de premeditação formal, de voluntária intelectua-
lidade. Como terá sido possível ao mais poeta dos homens [. . .] libertar a tal ponto
o coração da literatura?!)60 From the perspective of the two collections of letters and
sixty year’s distance, the innocence of Queiroz’s misreading borders on the offen-
sive, yet it is an instructive reminder of how much these lost letters say about Pes-
soa’s inchoate objectives. The literary game would always trump Ophelia’s final
supplication: “I’m sure that you wouldn’t carry your cruelty so far” (Tenho a certeza
que não levaria a sua crueldade tão longe).61

The Adventure of the

Anarchist Banker
Reductio ad Absurdum of a Neo-Liberal

E as theorias, politica e esthetica, inteiramente

originaes e novas, que proponho nessa proclamação,
são, por uma razão lógica, inteiramente irracionais,
exactamente como a vida.
Álvaro de Campos, “O QUE É A METAPHYSICA?”

O ofício de banqueiro obriga e acostuma a

Machado de Assis, Memorial de Ayres, 18 de setembro

A reductio ad absurdum é uma das minhas

bebidas predilectas.
Livro do Desassossego

Smoke and Mirrors

“The Anarchist Banker,”1 classified by Fernando Pessoa as a story about logic (“con-
to de raciocínio”), foregrounds in its title both a paradox and a contradiction in terms,
and the story that unfolds in the form of a Socratic pseudodialogue treats the reader
to an astonishing and versatile exposition of logic. Sophism, subversion, and subter-
fuge are called to the service of truth, which is but another player in the malleable
rhetoric of life, in the exercise of what Jorge de Sena described as Pessoa’s “diabol-
ical capacity for reasoning.” All are involved in a sociopolitical, economic, and rhe-
torical satire of Swiftian proportions that ranks thought superior to action and finds
irrationality in logic. As he puffs his cigar, the main character, a wealthy banker,
explains to a subservient and obsequious after-dinner companion why he is still the
same anarchist that he was as a youth and, further, why he is in fact the only true
anarchist of the present moment. Those who proclaim themselves to be political


anarchists are false, whereas the banker is true to the principles and definition of
anarchism. The interlocutor’s few weak objections and queries are crushed by the
inexorable logic of the banker’s strong and determined personal and rhetorical
exposition. The master-disciple relationship inherent in the armchair “lesson,” whose
parody approaches the theater of the absurd, feigns support for the banker’s inexora-
ble rationale, while undermining it by dialogic imbalance. Against the backdrop of
the gentleman’s club, the respectable banker’s irrefutable exposition stands against
the paradox of its contradictory and confounding thesis-title. The space opened by
these strange differences advances Fernando Pessoa’s adverse exploitation of the
story and its apparent oxymoron.2
Fernando Pessoa’s short story “The Anarchist Banker” was published in the first
number of the modernist magazine Contemporânea, directed by José “Pacheko,” in
May, 1922, with a cover by Almada Negreiros and an editorial commitment: “A
Magazine made expressly for civilized people and to civilize people” (Revista feita
expressamente para gente civilizada e para civilizar gente). Nothing more civilized
than an extremely wealthy banker, businessman, and monopolist smoking his after-
dinner cigars, as someone without a thought, in the company of an admiring yet
unperceptive and perhaps younger colleague. The atmosphere of the gentleman’s
club—no thinking allowed— intensifies the contradiction banker-anarchist, while
drawing on the fin-de-siècle aestheticism in which life imitates art. As a story, the
work partakes of detective stories, mysteries, and revelations shocking to readers and
society, as illustrated by the deductive action of a Sherlock Holmes or by Pessoa’s
own detective, Abílio Fernandes Quaresma. The method and logical procedure of
investigation is more important than the effects to which they can lead,3 such that the
banker’s sequence of logical steps recounting his transformation amounts to an inves-
tigation and critique. He begins by outlining his youthful days in the proletarian class
and his work on the economic margins of society that influenced him to become a
convinced anarchist. With this account of his personal fortunes, the banker ties his own
story historically to labor agitation, proletarian revolts, and anarchist movements prev-
alent in Europe and Brazil from the turn of the century up to the time of writing.
Pessoa once called his story a “dialectical satire,” although its import goes far
beyond to reach the foundational hypotheses of modern political and economic the-
ory. With the “Anarchist Banker,” Pessoa can be said to have created an adverse
story by appropriating the genre in order to compose an essay on politics and meta-
physics that examines the assumptions underlying modern Western societies and
finds them riddled with contradictions and inconsistencies. His purpose is twofold: to
question and to rewrite the fundamental axioms of the Western social, political, and
economic systems and to reduce to absurdity its common methods of rational analysis
and thought. The propositions that he considers most problematic concern the inter-
play between Nature and our species, between man and society, the group and the
individual within society, and the wide divergence in inherent individual talent and
capability among different persons. On another level, Pessoa further confronts the
abstract with the concrete and the rational with the irrational in addressing human
affairs and perceptions of reality. To the “delirium of reason” that grips the banker as
he neutralizes the apparent paradox through his wily narration, Pessoa juxtaposes the
“reason in madness” that inspires his genius.4

As his story unfolds, Pessoa subtly revisits major treatises on European eco-
nomic, moral, and political philosophy made possible by the “Age of Reason,” while
at the same time challenging the syllogisms that form the core of logical thought as
defined by Aristotle. The basis of Pessoa’s position can be found in two later essays
by the heteronym Álvaro de Campos published in the journal ATHENA in 1924–
ESTÉTICA NÃO-ARISTOTÉLICA.”5 In the first essay, Campos proclaims that
metaphysics is not a science but an art; he sums up the aim of his aesthetic theory as
the irrationalizing of fields that are not capable of rationalization (na irracionaliza-
ção das actividades que não são [. . .] racionalizáveis). When sociology is reduced
to politics, writes Campos, it becomes irrationalized, because it is made to be practi-
cal when it is in actuality theoretical. Campos considers social utopianism to be an
even more secondary subdivision, a subrationalization, as it occupies a position infe-
rior to its own theoretical purposes (um grau inferior da sua própria finalidade).
Using the terms of this metaphysics, the story of the anarchist banker can be described
as an irrationalizing of sociology, employing techniques drawn from the art of meta-
physics. Throughout the brilliant verbal play, the overarching theme is “reduced” and
contained within the microcosm of a political pamphlet that addresses the paradoxi-
cal nature of utopian ideals of salvation at the hands of the surprisingly manipulative
strategies and irreducible individualism of human purposes and psychology.6

The Wealth of Bankers

Pessoa’s rewriting of political thought begins with a deconstruction of Jean-Jacques

Rousseau’s (1712–1778) “state of Nature” and parody of the social contract.7 The
story of the banker’s early struggles to improve his economic life and to accept the
tenets of anarchism is aimed directly at Rousseau’s social contract. He concludes that
“Each man must free himself” (cada um tem de libertar-se a si próprio).8 The question
implicit in Pessoa’s political thought is how to found a social contract when humans
do not love or agree with one another: “Any political system founded on Rousseau’s
idea of natural fraternity is automatically disqualified” (Tout système politique fondé
sur l’idée rousseauiste d’une fraternité naturelle est d’avance disqualifié).9 In the
Discours sur l’origine de l’inégalité des hommes,10 Rousseau argues that man is good
by nature, yet corrupted by society. For Pessoa, citizens have no “equals,” and no
natural solidarity exists among men; he rejects the idea of a transcendental or universal
mankind, and his state of Nature is composed only of individuals and species that do
not overly resemble one another. The banker asserts that natural inequalities originate
in Nature: “those are natural inequalities, not social ones, and anarchism can do noth-
ing about them. The degree of a person’s intelligence and willpower is a matter
between him and Nature; social fictions don’t enter in at all” (essas já são as desigual-
dades naturais, e não as sociais. . . .Com essas é que o anarquismo não tem nada. O
grau de inteligência ou de vontade de um indivíduo é com ele e com a Natureza; as
próprias ficções sociais não põem por aí nem prego nem estopa). 11
The debate about the nature of the state of nature also finds the banker in opposi-
tion to John Locke’s (1632–1704) Essay Concerning Human Understanding.12 Locke

argues that the mind is born a blank slate and that in the state of nature all men were
equal and happy, enjoying “life, health, liberty [and] possessions.” In the long run,
private happiness and the general welfare would coincide, given that the pursuit of
happiness and pleasure leads to cooperation. Pessoa’s own position seems more con-
sonant with Thomas Hobbes’s (1588–1679) observation in Leviathan13 that “man is a
selfish animal at war with others,” a view compounded by Álvaro de Campos’ well-
known interest in Thomas Robert Malthus’s (1766–1834) An Essay on the Principle
of Population as It Affects the Future Improvement of Society.14 Pessoa’s story recon-
structs Malthus’s subversive and perceptive checkmate against a harmonious or uto-
pian society. Campos had previously applied Malthus’s theory to aesthetics in his
“ULTIMATUM,” published in the ephemeral magazine Portugal Futurista.15
A principal line of attack in the banker’s story is directed against Adam Smith
(1723–1790), whose Wealth of Nations16 remains one of the founding texts of modern
neo-liberalism. One of Smith’s basic arguments is that the impulse of self-interest
would bring about the public good, provided that market mechanisms were allowed
to function undisturbed. The story challenges the hypothetical connection between
natural egoism and the wealth of societies without individual sacrifice:

So what selfish, or natural, reward would I get by devoting myself to the cause of a
free society and mankind’s future happiness? Only the awareness of having done my
duty, of having worked toward a worthy goal. This, however, is not a pleasure per se
but a pleasure (if really it is) born of a fiction, like the pleasure of being extremely
rich or of being born into good social circumstances. (2001, 180)
Ora que compensação egoísta, ou natural, podia dar-me a dedicação à causa
da sociedade livre e da futura felicidade humana? Só a consciência do dever cum-
prido, do esforço para um fim bom; e nenhuma destas coisas é uma compensação
egoísta, nenhuma destas coisas é um prazer em si, mas um prazer, se o é, nascido de
uma ficção, como pode ser o prazer de ser imensamente rico, ou o prazer de ter
nascido em uma boa posição social. (1997: 25)

The banker presents three counterarguments. Compensation in wealth and liberty for
egotistical effort remains with the individual; the individual will not work for the
social good without evidence that the desired ends are being achieved; and wealth of
individuals can only be passed on to nations after social fictions are abolished: “it’s
not natural to work for some entity or cause, no matter what it is, without a natural,
or selfish, reward, and, secondly, that it’s not natural to devote our efforts to some
goal without the compensation of knowing that the goal will be achieved [. . .] It’s
true that I achieve freedom only for myself, but [. . .] freedom for everyone will be
achieved only when all social fictions are destroyed” (não é natural trabalhar por
qualquer coisa, seja o que for, sem uma compensação natural, isto é, egoísta; e não
é natural dar o nosso esforço a qualquer fim sem ter a compensação de saber que
esse fim se atinge [. . .] Consigo liberdade só para mim, é certo, ma [. . .] a liberdade
para todos só pode vir com a destruição das ficções sociais).17
An equally severe line of attack in the banker’s story is aimed at the political
ideology of Karl Marx (1818–1883) and more directly at the Bolshevik revolution
that occurred in Russia only four years before Pessoa penned his story. The banker’s
critique is directed broadly against the failure of revolutionary psychology, the end of

romantic political ideas, and the collapse of utopian schemes. He observes that a
totalitarian dictatorship installed for any purpose, even the most enlightened, is in
political reality nothing more than a working totalitarian dictatorship:

And a revolutionary regime means a wartime dictatorship, or, in plainer words, a

despotic military regime, because a state of war is imposed on society by just one
part of it—the part that took power by means of a revolution. What’s the result? [. . .]
The revolutionaries’ guiding idea, their main goal, completely vanishes in the social
reality of an exclusively warlike environment [. . .] That’s how it has always been
and how it will always be. (2001, 175)
Ora um regime revolucionário quer dizer uma ditadura de guerra, ou, nas
verdadeiras palavras, um regime militar despótico, porque o estado de guerra é
imposto à sociedade por uma parte dela—aquela parte que assumiu revolucionaria-
mente o poder. O que é que resulta? [. . .] A ideia que conduziu os revolucionários,
o fim, a que visaram, desapareceu por completo da realidade social, que é ocupada
exclusivamente pelo fenómeno guerreiro [. . .] Nem mesmo podia ser outra coisa. E
foi sempre assim. (1997, 16–17).

This critique of provisional dictatorship is drawn from René Descartes’s (1596–1650)

Discours de la methode,18 with its rejections of the authoritarian system of medieval
scholasticism. The banker also unmasks the goal of revolutionary heroes and libera-
tion, which is integration into or possession of the structures of wealth, power, and
consensus by authoritarian means. This fundamental observation about the inter-
changeability of political ends is the principal catalyst leading the banker to abandon
organized anarchist organizations in favor of individual action.
Another significant turn in the banker’s political reasoning finds support in
Benedict de Spinoza’s (1632–1677) A Treatise on Religious and Political Philosophy
on three points.19 Those are the role a powerful or virtuous man, who acts because he
understands; a view of the intellect as active, capable of imagining a community
whose desires are satisfied; and a concept of the universe as a single substance with
an infinity of attributes.20 The superiority of the super individual is a predominant
feature of Pessoa’s political theory, and the banker exemplifies that category: “I’ve
always been basically clear thinking [. . .] and I’ve always been a man of action”
(“Fui sempre mais ou menos lúcido. . . e também um homem de acção”).21 Complet-
ing his superiority is the innate idea of natural justice and superior sense of destiny:
“The notion of justice is inside me, I thought [. . .] I felt a duty that went beyond
my concern for my own fate” (A ideia de justiça cá estava, dentro de mim [. . .] Eu
sentia-a natural. Eu sentia que havia um dever superior).22 The banker never entertains
a question about his capability and right to judge theories of nature or of social libera-
tion using the power of his own reductive intellect; at the end of their conversation, he
is satisfied with the superiority of his arguments: “My friend, as I’ve already told you,
I have already proved it to you” (Meu amigo, eu já lho disse, já lho provei).23

Aristotle’s Syllogisms

By following the banker’s logic, step by step, Pessoa aims to unmask the illogic of
the philosophical foundations of our political systems through an exercise in the

“irrefutable” logic of fiction. His conclusions, as in Álvaro de Campos’s metaphysics,

are “for a logical reason, entirely irrational, exactly like life” (por uma razão lógica,
inteiramente irracionais, exactamente como a vida). Pessoa was perhaps aware of
Oscar Wilde’s mocking use of syllogisms in the essays “Truth of Masks” and “Decay
of Lying.”24 In his rhetorical exposition, the banker employs different syllogisms,
which are sequences of three propositions, such that the first two imply the third.
Most of the categorical alternatives the banker casts before his admiring acolyte are
disjunctive syllogisms, a statement of alternatives of the type “either p or q; not q
therefore p.” He also practices categorical syllogisms, of the type “all x are y, no x is
y, some x is y, some x is not y”; and finally hypothetical syllogisms, conditional
hypotheses of the type “if p then q; p therefore q.”
The banker opposes what is natural and true to social fictions and conventional
lies through a disjunctive syllogism:

Well then, what’s natural must be entirely natural [. . .] Now, we must resolve two
sides: either what’s natural can be put into social practice, or it can’t [. . .] If society
can be natural, then there can be an anarchist, or free [. . .] If society cannot be nat-
ural [. . .] then let’s make it as just as possible.
Ora o que é natural é o que é inteiramente natural [. . .] Ora, de duas coisas,
uma: ou o natural é realizável socialmente ou não é [. . .] Se a sociedade pode ser
natural, então pode haver a sociedade anarquista, ou livre [. . .] Se a sociedade não
pode ser natural [. . .] façamo-la [. . .] o mais justa possível. (1997, 13)

In considering the possible advent of anarchist society, the banker employs a categor-
ical syllogism:

You may even agree that the anarchist system can be achieved, but you may doubt if
it can be introduced immediately [. . .] without there being one or more intermediate
states or programs [. . .] What is this intermediate state? [. . .] a preparatory one [. . .]
That preparation must be either be material, or simply mental; that is to say, a series
of material changes [. . .] otherwise it would be one simple propaganda campaign
gradually growing.
Pode concordar que o sistema anarquista é realizável, mas pode duvidar-se
que ele seja realizável de chofre. . . sem haver um ou mais estados ou regimens
intermédios [. . .] O que é esse estado intermediário [. . .] um estado de preparação
[. . .] Essa preparação ou é material, ou é simplesmente mental; isto é, uma série de
realizações materiais [. . .] ou é uma simples propaganda gradualmente crescente.
(1997, 14–15)

In this case, not all societies are anarchist, but part of some of these societies can be
anarchist, although other parts are not. A hypothetical syllogism is applied to the
question of natural evil:

It had to have come from one of two things: either because man was naturally bad
[. . .] or from man’s long exposure to social fictions, all of which create tyranny [. . .]
It’s more natural to suppose man’s long exposure to social fictions [. . .] Thus, the
thinker will decide, as I did, with almost absolute certainty, in favor of the second

Tinha que provir de uma de duas coisas: ou de o homem ser naturalmente mau
[. . .] ou de uma perversão resultante da longa permanência da humanidade numa
atmosfera de ficções sociais, todas elas criadoras de tirania [. . .] É mais natural de
supor [. . .] a longuíssima permanência da humanidade em ficções sociais [. . .] Por
isso, o pensador decide-se, como eu me decidi, com uma quase absoluta segurança,
pela segunda hipótese. (1997, 35–36)

These presentations are governed by a condition of the syllogism, such that if one
term is negative, the conclusion must be negative. Such is the secret deck that the
banker holds in his pocket, along with cash and cigars, enabling him to exercise
effective control over the argumentation. The short story, then, presents the case of
the authoritarian, individualistic, rationalizing tendencies of logic, thereby constitut-
ing a parody of deductive logic of sociopolitical concepts summarized and satirized
in the banker’s maximum conclusion: “I freed one man” (“Libertei um”).25

The Banker’s Statement: Così è (se vi pare)

The banker describes his discovery of the mechanics of anarchism as a “great

day,” perhaps an allusion to the dia triunfal when Pessoa encountered his major
heteronyms. As of that moment, the banker transforms himself into a heteronym,
whose work embodies one of the adverse genres, or points of contradiction in
Western culture. As if he were a character in Luigi Pirandello’s 1917 play,26 the
banker is led logically to an illogical conclusion. He comes to equate freedom with
wealth, an identity seemingly incompatible with his denunciation of revolutionary
liberation, and he further reasons that the path to subjugating the social fiction of
money is by acquiring it in such quantity that he would no longer feel its influence.
The latter is the final step in the reversal of roles and inversions of intention that
reveal to the reader the paradoxical function and meaning of opposition or revolu-
tion, something turned into its contrary, that is to say, the very existence of an
anarchist banker. The banker is yet another possible, although unorthodox, result
of revolutionary logic.
Paradoxes run throughout the banker’s crystalline legal, rhetorical, and socio-
political exposition. There are abundant examples in the story. The banker accepts
the current system, “the bourgeois system” (o sistema burguês), but alleges that one
who believes in natural society cannot defend it, finding that it consists only of
“social fictions.” Thus, if one follows Rousseau, there can be no acceptable social
contract because of the pre-existence and ubiquitous memory of a more ideal state
of nature, which is just and idyllic. And without a social contract, it is individual
psychology that dominates in an ethics of egoism. One cannot join any regime to
liberate society that cannot be instituted instantaneously, before any impulse of nat-
ural tyranny or revolutionary dictatorship breaks out. Logical reason is based on
category and subordination, thus no egalitarian social structure can be based on
logic alone. By working separately, people would be brought closer together, would
become freer, and thus more prepared for the free society of the future. The way to
avoid the tyranny of money is to acquire it in great abundance. Because the banker
has freed himself through wealth, he concludes that he has realized the anarchist

dream of social liberty through practice and intelligence. Generously, he has even
revealed the secret anarchistic process to all his former colleagues, and if they have
not achieved liberation, it is because they have not accepted the same victorious
The heart of the critique of the banker as neo-liberal begins in the separation of
action from intention or the separation of thought from behavior, which allows him
to delve into the very savage capitalist accumulation that anarchists condemn, yet
that he is able to rationalize, justify, and adopt. Pessoa’s critique of laissez-faire is
more profound, as the consequence of the banker’s individual choice and logical
alternative is the creation of wealth without allegiance, form without identity, and
action without conviction. Lacking a true philosophical or rational center, lais-
sez-faire in this context is another irrationalizing of sociology. The banker’s psychol-
ogy of deception has the logic of the spy, yet subversion from inside has produced
simply an opposite, and the guise of respectability of the gentleman is but a façade
for eccentricity, which carries its own irrationality. The pleasure he derives from his
“success” belies his disbelief in the authenticity of his persona. Irrefutable logic at
the service of rationalization is the mechanism Pessoa employs to question the aura
of truth attributed to social and political systems.

Pessoa’s Critique of Pure Reason

In the essay on non-Aristotelian aesthetics, rather than the procedure by which an

individual humanizes or generalizes his sensibility, Campos prefers the inverse, by
which the general becomes particularized, the human personalized, and the exterior
interiorized.27 He finds the purpose of art in society in the effort to dominate; the
higher realms of politics, religion, and art function according to a process of capture
and subjugation. Campos’s theory of aesthetic function is thus based not on the idea
of beauty but of force, even the idea of beauty as a force. A simple intellectual idea
is not a force; the idea must be expressed through sensibility as an emotion or dispo-
sition of temperament, not in the preoccupations of reason. In the anarchist banker,
Pessoa has created a false artist, one who is within Aristotelian theory even though he
may pretend not to be. In the terms of Campos’s essay, the banker makes art with his
intelligence, thus is a simulator whose story has the interest of an acrostic. His art has
been sublimated adversely by his logical supremacy and his capital accumulation.
Campos would say that he has transformed the direct current of his own sensibility
into the alternating current of an exterior intelligence.28
Has Pessoa been able to direct the force of the banker’s dry logic to engage the
reader’s sensibilities? Is it possible to reach truth from within a closed system, or
must one engage the contradictions and paradoxes that simulate reality?29 By devis-
ing a sociohistorical oxymoron, the anarchist banker, Pessoa confronts the reader
with the wonder and shock of a story become manifesto, fable, and myth, with its
unbelievable verisimilitude. Can one accept the banker as a superior individual? Has
the banker beaten the capitalists at their own game, through subversion from inside?
Has he received his just deserts and the congratulatory cigar? Like the interlocutor,
one can only laugh at these questions, given their dexterous and witty rearrangement

of conventional language and accepted definitions through a manipulation of pure

logic. Pessoa has freed one; all that could be told has been told. His story can only be
judged authentic, under Campos’s theory of non-Aristotelian aesthetics, if on getting
up from the table, for example, astonished readers are truly remitted to Rousseau to
question the submission of the individual will in a social contract, to Smith for reex-
amination of the link between egoism and the public prosperity, or even should they
sense an uncanny feeling upon their next visit to the bank.

Alberto Caeiro’s Other Version

of Pastoral
C’est là un bien grand mystère. Pour vous qui
aimez le petit prince,
comme pour moi, rien de l’univers n’est
semblable si quelque part, on ne sait où,
un mouton que nous ne connaissons pas a, oui ou
non, mangé une rose.
Saint-Exupéry, Le Petit Prince

Versions of Pastoral

William Empson’s notable study, Some Versions of Pastoral (1935),1 provides unusually
pertinent parameters for understanding Pessoa’s use of and rebellion against the genre.
His chapter on “Marvell’s Garden” could easily be taken as an essay on Alberto Caeiro,
so profound are the multiple points of similarity. Empson’s work reminds us, first of all,
that Caeiro is a metaphysical poet, grounded in the English tradition. Through Andrew
Marvell (1621–1678), we observe that Caeiro’s Nature is also a conceit, a garden where
truth and knowledge are pursued, albeit in an adverse and primitivist version of the
gardens of earthly delights.
The main point to be observed in the recognition of Caeiro in the chapter on Marvell
is, in Empson’s phrase, “ideal simplicity approached by resolving contradictions.” The
calm of Nature is the source of the poets’ self-knowledge, yet the mind outpaces the
world it mirrors. They force language to break down its artificial, civilized distinctions
and return to natural ideas of the mind. This principle leads both poets to adopt “primitive
epic styles” with a purposefully naïve view of the nature of good:

The naive view is so often more true than the sophisticated ones that this comes in
later ages to take on an air of massive grandeur; it gives a feeling of freedom from
humbug which is undoubtedly noble [. . .] Indeed a great part of [the pastoral poets’]
dignity comes from the naive freshness with which they can jump from one level of
argument to another. (Empson 140)

The poets locate contradiction in the natural metaphors and most normal uses of
language: in the case of pastoral, the claim of identity between Nature and sentiment,


or between Nature and thought. While Marvell works with conscious and uncon-
scious states, intuitive and intellectual modes of awareness in order to contrast and
reconcile them, according to Empson’s reading, Caeiro idealizes the rejection of
discursive consciousness as a threshold to the truth of direct apprehension observed
in Nature. His mode of saying what cannot be expressed is to borrow the linguistic
and metaphoric practices of pastoral, but to redefine them adversely.
Both poets contemplate the whole material world and are aware of controlling it
by thought. Marvell reduces the material world to the mind, which grasps the totality
of all that exists through a reconciliation of rational and intuitive states. The reduc-
tion of the world to idea is common to the metaphysics of both: whether the material
world is reduced to nothing, as to a thought, or whether it has no value when com-
pared to a thought. Caeiro’s extreme pessimism likewise begins in the mind and its
artificial artistry, but privileges the superior truths of an instinctual, unconscious
Nature. He values harmony with totality more than intellectual understanding of it.
Being nothing and thinking nothing, categories attributed to Nature observed from an
existential rather than a scientific point of view, form the basis both of a new poetics
and a metaphysics of radical immanence. Caeiro applies reason to reject rational
analysis and to idealize an instinctual reality that he intuitively attributes to Nature by
external, anthropomorphic observation. Empson’s essay demonstrates the dynamic
of Caeiro’s thought as a metaphysical poet through the comparative reading under-
taken here. As a radicalization of Marvell, Caeiro’s metaphysical and primitivist
verse could well have been included in Empson for its other version of pastoral.

The Forty-Nine Steps

The Keeper of Sheep (O Guardador de Rebanhos),2 Caeiro’s major poetic work con-
sisting of forty-nine numbered poems, is one of the major poetic works of literary
modernism, a conceptual tour de force from the first line to its dramatic conclusion.
The sequence of poems substitutes an intellectual for a spiritual path to enlighten-
ment, while maintaining the generic quality of a spiritual guide or book of spiritual
exercises in the metaphysical tradition.3 One could consider the poems to constitute
Caeiro’s intellectual biography. Their purpose, however, is to unteach and unlearn
the intellectual, spiritual, and even linguistic practices common to Western cultures.
Jorge de Sena notes that bucolic poetry was always a pretext for saying something
else through purely speculative flocks,4 and he considers Caeiro’s grand metaphor,
“The sheep are my thoughts (“O rebanho é os meus pensamentos”) [IX],5 to be a
reworking by a different poet of the same materials used by the English poet Sir
Philip Sidney (1554–1586). Sidney’s “sheepe” await the fruits of love in part XIV of
his pastoral novella The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia (1590), in Dorus’s plea to

My sheepe are thoughts, which I both guide and serue;

Their pasture is faire hilles of fruitless loue,
On barren sweets they feed, and feeding sterue.
I waile their lott, but will not other proue;

My sheepehooke is wane hope, which all vpholds;

My weedes Desire, cut out in endlesse folds;
What woole my sheepe shall beare, whiles thus they liue;
In you it is, you must the iudgement giue.

In George Herbert’s metaphysical poem, “Christmas II,” the pasture of Nature is the
very word of the deity in a similar metaphor:

My soul’s a shepherd too; a flock it feeds

Of thoughts and words and deeds.
The pasture is Thy word; the streams, Thy grace.6

Caeiro accepts the bucolic convention of the shepherd in all its artificiality, yet his
ultimate goal is to reject any form of metaphoric writing or thinking at all; by writing
within the genre, although against it, Caeiro takes advantage of its tradition, which
emphasizes his role as the spiritual and poetic guide who will teach a new path to
knowledge, experience, and poetry by altering the conventions and metaphors of
In the first publication of “O Guardador de Rebanhos” in 1925 in the journal
ATHENA, the first three poems (numbers I, V, and IX) form the vanguard of Caeiro’s
attack against poetic sentiments and conventions. The themes of the journey or voy-
age and of the interchange between interior and exterior categories run throughout
and unify the work. Poem I, “I never kept sheep” (Eu nunca guardei rebanhos), fore-
grounds the thesis that confounds and contradicts the title of the collection, while the
following two lines explain his sheep to be metaphors for a poet who is one with
nature and whose work is to watch over ideas, as did Herbert:

I never kept sheep,

But it’s as if I’d done so.
My soul is like a shepherd.
It knows wind and sun
Walking hand in hand with the Seasons
Observing, and following along.
Mas é como se os guardasse.
Minha alma é como um pastor.
Conhece o vento e o sol
E anda pela mão das Estações
A seguir e a olhar.

Caeiro notes that poets generally ignore the augurs of unknown and occult meanings
conveyed by the natural world, such as night that enters the window like a butterfly
(a noite entrada / Como uma borboleta pela janela), and whose self-awareness pre-
vents them from grasping the meaning of their simplest actions, such as picking a
flower (as mãos colhem flores sem ela dar por isso). Caeiro’s new companion per-
sonified, replacing his thoughts, is Nature without people, come to sit down beside
him (Natureza sem gente” / Vem sentar-se a meu lado), and he learns how to be

silent, alone, and to discard the ambition even to be a poet. He writes under a spell of
imagination, incantation, and transparency, as when a dark cloud cuts off his light, or
when he sees himself in his verses as a shepherd looking over sheep, or looking over
ideas. Caeiro salutes his readers with the desire that they will read him, while sitting
in a favorite chair by a window, and accept his verses with the same naturalness as
the old tree outside their door. He glues the interior world of being without thinking
about it to the pastoral scenes of an allegorical nature, itself “right and natural” (nat-
ural e justa), like a cutout that reveals his new ideal and model for poetic truth and
Poem V, “There’s metaphysics enough in not thinking about anything” (Há
metafísica bastante em não pensar em nada) is the sacred confession of faith, or
credo, by a skeptical materialist for whom the meaning of things can never be “deep-
er, inner, or veiled,” but is present in their daily physical manifestations, if one knows
how to feel or to understand them: “The mystery of things. How should I know? / The
only mystery is there being people who think about mystery” (O mistério das coisas?
Sei lá o que é mistério. / O único mistério é haver quem pense no mistério). “The
mystery of things” (O mistério das coisas) of which poets speak is for Caeiro an
unthinkable phrase composed by those who do not know how to read the inherent
meaning of immediate physical reality. In response, his poem radically alters the very
nature of faith by removing it from the abstract and metaphorical, whether in concept
or language, to put it into direct contact with the immediate reality of things. The poet
sings the praises of what he understands, which is “morning daylight,” “a cup to
water fountains,” “flowers, trees, mountains, sun and moonlight” (o começo da man-
hã, um copo à água, flores e árvores e montes e sol e luar). What may seem to be
Pantheism in the poem is undercut by two arguments: first, that humans are incapable
of divining what is beyond understanding by the senses, and second, that the reality
before us is the form in which the deity wishes to be recognized. To both these points,
Caeiro applies reductive, rational arguments. In the first case, Caeiro rejects meta-
phoric inner meanings as external and unknowable: “To think of the inner meaning
of things / Is something added on, like thinking of your health / Or taking a cup to
water fountains” (Pensar no sentido íntimo das coisas / É acrescentado, como pensar
na saúde / Ou levar um copo à água das fontes). Secondly, Caeiro irreverently ques-
tions the implied assumption that God is not present in things (“If he wanted me to
believe in him, / He’d certainly come and speak with me” / Se ele quisesse que eu
acreditasse nele / Sem dúvida que viria falar comigo) and confesses his obedience
and devotion by opening his eyes to the spontaneous joy and love of the senses (“And
I love him without thinking about him / And I think of him, seeing and listening, /
And I’m at his side each and every moment” / E amo-o sem pensar nele, / E penso-o
vendo e ouvindo / E ando com ele a toda a hora). Through the contravention of meta-
physical conventions and language, Caeiro has mapped out a state of religious ec-
stasy without transcendence, without metaphysics, and without poetic metaphor.
Pastoral is returned to its precise meaning, yet, as John Cage said quoting D. T.
Suzuki about the difference before and after studying Zen, “Just the same, only
somewhat as though you had your feet a little off the ground.”7
Poem IX returns to the thesis statement, with a variation. After his decla-
ration “I’m a keeper of sheep. / The sheep are my thoughts” (Sou um guardador de

rebanhos. / O rebanho é os meus pensamentos), Caeiro immediately turns to the

transformation of thoughts into sensations: “And my thoughts are all sensations. / I
think with my eyes and ears / And with my hands and feet / And with my nose and
mouth” (E os meus pensamentos são todos sensações. / Penso com os olhos e com os
ouvidos / E com as mãos e os pés / E com o nariz e a boca). His new metaphysics is
to “think a flower” by smelling it or to taste the “meaning” of a fruit by eating it. He
luxuriates in the heat and splendor of lying in the grass with his eyes closed: “I know
the truth and I’m happy” (Sei a verdade e sou feliz). Caeiro accepts no abstract or
hidden meanings, no universal categories, and all that is perceivable is in immediate
sensory perceptions; thinking and knowing are transferred from mental to sensorial
processes. In the reductive sequence first turning sheep into thoughts and then
thoughts into sensations, Caeiro undercuts metaphor and radically proposes to elim-
inate any separation between knowing and being, while subverting the language of
pastoral in playful alteration of its own metaphor. The contravention of pastoral con-
ventions lies in the fact that Caeiro’s ideas or thoughts seek to go beyond the symbol-
ism of language and any conscious awareness or analysis of themselves, being instead
nonverbal and nondiscursive states, which will require a new kind of poetry. In Poems
X and XIII, corollaries to Poem IX, the wind sweeps away time and memory in two
stages of unthinking: the impossibility of knowing one’s thoughts (“The wind speaks
only of the wind.” / O vento só fala do vento.) and the incisive abandonment of any
attempt or desire to do so: “And I know not what I think / Nor do I try to know” (E
eu não sei o que penso / Nem procuro sabê-lo).
Poem XX, “The Tagus is lovelier than the river running through my village” (O
Tejo é mais belo que o rio que corre pela minha aldeia), is a centerpiece of the col-
lection that plays with Portuguese geography in a poetic map and naïve primer that
“places” Caeiro and his ideas within a self-contained local tradition inimical to ge-
neric practices of category and classification. As in Poems I and IX, “The Tagus”
contradicts its thesis in the second line, “But the Tagus is not lovelier than the river
running though my village” (Mas o Tejo não é mais belo que o rio que corre pela
minha aldeia), closing the dialectic with a tautology that strikes the reader for the
purposeful and primitive simplicity of its argument: “Because the Tagus isn’t the
river running through my village” (Porque o Tejo não é o rio que corre pela minha
aldeia).8 Caeiro’s Tagus invokes the voyages of exploration, a motif in Campos’s
“Maritime Ode,” and foreshadows the voyages into unknown future mists in Mes-
sage by connecting the river that comes from Spain with the theme of emigration, the
Portuguese diaspora, and the dream of New World riches:

The Tagus takes you out into the World.

Beyond the Tagus there’s America
And the fortune awaiting those who find it.
Pelo Tejo vai-se para o Mundo.
Para além do Tejo há a América
E a fortuna daqueles que a encontram.

The river in Caeiro’s village, however, is both freer and larger than the Tagus, he
asserts paradoxically, because everyone knows it, as well as its origins and fate: “No

one’s ever wondered what lies beyond / The river of my village” (Ninguém nunca
pensou no que há para além / Do rio da minha aldeia). The purpose of the poem is
to redefine the village river in two ways: first as a known entity, integral to a land-
scape in which people identify with geography and, second, as a complete thing in
itself, needing no exterior poetic comparisons in order to describe or identify: “The
river of my village makes no one think of anything. Anyone standing alongside it is
just standing alongside it” (O rio da minha aldeia não faz pensar em nada. Quem
está ao pé dele está só ao pé dele). Through negation and naïve localism, Caeiro
brings modernist poetry to the expansiveness and certainty of the concrete.
Caeiro’s method of thesis and antithesis, version and inversion, is illustrated by
comparing Poem XXVIII (“Today I read nearly two pages / In a book by a mystic
poet, / And I laughed like someone who’d been weeping and weeping” / Li hoje
quase duas páginas / Do livro dum poeta místico, / E ri como quem tem chorado
muito.) with Poem XXX (“If they want me to be a mystic, fine. I’m a mystic. / I’m a
mystic, but only of the body. / My soul is simple and doesn’t think.” / Se quiserem
que eu tenha um misticismo, está bem, tenho-o. / Sou místico, mas só com o corpo. /
A minha alma é simples e não pensa). In the first, Caeiro debunks mystical philoso-
phers as sick and crazy poets who speak only of themselves when they say that
“flowers feel [. . .] stones have souls, and rivers have ecstasies in moonlight” (flores
sentem [. . .] pedras têm alma, e os rios têm êxtases ao luar), whereas, Caeiro follows
epistemological particularism, seeing in each thing only itself. His response to the
mystics begins with the humorous rhetorical contradiction, “Thank God” (Graças a
Deus) stones are just stones / And rivers nothing but rivers / And flowers just flowers”
(as pedras são só pedras / E que os rios não são senão rios, / E que as flores são
apenas flores). For Caeiro, Nature observed is all there is to understand, because
there is no “interior” or hidden part. His assertion does not deny the complexity of
Nature or natural species; it only holds the function of Nature to be observable and
material, rather than mysterious and unknowable, even if the observer does not or
cannot perceive it:

As for myself, I write out the prose of my poems

And I am satisfied,
Because I know all I can understand is Nature from the outside;
I don’t understand it from inside
Because Nature hasn’t any inside;
It wouldn’t be Nature otherwise.
Por mim, escrevo a prosa dos meus versos
E fico contente,
Porque sei que compreendo a Natureza por fora:
E não a compreendo por dentro
Porque a Natureza não tem dentro;
Senão não era a Natureza

In the second poem, Caeiro accepts the accusation of mysticism, but redefines it as
an inverted mysticism of sensations, solitude, and song: “My mysticism is not want-
ing to know” (O meu misticismo é não querer saber). Caeiro singing to the world on

top of a hillside beside a solitary cabin is the adverse of Camões, whose statue that
used to stand in Old Goa, proclaiming verses drawn from exploits of the seaborne
empire, showed his arms outstretched toward the world. The mystical knowledge of
the world motivating the voyages of exploration is inverted in Caeiro, whose mystical
training is a first step to learning to live without the self:

I live on a hilltop
In a solitary whitewashed cabin.
And that’s my definition.
A minha alma é simples e não pensa. . .
Vivo no cima dum outeiro
Numa casa caiada e sozinha,
E essa é minha definição.

The dramatic sweep of the final four poems, progressing from confession to
coda, carries the sequence to a grand finale, both intimate and epic in its synthesis of
Caeiro’s manual of unlearning, both touching and frightening in his existential fare-
well to literature and his perception of an immediate reality much greater than him-
self. In Poem XLVI, “One way or another” (Deste modo ou daquele modo), Caeiro
confesses that the path to ridding himself of all conventions of culture and civiliza-
tion, to unpacking a self that has no name or qualities, and to writing verses that have
no message or predetermined gestures is uncertain and full of false starts:

I keep writing my poems without wanting to,

As if writing weren’t something made up of gestures,
As if writing were something that happened to me
Like the sun outside shining on me.
Vou escrevendo os meus versos sem querer,
Como se escrever não fosse uma coisa feita de gestos,
Como se escrever fosse uma coisa que me acontecesse
Como dar-me o sol de fora.

His compositional goals would not fall far from the automatic writing of the surreal-
ists, who programmed themselves to write without conscious control and thus enter
the subconscious mind, had Caeiro not followed an adverse, intentional program of
unlearning, in which words were meant intentionally to accommodate themselves to
pure sensations without any cultural history or overlay by the effort of the poet’s will.
Caeiro’s theme is the difficulty of the path to spiritual and ascetic poetry, and his
confessions of recidivism, slipping back into the realm of words and ideas, is proof
that “swimming the river only quite slowly” (só muito devagar atravessa o rio a
nado) to a new conceptual world of poetry is not accessible to everyone. Like a pil-
grim to poetry, he falls, picks himself up, and writes again: “Falling down here,
picking myself up there, / Yet always going ahead on my own.” (Caindo aqui,
levantando-me acolá, / Mas indo sempre no meu caminho.). In this poem, Caeiro
exemplifies the connection between the inner quest for a selfless poetry of sensation
and the epic universalizing of the self as discoverer of new dimensions of mind and

being. In forging ahead with his quest, like the knight of a different crusade, or a
Darwin of poetry, he nobly casts himself as the “Discoverer of Nature [. . .] the Argo-
naut of true sensations” (o Descobridor da Natureza [. . .] o Argonauta das sensações
verdadeiras) because he aims to free the Universe from metaphor and restore it to its
true being. The sense of immanence that pervaded the play O Marinheiro fills the
final stanza, where Caeiro in the early morning hours awaits the sunrise as if it were
a reenactment of the difficult conquest, come to throw light onto his discovery of the
world, greater than the discoveries of the great Argonaut, Vasco da Gama, and other
Portuguese voyagers: “And the sun, though still not showing its head / Over the wall of
the horizon, / May still be seen with its fingertips / Clawing at the top of the wall / Of
the horizon, full of low-lying hills.” (E que o sol, que ainda não mostrou a cabeça / Por
cima do muro do horionte, / Ainda assim já se lhe vêem as pontas dos dedos / Agarran-
do o cimo do muro / So horizonte cheio de montes baixos). Caeiro is both anti-hero and
the only true hero.
Poem XLVII, “On a terribly clear day” (Num dia excessivamente nítido), reiter-
ates Caeiro’s particularism and his rejection of the order and category of rational
encyclopedism in favor of epiphanic illumination, a “glimpse, like a road through the
trees, / Of what might after all be the Big Secret, / That Great Mystery crooked poets
talk about” (Entrevi, como uma Estrada por entre as árvores, / O que talvez seja o
Grande Segredo, / Aquele Grande Mistério de que os poetas falsos falam). The idea
of a great all-encompassing unity of things he dismisses as a defect of thought,
whereas the insight that came to him without thinking reveals the terrible clarity of
each individual existence. His vision, contravening the entire enterprise of Western
reconnoitering, becomes a mode of understanding which, like Zen, comes only when
it is not sought.
The final two poems are a coda whose themes are the natural passing of all
things, in “From the highest window of my house / With a white handkerchief I bid
good-bye / To my poems going off to humanity” (Da mais alta janela da minha
casa / Com um lenço branco digo adeus / Aos meus versos que partem para a
humanidade) and the complete transparency of the categories of interior and exte-
rior with the purpose of restoring the unity of Nature and culture, in “I go indoors,
and shut the window. / They bring the lamp and say good night. / And my voice,
content, says good night” (Meto-me para dentro, e fecho a janela. / Trazem o can-
deeiro e dão as boas-noites. / E a minha voz contente dá as boas-noites). The
opening and shutting of a window in the first poem is the mechanism for the poet’s
final journey of dissolution, which he dramatizes in an allegorical skit in the style
of a naïve puppet theater. The poet appears at the highest window in his house
waving a handkerchief to bid good-bye to his verses, who are departing for human-
ity as if in a coach or ship. The personalization of the verses as children or relatives
justifies his neutral acceptance of their fate, as if it is their destiny to leave the nest
and travel into the world, regardless of the sorrow and pain caused to their creator.
Caeiro’s mock evocation, “Go, go from me!” (Ide, ide de mim!), casts his poems
in the same light as trees that fall, flowers that wilt, and rivers that flow into the
sea, changing yet remaining in a ritual of renewal: “The river flows, entering the
sea, and in its waters always its own remains” (Corre o rio e entra no mar e a sua
água é sempre a que foi sua).

In the last poem, the shutting of the window seals the poet inside his house for a
final good-bye to life, signified by his still repose in a state of empty consciousness:
“Without reading a word, without thinking a thought or sleeping” (Sem ler nada, nem
pensar em nada, nem dormir). Both the commonness of experience and its dramatic
apotheosis (“The day full of sun, or gentle with rain, / Or in fury raging as if the
World would end” / O dia cheio de sol, ou suave de chuva / Ou tempestuoso como se
acabasse o Mundo) form part of the poet’s life of sensations deeply felt, now come
to an end of their cycle of transformation. Caeiro returns to the embryonic, vast
silence in which he waits “like a river in its bed” (como um rio por seu leito) to be
reincarnated in a different form, to be possessed by the divine immanence he feels in
all external phenomena: “And there, outside, a vast silence like a god asleep outside”
(E lá fora um grande silêncio como um deus que dorme).

The Deflocked Pastor

Caeiro’s rewriting of pastoral goes beyond the limits of Empson’s essay on Marvell
in his attempt to exterminate an entire philosophic, religious, and linguistic tradition.
Caeiro is first of all a master, with a highly individualistic and original consciousness.
He mixes metaphysical poetry with avant-garde esthetics, based on conflict and con-
tradiction between one state, one reading and another; his verse is constantly contra-
dicting, resisting, rejecting, like a manifesto. Caeiro’s radical correction of the
Western tradition is conveyed negatively through the false metaphor of the “shepherd
of thoughts.” Through his other reading of pastoral, the mind of the poet became the
mind of the creator; the poet watched over existence as the shepherd did the flock. Yet
there was no flock, only abstractions resulting from a mystification of language. In
this context, the first line of The Keeper of Flocks is both confessional and explosive:
“I never kept flocks / but it is as if I’d done so” (Eu nunca guardei rebanhos / Mas é
como se os guardasse) [I]. What kind of shepherd is it, after all, who does not keep
sheep? Caeiro’s manipulation of the genre is patent in the “as if.” He substitutes the charged
metaphor of the shepherd in Western amorous and religious pastoral with a metaphysical
one: “The sheep are my thoughts” (O rebanho é os meus pensamentos) [IX].
Caeiro casts his own antihierarchical language against the hierarchical language
of pastoral. His call for a correction, a revision, or return to origins constitutes a phil-
osophical quest, an epic monologue on the theme of truth through observation and
the senses, substituting a materialist for a transcendental philosophy. In this, Caeiro
assumes the role of a master or teacher, but one whose textbook is an inverted peda-
gogy of unlearning: “All this demands serious looking into, / A thorough learning in
how to unlearn” (Isso exige um estudo profundo / Uma aprendizagem de desapren-
der) [XXIV]. His teaching exposes an entire symbolic system that misuses language
and misreads metaphysics.
Empson had sensed “something Far Eastern” in Marvell’s implied but unstated
metaphors. Caeiro’s Orientalism is founded in primitive elements of the pagan pas-
toral: calm; the identity of simplicity, intuition, and pure knowledge; the control over
Nature by thought; and the attainment of a state in between conscious description and
unconscious harmony with Nature. Caeiro could never be confused with a Buddhist,

however, since in Empson’s terms he follows Western Christianity and the sciences
on the question of predetermination or free will, rather than the Buddhist problem of
the One and the Many (Empson 142). His rhetorical and discursive patterns are all
dualistic, founded on contrast, contradiction, and correction. Leyla Perrone-Moisés
makes a convincing connection between Caeiro and Zen, however, on the level of
nondiscursive language and through the revelation of numerous haiku poems embed-
ded in Caeiro’s poetry:

The night is very dark

In a house a great distance away
The light from a window shines
A noite é muito escura
Numa casa a uma grande distância
Brilha a luz duma janela9

R. H. Blyth’s presentation of haiku poetry can be read as an argument for its impor-
tance to Caeiro not only as a poetics but moreover as a philosophy that he compares
but carefully distinguishes from Zen:

It has little or nothing to do with poetry, so-called, or Zen, or anything else. It belongs
to a tradition of looking at things, a way of living, a certain tenderness and smallness
of mind that avoids the magnificent, the infinite and the eternal. Its faults are a ten-
dency towards weakness and sentiment, but it avoids lyricism and mind-colouring
both instinctively and consciously.
If we say then that haiku is a form of Zen, we must not assert that haiku belongs
to Zen, but that Zen belongs to haiku.10

Following Blyth, we may consider Caeiro’s thought, like haiku verses, to be outside
of and more simple and direct than Zen, being a poetics rather than a philosophy.
Pessoa’s Orientalism was a natural inheritance of the Portuguese East, from
where he read the strange Macau symbolist poet Camilo Pessanha and the exile
Wenceslau de Morais (1854–1929), a translator of haiku and interpreter of Japanese
cultural traditions from 1895 until his death in Tokushima. Pessoa’s interest in Zen
and haiku fits within Caeiro’s search for a dialectical difference to Western verse and
the very concept of poetics. His attraction to haiku verse bears comparison in this
regard with Pessoa’s contemporary, José Juan Tablada (1871–1945), the Mexican
poet who was in Japan in the early years of the century where he practiced haiku,
which he then discussed in Paris in 1911–1912, where haiku had become popular and
much translated, with poets such as Guillaume Apollinaire (1880–1918), Paul Louis
Cochoud (1879–1915), Paul Eluard (1895–1952), Jean Breton (1930–2006), and
Jean Paulhan (1894–1968). In addition to Morais, Pessoa may have known of the
collection of haiku published in 1905 by Couchoud, Albert Poncin (1877–1954), and
Julien Vocance (1878–1954), Au fils de l’eau.11 Haiku was also being practiced by
Spanish poets of Pessoa’s time, Juan Ramón Jiménez (1881–1958), Antonio Macha-
do (1875–1939), and Ramón Gómez de la Serna (1888–1963), and in English by
Amy Lowell (1874–1925) and H. D. (Hilda Doolittle, 1886–1961). Tablada main-
tained his interest in Japanese culture, publishing El jarro de flores: disociaciones

líricas (A Vase of Flowers: lyrical disconnections), a large collection of haiku, in

1922, three years before Caeiro’s poems were first published.12 While haiku verse
seemed familiar to European poets in the wake of symbolist and imagist poems, its
concision and precise meter demanded modernist simplicity and the displacement of
emotion, while its cognitive grasp of reality was intuitive, instinctual, and instanta-
neous. In view of his conceptual challenge to Western verse through invoking Orien-
tal philosophical perspectives, Caeiro becomes the author of false haiku, as
Perrone-Moisés has illustrated, being an adverse form of composition in which the
haiku are subtly imbedded in his free verse with the characteristics of true haiku,
including unusual associations, cyclical time, visual impact, sensuality, miniature
painting, concrete language, and ready-made invention.13 Yet their purpose, in dis-
guise, is to subvert the nature of Western poetic language from the inside.
Caeiro’s pastoral is the adverse of a romance or dialogue; the love quest is trans-
muted into a monologue on language, reality, and knowledge between the lover-poet
and his silent gods, manifested in things. Caeiro is not a poet of Nature at all, but of
mind. Perhaps for this reason the other heteronyms considered him their Master. His
truths are not to be found in language, but rather in the only senses with which nature
speaks to us, in love, in song, and laughter. The long, multifaceted poetic work
changes its own nature, to reveal an adverse pastoral dialogue that makes use of the
genre’s metaphorical and linguistic conventions in order to reinterpret it metaphysi-
cally. The Keeper of Flocks is the spiritual exercise of an unbeliever, a garden of
delights constructed in his imagination, which was in reality only a Lisbon square.

Rewriting Pastoral

Alberto Caeiro’s sequence or book of poems can be considered to be his pastoral

symphony, whose forty-nine poems or movements constitute a complete work, com-
parable to single long poem in the pastoral style. Luís de Sousa Rebelo, scholar of the
classical tradition in Portugal, places the poem in the allegorical tradition of Milton’s
Paradise Lost. André Gide’s (1869–1951) La Symphonie Pastorale (1919) likewise
uses the figure of the shepherd to present moral and ethical conflicts with allegorical
roles and language; his symphony may be compared to a tone poem on a theme,
however, whereas Pessoa creates a pastoral allegory of epic, polytonal dimension and
deep philosophical critique both of Western poetry and thought. The choice of
the pastoral for Caeiro’s major work illustrates his complex motivation in the treat-
ment of genres. Since Giovanni Boccaccio (1313–1375) and Francesco Petrarch
(1304–1374), the language and imaginary of the pastoral has been assimilated into
the Western love lyric, to compose amorous dialogues between shepherds and shep-
herdesses, and further assimilated by Christianity to form a principal metaphor of
religious language, that of the shepherd and the flock. Both lines of development
convey an appearance of truth through pastoral metaphors, which became a stock
language of Western artistic practice epitomized, for example, in the flocks of George
Frideric Handel’s (1685–1759) Messiah (1741–1742).
Caeiro’s pastoral idealizes a return to the style’s pagan and classical origins, in
which there is a city man’s longing for the country, as in Theocritus, or in which a

relationship is established between nature in her tranquil moods and human senti-
ments, as in Virgil’s eclogues. The advantages of the pastoral mode are those that
help to strengthen a certain portrait or image of Caeiro as if he were a poet of Nature,
imbued with directness, simplicity, and truth. They include a view of Nature as hum-
ble, permanent, and undeveloped, in which the complex is reduced to the simplest
scenario and the universal is expressed though its concrete imagery: “My glance is
clear like a sunflower” (O meu olhar é nítido como o girassol) [II]. So far as Caeiro
the poet becomes Nature, he takes on its permanence. His reading of Nature iden-
tifies with its simple, tranquil existence and imitates Nature’s assumed pure
self-knowledge: “And when reading my poems thinking / Of me as something quite
natural— / An ancient tree, for instance / In whose shade they thumped down / When
they were children, tired after play” (E ao lerem os meus versos pensem /Que sou
qualquer coisa natural— / Por exemplo, a árvore antiga / À sombra da qual quando
crianças / Se sentavam com um baque, cansados de brincar) [I]. Use of pastoral
disguises the enormous complexity of Caeiro’s thought, which charts a way of think-
ing with the senses and writing poetry of things in themselves.
Pessoa sets out to restore what had been lost—the generic lost sheep—by a
return to neopaganism of sensations:

To define the essence of neopaganism [. . .] is a task that Fernando Pessoa takes on

with enthusiasm [. . .] The movement begins with Caeiro’s poetry—something spon-
taneous, the voice coming from the origins of being and of feeling, without depend-
ing on any known pagan philosophy and, for that very reason, one can call it
paganism in its chemically pure state, absolute paganism.
Definir a essência do neopaganismo [. . .] é tarefa a que Fernando Pessoa se
entrega com entusiasmo [. . .] O movimento é iniciado com a poesia de Caeiro—acto
espontâneo, voz das origens do ser e do sentir, que não se apoia em qualquer filoso-
fia pagã conhecida e, por isso mesmo, se poderá chamar o paganismo em seu estado
químico puro, o paganismo absoluto. (Sousa Rebelo 340)

Employing a primitive rhetoric of simplicity and truth, almost without adjectives,

Caeiro goes beyond the restoration of pastoral simplicity. His goal is to create a new
poetics of mind, rejecting the use of metaphor or poetic language:

The main thing is knowing how to see

Knowing how to see without thinking,
Knowing how to see when one sees,
And not thinking when one sees
Nor seeing when one’s thinking
O essencial é saber ver
Saber ver sem estar a pensar,
Saber ver quando se vê,
E nem pensar quando se vê,
Nem ver quando se pensa. [XXIV]

Caeiro’s pastoral contradicts the convention using its own language; his is a pasto-
ral without Nature, as it were, just as he is a sheepless shepherd. What better way to

put an end to conventional metaphors of pastoral than to create a pastoral poet, who
is a dramatic or feigned one: “thinking is not understanding” [. . .] pensar é não
compreender [. . .]”) [II]. Such adverse pastoral embodies a contradiction that also
entraps the poet, who becomes the captive in verse of a genre that he is attempting
to free from its chains of metaphor and association, the prison-house of a Western
iconographic and linguistic misreading:

If at times I say that flowers smile

And if I should say that rivers sing,
It’s not because I think there are smiles in flowers
And songs in rivers’ running. . .
It’s because that way I make deluded men better sense
The truly real existence of flowers and rivers
Se às vezes digo que as flores sorriem
E se eu disser que os rios cantam
Não é porque eu julgue que há sorrisos nas flores
E cantos no correr dos rios
É porque faço mais sentir aos homens falsos
A existência verdadeiramente real das flores e dos rios. [XXXI]

An adverse reading of pastoral provides the vehicle for Pessoa to deconstruct genre
from the inside, since it would be a meaningless exercise from the outside.
Highly conscious of the act of narration and foregrounding the deceitfulness of
poetic devices, the forty-nine poems constitute a series of spontaneous epiphanic
moments of revelation. The work as a whole is an account of the mind’s relationship
to Nature, as if the poet were both inside and outside, both conscious and uncon-
scious of another way of being: “What’s the metaphysics of those trees / Being green
and leafy and having branches / And giving fruit in season” (Que metafísica têm
aquelas árvores / A de serem verdes e copadas e de terem ramos / E a de dar fruto na
sua hora) [V]. Harold Toliver finds in Wallace Steven’s poetry a comparable relation-
ship between the “divinations” of the mind and startling reflections found in Nature
(p. 304). While Caeiro’s oneness with a tranquil Nature is assumed by definition,
their identity is part of the poet’s feigning, since Nature possesses no narrative other
than nonverbal sounds. Poetic language must be reformulated in order to echo the
nonlinguistic perception of Nature as pure sensation in form and concept:

I saw that there is no Nature,

That Nature does not exist,
That there are mountains, valleys, plains,
That there are trees, flowers, grasses,
That there are rivers and stones,
But that there’s no one great All these things belong to,
That any really authentic unity
Is a sickness of all our ideas.
Nature is simply parts, nothing whole.
Maybe this is the mystery they talk about.

Vi que não há Natureza,

Que Natureza não existe,
Que há montes, vales, planícies,
Que há árvores, flores, ervas,
Que há rios e pedras,
Mas que não há um todo a que isso pertença,
Que um conjunto real e verdadeiro
É uma doença das nossas idéias.
A Natureza é partes sem um todo.
Isso é talvez o tal mistério de que falam. [XLVII]

Caeiro unveils his illuminations as a problem of genre, a seeing through the

absurd metaphors underlying both faith and reason: “All of it’s false, all of it doesn’t
mean a thing” (Tudo isto é falso, tudo isto não quer dizer nada) [V]. His verses chal-
lenge and defy in the language of vanguard manifestos: “To think of God is to dis-
obey God” (“Pensar em Deus é desobedecer a Deus”) [VI]; “I have no philosophy:
I have senses” (“Eu não tenho filosofia: tenho sentidos”) [II]. One of the paradoxes
of Caeiro is his awareness of the inferiority of writing to Nature; therefore he values
immediacy in knowing and detachment in meditation that do not involve conscious
thought. Moreover, they render his own poetry anachronistic: “My mysticism is not
wanting to know / It’s living without thinking about it” (O meu misticismo é não
querer saber / É viver e não pensar nisso) [XXX]. Throughout his poems, however,
Caeiro’s rhetorical posture maintains a naïve and comic pastoral outlook that would
equate ultimate simplicity with truth by simple analogy.

A Flock of Ideas: Caeiro’s Metaphysics of Mind

Renunciation and rapture are the two extremes of Caeiro’s metaphysics. Weighted by
its very rational and logical paradoxes, Caeiro’s logic collapses into a renunciation of
the world. As the visionary of a new religion, the poet becomes a sacrificial victim of
his own acute perceptions of a reality absolutely without transcendence: “Because I
write for them to read me I sacrifice myself at times / To their stupidity of feeling”
(Porque escrevo para eles me lerem sacrifico-me às vezes / A sua estupidez de senti-
dos) [XXXI]. Condemned by consciousness, he will be forever denied union with the
desired bodies of Nature. His village with its river will remain incommunicable sym-
bols of the only possible ideal: a divine Nature that is not divine: “Only Nature is
divine, and she’s not divine” (Só a natureza é divina, e ela não é divina) [XXVII].

Through exercise of a free and unlimited imagination, the poet approaches a godlike
condition. Caeiro does not distinguish between thought, myth, or dream. His fable of
the Eternal Child, which is also Jesus Christ’s return to Earth, may read like a Zen
parable, but it illustrates a vanguard esthetics in which an imagined fable may be
more true than philosophies or religions: “For what conceivable reason / Should it be
any less true / Than all that philosophers think of / And all that religions teach?” (Por
que razão que se perceba / Não há de ser ela mais verdadeira / Que tudo quanto os

filósofos pensam / E tudo quanto as religiões ensinam?) [VIII]. The child who jumps
and sings and laughs shares the poet’s secret knowledge of things. He sees a universe
in each stone and renews the human sprit through play: “And enjoying our common
secret / Which is knowing through and through / There is no mystery in the world /
And that things are worth our while” (E gozando o nosso segredo comum / Que é o
de saber por toda a parte / Que não há mistério no mundo / E que tudo vale a pena)
Oneness with the self-knowledge of Nature anoints the poet as the hero of a
different epic pastoral. His “philosophy without thought” is enshrined in the gran-
deur of a rhetorical achievement, comparable to the voyage of Vasco da Gama, which
Pessoa would celebrate in similar language in Message (Mensagem): “I bring a new
Universe into the Universe / Because I bring to the Universe its very own self” (Tra-
go ao universo um novo Universo / Porque trago ao Universo ele-próprio) [XLVI].
The poet’s power grows from the opposing forces that he cultivates in his garden of
the mind: a union of the “unusually intellectual” with the “unusually primitive”
(Empson 119). As Empson had noted in Marvell, the poet’s adoration of his idea
leads to ecstasy and rapture. In the case of Caeiro, his ecstasy is produced by the
ultimate complete merging of his being with the Universe: “Like the Universe, I pass
and I remain” (Passo e fico, como o Universo) [XLVIII].
In the final poem of the series, aware of the temporal limits to his existence,
Caeiro prepares to confront life as pure existence. He says his calm good-byes and
wishes that all his friends may continue to live in concert with Nature, whatever her
mood. His final awareness is of life coursing through him like the river of his village,
and of the great silence of the pagan gods of pastoral: “I go indoors, and shut the
window [. . .] / Without reading a word, without thinking a thought or sleeping /
Feeling life flow through me like a river in its bed / And there, outside, a vast silence
like a god asleep” (Meto-me para dentro e fecho a janela [. . .] / Sem ler nada, sem
pensar em nada, nem dormir / Sentir a vida correr por mim como um rio por seu
leito, / E lá fora um grande silêncio como um deus que dorme) [XLIX].
The sleeping god is Caeiro’s Master.

Scientific Neoclassicism in the

Odes of Ricardo Reis
Ah, contra o adverso muito nada próprio
E único vences, frustro. A vida é ínvia.
Ricardo Reis

Imitations of Immortality

Ricardo Reis, the “Greek Horace who writes in Portuguese,”1 is author solely of
odes, penned from 1914–1935, that ostensibly repeat the invocations of Nature com-
bining Stoic and Epicurean sentiments found in his renowned classical models. As
one of the three major heteronymic personalities, however, Ricardo Reis is an invent-
ed poet who exists only intellectually. Pessoa writes that he felt the presence of
Ricardo Reis the day after an extensive discussion on the excesses of modern art,
“especially in its realization” (especialmente na sua realização),2 in reaction to which
a neoclassical theory occurred to him. Reis appears in this critical distance as a coun-
terbalance to excess, in which the classical ode represents science and philology.3
Using his Horatian models, Reis applies Pessoa’s poetics of “sensing without feel-
ing” (sentir as cousas sem as sentir) to the ode.4 Since Pessoa makes Reis aware that
his classicism is only dramatic, an anachronistic ideal of modernist estheticism, he
therefore “writes” a different kind of ode. He practices cultural repetition as a means
of expressing both awareness of and difference from the classical legacy, a step in
validating the modernists’ relationship with tradition.5 In order to maintain the coher-
ence and viability of the ode, so argues Helena Buescu, Reis must adapt it to the
present, whereby the novelty of repeating the classical ode lies in its conscious rela-
tionship to the past and its relevance to Pessoa’s paganism. It is self-consciously
antique, an obvious formal and linguistic copy that reinforces his paganism.6 The
revisionary appropriation of past genres validates their modernist reworking, such
that the odes belong to an imaginary library or collection of precursors amounting to
an arrière-garde, a link with tradition necessary to produce the strategies of modernist
subversion, relocation, or reordering of literary conventions.7 Mário de Sá-Carneiro
read and accepted the odes as modernist “classical novelties” (novidades clássicas).8
While many readers recognize a faithful reproduction of Horace in Reis’s odes,
others notice a modernist difference in their intentional archaisms, their exaggerated


classical purity at the expense of meaning, and their employment to create “compat-
ibility between historically incompatible, if not altogether contradictory, literary tra-
ditions”,9 such as between the ode and free verse used by Reis’s two companion
poets, Caeiro and Campos.
Pessoa said that Dr. Ricardo Reis was “born in my soul” on January 29, 1914,
and biographical details followed, along with a horoscope: Reis was born in Opor-
to on September 19, 1887, educated by Jesuits, became a physician, monarchist,
and Latin instructor who went into exile in Brazil in 1919.10 So convincing is his
body of work that editions of the odes are now being published under his “own”
name, which in turn makes his work appear even more autonomous. Only recently,
Ricardo Reis has undergone a literal and figurative comeback in the novel by José
Saramago, The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis (1984; English translation 1991).11
The Nobel prize-winning author sails Dr. Reis back to Portugal from Brazil in 1935
to face the death of his author and to negotiate the repressive atmosphere of the
Salazar regime. By adding a chapter that never existed to the life of an imaginary
author, Saramago at once captures and exploits the anachronistic yet revolutionary
impact of the odes.
Ricardo Reis, the vanguard poet, creates what could be called an adverse ode, in
which the classical esthetic sentiments of the genre are exploited, while its images
and emotions are changed into different, even opposite meanings from their origi-
nals. Following this procedure, by which Pessoa planned to dramatize and rewrite
major genres of European literature, Reis rehearses the Pagan, Stoic, and, Epicurean
contents of the Horatian ode, while subtly subjecting them to his particular contem-
porary existential and esthetic perspectives, charged with depersonalization and
nothingness. He exploits the space opened between language, form, and meaning so
as to change the ode from a song of Nature into a philosophical and religious medi-
tation on his own modernist creed:

One after another the hurried waves

Roll their green motion
And spray bright foam
On the dark beach.
One after another the sluggish clouds
Tear their round movement
And the sun fills the space
Of air between their cascading shapes.
Indifferent to me and I to it,
The nature of this calm day
Detracts little from my sense
Of vanishing time.
Only a vague, inconsequential pain
Stops a moment at my soul’s door
And after staring at me
Passes, smiling at nothing.
(“One after another”)12

Uma após uma as ondas apressadas

Enrolam o seu verde movimento
E chiam a alva spuma
No moreno das praias.
Uma após uma as nuvens vagarosas
Rasgam o seu redondo movimento
E o sol aquece o spaço
Do ar entre as nuvens scassas.
Indiferente a mim e eu a ela,
A natureza deste dia calmo
Furta pouco ao meu senso
De se esvair o tempo.
Só uma vaga pena inconseqüente
Pára um momento à porta da minha alma
E após fitar-me um pouco
Passa, a sorrir de nada. (11–23–1918)

His odes are clever imitations, adverse in the sense of avant-garde expropriations of
distant traditions, comparable to plastic artists of the period—such as Picasso, Salvador
Dali (1904–1989), or Duchamp—who dialogued with works of renaissance or neo-
classical masters through structural references or themes. Pessoa’s Hellenism, drawn
from the Portuguese eighteenth-century neoclassical poets in form and language,
shares the classical interests of Victorian esthetes and decadents and reflects as well
the revival of the distant past in the Pre-Raphaelites and continental Fauves of the
fin-de-siècle. Reis’s odes also operate a literary parasitism, or conscious appropria-
tion of a host for one’s own purposes.13
Pessoa, himself educated in the classics, coined the term “scientific neoclassi-
cism” to define Reis’s return to classical form and sentiment in the Greco-Roman
ode.14 Although as a neoclassicist Reis wrote with the same invocations of Nature
and language practiced by eighteenth-century poetry, his scientific attitude kept him
distant and analytical: “The true classical artist thinks his poem first, and then feels
on the basis of that thought.”15 Just as Pessoa the modernist seeks to express feeling
or emotion only through the intellect, whose feigned or translated sentiments none-
theless constitute true expression in art, he likewise treats genre as an intellectualized
or formalized expression of feeling. To dramatize genre was to foreground the trans-
lation or misrepresentation through which emotion is “translated insincerely” into
art. George Monteiro observes that the divorce between Nature and thought or recol-
lection that describes Ricardo Reis can be traced to William Wordsworth’s (1770–
1850) odes, which influenced Pessoa’s theory of a dramatized and “substitute”
expression of emotion in the intellect. Wordsworth’s distinction between literary
expression of passion and real passion itself in the preface to the Lyrical Ballads
(1800) was cited by Pessoa and could have motivated his more complex theories of
depersonalization and objectification of emotional states in the mind.16
Reis embraced the ingenuous, pagan delights of Epicureans in odes of Horace only
as antidotes to the “lucid and solemn consciousness” (consciência lúcida e solene,)17
that kept him single-mindedly aware of the capriciousness of fate and the inevitability

of death. A questionable Epicurean, Reis is first of all a Stoic, in the ancient sense of
accepting the inexorable course of fate: “I want to be at the same time an Epicurean and
Stoic” (quero ser ao mesmo tempo epicurista e estóico).18 He was aware of the common
features of Epicureanism and Stoicism, which Pessoa would unite in the figure of Reis:

Both abandoned idealism, saw no reality save matter, and accepted sense experience as
knowledge. Both studied the world of nature only in order to understand the position of
man. Both looked for a happiness secure from fortune’s changes; and found it in peace
of mind, undisturbed by fear and desire. But here the rival teachers diverged: Epicurus
sought peace in the liberation of man’s will from nature’s law; Zeno in submission to
it, and in their conceptions of nature they differed profoundly.19

Virtue, his highest good, is to know and accept the nature and limits of life seen
clearly, without deception. His anachronistic return to classical form and use of ar-
chaic orthography in the odes were not simply stylistic regressions, however; old
spellings and typography occur throughout Pessoa’s poetry, principally in Mensa-
gem. His esthetic purpose was “to recapture the chaste calm of ancient beauty” (a
casta calma da beleza antiga),20 while recalling an older view of life in pagan pasto-
ral. He considered the authentic origins of Western culture to be located in the sim-
plicity and pastoral ingenuousness of Greek paganism: “the clear and human
Paganism of the men who created everything that truly subsists, resists, and still cre-
ates within our system of civilization” (ao paganismo claro e humano dos homens
que criaram tudo o que verdadeiramente subsistes, resiste e ainda cria adentro do
nosso sistema de civilização).21 Use of the ode concurrently signaled a central philo-
sophical rejection of romanticism and of Christian theology, which Reis classified as
distortions and spurious deviations of classical thought. In his pagan renaissance,
Reis’s odes react against the expropriation of the genre by Christian estheticism, and
as such his poems possess levels of meaning and intensity not possible in their
models. As Reis wrote in a commentary on Caeiro’s poetry, “his work is a reaction
and therefore a stronger expression than the original” (a sua obra é uma reacção e é
por isso uma afirmação mais forte que a original).22 Louis Ruprecht finds that mod-
ernists interested in tragic and erotic questions often turned to pre-classical and clas-
sical sources for the reason, much like Pessoa’s, that the Christian tradition formed
as an “ingestion and internalization” of Hellenism, and they saw in paganism a more
primary philosophical and ethical view of modern tragedy.23
In comparing the odes of Reis to those of Horace, Silva Belkior points out that Pes-
soa was metrically scrupulous to the point of being called “excessively classic” by his
interviewer and critic Adolfo Casais Monteiro. Reis’s odes are in blank verse, without
rhyme, and all follow traditional schemes of ten and six metrical syllables. There is a
deliberately musical rhythm in the odes, however, coming from the internal poetic
devices of the verses, such as alliteration, assonance, internal rhymes, enjambments,
imitative harmony, and onomatopoeia. Reis uses almost exclusively the Sapphic and
Alcaic strophes of Horace, including use of the latter for more dense and serious
thoughts and feelings and the former for serene pleasures and amorous emotions. Silva
Belkior illustrates the formal correspondences in poems addressed to Lídia and Cloe,
the first pair in Sapphic strophes (10–10–10–4) and the second in Alcaic (10–10–6–6):

Quae prius multim facilis movebat

Cardines audis minus et minus jam:
Me tuo longas pereunte noctes
Lydia, dormis?

Sofro, Lídia, do medo do destino.

A leve pedra que um momento ergue
As lisas rodas do meu carro aterra
Meu coração.

I suffer, Lydia, from fear of destiny.

The little stone that for a moment
Makes a bump under the wheels of my car, slams
My heart to earth.

O quae beatam dives tenes Cyprum et

Memphin carenten Sithonia nive,
Regina sublimi flagello
Tange Chloen semel arrogantem.

Quão breve tempo é a mais longa vida

E a juventude nela! Ah! Cloe, Cloe,
Se não amo nem bebo
Nem sem querer não penso.

How brief the longest life

And all its youth! Ah, Chloe,
If I love not, nor drink,
Not unwillingly do I not think.

The perfection of formal imitation in Reis served to enhance the shock of the radical
difference introduced in themes and emotions. In the odes of Reis, there is no jeal-
ousy or rivalry for affections, no violent passions, no tears, no deceptions or be-
trayals, no cynicism, irony, or sarcasm. The ardent passions, rivalry, and reconciliation
in Horace’s odes addressed to numerous muses are rewritten adversely, whereby the
relationship of the poet to only three muses—Lydia, Neera, and Chloe—is one of
Stoic renunciation, solitude, and death. Reis has recreated perfect classical form
without its content in which to express modernist anxiety and loss.

Caeiro’s Revelation

Ricardo Reis came into existence only to illustrate scientific neoclassicism:

Gold is metal, glory just an echo

And love a shadow.
But concise attention given
To the shape and style of objects
Is a safe haven.

A riqueza é um metal, a glória é um eco

E o amor uma sombra.
Mas a concisa
Atenção dada
Às formas e às maneiras dos objecdos
Tem abrigo seguro.
(“Tirem-me os deuses”)

Pessoa confessed that the idea of Reis’s poetic style was conceived even before the
person was invented, as a latent form of the “false paganism” of the master hetero-
nym, Alberto Caeiro. Seeing direct truth in Nature, Caeiro thought poetry should be
totally melded with things, without the intermediary of language and metaphor: “I
saw that trees, rivers, stones are things that truly exist [. . .] The Greeks, with all their
visual clarity, never saw as much” (Verifiquei que as árvores, os rios, as pedras são
coisas que verdadeiramente existem [. . .] Os gregos, com toda a sua nitidez visula,
não fizeram tanto).24 If idealized, rather than didactic and pedagogical, his poetry
would not go musically beyond onomatopoeia, or philosophically beyond a kind of
profound tautology, in which things are what they are, and therein lies the deepest
and most radical observation on life. Later, Pessoa would have Reis “write” a very
extensive preface to Caeiro’s poetry, in which he comments both on his debt to Caeiro
the master and on the distinctiveness of his own paganism. What Reis most praises in
Caeiro is his “profound originality” of emotions and ideas, accompanied by great
simplicity of form and expression. The poet’s identity with an exterior and absolute
material Nature Reis finds to be pure and refreshing, both a consolation from life’s
evils and unfairness as well as a liberation from the pain of thought and uselessness
of feeling. While recognizing that Caeiro’s pagan sensibilities cannot be authentic,
since they are modern, Reis still values his perceptions above all because they are not
Christian. In his view, Caeiro takes the first step in correcting and rewriting literary
genre from a continuing classical, non-Christian perspective. Reis is particularly
critical of the English esthetes Matthew Arnold (1822–1888), Wilde, and Pater,
whom he considered to have mistaken Roman decadence for paganism, pretending
to be pagans by exploiting the extremes and peaks of emotions of “Christian hyste-
ria,” while ignoring the equilibrium and sobriety of Greek chastity and Roman
In his critique, Reis mentions two defects of Caeiro: his lack of external form
and discipline, since he uses modern free verse; and the fact that he uses Christian
aesthetic sentiments in order finally to free himself from them in his last poems.
Nevertheless, Reis calls Caeiro’s poetry a revelation, without which he could not
have written his own odes. The difference between them is that, while accepting the
same paganism, Reis intends to use a more precise form and to imitate more closely
the ancient Greek’s belief in absolute, exterior reality. He will seek to make his odes
immortal, by crafting them with tranquility and ease as a refuge from the inescapable
anguish, pain, and disquietude of life. While Caeiro fully accepts the ways of Nature,
Reis lives with a heightened consciousness of human limitations, and he dramatizes
conflicts between living and being, or thought and feeling, by rewriting them in
an adverse classical poetic scenario. Sobriety and discipline are his chosen formal

esthetic responses to themes of alienation and nothingness in the fin-de-siècle, per-

haps foreshadowing the great European conflict then soon to come.

Fate and Freedom

Ricardo Reis uses the ode adversely to invoke perspectives of the classical gods,
“calm and bright/filled with eternity/and displeasure with us” (claros e calmos /
Cheios de eternidade / E desprezo por nós),25 while in fact describing his own des-
perate aesthetic and spiritual search for truth and freedom: “the gods give life and not
truth. . . I ask only for freedom” (os deuses / Dão vida e não verdade [. . .] Da verdade
não quero mais que a vida).26 As a scientist of his day, however, Reis must carefully
observe the conditions and laws under which he exists; these are implicitly compared
in the odes to a game played by distant, whimsical gods. These laws reflect the
Darwinian idea of survival then in vogue, to which Reis adds the question of decadence
and degeneration said to characterize the decline of Western civilization in works
known to Pessoa, such as Max Nordau’s Degeneration.27 True to Pessoa’s Anglophile
education, Reis also embodies the loneliness, isolation, and self-conscious ennui of the
Victorian fin-de-siècle.
Reis’s perceptions of time, fate, and death in the odes epitomize the spiritual
crisis provoked by late nineteenth-century scientific theories of determinism, selec-
tion, and evolution. He describes these observations adversely, as if they were the
same as immutable laws of classical gods. First, Reis elaborates on the basic postu-
late that life is brief, limiting, and that from one moment to the next both narrator and
readers may cease to exist. Nothing can be known for certain beyond the imagina-
tion. Phenomena are not individual but archetypal, cyclical, mythical, or natural. We
who exist at this instant are but a link in an eternal cycle of change controlled by
outside forces: “Our own wills and thoughts / Are the hands others use / To lead us
where they want” (Nossa vontade e nosso pensamento / São as mãos pelas quais
outros nos guiam / Para onde eles querem).28 While fate is distant and unchangeable,
it is not constant or predictable, however, since like the gods fate follows different
laws capriciously. While Caeiro’s view of the natural world is totally accepting and
unified, Reis’s mind alternates dialectically between the extremes of emptiness and
celebration, just as he is Epicurean and Stoic concurrently in the odes. In view of the
inevitability of death and the unpredictability of its arrival, cyclical repetition reduces
life to a petty consciousness: “Here in this most miserable exile / Not even truly ban-
ished, I exist” (Aqui, neste misérrimo desterro; Onde, nem desterrado estou).29 The
implication to be drawn from this certitude for Reis, on the other hand, is that only
the present moment defines existence, and in this brief and uncertain life we must
seek the greatest pleasure available to us: “Each thing in its season / has its time”
(Cada coisa a seu tempo tem seu tempo).30 Thus, the perception of insignificance and
nothingness provides motivation for celebrating the freedom of our moment, limited
and illusory as it may be, and in that way placing our individual esthetic and mental
marks on it. This must be done somberly, however, since pleasure is a pastime but not
a solution to the human dilemma and, if excessive, could attract the jealous intrusion
of capricious gods. The certainty of death, always the mainstay of Reis’s thought, is

the axiom that shapes both pain and pleasure, leading him to define the human spe-
cies as “future corpses procreating” (Cadávares adiados que procriam).31
More than resignation or a simple wish to enjoy the few fleeting pleasures life
offers, the odes signify and invoke a supreme expression of the will, which is engaged
in a subtle chess game with the fated rules of life affecting pieces still on the board.
The game is not only a parable of human nature, but also a moral example. In Reis’s
only titled poem, “The Chess Players” / Os Jogadores de Xadrez (June 1, 1916), a
narrator describes the perfect indifference to terrible passions and conflicts in ancient
Persian chess players who, ignoring war, carnage, and violation of women, continue
calmly to concentrate on their game. This attitude is upheld as a lesson on “how to
live life,” which is compared to a chess game that likewise captivates one’s whole
soul and attention. Since for Reis life is useless, having no particular aim or mean-
ing, the memory of a game, won or lost, is the equal of glory, fame, love, or science
but with the advantage that, if lost, it is of little consequence because it, too, means
nothing. The object of the game and of life is to be owner of oneself and able, if
unnoticed by the gods, to control the immediate conditions of one’s life without,
however, being deceived into thinking that any victory or change of rules is possible.
The odes are evidence of Reis’s will to exist as an individual and even to compete,
within the rules of the game, with the gods.

“In•sci•ents (archaic)”

The odes describe life as a modernist wasteland: a sterile abyss, lowly, null, a shadow,
a forgetting, without a soul.32 Reis feels the weight of time and the unappealable law
of death. The odes with their classical gods actually codify the nihilism and loss of
self coming in the wake of scientific determinism of the late nineteenth century, which
Reis expresses adversely by transposing it into the language of Epicureans and Stoics.
Adapting the posture of an anonymous outside observer of life, he develops a strategy
or regimen of spiritual exercises in the guise of classical schools, but following ideas
of modern paganism. Paganism is the source for Reis’s esthetic humanism, which in
the odes is the adverse of scientific neoclassicism: “The gods exist above truth. / Sci-
ence is a flawed copy of the certainty they possess” (Acima da verdade estão os
deuses / A nossa ciência é uma falhada cópia/Da certeza com que eles / Sabem).33
Reis, the scientist, therefore counsels an art of unknowing, or literally non-science:

So should our life be a day,

Lídia, willingly unaware
That there is night before and after
The little time we endure.

Assim façamos nossa vida um dia,

Inscientes, Lidia, voluntariamente
Que há noite antes e após
O pouco que duramos.
(“As rosas amo,” 7–11–1914)

Inexorable laws of fate should be voluntarily forgotten, put aside in favor of the “in-
nocent pagans of decadence,” in whose serene indifference the poet may “feign with-
out feigning.” He adapts an attitude of modernist transparency, like a pane of glass.
Following the paganism of his master Caeiro, Reis advises a life without sadness or
joy, governed by wise childlike wonder, observing what is distinct and individual in
Nature, for example the yellow of a leaf and the sound of flowing water. Because
time is short, Reis chooses to enjoy a life of letters, which is his substitute for living.
As an Epicurean, he observes the perennial rhythm of life, flowing in and out, and
raises his cup to toast whatever fortune he may encounter. As a Stoic, Reis writes
maxims or parables on the virtue of paring our expectations in alignment with natural
phenomena: “The flower you are, not what you give, I want [. . .]; and short-lived
leaves / That’s enough” (A flor que és, não a que dás, eu quero” [. . .] “E de folhas
breves, / E basta).34
The self is depersonalized and unknowable; at once inchoate and multiple, it is
polysemous and plural, notwithstanding his deceptive single narrative voice: “I am
unaware of who thinks or feels. . . I am only the place. . .There are more I’s than I
myself” ( ignoro / Quem é que pensa ou sente. Sou somente o lugar [. . .] Há mais eus
do que eu mesmo).35 Reminiscent of Pessoa’s heteronyms at large, Reis states that
there are innumerable souls who live and have lived in him. The “I” is only a place
where over time the self changes into others. The modern problem is to be the stranger
that one is, to be whom one can only pretend to be. The paradox of irrecoverable
identity is that, like the gods who are gods because they do not think of themselves,
one must forget the self in order to live authentically: “having nothing in hand/nor a
memory in mind” (Não tenhas nada nas mãos / Nem uma memória na alma).36 Emp-
tying the self is a path to freedom of being.
Spiritual exercises are part of a religious dimension in the odes. Pessoa wrote
that “Reis is less absolute; he bows down also to the primitive elements of our own
nature, our primitive feelings being as real and natural to him as flowers or trees. He
is therefore religious.”37 While the emptying of the self and the avoidance of emotion
and suffering may seem to reflect principles of Oriental religion, Reis is not an as-
cetic, and his insights are not based either on epiphany or training. His spiritual path
is as fixed, strategic, and determined as the chess game. A modern Hellenist, he pre-
fers the simplicity of paganism, in which there is no enlightenment, but instead song
and paradox: “only in freedom’s illusion does freedom exist” (só na ilusão da liber-
dade / A liberdade existe).38 Truth is hidden, perhaps even from the gods, who may
not know the truth or be free on Olympus. His spiritual quest is aimed at quietude as
if it were a science: learning calm, how not to think, not to question, how to dominate
desires and hopes, wait for death tranquilly, without illusions and without any belief
in anything. What is to be cultivated is cold indifference and complete freedom, op-
posed to romanticism: “I do not want, Cloe, your love that oppresses me” (Não que-
ro, Cloe, teu amor, que oprime).39 Virtue is to see life serenely at a distance and
to retain the wise innocence of pagans, repaying life with its own nothingness: “We
will leave this life tranquilly, without even the remorse of having lived” (Da vida
iremos / Tranqüilos, tendo / Nem o remorse / De ter vivido).40 To have nothing and to
desire nothing is, once again, a stoicism equal to the gods: “He lives free whom the
gods give nothing” (Só quem os deuses concedem / Nada, tem liberdade).41 Such is

not a path to enlightenment or to salvation, rather a Stoic confirmation of the postu-

lates of scientific neoclassicism, echoed in the rhythm and music of Nature: “So the
phrase seeks it out / And rhythm, the slave, obeys” (Súbdita a frase o busca / E o
‘scravo ritmo o serve).42

Death and the Maidens

The female companions to Ricardo Reis in his odes—Lídia, Cloe, Neera—are bor-
rowed from Greco-Roman models. These are rhetorical muses, who serve as the
intimate, mute receivers of Reis’s apostrophes, whose names invoked lend emphasis
and concreteness to his musings, and who make possible the semblance of conversa-
tion. The women’s presence is also essential to complete the metaphor of amorous
pastoral dialogue, which is a convention of the genre. The women, “pagan innocents”
in a pastoral setting, are ideal maidens of the Horatian aurea mediocritas, embodying
simple pleasures, peaceful nature, and the brevity of life.
As Reis addresses them with the concerns and confessions of his philosophy, he
redefines them adversely as maiden-philosophers who share his ideas about death
and destiny by their simple companionship and who consent to restrain their amo-
rous natures through abstinence or pensive calm. This rhetorical dialogue constitutes
a pastoral theater of illusions, an entr’acte whose deceptive love themes dramatize
Reis’s reaction to fate. Making a willful decision to refuse and forget death, he exults
in illusory freedom and momentary pleasure in the company of the pagan muses,
within the conventions of the pastoral scenario. Amorous dialogue is a guise to dis-
tract him and soothe the inevitable pain of death and nothingness, to will it out of
existence. Poet and muses together voluntarily shut out all thoughts of death, take
refuge in the truth of their bodies, and wish themselves to be deceived by the sense
of freedom in an unrestricted moment of pleasure, which is the pastoral allegory of
life. In this moment of deception, as a pure idea, there is a sublimity in humanity with
which Ricardo Reis rivals the gods.
Reis’s amorous vignette embellishes his obsession with fate and death with pas-
toral metaphors, following the script outlined above. To begin the play, Reis invokes
the muses (“Come sit with me, Lídia” / Vem sentar-te comigo, Lídia) and confesses
his fear of fate (“I suffer, Lídia, from the fear of destiny” / Sofro, Lídia, do medo do
destino).43 He introduces the muses to the limits of science (“Lídia, we are unknowing.
We are strangers / Wherever we live,” Lídia, ignoramos. Somos estrangeiros / Onde
quer que moremos) and to the virtues of self-deception (“Here, Neera [. . .] / Let’s not
think / and let ourselves believe / in complete freedom”/ Aqui, Neera [. . .] / não pen-
semos / E deixemo-nos crer / Na inteira liberdade.)44 To avoid thoughts of death, Reis
feels the pleasure of pagan innocence (“having children as our teachers”) and advises
emotional restraint (“Pleasure, but slowly, Lídia” / Prazer, mas devagar, Lídia).45 Sen-
sual pleasures, while not to be denied or regretted (“Don’t regret that you love, drink,
or smile / or deny the day [. . .]” / Não pesa que ames, bebas ou sorrias [. . .] / nenhum
dia nega), are nevertheless object lessons about our limitations (“Enjoy / Learn what
your body teaches you / your limit” / Goza / Aprende o que te ensina / Teu corpo, teu
limite).46 Passion is a self-conscious distraction from eschatology. Reis at times

eschews or subdues passion, rhetoric of the muses, so as not to disturb his state of
meditative withdrawal or to elicit enhanced expectations of life:

Let’s love peacefully, thinking that we could

If we wanted, exchange kisses, hugs, caresses
But it’s better to sit, side by side, listening
Watching the river flow.
(“Come, sit with me”)

Amemo-nos tranqüilamente, pensando que podíamos,

Se quisséssemos, trocar beijos e abraços e carícias,
Mas que mais vale estarmos sentados ao pé um do outro
Ouvindo correr o rio e vendo-o
(“Vem sentar-te comigo,” 6–12–1914)

The purpose of quietude is not to avoid passion, but to remain hidden from the gods.
To keep fresh, alert, and chaste is equated with calm and clear reflection on life in
Nature’s flowers, trees, and rivers.
The paradox of death and pleasure is that Reis must remain observant, as if look-
ing over his shoulder, yet purposefully forget his great scientific truth, in order to woo
the maidens: “Let us put aside, Lídia, science that doesn’t put / more flowers than
flower in the fields” (Deixemos, Lídia, a ciência que não põe / Mais flores do que
Flora pelos campos). In the refuge of pagan simplicity, Reis and his muses seize the
moment to indulge in nostalgic sex and sensuality: “As if each kiss were a good-bye,
my Cloe, let us kiss, making love” (Como se cada beijo / For a de despedida, Minha
Cloe, beijemo-nos, amando). With Neera, he is both solemn and joyful—“Neera,
don’t hide / let us take pleasure in the moment / lightly solemn in joy” (Neera, não
nos escondamos. / Gozemos o momento, solenes na alegria levemente, “Ao longe os
montes”)—while with Lídia he describes their sexual union as one immortal moment
of eternal delight, the crucible of all life, given by the gods whom in such moment
they rival: “From the exiled truth of their bodies, they gave us the highest prize [. . .]
for a moment the gods gave us an hour / Not ours, but of Olympus” (Na exilada ver-
dade dos seus corpos / De viver toda a vida / Dentro dum só momento / Olímpicas
delícias, “É tão suave a fuga deste dia”).47 Their bodies are described as temples in
which they are the gods, to and of themselves. By describing union with the divine
through the body and sexual imagery, Reis radically rewrites Western metaphysical
poetry, reverting to classical paganism in which divinity is physical, natural, and
Passion also symbolizes his inner struggle to deny fate. Since we foresee death
in all living things, so Reis argues in a poem addressed to Cloe that remained unpub-
lished until 1988, it is as if our bodies while still young have already aged, and what
we mean to each other now is already only a mutual memory. Expressing his anguish
to Cloe, he decries the impossibility of being because of the constant awareness of
death. Consequently, he intensifies their moment of passion to the extreme, as if it
were capable of turning memory into life and bringing this world to an end: “Ah, if
we are always only dead, and exist for just an hour / Then with such fury let us make

love in that hour / That its memory burns / as life, and we kiss, Cloe / as if after our
one kiss / the machinery of the dead world / would suddenly collapse” (Ah, se o que
somos é sempre isto, e apenas / Uma hora é o que somos / Com tal fúria nessa hora
nos amemos / Que arda sua lembrança / Como vida, e nos beijemos, Cloe / Como se,
findo o beijo / Único, houvesse de ruir a súbita / Mole do morto mundo, “A folha
In the more restrained, neoclassical finale, poet and muses are enjoined to “love,
drink, and smile”; all embrace the nobility of their diminished potential: “Lídia, the
vilest life before death / Is what I want; and I pick flowers / To bring you, offerings /
Of a little life” (Lídia, a vida mais vil antes que a morte / Que desconheço, quero; e
as flores colho / Que te entrego, votives / De um pequeno destino, “O sono e bom”).49
To end the play, Reis invites the maidens to lead an allegorical dance that celebrates,
although adversely, life’s one possible moment of divinity: “Lead the dance, simple
Nymphs [. . .] spilling your pleasure in solemn rhythms [. . .] for our sad life” (Con-
duzi a dança, ninfas singelas [. . .]com o vosso gozo derramado em ritmos [. . .] Para
nossa triste vida, “Sob estas árvores”).50

Crowns and Roses

Ricardo Reis, the avant-garde Hellenist, is a celebrant of universal nothingness,

whose Greco-Roman odes praise the will to be in the fatalistic world of nineteenth-
century scientific determinism: “Follow your destiny / Tend your plants / Love your
roses / The rest is shadow / of a distant tree” (Segue o teu destino / Rega as tuas plan-
tas / Ama as tuas rosas / O resto é a sombra / De árvores alheias).51 Learning from
his master Caeiro, he has returned the sensuality of mysticism to Nature, and his
thought is largely motivated by a rejection of Christian metaphor and contempt for its
“useless seekers of better-than-life”:

You believers in Christs and Marys,

You cloud my fountain’s clear water
Only to tell me
There are other waters

Bathing meadows with better times—

Why speak to me of other places
If waters and meadows
Right here please me?

The gods gave this reality,

External, and good as is.
How could my dreams be
More than god’s work?

Give me the moment’s Reality

And my peaceful, present gods
That live not in Voids
But in fields and rivers. . . .

Vós que, crentes em Cristos e Marias,

Turvais da minha fonte as claras águas
Só para me dizerdes
Que há águas de outra espécie

Banhando prados com melhores horas—

Dessas outras regiões pra que falar-me
Se estas águas e prados
São de aqui e me agradam?

Esta realidade os deuses deram

E para bem real a deram externa.
Que serão os meus sonhos
Mais que a obra dos deuses?

Deixai-me a Realidade do momento

E os meus deuses tranqüilos e imediatos
Que não moram no Vago
Mas nos campos e rios [. . .]
(“Vós que, crentes” 8–9–1914)

The poet invites Christ into the pantheon of gods as an equal, while decrying his
followers who would forbid the ancient gods who better understand “the primitive
chaos of the night” (Do primitivo Caos e da Noite, “Não a ti, Cristo, odeio”).52
Reis’s celebratory aphorisms sketch an ethics of resistance and survival in a uni-
verse of darkness, chaos, and chance. Physical pleasures and sensations are objects of
meditation, reverence, and pleasure, not for being divine but because they exist, and we
shall soon leave them in death: “Wrap yourself in roses. Love, drink / Fall silent. All else
is nothing” (Circunda-te de rosas, ama, bebe / E cala. O mais é nada). Enjoyment and
pleasure are the adverse moral imperatives and spiritual lessons of a modernist pagan-
ism. The poet-guru exhorts readers to active pleasure in the acceptance of life for
the little that it is: “Live the imperfect hour / without looking beyond it / without any
hopes / from men or from gods” (Vive a imperfeita hora/Sem olhar além dela / E sem
nada esperares / Dos homens nem dos deuses). Precisely because our fate is certain and
unchangeable, it is best to return to the law and poetry of Nature, where there is virtue
and nobility without false consciousness. Celebration is, above all, a way of being and a
means of imposing the will. To celebrate, with such little reason, is to choose to be: “You,
in the confusing solitude of life, / (And not knowing another) / Chose the harbor” (Tu,
na confuse solidão da vida / A ti mesmo te elege / (Não sabes de outro) o porto).53
When Fernando Pessoa’s last remains were transferred from the Cemetery of Plea-
sures to the Jerónimos Cathedral in Lisbon, a poem by Ricardo Reis was inscribed in
the memorial stone, one published by Pessoa during his lifetime that celebrates fulfill-
ment and being:
To be great, be complete: not excluding
Or exaggerating.
Be all in the least thing. Put all you are
In the least that you do.

Thus in each lake the whole moon glows

Because it lives aloft.

Para ser grande, sê inteiro: nada

Teu exagera ou exclui.
Sê todo em cada coisa. Põe quanto és
No mínimo que fazes.
Assim em cada lago a lua toda
Brilha, porque alta vive.

The lesson is noble yet, however, almost malicious—a word used in the odes for the
way we sense vanishing time—for Reis swings like a pendulum to the other side of
being, absence of self. Reis’s malicious logic contradicts his noble aphorism by con-
cluding that the best way to be is not to know oneself: “To be unaware that we live /
Fulfills life enough” (Ignorar que vivemos / Cumpre bastante a vida). Other odes
complete the paradox by disarming and deconstructing the ideal of a full self:
“There’s better fate than self-knowledge, the mind / is not enjoyable. To know you’re
nothing / Better than self-ignorance / Nothing inside nothing” (Melhor destino que
o de conhecer-se / Não frui quem mente frui. Antes, sabendo /Ser nada, que igno-
rando: / Nada dentro de nada).54
So noble is the sentiment, however, that readers may forget that the odes are a
feigned pastoral, governed by artful illusion and avant-garde taste for paradox and
opposition: “Not a deluded mind that merely / Dresses in livid flowers / From the
personal abyss” (Não a iludida mente, que só se orna / Das flores lívidas / Do íntimo
abismo). The Epicurean and Stoic conventions, phrased in amorous pastoral dia-
logue, conceal a modernist anxiety of being conveyed in a series of baroque conceits
and modernist sleights of hand. Reis, who has no self, searches for self-knowledge,
while reserving his very restricted passions for classical nymphs. By “writing” odes,
he reminds us as readers that we live fictions within fictions: “We are stories telling
stories, nothing” (Somos contos contando contos, nada). There is both artful humor
and clever paronomasia in his pagan “truths”: “self-knowledge is insufficient knowl-
edge. . . / The best life is lived without measure” (Se sabê-lo não serve de sabê-lo
[. . .] / Melhor vida é a vida / Que dura sem medir-se). If only we could read the odes
of Ricardo Reis without thinking about them, he would know how to thank us for
becoming so much like him. Then if we looked, we might see a different inscription
on his tomb: “Your epitaph, / An anonymous smile” (A ode grava / Anónimo, um

History as Iconography
The Messages from Beyond

Fita, com olhar sphyngico e fatal,

O Occidente, futuro do passado.

Two Books of Lineage

In Canto VIII of Luís de Camões’s epic poem, Os Lusíadas (The Lusiads, 1572), Vasco da
Gama’s brother, Paulo da Gama, entertains the Catual, ruler of Calicut under the Zamorin,
on board Paulo’s ship, the São Rafael. Paulo’s purpose is to impress him with Portuguese
power by showing him depictions of twenty-four Portuguese heroes, each identified by
pennants and standards on individual flags displayed on the ship. Each flag concerns an
episode in the history of Portugal, thus Paulo’s display of the flags before the Catual is a
second version of Vasco’s oral declamation of the history of Portugal to the King of Melinde
in Cantos III–V, with the difference that Paulo’s history is mirrored here in pictorial, non-
verbal form. Just as Vasco’s history is declaimed in dramatic episodes about national heroes,
Paulo’s is a synthesis of twenty-four formative, heroic personages; both have prehistorical
and mythical beginnings, whether in Vasco’s discourse that goes back to the geological and
geographical formation of Europe, or Paulo’s first flag representing Lusus, a mythological
character said to be the son of Bacchus, associated with the ancient territory of Lusitania,
later under Roman rule. Both expositions construct a panhistorical account of Portugal’s
founding, from the twelfth to the fifteenth centuries, on flags that flutter as a contemporary
extension of the books of lineage that counted among the first prose works in Portuguese
language. The heraldic crests on the flags connect Portugal’s lineage of heroes to the voy-
age to India, and both Vasco’s and Paulo’s expositions create a present moment for Portu-
gal’s history, as if the voyage to India were the culmination of preparations made over the
centuries. The sequence of flags and personages on Paulo’s ship is as follows:

Lusus (Strophe 2) Mythical founder of Lusitania; Ulysses, founder of Lisbon,

is also mentioned.
Viriatus (6) (c. 139 BCE), Leader of the Lusitanians resisting Roman invasion
Sertorius (7) (d. 72 BCE), Roman general who became general of the Lusitanians


Henry of Burgundy (9) Count of Portugal (1093–1112)

D. Afonso Henriques (10) First King of Portugal (1109, ruled 1139–1185)
Egas Moniz (13) (d. 1145), Battle of São Mamede (1128)
Dom Fuas Roupinho (16) Admiral, victory over Moorish fleet (1178)
Henry of Bonn (18) German knight who died in taking of Lisbon (1147)
Mem Moniz (20) Capture of Santarém from Moors (1147)
Gerald Without Fear (21) Led Portuguese armies to retake Évora (1165)
Martim Lopes (23) (captured a Leonese allied to the Moors, Pedro Fernando de
Castro, 1369)
Soeiro Viegas, Bishop of Lisbon (23) Commanded expedition to take Alcácer
do Sal (1217)
Dom Paio Correia (25) Order of Santiago, conquest of the Algarve
Gonçalo Ribeiro (26) Knight fourteenth century
Vasco Anes (26) Knight fourteenth century
Fernando Martins (26) Knight fourteenth century
Nuno Álvares Pereira (28) (1360–1431), Battle of Aljubarrota (1385)
Pero Rodrigues de Landroal (33) Liberated a captive from the Castilians
Gil Fernandes (34) Defeated the traitor Paio Rodrigues
Rui Pereira (34) Commanded sea forces against the Castilians
Pedro—son of D. João I (37) (1392–1449), Duke of Viseu, Battle of Ceuta
Henry—son of D. João I (37) (1394–1460), The Navigator, Opened sea routes
around Africa
D. Pedro de Meneses, Count of Vila-Real (38) Governor of Ceuta
D. Duarte de Meneses, Count of Viana e Tarouca (38) died at Alcácer El
Seguer to save Afonso V (1464)

Paulo’s oral explanations and descriptions of the flags and their heroes in thirty-eight
quatrains is a elaboration on the pictorial exhibition; his role could be compared to
that of a art museum guide, while the visiting observers onboard follow the images,
symbols, and movement in the sequence of flags in a chronological retrospective,
ending with the mid-fifteenth century expansion into Africa, from the conquest of
Ceuta by Prince Henry, to the first governor of Ceuta, D. Pedro de Meneses and his
son D. Duarte de Meneses, who sacrificed himself in the battle of Alcácer El Seguer.
These picture-flags at an exposition in Calicut recapitulate the mixture of classical
mythology with national military history embedded in the epic poem; after the myth-
ical Lusus and resistance to Roman rule by Viriatus and Sertorius, the flags center on
the founding of Portugal in the twelfth century (Henry of Burgundy, D. Afonso Hen-
riques) and the defining battles and sieges that would consolidate and establish Por-
tuguese sovereignty and territory, guarantee their independence from the Moors and
from Castile, and lay the foundations for the voyage to India, which is itself mythol-
ogized as the second grand defining moment of Portuguese history. The founding of
the country and the voyage receive detailed comparative treatment by Fernando Gil
and Helder Macedo as the two iconic events in Portuguese culture and history.1
The flags and their pictures introduce a semiotic dimension into the meaning
of the scene through the graphic designs contained in the pennants and banners
identifying the heroes; the inscriptions and insignia constitute a coded language
of identity and history pointing to the heroes they signify, communicated through

symbols of heraldry and authority. As their meanings are unknown to the Catual
and his guests, Paulo’s structural reading assumes deceptive powers of divination
and prophecy. The flags’ undulations on the ship further define a poetics of move-
ment that contemporary visual poets describe as space-time isomorphism, a union
of form and function communicated in the case of the flags through the pure struc-
tural and geometric composition of the heraldry and identifying symbols of the
families, the crown, and the military societies to which they belonged. The twenty-
four flags are a reduction of national history into deictic signs and icons, displayed
in colorful dynamic movement and with the indecipherable mystery in Calicut of
coats of arms, secular and religious symbols, and the regalia of Portuguese royal
authority. Paulo’s ship carries the identity and history of the Portuguese nation
and people on exhibit, a powerful DNA whose genetic information is flown openly,
yet structurally coded in a chronological strain that entwines mythical origins to-
gether with the present moment, so as to imply historical and personal providen-
tial purpose, reinforced by the militancy and fervor of Portuguese expansion.
Fernando Pessoa’s only book of poems published in Portuguese, Mensagem
(Message, 1934),2 considered to be the most significant book of poetry in Portuguese
language in the twentieth century, is a highly structured conflation of national history
with occult and messianic themes. It is divided into three sections titled Brasão
(“Blazon”), Mar Português (“Portuguese Sea”), and O Encoberto (“The Hidden
One”). Mensagem closely follows the two discourses on Portuguese national history
by Vasco and Paulo da Gama in Camões’s epic, The Lusiads, from its mythical ori-
gins to its founding as a nation and to its expansion into Africa and Asia, leading to
the iconic moment that forever marked Portugal, the 1497–1499 voyage of Vasco da
Gama to India. Pessoa writes an adverse version of Camões’s epic, however, by
crossing genres, filling his epic framework with other narrative genres in poetic form,
such as the oral tale, autobiography, dialogue, and prayer. He mixes archaic spellings
and history with pared, modernist verses. Unlike Camões, Pessoa uses a great variety
of poetic meters and verse types. His purpose in injecting multiple genres with varied
rhythms is to create a polyphonic and polytonal historical drama of epic proportions,
using the voices or descriptions of the heroes themselves. Pessoa recreates the Camo-
nian voyage, according to our interpretation, as a theatrical dramatization in three
acts, in which historical heroes speak as characters, maintaining intensity by using
different forms of narration. The speeches and scenes are linked thematically and
constitute a national popular theater, mixing history and mythology with prophecy;
as in a folk tale, the final goal is recuperation of a lost talisman, the quest for fulfill-
ment of the nation’s destiny: “Earth shall be theatre for / The clear dawn, just come
forth / From, black, the night, the waste” (A terra será theatro / Do dia claro, que no
atro / Da erma noite começou).3 As a late work, published the year before Pessoa
died, Mensagem is a compilation not only of the many genres in which he wrote, but
also of philosophical and literary strands found throughout his diverse and hetero-
nymic writings; yet each poem remains fluid and individual, like a portrait or an
image in a Cubist collage, or composition of Portuguese painted tiles (azulejos). In
Mensagem, the heroes are synthesized in a concise phrase or image, while sailors
face hazards, unknown mists, or the self-same nothingness of the sea. Pessoa annuls
any possible resolution on the plane of history by projecting ultimate meaning beyond

conscious action and by recurring use of paradox, O mytho é o nada que é tudo
(“Myth—nothing, everything”). After revisiting Paulo da Gama’s discourse on flags
of Portugal’s heroes in O Brasão, Pessoa extends the epic voyage in the following
two sections through metaphor and image up to the present moment of his narration,
just as Camões spoke to his contemporaries in The Lusiads in its final strophes.
To construct his historical overview of Portugal in the first section of Mensagem,
Pessoa consciously revisits Paulo da Gama’s semiotic exhibition of icons of national
heroes on the flags of the São Rafael for the source of his own parallel exhibit of
history and its heroes. What in The Lusiads has the character of a highly plastic inte-
rior episode, one of many examples of ekphrasis in the epic, stands alone in Mensa-
gem as a structural framework for the reduction of history into semiotic signs,
whereby each feature of the national insignia is linked to a historical actor. In Brasão,
the twenty-four flags of the São Rafael are concentrated into one, and each heroic
figure is connected with one of the symbols on a royal coat of arms. The Portuguese
coat of arms contains two fields: in the first there is a silver escutcheon in which five
small blue escutcheons are placed in the form of a cross, each containing five silver
disks representing coins; the silver escutcheon is surrounded by a red border, com-
posing the second field with seven golden castles. According to legendary if apocry-
phal explanations, the five blue escutcheons represent the wounds of Christ, or
perhaps escutcheons and castles captured from the Moors by Afonso Henriques. The
silver escutcheon with its red border is superimposed on a golden armillary sphere,
the personal symbol of D. Manuel I (ruled 1495–1521) representing maritime expan-
sion throughout the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Above the sphere there is a
golden crown and a crest, in the form of a griffin with the head of a lion and wings of
an eagle. Rather than their personal heraldry, the heroes in Mensagem follow histor-
ical and genealogical sequences governed by national iconography. The origins of
Portuguese nationality are communicated through these insignia, the heraldry on the
Portuguese flag, whose castles and escutcheons form the basic structural and semi-
otic divisions that bind together the national coat of arms, the heroes, and the sections
of Pessoa’s book as well. Thus, the sections of Pessoa’s Brasão are structured
as fields, castles, escutcheons, crown, and crest in a semiotic reduction of a half-
millennium of history. The particular crown and crest selected by Pessoa come from
the late sixteenth century, when Portugal lost its sovereignty to Spain for a period of
sixty years (1580–1640).
Following Camões, Pessoa’s iconography likewise mixes mythology with folk
prehistory by first representing the geography of Europe inverted, in the form of a
human figure, as had been the practice on some Renaissance maps, with Portugal as
Europe’s face looking out to the Atlantic and the Iberian peninsula its head. Ulysses
and Viriatus are invoked as a preparation for the founding by Henry of Burgundy
Count of Portugal and Afonso Henriques. Although Pessoa repeats the name of
Nuno Álvares Pereira (hero of the battle of Aljubarrota in 1385) from Camões, and
the same two sons of D. João I, Princes Pedro and Henry “the Navigator,” he focuses
on the founders of their generation and of the Anglo-Portuguese alliance at their
marriage in 1383. King João I (ruled 1385–1433) and Philippa of Lancaster (1359–
1415) represent castles, while their sons are the escutcheons and Prince Henry is the
lion’s head of the crest. While in The Lusiads Paulo is carrying the vanguard of

Portuguese history into the Indian Ocean in 1498, and thus the pantheon of flags
dates only to Portuguese maritime expansion into Morocco in the mid-fifteenth cen-
tury, Pessoa culminates his list of heroes with Afonso d’Albuquerque (1460–1515),
who captured fortresses along the Indian Ocean, consolidated Portuguese rule in
Goa in 1510, and governed Portuguese India from 1509 until his death in 1515. Pes-
soa’s pantheon thus completes the Portuguese sweep into India and confirms its
dominance in the Indian Ocean through the structure of Brasão. Names in bold are
repeated from Camões.

I. The Fields
1. The One of the Castles—Europe
2. The One of the Escutcheons—The gods and their heroes
II. The Castles
1. Ulysses
2. Viriatus
3. Count D. Henrique
4. D. Tareja
5. D. Afonso Henriques
6. D. Dinis (1261–1325)
7(I). D. João the First (1356–1433)
7(II). D. Philippa of Lancaster
III. Escutcheons
1. D. Duarte, King of Portugal (b. 1391, ruled 1433–1438)
2. D. Fernando, Prince of Portugal
3. D. Pedro, Regent of Portugal
4. D. João, Prince of Portugal
5. D. Sebastião, King of Portugal (b. 1554, ruled 1568–1578)
IV. The Crown
Nuno Álvares Pereira
V. The Crest
The Head of the Griffin: Prince D. Henrique
A Wing of the Griffin: D. João the Second (b. 1455, ruled 1481–1495)
The Other Wing of the Griffin: Afonso de Albuquerque

The second section, Mar Português (“Portuguese Sea”), which is a meditation

on the dark side of the voyage theme (“God gave perils to the sea and sheer depth” /
Deus ao mar o perigo e o abysmo deu), turns to mythology, sacrifice, and loss in the
apotheosis of the “Captains of the End,” Bartolomeu Dias (1450–1500), Fernão de
Magalhães (1480–1521), and Vasco da Gama (1469–1524):

– Mar Português –

I . The Infante
II. Horizon
III. The Standard
IV. The Sea Monster
V. Epitaph of Bartolomeu Dias
VI. The Columbuses

VII. Occident
VIII. Magellan (Fernão de Magalhães)
IX. Ascension of Vasco da Gama
X. Portuguese Sea
XI. The Last Ship
XII. Prayer

The twelve poems of “Mar Português” remove the voyage from historical time
and recast it as a struggle by the Portuguese sailors to uncover the secrets of the
gods; the “monster at the end of the sea” (Mostrengo), who dialogues with D.
João II, recreates the Adamastor episode from The Lusiads, who is a giant inhab-
iting the rock at the Cape of Storms placed there eternally as a consequence of
unrequited desire for the Nereid Thetis, daughter of Nereus and Doris. The bitter,
costly side of the voyage is Pessoa’s theme here, worked in famous lines equating
the sea with Portuguese tears: “Salt-laden sea, how much of all your salt / Is tears
of Portugal!” (Ó mar salgado, quanto do seu sal / São lágrimas de Portugal!). In
a reprise of the condemnation of the voyages by Camões’s “Old Man of the Rest-
elo,” the sailors’ fiancées never become brides, and a generation is sacrificed to
the sea and absent sailors: “Lived as old maids how many brides-to-be / Till death,
that you might be ours, sea!” (Quantas noivas ficaram por casar / Para que fosses
nosso, ó mar). The heroes Bartolomeu Dias and Fernão de Magalhães are buried
on the beaches of Africa and Oceania, while Vasco da Gama ascends into the
heavens in an apotheosis of all Portuguese voyages. The national enterprise comes
to an end in this section with the descending “last voyage” of D. Sebastião, who
in 1578 sails to defeat and disappearance at the battle of El-Ksar el-kebir in Mo-
rocco, carrying the pennant and name of Portugal onboard (“And hoisting, like a
name, aloft the standard of Empire” / E erguendo, como um nome, alto o Pendão
/ do Império). Just as on maps Portugal is the face of Europe looking out toward
the Atlantic, D. Sebastião is fatally drawn by his “Atlantic soul”: “The more is
my Atlantic soul exalted / Poured out” (a minha alma atlântica se exalta / E
The third section of Mensagem, O Encoberto (“The Hidden One”), describes a
modern atmosphere of national uncertainty and lack of definition: “Now there is left
us, in the hostile silence, / The universal sea, the longing” (Restam-nos hoje, no silen-
cio hostil / O Mar universal e a saudade):

I. The Symbols
1. Dom Sebastião
2. The Fifth Kingdom
3. The Longed For
4. The Fortunate Isles
5. The Hidden One
II. The Signs
1. Bandarra
2. António Vieira
3. Third (By the waters of heartbreak I write this book)

III. Times, Weathers

1. Night
2. Storm
3. Calm
4. Dawn Grey
5. Fog

The atmosphere is reflected in overcast, dark, and stormy skies. It predicts a possible
return of the masters of the sea by invoking messianic symbols, visions of the future,
and miraculous beliefs, ranging from Sebastianism, the enduring myth of the return
of D. Sebastião from the battle in Africa, to the Fifth Empire, described in António
Vieira’s History of the Future (1718) as a time when the world will be ruled by Jesus
Christ and the king of Portugal.4 Magical enchantment of the oral tale, in the style of
the Arabian nights, evokes secret worlds of “fortunate islands”: “Lands with no place
they be” (São terras sem ter lugar). From mythical, undiscovered islands there ema-
nates a voice with the sound of waves that can be heard only if one does not listen for
it, in a clear allusion to his early play “The Mariner.” Augurs are hidden in the air and
disguised by weather patterns, and the fog that obscures the dawn at the conclusion
of the final act waits to be cleared by new heroes, who will replace those who “ripped
the veil” from their earlier existence to strive to see the great archetypes and truths of
fate and fortune.

Messages from Beyond

What interests Pessoa in the Portuguese flag and its insignia is not the outward
identification shown by the coats of arms and other symbols of genealogy or mili-
tary orders, as displayed on the São Rafael, but rather the inward and occult nature
of the insignia themselves, whether of the powerful meanings compressed into
signs or their hidden control of the future as determining genetic codes, whether
individual, national, or supernatural. His “preliminary note” to Mensagem (first
published by Nova Aguilar, 1960) carries the quotation engraved on the Symbol of
the Rose and Cross of the Rosicrucian Order: Benedictus Dominus Deus noster qui
dedit nobis signum.5 In The Lusiads, Paulo da Gama interprets the meaning of the
twenty-four flags in order to elevate openly the courage and identity of heroes; at
the same time, Paulo takes advantage of the indecipherable semiotics of the icons
to project their occult powers before the Catual. The subsequent episode in Canto
IX, the “Island of Love,” an enchanted island where the sailors are met by Venus
and her nymphs, confirms that the icons on the flags fulfill a genetic and even repro-
ductive purpose, their exhibition in India taking on the unmistakable signs of an
amatory quest. Pessoa takes up this adverse side of their message, divining in the
insignia forces and meanings that subsume the heroes within a mystical national-
ism, an occult desire, and a providential history fated by the codes themselves.
Pessoa turns history into poetry and prophecy by evoking the mystery of semiotic
signs, including the rose of the Rosicrucian Order, and associating them with divine,
supernatural, and mystical truths. At the same time, these truths are clearly engen-
dered and engendering through the physical bodies and genetic codes of Portuguese

heroes and heroines: Was Philippa of Lancaster visited by an archangel, since she
conceived only geniuses? (“What archangel saw your dreams, caught them / One
dawn, watching, maternal?” / Que archanjo teus sonhos veio / Vellar, maternos, um
dia?). Poems of lineage present history as both a literal and an occult genealogy.6
Truth is a function of Eros (“The kisses of the Truth”; Os beijos merecidos da Ver-
dade), inherited through timeless movement symbolized by the sea (“O sea which
came before us” / Ó mar anterior a nós) and the voyagers’ quest for oneness (“God
did will that the earth should be all one / That what the sea might join be now not
torn” / Deus quiz que a terra fosse toda uma / Que o mar unisse, já não separasse).
Pessoa works with the unseen semiotic message of the insignia, evoking occult
processes embedded in the signifiers that are capable of determining history with a
force and truth much stronger and more elemental than that found in events. He
equates the insignia with a mystical reality, conceived as “another side of space”
where, in a further allusion to “The Mariner,” an exiled king awaits on an enchant-
ed isle: “Will there be rifts in space / That give on the other side” [. . .] The fortunate
land guarding / The expatriate King / In person, alive, ensorcelled?” (Haverá ras-
gões no espaço / Que dêem para o outro lado [. . .] O paiz afortunado / Que guardo
o Rei desterrado / Em sua vida encantada?). The signs that simply identified the
heroes in The Lusiads point instead in Mensagem to an occult and mystical force, a
quest and desire, cast poetically and metaphorically as “The ocean that there may
be beyond land” (o mar que possa haver além da terra). As in the finale of “The
Mariner,” early morning light fills an absence, which is the nothingness of an antic-
ipated and eternally awaited reality: “Light which walks before another / Sunrise—
already the There Will / Be Day in dawn-grey’s perplexed nothing” (Luz que
precede a madrugada, / E é já o ir a haver o dia / Na antemanhã, confuso nada).
That reality, if encountered, would be the knowledge of and fulfillment of Portu-
guese destiny.
Pessoa probes far beyond the deictic function of signs and icons on the flags, pre-
ferring to view them as a poetics, whose movement whether in verse, air, or time pre-
sages and augurs future events beyond the conscious control of their enactors: “Every
beginning is unmeant” (Todo começo é involuntário). Ferdinand de Saussure’s theory
of the science of signs proposes that a sign unites a concept with an acoustical image
(“unie [. . .] un concept et une image acoustique”);7 in the flags, the association is visual
and graphic. Pessoa’s first adverse operation is to make signs opaque so that their pre-
cise meaning cannot be read: “forms out of sight” / as fórmas invisíveis. Signs lose
their precision as referents in the foreboding atmosphere of a voyage into unknown
mists, an ultimate purpose that is veiled by surface reality. Although Mensagem con-
tinues the framework of The Lusiads, its content is altered into the adverse of the epic
genre: while Camões does include dreams and prophecies, Tethys reveals the future to
Vasco da Gama as if it were history; Pessoa moves the historical voyage into invisible
realms, with portents and presentiments of a future glory meant to redeem and fulfill
the uncertain object of its heroic antecedents. Movement, whether of the flags, the sea,
or the poetic lines themselves, confirms the presence of the occult throughout Pessoa’s
exposition and is a siren call to what lies beyond: “[And the talk of pines] Is the voice
of land yearning for sea” / E a falla dos pinhaes / É a voz da terra anciando pelo mar.
The voice of the sea is already present in the thirteenth-century musical Cantar de

Amigo of D. Dinis, in the sound of waving pine trees, in undulating wheat that is the
seed of ships being planted:

Writing a Song to the Lover while men sleep,

The sower of ship seed
Hears a silence-murmur by him creeping:
It is the rumour of pines—like a wheat-crop
Of Empire, there they undulate, unseen.
Na noite escreve um seu Cantar de Amigo
O plantador de naus a haver,
E ouve um silencio murmuro comsigo:
É o rumor dos pinhaes que, como um trigo
De Império, ondulam sem se poder ver.
(Sexto / D. Diniz)

Germination and fecundation are a central theme, later communicated by the billow-
ing of the flags, and represent the role of occult desire in history.
Pessoa’s second adverse operation is to detach his heroes from purely historical
roles by presenting their actions, as in Ulysses, as a paradoxical interplay between myth
and reality: “This man who here came ashore / Was by way of not being / Came? Was
here before” (Este, que aqui aportou / Foi por não ser existindo / Sem existir nos bastou).
Heroes act by force of unconscious archetypes, guided by instinct in their quests to dis-
cover superior truths or realities beyond their own apprehension: “The hero’s present at
himself, many and / Unaware” (O heroe a si assiste, vario / E inconsciente). Represent-
ing a wing of the griffin, D. João II stares out beyond the sea (fita além do mar) seeking
the limits of his domination (“The ocean that there may be beyond land” / O mar que
possa haver além da terra), and he acts, tearing the veil between sea and sky: “Fills, with
present being, sea and sky full [. . .] He may open those arms and rend its veil” (Enche de
estar presente o mar e o céu, / Que elle abra os braços e lhe rasgue o véu). In light of D.
João II’s incisive strike for a deeper truth by ripping open the scenario, Portuguese sailors
continue searching to discern invisible or distant forms, thus their “voyaging fever”
(“This navigating fever in my mind” / febre em mim de navegar) never reaches plenitude,
rather it continually seeks out the next port to be entered (“The port that’s always still-to-
find” / O porto sempre por achar) in an eternal voyage toward the absolute. In O Enco-
berto (“The Hidden One”), this metaphorical voyage is commanded by three prophets of
future glory and fame for Portugal—D. Sebastião, the popular poet Gonçalo Bandarra
(1500–1556), and António Vieira, S.J., “Emperor of the Portuguese Language” / Impera-
dor da Língua Portuguesa. Just as Camões spoke in his own voice at the conclusion of
The Lusiads to complain about the lack of reward for noble deeds, Pessoa himself is the
final personage to speak in Mensagem in the language of a self-conscious, sacred baroque
sonnet revealing deep personal anguish and anxious religious questioning about the
return of the kings of heaven and earth at the end of historical time.
The final scenes of the last act, under the title Os Tempos (“Times, Weathers”),
have the character of a symphonic poem and may be compared in their effects with
Claude Debussy’s (1862–1918) La Mer (1905), a depiction of the sea using sonorous

onomatopoeia evoking movement and sounds of seascapes. Considered one of the

greatest orchestral works of the twentieth century, its first movement, De l’aube à
midi sur la mer, describes the sea from dawn until noon; Pessoa’s Os Tempos is the
inversion, a sonorous portrait of the sea from night until dawn, passing through a
storm, a calm, and the early light of dawn, when a thick fog creates an impenetrable
clarity. Pessoa’s nighttime seascape includes lightning (“God’s light-house” / pharol
de Deus), raging winds (“the wind’s yells” / o vento ruge), mountainous waves (“the
shadowy sea bellows” / o mar scuro struge), and a will-o’-the-wisp ( fogo-fátuo).
These effects correspond to the “Play of the Waves” (Jeux des vagues) and “Dialogue
of the Wind and the Sea” (Dialogue du vent et de la mer) in Debussy’s second and
third movements. Taking advantage of impressionistic effects, Pessoa brings the sea
monster (Mostrengo) out of the darkness at the end of the sea to question the Portu-
guese sailors in sleep and dreams, in an atmosphere of mythical and metaphysical
mystery. The mariners’ disquietude is Portugal’s will to be (“power to be” / o poder
ser) and capacity to desire (“The longing for the power to will” / O desejar poder
querer), while their ships tack in the unknowable and unnavigable glow (“No-one
knows what she desires / No-one has seen what soul is hers” / Ninguem sabe que
coisa quere / Ninguem conhece que alma tem). The heroes of Mensagem sail in the
gulf between history and meaning. Their enterprise in the voyage follows the sym-
phonic voices of the sea and dreams of invisible forms, sailing against the current of
impressionistic nothingness: “Dreaming is to see the forms out of sight / Those of the
untried far-off” (O sonho é ver as formas invisíveis / Da distância imprecisa). Pes-
soa’s “Portuguese Sea” is a musical recreation of Debussy in rhetorical effects.
Pessoa’s interest in insignia is matched by his careful preparation of the material
appearance of words, practiced in Mensagem by his intentional use of archaic spell-
ings that revisit the visual images in early manuscripts and books. Following Cratylus,
Pessoa attributes to names a direct association with what they signify, and their ety-
mology from Greek or Latin is thus comparable to the pantheon of heroes in the ge-
nealogy of Portugal. In terms of contemporary poetry, the spelling and look of words
in Mensagem constitute a second case of isomorphism, uniting form and function by
equating the name with its referent, and graphically with its historical moment.
Reprintings using modernizations of the orthography, beginning with the 7th edition,8
deprive the book of one of its most functional and dynamic levels of poetic meaning,
the contiguity of visual forms of language with historical representation. The orthog-
raphy of Mensagem is based on etymology, as was Portuguese spelling in general
after the sixteenth century, when printing began to attribute official status to Latinate
spellings. Pessoa’s orthography further brings to mind the nineteenth century’s fasci-
nation with historical episodes from medieval times to the sixteenth century, and it
particularly reflects the purposefully archaic aestheticism of groups such as the pre-
Raphaelites at the turn of the century. The most visible linguistic archaisms are the
retention of “ch” (with the sound of “k” as in Christo), “ph” (sphyngico), “rh,” “th”
(mytho), and “y” in words of Greek origin (mysterios); from Latin one sees “ct”
(abstracta), “gm,” “gn,” “mn” (somno), and “mpt.” Intervocalic consonants are
doubled—l, m, p, c (cotovellos, chamma, appoia, Occidente) and the initial and inter-
vocalic silent “h” is used (hombro, cahi, prohibida). Nasalization is indicated
with a final “m” rather than a til, and by aphaeresis words beginning “es” drop the “e”

and lose a syllable. Pessoa’s orthographic archaisms constitute signs that encompass
both functions of naming and of prophecy; both history and nations are mysteries to
be unveiled (“All nations are mysteries” / As nações todas são mysterios).
Mensagem presents itself as a historical epic poem through its chronology of
heroes patterned after Camões’s epic, its panorama of national history from mythical
beginnings to the founding of the nation, and the voyage that carried it into unknow-
able distance; yet to place his forty-four poems in the context of innovative contem-
porary poetry, Pessoa writes the adverse of the epic. The major contradictory feature
of Mensagem is the coexistence with archaic orthography and historical portraiture of
inventive vanguard language that identifies its modernist poetics. Within the frame-
work of a national epic, Pessoa inserts verses that indelibly identify the work as one
of the most daring in contemporary poetry, with a heightened consciousness of
language and meaning as seen in poets from Ezra Pound to Gertrude Stein. With the
verse E o mar scuro struge (“the shadowy sea bellows”) Pessoa seems to turn the final
two words into Latin (obscuru; exturgere) by altering the prefixes to “es” and “des;”
he then eliminates the initial vowel in each word to maintain metric stress, forming
trochees to follow the anapestic foot, thus closing the line with three dramatic stressed
syllables. The forms scuro and struge defamiliarize the reader by injecting forms that
appear and sound foreign because of their phonetic and morphological alterations.
In the second poem of Mensagem, Pessoa plays on the verb “bastar” and the
popular expression basta to write a convoluted exclamation that obscures the mean-
ing of the phrase by subordinating it to the redounding sounds of five words that
begin with bast—, in two lines stressed on the first, fourth, and seventh syllables in
the first line and on the second and fourth syllables in the second: Baste a quem
baste o que lhe basta / O bastante de lhe bastar! The challenge to translation is as
great as the difficulty of the original reading, if one compares other translators’ so-
lutions with Jonathan Griffith’s inverted but readable syntax (“Whom what contents
him does content / Let him content him with that thing!”).9 The poems of Mensagem
are filled with aphorisms, as in the much quoted paradox O Mytho é o nada que é
tudo (“Myth—nothing, everything”), a line which is an ironic, antithetical definition
of myth, as if opposites were identical quantities and myth the only truth.10 In the
poem on the mythical Ulysses, Pessoa continues the use of rhetorical contradiction
in the oxymorons, Foi por não ser existindo (“Was by way of not being”) and Por
não ter vindo foi vindo (“Did us proud by not being”). Finally, the narrator speaks in
the first person (“The Warnings—Third” / Os Avisos—Terceiro) as a prophet for the
consciousness of his people, beginning with a confessional verse whose clever par-
onomasia at first undercuts the depth of anguish and gravity of the situation: Screvo
meu livro à beira-magua (“By the waters of heartbreak I write this book”). Pessoa
places a modernist pun, “beside the waters” or “beside pain,” in a baroque poem of
religious questioning, since after the poem’s initial self-description, the remaining
fourteen lines are probing questions to the heavens. Critics have noted the parallel
between Pessoa’s book written on the “shores of pain” and Camões renowned
redondilha Sobre os rios, written by a poet-musician in exile and captivity by the
shores of Babylon, while imagining a return to a Zion that he had never experienced.
The comparison of the two poems validates Pessoa’s stylistic choice of baroque
religious passion, yet his narrator is self-consciously aware of the comparison to

Camões and of his own contemporary simulacrum. Thus, he alters a popular expres-
sion, à beira-d’água (“on a riverbank”) so that water incorporates pain, à beira-
magua” (mágoa, pain; água, water), while similarly placing himself in literary exile
on a riverbank. His inventive pun confirms the modernist identity of the poem and
validates its emotion in contemporary terms of the narrator-author, against what
otherwise would be a copy of Camões and an imitation of deep baroque religiosity
and doubt: Quando é a hora?. . .Quando, meu Sonho e meu Senhor? (“When is the
Hour?. . . When, Dream in me and Lord above?”). The first word, a verb in this
poem, screvo, lacking its initial vowel “e,” repeats Camões’s practice of shortening
verbs for rhythmic purposes; here it contributes a contemporary, conversational tone
to the narrator’s confession, as in popular speech the initial “e” is often elided.
Constant experimentation with a variety of verse forms and rhythmical
effects reinforces the highly structured group of poems as a production, whose
dramatic readings are filled with plastic and auditory effects that reorchestrate
baroque contrasts into contemporary symphonic timbres. A poem of dramatic
dialogue in a dynamic auditory and plastic setting is Mostrengo (“The Sea
Monster”), in which the monster of the dark depths defies the Portuguese king D.
João II to enter the realms of the sea that he controls. Set at the “end of the sea”
at pitch-black midnight, the scene features the monster flying three times around
the Portuguese ship hissing, while the king remains tied to the rudder by his will
power. After each strophe in which the monster demands to know who defies him
comes the same resounding refrain, El-Rei D. João Segundo! (“The King, Dom
João Segundo!”) in seven-syllable iambs. Pessoa had published his translation of
Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Raven” in the first number of ATHENA (1924), and
both the ominous repetition (rodou três vezes / Três vezes rodou / “and prowled
round three times / Three times prowled round”) and the questioning and refrain
in Mostrengo echo Poe’s narrator’s fatal presentiments and the raven’s succinct
and ominous replies of “Never more!” At the dark midnight hour the sea monster
flies three times around each ship before challenging the man at the helm who
would take possession of the sea. The reply, El-Rei D. João Segundo, expresses
pathos through the rhetorical figure ominatio, announcing with his name alone
the Portuguese will to possess the seas and to wrench the end of the world from
the monster’s control:

The thing who lives at the sea’s end

Rose in the pitch night to fly round;
Around the ship he flew three times,
Flew three times with a creaking sound,
And said, “Who is it has dared sound
My caverns, which I never unshadow,
My black roofs of the world’s end?”
And the man at the helm said, with a shudder,
“The King, Dom João Segundo!”

“Whose are the sails my webs brush past?

I see, I hear—whose hulls, whose masts?”

The think said, and prowled round three times,

Three times prowled round, obscene and vast,
“Who’s come to be master where I live master,
Live where none of me may catch sight
As I ooze the terrors of deep without end?”
And the man at the helm shuddered, and said,
“The King, Dom João Segundo!”

Three times he raised his hands from the helm,

Three times again gripped the helm firm
And said, when he had shuddered three times,
“Here at the helm I am more than I am:
Am a People—your sea which it means to tame;
More than the thing, my soul’s terror,
Who prowls in the dark of the world’s end—
Is the will, which ties me to the tiller,
Of the King, Dom João Segundo!”

O mostrengo que está no fim do mar

Na noite de breu ergueu-se a voar:
À roda da nau voou três vezes,
Voou três vezes a chiar,
E disse, “Quem é que ousou entrar
Nas minhas cavernas que não desvendo,
Meus tectos negros do fim do mundo?”
E o homem do leme disse, tremendo,
“El-Rei D. João Segundo!”

“De quem são as velas onde me roço?

De quem as quilhas que vejo e ouço?”
Disse o mostrengo, e rodou três vezes,
Três vezes rodou imundo e grosso,
“Quem vem poder o que só eu posso,
Que moro onde nunca ninguém me visse
E escorro os medos do mar sem fundo?”
E o homem do leme tremeu, e disse,
“El-Rei D. João Segundo!”

Três vezes do leme as mãos ergueu,

Três vezes ao leme as reprendeu,
E disse no fim de temer três vezes,
“Aqui ao leme sou mais do que eu:
Sou um Povo que quer o mar que é teu;
E mais que o mostrengo, que me a alma teme
E roda nas trevas do fim do mundo,
Manda a vontade que me ata ao leme,
De El-Rei D. João Segundo!”

The poem Ascenção de Vasco da Gama (“Ascension of Vasco da Gama”) is high

baroque opera, written in third person in the style of an elaborate world stage setting,
embracing the earth and the heavens. The gigantic panorama is seen from afar; its
emotion is astonishment, conveyed by startling space, sound, and light, culminating
in the rhetorical figure adynaton, the sky opening to receive the Argonaut’s soul in
the adverse of birth:

The Gods of the storm and the giants of the land

All of a sudden suspend their war’s hate—stand
Still in wonder. Along the sky-ascending valley
A silence climbs; and now, setting mist veils
Undulating, there goes first a stir, then an awe.
Shoulder to shoulder the dunes shrug it on and on
And distant the trail roars among clouds and glades of lightning

Below, where the earth is, the shepherd freezes his flute,
Falls, and he sees in ecstasy, by a thousand thunders’ light,
Heaven open its abyss to the soul of the Argonaut.

OS DEUSES da tormenta e os gigantes da terra

Suspendem de reprente o odio da sua guerra
E pasmam. Pelo valle onde se ascende aos céus
Surge um silencio, e vae, da nevoa ondeando os véus,
Primeiro um movimento e depois um assombro.
Ladeiam-o, ao durar, os medos, hombro a hombro,
E ao longe o rastro ruge em nuvens e clarões.

Em baixo, onde a terra é, o pastor gela, e a flauta

Cahe-lhe, e em extase vê, à luz de mil trovões,
O céu abrir o abysmo à alma do Argonauta. (1.10.1922)

In terms of plastic imagery and auditory effect, this poem is the climax of Mensagem
in an operatic baroque theater of the world, concentrated in a single moment of mys-
tical ecstasy, magical transformation, and absolute astonishment. The messianic and
historical themes merge in this poem, with the ascension into heaven of the godlike
hero who conquered the seas for Portugal.
The great variety of verse forms, rhythms, and rhymes employed throughout Mensa-
gem supports its classification as poetic drama. António Cirurgião notes the use of poems
with one to six strophes, each having from one to ten verses, both isometric and hetero-
metric, isorhythmic and heterorhythmic, with from two to twelve syllables, in blank or
rhymed verse of every possible type.11 The poem TORMENTA (“Storm”) illustrates the
use of multiple rhythms of poetic feet to mirror the poem’s tempestuous theme.

What’s in the abyss under the rising seas?

Power to be: us, Portugal.
What, from deep in us, surging, is the unease?
The longing for the power to will.

That, and the mystery whose pomp night is [. . .]

But suddenly, to the wind’s ells,
Quick as a gulp the lightning, God’s light-house,
Flares, and the shadowy sea bellows.

Que jaz no abismo sob o mar que se ergue?

Nós, Portugal, o poder ser.
Que inquietação do fundo nos soergue?
O desejar poder querer.

Isto, e o mistério de que a noite é o fausto [. . .]

Mas súbito, onde o vento ruge,
O relâmpago, farol de Deus, um hausto
Brilha, e o mar scuro struge.

This poem is structured in two quartets with alternating verses of ten and eight
syllables, and each strophe has two questions and two answers. The shorter lines
are stressed incisively, beginning in the first strophe with two monometers and two
anapests (Nós, Portugal, o querer ser), then a single monometer, anapest, and two
iambs (O desejar poder querer). In the second quarter, second line, the storm
suddenly comes up and the rhythms change to a dactyl followed by two trochees
(súbito, onde o vento ruge). The trochaic rhythm continues to pound in the final
line, separated by an anapest (Brilha, e o mar scuro struge). In order to create the
final two trochees, the initial “e” was dropped from both words, giving them an
enhanced, strange pounding effect, precisely parallel to vento ruge at the end of the
second line. Both the wind and the sea roar and pound with identical poetical
In Mensagem, epic themes are recast in modernist verse. The principal features
of its modernity are its semiotic foundation, conveying the meaning of signs in visual,
auditory, or graphic form based on a structural reading of the Portuguese coat of arms
on the national flag. The fact that its structural framework is prominently displayed
and made essential to a reading of the poems further identifies the book’s modernist
composition. Structure converts history into a genealogy and a voyage whose hidden
meanings and direction cannot yet be perceived; significantly, the mystery colors the
entire sequence extending from the actual moment of writing. Clearly set out in three
“acts” with symbolic titles, the historical settings and cast of characters further alter
the epic into a theatrical dramatization in nineteen, twelve, and thirteen scenes re-
spectively. Based on Camões, the high mannerist or neobaroque aesthetic of the voy-
age, exile, and its mystery is represented in a sequence of forty-four individual
dramatic scenes. The heroes of Portugal’s founding in Brasão prepare the three heroes
of the “Portuguese Sea,” Bartolomeu Dias, Magalhães, and Vasco da Gama, who in
turn make possible the three prophetic figures, Bandarra, D. Sebastião, and Vieira.
And these lead to the final soliloquy by the author, their heir and descendent, who
delivers an oratorio of religious passion in the doldrums of contemporary national
uncertainty, using an adverse and antithetical aesthetic that Camões would have rec-
ognized: “A flaring without light or heat” (Brilho sem luz e sem arder).

The Book of Disquietude

The Anti-Artist and the Non-Book

Nesse desassossego que o descanso

Nos traz às vidas quando só pensamos
Naquilo que já fomos,
E há só noite lá fora.
Ricardo Reis

Tudo igual! Acordando e adormecendo

Na mesma cor, do mesmo lado, sempre
O mesmo ar e em tudo a mesma posição
De condenados, hirtos, a viver
Sem estímulo, sem fé, sem convicção.
António Botto

When is a book not a book? No single project in Pessoa’s literary career is more var-
iegated than his “Book,” the Livro do Desassossego (Book of Disquietude), whether
for its prolonged, fragmentary nonexistence or for its changing multiple identities as a
genre. The “Book” never actually existed as an organized or publishable volume dur-
ing Pessoa’s lifetime, and although the word “Desassossego” first appears under post-
symbolist and aestheticist influences before 1913, Pessoa reformulated his intended
“Book” many times, proposing different titles for potential sections, some never writ-
ten, and without deciding on any definitive shape or plan to publish as a whole; yet it
was composed as literature, following the practice of an artist’s or philosopher’s diary,
while contradictorily keeping the disperse segments unassembled and frequently
undated. Neither was the “Book” ostensibly written by Pessoa; its initial phase was
attributed to a heteronym, Vicente Guedes, and a fragment titled “In the Forest of
Estrangement” (Na Floresta do Alheamento) was published in the journal A Águia in
1913.1 Pessoa sketched at least five different lists of potential contents at the time, sug-
gesting a book of poetic prose in the style of fin-de-siècle symbolism and aestheticism
with brilliant although vague titles: “Symphony of a Restless Night,” “Apotheosis of
the Absurd,” “Glorification of the Sterile,” “Dance,” “Ethics of Silence,” “Epiphany,”
“Early dawn” (Sinfonia de uma Noite Inquieta, Apoteose do Absurdo, Glorificação dos


Estéreis, Bailado, Ética do Silêncio, Epifania, Antemanhã).2 This early embryonic

phase of the “Book” was necessarily unfinished, documenting a moment of stylistic
experimentation and change. In only one of the lists of contents does one find the title
Diário (Diary), which suggests the role later assumed by the “Book” as a kind of liter-
ary companion accompanying Pessoa’s development, continuing from the first mod-
ernist sensibilities circa 1913–1914 until the end of his life. Prose fragments identified
as belonging to the “Book” and written on any kind of paper available began to accu-
mulate in Pessoa’s famous trunk of manuscripts. The “Book” continued to be a grand
project to the degree that it was unfinished and unfinishable, a compendium filled with
imagination, dreams, ideas, and hypotheses.
After a period of dormancy, the project was recast from 1929–1934 as the work of
a Bernardo Soares, assistant bookkeeper in the firm of Vásques & Company on the
fourth floor of a commercial building on the Rua dos Douradores in Lisbon. Described
as a “semi-heteronym” or a “literary personality” very close to Pessoa, thus subject to
an ever-present and superior self-conscious intent, Soares malgré lui “wrote” more than
half of the fragments for the “Book” in this period, and twelve of them were pub-
lished—in 1929 by Solução Editora; in 1930 in the prestigious Coimbra journal Pre-
sença; in 1931 in Descobrimento; and in 1932 again in Presença.3 Publication of those
fragments is evidence of Pessoa’s desire to complete and publish the “Book,” yet almost
five hundred fragments marked “B of D” remained unassembled, left without instruc-
tions in the wooden trunk at his death. Only in 1961 did selected pages from a Livro do
Desassossego come out as a book in Oporto,4 and fragments continued to appear in
Portuguese journals throughout the next two decades until the first major edition in
book form—prepared by Maria Aliete Galhoz, Teresa Sobral Cunha, and prefaced by
scholar Jacinto do Prado Coelho—was published by Editora Ática in 1982 as Volume I
of the ephemeral “Book.”5 In quick succession there followed separate editions by
Maria Alzira Seixo (1986), António Quadros (1986–1988), Leyla Perrone-Moisés (São
Paulo, 1986), Teresa Sobral Cunha (1990; 1997; 2008), and Richard Zenith (1998).6
Each of these editions is based on research in Pessoa’s archive at the National Library,
includes fragments not found in others, and orders them differently, both numbered and
unnumbered, including or excluding selections made by other editors. Given the state
of the archive, no definitive edition is possible, nor can all of the fragments intended for
the “Book” be identified with certainty. It is as if the competing editions confirm the
book’s earlier nonexistence, in the same terms as the verse with which Pessoa described
Ulysses in Mensagem: Foi por não ser existindo (“He was by way of not being”). Four
different translations into English, some with their own editorial selection of fragments,
appeared in 1991, by translators Iain Watson, Alfred Mac Adam, Margaret Jull Costa,
and Richard Zenith.7 Zenith edited and introduced the Portuguese language edition
now in print by Assírio & Alvim, the house that had gained control of Pessoa’s works
in Portugal. In a preface to his translation, he recommends a loose-leaf edition, although
none was ever produced, so that the fragments could be shuffled and read in any order,
in solidarity with the spirit of spontaneity with which Pessoa accumulated them, and
perhaps to reflect their chaotic disposition in the trunk.

The kaleidoscopic quality of the “Book” over Pessoa’s creative life challenges the
question of its genre, since Pessoa never organized it into fixed and definitive pages

of a printed book. The generic title “Book” has been applied traditionally to anthol-
ogies, collections, manuals, reference works, genealogies, norms and standards,
sacred texts, complete works, instructions and rituals, tales and stories, and almost
any form of collected writings or information.8 When asked about the “Book” in
correspondence, Pessoa replied only “fragments, fragments, fragments.”9 Soares
refers to his work as a personal diary—“my diary, written just for me” (feito para
mim)—recorded haphazardly: “I record these [mental notes] without any special
care. I naturally think in this refined language” (É, mesmo, sem cuidado limador que
os agrupo. Penso naturalmente nesta minha linguagem requintada) [LD 474].10 He
implies a chronological and journalistic character, bearing comparison with the colu-
mn in O Jornal to which Pessoa contributed in 1915, “Crónica da Vida que Passa”
(Chronicle of Passing Life). As a running commentary of aesthetic and existential
reflections, the “Book” would bear comparison with Marcel Proust’s remembranc-
es11 or the memoir in Machado de Assis’s last novel: “I don’t think that history in its
broad faded panorama amounts to more than a series of interpretations, a confused
consensus of distracted witnesses. All of us are novelists, and we narrate our percep-
tions, because seeing is complex like everything.” (Não creio que a história seja
mais, em seu grande panorama desbotado, que um decurso de interpretações, um
consenso confuso de testemunhos distraídos. O romancista é todos nós, e narramos
quando vemos, porque ver é complexo como tudo) [LD 27]. At the same time, Soares
is aware of the broader potential of his notes as story, and he sees himself as “the
character in novel still to be written” (Sou uma figura de romance por escrever) [LD
262], as the fragments of life suggest a totality:

The more I contemplate the world’s spectacle, and the ebb and flow of things, the
more profoundly I become convinced of the congenital fiction of everything.
Quanto mais contemplo o espectáculo do mundo, e o fluxo e refluxo das coisas,
mais profundamente me compenetro da ficção ingénita de tudo. [LD 132]

Authorship by a narrative “personality,” or heteronym in the case of Guedes, en-

hances the fictional potential of the “Book” as a novel comparable to others of the
period, two in Portuguese language being Eça de Queirós’s Correspondence of
Fradique Mendes (1900), writings of a character-author and alter ego, and Machado
de Assis’s Memorial de Ayres (1908), a diary “written” by its narrator José da Costa
Marcondes Ayres, the ostensible author, who is also a character in the memoir.12 As
if referring to Machado’s diary-novel, Tabucchi similarly characterizes the “Book”
as a novel, because it is constructed as the fictional autobiography of Bernardo
Soares, a nonexistent character and narrator who gives us a full exposition of the
hidden author’s life and thought. Tabucchi notes that Soares’s diary-novel is the only
great narrative work left by Pessoa (“la sottile finzione letteraria dell’autobiografia
[. . .] fatti di un personaggio inesistente l’unica grande opera narrativa che Pessoa ci
abbia lasciato: il suo romanzo”).13
The accumulation of inner thoughts—“In dialogues with myself, on exquisite
afternoons of the Imagination” (Nos meus diálogos comigo, nas tardes requintadas
da Imaginação) [LD 416]—places the “Book” within the traditions of the philosoph-
ical diary, the novel of self-realization, or confessional memoirs, whether they be in

biographical or fictional form.14 The first category, philosophical meditations, is

illustrated in the mid-nineteenth century by Henri-Frédéric Amiel, whose Journal
Intime (Amiel’s Journal) is cited in Pessoa’s “Book.”15 Amiel reviews the great
thinkers and philosophical issues of his time: Montesquieu (“abrupt, piecemeal, like
notes thrown together haphazard”),16 the Pensées (1850) of Joseph Joubert (“scat-
tered and fragmentary thoughts, falling upon one without a pause”),17 the mono-
logues of theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher (“the center of the universe is still the
self”),18 Alexandre Vinet’s Chrestomathie française (1829) (“profundity and purity
[. . .] but not greatness”),19 Ernest Naville’s The Problem of Evil (1871) (“striking
want of the genetic, historical, and critical sense”),20 Eduard von Hartmann’s Philos-
ophy of the Unconscious (1884) (“only illusion hides us from the horror of exis-
tence”),21 Victor Cherbuliez’s Études de littérature et d’art (1873) (“substituting for
the feeling which makes men earnest the irony which leaves them free”),22 and Eugé-
nie de Guérin’s Journal et fragments (1864) (“a thousand memories of a past exis-
tence”). Guérin’s personal thoughts and feelings in her journal, covering the years
1834–1840, reach Amiel like an echo from his own youth, causing him to reflect that
change carries any of us beyond our own lives or selves into a perpetual kaleido-
scope, magical theater, or interminable comedy of appearances.23
Pessoa’s “Book” departs from the philosophical diary by placing its central issues
of consciousness, knowledge, and fate in the context of an individual’s life story, filled
with contrasts between sublimity of thought and banality of social circumstances.24 It
is an inversion into the negative of the journey of self-realization and the philosophical
struggle to solve the problem of life’s emptiness or decline; it is a diary of forgetting.25
Pessoa called it a “pathological production,” or depository of the nonpublishable
(armazém publicado do impublicável).26 Soares classified it as a manual for dreams
and phantasmagoria in the face of the enigmas of life’s unknowable and unrecogniz-
able abyss [LD 13]. Amiel’s own Journal Intime (1855 and thereafter) is an extensive
diary composed of philosophical, literary, and personal reflections marked by debate
between faith and skepticism. In his personal critique of literary and philosophical is-
sues of his day, Amiel’s journal follows the tradition of Rousseau’s Confessions
(1782),27 François-René de Chateaubriand’s Mémoirs d’Outre-Tombe (1848–1850),28
and Simonde Sismondi’s journals (Fragments de son journal et correspondance,
1857), all of which are among his commented readings.29 Critic Jorge de Sena draws
some parallels between the “Book” and Goethe’s bildungsroman, Wilhelm Meister’s
Apprenticeship, or the novel of individual aesthetic creation, Rilke’s Notebook of
Malte Laurids Brigge,30 which in turn is based on A Priest’s Diary (En præsts dagbog,
1900), the incomplete “novel” released posthumously by Norwegian expressionist
Sigbjørn Obstfelder, friend of artist Edvard Munch (1863–1944).31 Sena distinguishes
between these “authors” or other alter-egos and their observations—whether Yeat’s
masks, Pound’s personae or Cavafy’s voices—and Pessoa’s virtual authorship, while
classifying all of them as examples of the modernist individualization of the creative
process.32 Whether memoir, notebook, novel, confession, or journal intime, these
works of self-conscious philosophical and social reflection intensify the contrast
between interior and exterior worlds, between perception and self-consciousness.
Fragment 119 of the “Book” shows that Pessoa had a thorough knowledge of
Amiel’s “diary” and felt a direct link to Amiel’s entry on consciousness: “When I

came to the point where he says that the fruit of the mind descended over him as ‘the
consciousness of consciousness,’ I took it as a direct reference to my soul” (Quando
cheguei àquele ponto em que ele diz que sobre ele desceu o fruto do espírito como
sendo ‘a consciência da consciência’, senti uma referência directa à minha alma).33
Amiel had credited Scherer with representing “the intelligence of consciousness,”
while he himself claimed credit for “the consciousness of consciousness” to which
Pessoa referred: “Heim represented the impartiality of consciousness, Naville the
morality of consciousness, Lecoultre the religion of consciousness, Scherer the intel-
ligence of consciousness, and I the consciousness of consciousness.”34 Pessoa sensed
the greatness of Amiel’s thought, but felt that he was diminished by having published
his literary translations: “I always read with displeasure the references in Amiel’s
diary that bring to mind that he published books. That’s where he breaks down. If it
weren’t for that, how great he would be!” (Foi sempre com desgosto que li no diário
de Amiel as referências que lembram que ele publicou livros. A figura quebra-se ali.
Se não fora isso, que grande!) [LD 119]. Through Bernardo Soares, Pessoa also
claimed a special superiority or nobility of thought in leaving his diary unfinished
and unpublished, as did Amiel and Obstfelder, while as creator of a literary project
Pessoa did have plans to publish his work, so long in preparation and deep in scope,
although not necessarily in the from of fiction or as a novel. His hesitation, or reluc-
tance, to conclude it continued drawing a firm line between writing and publishing:
“But the truly noble destiny belongs to the writer who doesn’t publish his works”
(Mas o verdadeiro destino nobre é o do escritor que não se publica) [LD 209]. There
are substantial differences, however, between Amiel and Pessoa: Amiel was a Hugue-
not who lost his parents at an early age, studied philosophy in Berlin and by 1849 was
appointed professor of aesthetics in Geneva. He remained a bachelor whose interests
tended to serious theological questions, and indeed the journal reveals a superior
mind capable of wide-ranging critiques of religion, philosophy, and the arts. His
extensive notations cover every subject of his life and thoughts. Notwithstanding its
comprehensiveness and volubility, his journal contains in fact many more bridges to
Pessoa’s “Book” than the heightened awareness of consciousness to which Pessoa
alluded, influences that have not received their due critical attention. Amiel raises
many of the same philosophical, existential, epistemological, and literary problems
that Pessoa carries to more radical conclusions and applications, to the extent that
Pessoa must have recognized in the diary both a critical mind and intellectual critique
quite similar to his own. His “Book” is both an answer to and an extension of the
Journal Intime. At the same time, it fictionalizes and depersonalizes the artist’s jour-
nal, a genre widely practiced in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Many of Amiel’s thoughts and positions nevertheless anticipate ideas and reflec-
tions in Soares’s “Book.” Amiel refined a Stoic acceptance in face of “the great im-
placable abyss in which are swallowed up all those phantoms who call themselves
living beings.”35 Just as Ricardo Reis, he advised submission to the laws of implaca-
ble fate: “Once imprisoned in existence, we must submit to its laws with a good grace
[. . .] when once we have denied ourselves the solution of suicide.”36 He shared a
sense of the occult—“All origins are secret; the principle of every individual or col-
lective life is a mystery—that is to say, something irrational, inexplicable, not to be
defined. We may even go farther and say, Every individuality is an insoluble enigma,

and no beginning explains it”37—and questioned the purpose or worth of any action:
“I have no ambition, properly speaking, and I blow soap-bubbles for want of some-
thing to do.”38 He was aware of the Universe as drama or theater in terms similar to
those developed by Pessoa, whether representing the brevity of life—“the restless
changes which rules the world. To appear and to vanish—there is the biography of all
individuals [. . .] and the drama of the universe is nothing more”39—or its ultimate
ephemeral condition: “It is best [. . .] to play his part with a good grace in the fantas-
tic tragi-comedy which is called the Universe. It seems to me that here intellectual-
ism reaches its limit. The mind, in all its intellectual capacity, arrives at the intuition
that all reality is but the dream of a dream.”40 Amiel’s stated purpose in attempting to
understand the nature of the universe is to live in harmony with it, embracing its
contradictions and mysteries: “It is not at all necessary to be great, so long as we are
in harmony with the order of the universe.”41 He recognizes the superior moment of
Western civilization in the Greeks and questions any contemporary possibility of
recovering their ennobling qualities:

How much have we not to learn from the Greeks, those immortal ancestors of ours!
And how much better they solved their problem than we have solved ours [. . .] they
understand infinitely better than we how to reverence, cultivate and ennoble the man
whom they knew. In a thousand respects we are still barbarians beside them [. . .] barbarians
in education, in eloquence, in public life, in poetry, in matters of art, etc. [. . .]. We carry
within us much greater things than they, but we ourselves are smaller.42

More significantly, Amiel seeks to avoid or erase the self in favor of an anonymous
point of observation: “I see with what ease I become a stranger to myself, and fall
back once more into the condition of a blank sheet, a tabula rasa.”43 The loss of an
individual self will allow him access to all points of view: “I have no particular and
nominative self [. . .] My nature, which is absolutely unsuited for practical life, shows
great aptitude for psychological study. It prevents me from taking sides, but allows
me to understand all sides.”44 Multiplicity of the self can apply to anyone, and specif-
ically to the different styles of a creative writer, which he compares to other selves:
“How many men may we find in one man, how many styles in a great writer?”45 Now
possessing multiple points of view, Amiel conceives of his new self as multiple too:
“Instead of being single, all of a piece, I become legion, multitude, a whirlwind—a
very cosmos.”46 He carries depersonalization from Chateaubriand’s clever vantage
point “beyond the tomb” to a sense of strangeness, out-of-body experience, and even
madness: “and now I find myself regarding existence as though from beyond the
tomb, from another world; all is strange to me; I am, as it were, outside my own body
and individuality; I am depersonalized, detached, cut adrift. Is this madness?”47
The Journal Intime contains a sense of the comic dimension that was even more
important to the modernists, rooted in the “absurd contradiction” that rejection of self
is the supreme act of that very self: “Hence what I call the law of irony—that is to
say, the refutation of the self by itself, the concrete realization of the absurd.”48 The
nothingness of non-self become universal self is the point of absurdity on which both
the value and the comedy of renunciation rests: “I felt the unfathomable thought of
which the universe is the symbol live and burn within me; I touched, proved, tasted,

embraced my nothingness and my immensity.”49 In the contradiction between the

infinitely great and the infinitely little lies the comedy inherent in the method, always
belonging, whether positively or negatively, to a Western personal self:

The comic side of it lies in capacity to direct others, becoming incapacity to direct
one’s self, in the dream of the infinitely great stopped short by the infinitely little, in
what seems to be the utter uselessness of talent. To arrive at immobility by excess of
motion, at zero from abundance of numbers, is a strange farce, a sad comedy; the
poorest gossip can laugh at its absurdity.50

Amiel’s method is likewise skepticism (“Absolute freedom from credulity”), and his
goal is endlessly expansive contemplation, to know encyclopedically, to become
spherical and absolute, uniting the finite with the infinite until his ultimate expression
is aesthetic rather than philosophical. Amiel put forward the ultimate justification for
living in a state of pure thought outside the limits of any individual ego, a creed in a
language Pessoa would endorse: “I am a mind which has never taken to itself a body,
a country, an avocation, a sex, a species [. . .] It seems to me so easy to be something
else, that to be what I am appears to me a mere piece of arbitrary choice. When once
a man has touched the absolute, all that might be other than what it is seems to him

The “Book of Disquietude” is presented as the diary or journal of a clerk in Lisbon’s

commercial district who leads a semianonymous and nondescript life, notating his
“factless autobiography” of non-events, but whose thoughts are the equal of all the
world’s great geniuses: “pathetic and anonymous employee, I write words as if they
could save my soul” (reles, empregado e anónimo, escrevo palavras como a salvação
da alma) [LD 4]. Its fragments show an awareness of passing time and resemble a
chaotic “Chronicle of Passing Life” or “A Diary of Non-Events.” The almost five
hundred entries oscillate between the extremes of nothingness and universality,
meaninglessness (“a feeling of nausea [. . .] physical disgust over daily life” / formam
no meu espírito a náusea [. . .] desgosto físico) [LD 36] and euphoria (“an intimate
yet pseudo-ecstasy of seeing” / um êxtase de ver, íntimo e postiço) [LD 225], from
absolute skepticism on the one hand to the force of the narrator’s story, his compre-
hension of the limits, circumstances, and powers of reality on the other. The journal
seems to have no particular direction, other than the revolving topics of a philosoph-
ical diary conveyed with apparent indifference and a hopeless sense of failure: “I was
the runner in the lead who fell down almost at the finish line” (Fui o corredor que
caiu quase na meta, sendo até aí o primeiro) [LD 290]. The collage of jagged thoughts
and emotions that resemble an artist’s diary include maxims, sociology, aesthetics,
theology, and cultural analysis.
When read in its totality, the “Book” as a journal or diary takes on characteristics
of the modern novel through character development and becomes an open work of art
through its indeterminacy. It belongs to the experimental avant-garde because it
shares with Gertrude Stein, e.e. cummings (1894–1962), and John Cage the concept
of art as immediacy and the ubiquity of musical language. Soares follows Mallarmé’s
freeing of verse from traditions metrics and forms through allusion, suggestion, and

fragmentation, such that the music of verse will change books into symphonies.52
Soares writes, “My soul is a hidden orchestra. I don’t know what instruments—
strings and harps, cymbals and drums—strum and grate in me. I only know myself as
a symphony” (Minha alma é um orquestra oculta; não sei que instrumentos tangem
e rangem, cordas e harpas, timbales e tambores, dentro de mim. Só me conheço como
sinfonia) [LD 310]. Cage’s celebrated verse from the 1959 “Lecture on Nothing,” “I
have nothing to say / and I am saying it” reiterates the positive negativity found
throughout Pessoa’s “Book.”53 The “Book’s” anti-hero embodies the ethos of a gen-
eration of Portuguese modernists and expresses its moment of self-definition. Unlike
Joyce’s Stephen Dedalus, however, Bernardo Soares composes a portrait of the dis-
quiet clerk as artist in a book of noneducation and unlearning,54 while he forges (in
the counterfeit meaning, or “forgery”) in his non-self the disillusion of a generation:

I belong to a generation—or rather to part of a generation—that lost all its respect

for the past and all its belief or hope in the future. Thus we live in the present with
the eagerness and hunger of those with no other home. And since we find a present
time using our sensations, and above all our dreams, which are no more than useless
sensations, that present doesn’t remember past or future, and we smile at our inner
life and lose interest with the supreme somnolence of the quantitative reality of
things. (“The Sensationist,” p. 452)
Pertenço a uma geração—ou antes a uma parte de geração—que perdeu todo
o respeito pelo passado e toda a crença ou esperança no futuro. Vivemos por isso do
presente com a gana e a fome de quem não tem outra casa. E, como é nas nossas
sensações, e sobretudo nos nossos sonhos, sensações inúteis apenas, que encontra-
mos um presente, que não lembra nem o passado nem o futuro, sorrimos à nossa
vida interior e desinteressamo-nos com uma sonolência altiva da realidade quanti-
tativa das coisas. (“O Sensacionista”)

The overriding theme in the journal is life’s self-deception, its inability to grasp its
true circumstances and reality, its blindness, unawareness and self-satisfaction: “a
world eager for social innovations, a world that joyfully attempted to conquer a free-
dom it didn’t understand, and a progress that it had never defined” (um mundo ávido
de novidades sociais, e com alegria ia à conquista de uma liberdade que não sabia o
que era, de um progresso que nunca definira) [LD 175]. The “Book” intensifies cri-
tiques of the modern age similar to those voiced in Álvaro de Campos’s 1917 mani-
festo, the “ULTIMATUM,” and the collective intelligence of a new generation turns
inward toward art: “What used to be moral is aesthetic for us today. What was social
is today individual” (O que antes era moral, é estético hoje para nós [...] O que era
social é hoje individual) [LD 215]. The young artist’s ideal, learned from English
aestheticism, is to create purpose and transcendence in order to escape the emptiness
and pretense of the overly mundane, “the everythingness of everything,” by wanting
life to be a work of art. The artist creates an imaginary world that replaces urban
society with characters of his own creation who become more real than life:

The world of my imagination was always the only true world for me. I never had loves so
real, so full of verve, of blood, and of life as the ones I had with characters whom I myself
created. How steadfast they are! I miss them because, like all others, they pass on [. . .]

O meu mundo imaginário foi sempre o único mundo verdadeiro para mim.
Nunca tive amores tão reais, tão cheios de verve, de sangue e de vida como os que
tive com figuras que eu próprio criei. Que leais! Tenho saudades deles porque, como
os outros, passaram [. . .] [LD 415]

While fashioning himself into the character of philosopher-clerk, the narrator

raises all the distinctive perspectives and contradictory themes found throughout the
heteronyms—fate and freedom, being and nothingness, sensation and consciousness,
self and non-self, reality and illusion, memory and dreaming—with their accompa-
nying metaphors and paradoxes. The book of fragments that was a life project in the
guise of a personal philosophical diary Pessoa transposed into the work of a hetero-
nym. It became another author’s fiction in the form of an excessively lucid diary. In
it Pessoa deposited the unorganized compendium of his key ideas, accompanied by
the aesthetic flourishes and elaborations that in the hands of other heteronyms became
poems, drama, stories, essays, and more fragments. One can come no closer in one
volume to the totality of Pessoa, if it ever existed—Zenith calls the “Book” a “pho-
tograph without words”55—in which a character became the very prose he wrote, just
as Pessoa’s pen materially transposed his every personal reality into written form.
Soares-as-Pessoa equates himself with the very same prose he writes; he is made of
sentences and paragraphs, and his is a life that one reads [LD 193]. As a result, his
understanding of reality is comically grammatical: “Life is the hesitation between an
exclamation point and a question mark. In case of doubt, there is a final period” (A
vida é a hesitação entre uma exclamação e uma interrogação. Na dúvida, há um
ponto final) [LD 375].

When is the “Book” a book? If one were to organize the numbered fragments themati-
cally, collecting similar ideas and themes found scattered throughout, the “Book” could
be read as a novel, being the story of a narrator who, sensing the inherent fiction, absur-
dity, and chaos of everything [LD 114, 132], composes his memoirs as a work of art tes-
tifying to his strange perceptions and non-purpose. By reconstructing the “Book”
thematically and reorganizing its contents in a more orthodox sequence as the narrative
of a strange hero’s non-life and ideas, the reader may discover in Pessoa’s “Book” a novel
in the form of a monologue by the disquiet clerk as artist, who is engaged in unknowing
himself (desconhecimento de mim) [LD 110].56 Soares describes the narrator as a charac-
ter in an unwritten novel (uma figura de romance por escrever)[262], a spectator of life
(curiosos da vida) [LD 284], an earnest actor (actor sempre, e a valer) [LD 261], whose
aesthetic aim is to shock the reader by casting off all illusions: “I’d like the reading of this
book to leave you with the impression of tedium continued in a voluptuous nightmare”
(Quero que a leitura deste livro vos deixe a impressão de tédio continuado em pesadelo
voluptuoso) [LD 215]. His tone conveys the weariness of knowing that he will see noth-
ing new or beautiful in life (não vamos ver nada de novo ou belo) [LD 284]. Failure is his
expressive difference, the narrator’s and the book’s only positive accomplishment: “Today
I realize that I failed; I am only astonished, at times, that I didn’t foresee that I would fail
[. . .] I delight in the indeterminate voluptuousness of failure” (Reconheço hoje que falhei;
só pasmo, às vezes de não ter previsto que falharia [. . .] Gozo a volúpia indeterminada
da falência) [LD 319].57

Soares equates his “Book” with two modernist entities, the city of Lisbon and an
ocean liner already on the high seas. The city-voyage-book consists of a series of forms
and stages of self-awareness understood metaphorically, thus poetically, whether as an
ocean voyage, geographies, pages of a book, or even assorted modern objects (fabric
types, prices and sales, blank spaces, letters and ruled lines / nomes de fazendas e din-
heiro, com os seus broncos, e os seus traços a régua e de letra) [LD 5]. The city and the
ship are both metaphorical locales for the passing residence of humanity, the very English
ships on which Campos voyages in the 1915 poems “Opiário” and “Ode Marítima”:

We all live in this world on board a ship that has departed one unknown port for
another unknown to us; we should treat each other with a traveler’s courtesy.
Vivemos todos, neste mundo, a bordo de um navio saído de um porto que des-
conhecemos para um porto que ignoramos; devemos ter uns para os outros uma
amabilidade de viagem. [LD 208]

Since the city, the book, and his existential voyage are all the story of his failure to
be, Soares judges the result to be urban alienation, a shipwreck of his entire soul, and
a “disaster of a book” (no desastre deste livro) [LD 125] that also failed to be, a cor-
diality undone.
Once reorganized as a novel, the “Book” could begin with the narrator’s general
introduction and self-description as anti-hero, preparing the reader for a kaleido-
scope of observations on life by a “passerby of everything” (transeunte de tudo) [LD
208]. The narrator is a voice more than a person; he has so externalized himself that
he exists only in his descriptions, or as an “empty stage” (cena viva) [LD 299] where
multiple plays take place. In a phrase parallel to the opening lines of Campos’s poem
“Tabacaria” (“The Tobacco Shop”), Soares proclaims himself to be nothing, to
belong to nothing, to desire nothing (não pertenço a nada, não desejo nada, não sou
nada) [LD 208]. He speaks instead for the diversity of the world he is watching, thus
his personality is fluid and amorphous (linha fluida da minha individualidade amor-
fa) [LD 305] and his spirit is “maliciously unpredictable” (a malícia de me não saber
prever), ready to change life the way people change clothes [LD 221]. Soares’s mis-
chievous humor with its picaresque touches is a vital ingredient to an understanding
of Pessoa’s paradoxical world as an absurd and slightly surreal comedy. In an incip-
ient theater of the absurd, tedium and humor are the diametrical poles of Soares’s
diminished urban existence at the firm of Vásques & Company:

I still remember from the short time that I stagnated in that exile of mental sharpness
the good times of graceful openness, along with many monotonous and sad mo-
ments [. . .] in short, a tedium of physical nausea and the memory of a few good
spirited anecdotes.
Guardo do pouco tempo que me estagnei nesse exílio de esperteza mental uma
recordação de bons momentos de graça franca, de muitos momentos monótonos e
tristes [. . .] em resumo, um tédio de náusea física e a memória de algumas anecdo-
tas com espírito. [LD 277]

In his daily exile, he dreams of an unrealized exotic and erotic difference, “Not to
have been the Madam of a harem!” (Não ter sido Madame de harem!) [LD 343].58

The narrator’s stroll through the city of Lisbon as a passerby or flâneur recapit-
ulates the poem “Sentimento de um Occidental,” by Cesário Verde,59 the topic of
Caeiro’s third poem in “The Keeper of Sheep.” Anticipating Borges’s imaginary
author Pierre Menard,60 Soares thinks that his verses repeat the identical substance of
Cesário’s poem [3]. In “Sentimento,” the narrator wanders in a stupor through a
phantasmagorical, working-class Lisbon made up of specters from the past, includ-
ing docks, shop windows, and his old Latin teacher frozen in the glare of a streetlight.
The “Book’s” narrator likewise roams throughout a changing city in which he gleans
remembrances of figures from other times, or sits in a café in a city become nothing
more than a book or story in which he is one of the unreal characters: “I end my
lonely peregrination [...] through the nocturnal streets of the city, in the tedious hours”
(Acabo a minha solitária peregrinação [...] pelas ruas nocturnas da cidade, nas
horas tedientas) [LD 219].61 His greatest ambition is to keep sitting at a table in a
café, observing the outside world (quem sabe se a minha maior aspiração não é
realmente não passar de ocupar este lugar a esta mesa deste café?) [LD 453]. The
external city merely hides life’s mystery, deflating the café philosopher’s sense of
self-importance: “Everything I do, everything I feel, everything I live will amount to
no more than one less stroller on the everyday streets of some anonymous city” [BD
481] (E tudo quanto faço, tudo quanto sinto, tudo quanto vivo, não sera mais que um
transeunte a menos na quotidianidade de ruas de uma cidade qualquer) [LD 479].
Soares finds no reason for his being in Lisbon, or for anything else in life (Vim parar
aqui sem razão, como tudo na vida) [LD 83]. Preferring to be always on the verge of
uncovering supreme mysteries, Soares is simultaneously in his imagination the an-
tithesis of the city whose movements and outer forms depress him. In the role of
anti-hero, Soares sees himself as an occult genius hidden in the city’s masses. Not
only is he the creator of intellectual civilization (criando a civilização intellectual)
[LD 438]—the next step in the advancement of the species following domination of
physical nature—but he is, like Caeiro, Argonaut and revealer of the Universe to
Itself, because he has made the prime discovery of his age, which is his supreme
awareness of consciousness: “I’m older than Time and Space because I’m conscious.
Things derive from me; all of Nature is the firstborn of my sensations” (Sou mais
velho que o Tempo e que o Espaço, porque sou consciente. As coisas derivam de
mim; a Natureza inteira é a primogénita da minha sensação) [LD 218]. From his
fourth-floor room with a view over the city, a forgotten narrator contemplates infinity
(deste quarto andar sobre a cidade) [LD 464]. From his vantage point, he looks out
even over the Ganges (“The Ganges also passes by the Rua dos Douradores” / O
Ganges passa também pela Rua dos Douradores) and “unknown, supposed, or just
impossible countries” (países incógnitos, ou supostos, ou somente impossíveis) [LD
420] that carry him to the end of the world (“any road [. . .] will lead you to the end
of the world” / Qualquer Estrada [...] te levará até ao fim do mundo) [LD 451].
A second major theme in the “Book” is metaphysical, rooted in the contradic-
tion between consciousness of the world and an abstract horror of never being able
to know or understand it. Pessoa and his generation were struck by the contradic-
tion between knowing and being, consciousness and instinct; and the gulf between
a sensation and its representation in writing, drama, or art. They were convinced of
the falsity of consciousness, the independence of representation from sentiment,

and of an illusory civilization inexorably determined by Greek culture, Roman

order, and Christian morality (a cultura grega, a ordem romana, a moral cristã)
[LD 458]:

Out of little scrapes with reality we fabricate our beliefs and our hopes [. . .] Civili-
zation consists in giving to anything a name that isn’t suitable for it, and then dream
about the result. We manufacture realities.
Com pequenos mal-entendidos com a realidade construímos as crenças e as
esperanças [. . .] A civilização consiste em dar a qualquer coisa um nome que lhe
não compete, e depois sonhar sobre o resultado [. . .] Manufacturamos realidades.
[LD 66]

By separating representation from feeling, they removed the sincerity of roman-

ticism from the literary equation: “Each moment of sincerity is an intolerance.
There are no sincere liberals. In fact, there are no liberals at all” (Toda a sinceri-
dade é uma intolerância. Não há liberais sinceros. De resto, não há liberais)
[LD 276]. They criticized the modern age for is desultory routine and the medi-
ocrity that made it unlikely that any superior trait could assert itself either in
politics, in theory, or in practice (Nenhuma qualidade superior pode afirmar-se
modernamente, tanto na acção, como no pensamento, na esfera política, como
na especulativa) [LD 249]. They sought a superior harmony with a world ruled
by instinct, fate, and unconscious forms of intelligence. Human intelligence was
weighted by the inescapable dominance of consciousness, itself a source of anx-
iety: “I’ve always suffered more from my consciousness that I was suffering than
from the suffering of which I was conscious” (Sofri sempre mais com a consciên-
cia de estar sofrendo que com o sofrimento de que tinha consciência) [LD 93].
Surrealism could have provided a strategy for overcoming this opposition, mix-
ing dream and act, but apart from some Magritte-like transparent images in Cam-
pos’s poetry, surrealism was not an acceptable outlet for Pessoa’s rational and
scientific mind, averse to mystifications.62 He preferred the mannerist “disconcert
of the world,” overlaid with motifs of English aestheticism.63 It was preferable to
cease participating in being and non-being through renunciation, to eliminate the
self and cultivate the aesthetic desire never to have been anything. Like Caeiro,
the narrator of the “Book” wishes to escape the drama of consciousness as a
rational mystic, renouncing by refusing to know, by changing into his adverse:
“To suffer without suffering, to want without desire, to think without reason”
(Sofrer sem sofrimento, querer sem vontade, pensar sem raciocínio) [LD 263].
To exist without knowing about it, to open a gap between what one is and is not,
defines a kind of existential freedom that confronts the mystery of being: “Free from
ourselves as well as from others, contemplatives without ecstasy, thinkers without
conclusions and liberated from God” (Livres de nós como dos outros, contemplativos
sem êxtase, pensadores sem conclusão [. . .] libertos de Deus) [LD 236]. Soares’s
phrase is a corollary to Caeiro’s verse: “To think of God is to disobey God / Because
God wanted us not to know him” (Pensar em Deus é desobedecer a Deus, / Porque
Deus quis que o não conhecêssemos) [Keeper of Sheep, VI]. To disagree with oneself
and obey the paradoxical world was the absurd path that Pessoa chose so as to live

in agreement with its contradictions [LD 23]. To be “unknowing” is to return to

the natural state of the universe:

We should be satisfied, if we think about it, with the incomprehensibility of the

universe; to want to understand it is to be less than men, since to be a man is to know
that it can’t be understood.
Basta-nos, se pensarmos, a incompreensibilidade do universo; querer compre-
endê-lo é ser menos que homens, porque ser homem é saber que se não compreende.
[LD 87]

The technique of unknowing involves the sensations, to see everything more

intensely, and as if for the first time. Soares compares himself to a navigator in the
age of exploration (Sou navegador num desconhecimento de mim) [LD 110], a mod-
ern Ulysses in search of the new limits of proportion and harmony (viagem ulisseia
através de todas as sensações vividas) [LD 124]. Identifying with the diversity of the
world and adopting a poetic way of seeing, Soares is intent on perceiving each object
of his gaze in its own nature with no predetermined meanings, separated from any
cultural context or common mode of interpretation (poder vê-las na expressão que
têm separadamente da expressão que lhes foi imposta) [LD 458]. At the same time,
the scope of the viewer-voyager is enlarged, as from an astronomical observatory
looking into the “universe’s millionaire expanses” (espaços milionários do universo)
[LD 13], to take in all humanity and its social panorama [LD 298]: “I’m the size of
what I see [...] destined to relocate all the stars in the universe” (Sou do tamanho do
que vejo [...] destinada a reconstruir consteladamente o universo) [LD 46]. Soares’s
epic Ulyssean voyage is accomplished entirely within his imagination, allowing him
to see the “full spectacle of the world” (o espectáculo inteiro do mundo) [LD 171],
without ever leaving his chair. Unknowing is Soares’s testimony to the absence of a
deity in a universe infinitely closed by fate and mystery. The most that one can hope
for is a role as actor in the “lucid dozing” (estremunhamento lúcido) of life’s insom-
nia [LD 243]. Whether he be actor, vestige, or simulacrum, Soares is the plaything of
destiny, whose only choice is to live in an imaginary world of non-self while inhabit-
ing the shells of other “persons” (Habita o meu viver as cascas das suas individuali-
dades) [LD 305]. Joined to a feeling of physical nausea provoked by daily life, he
senses a euphoria that comes from seeking metaphysical truth and feels nostalgia for
a self whom he can never know (“we know neither ourselves or others [. . .] we pass
each other in whirls of dancing [. . .] under the disdainful and distant eyes of the
organizers of the party” / desconhecendo-nos a nós e aos outros [. . .] passamos nas
volutas da dança [. . .] sob os olhares desdenhosos e alheios dos organizadores do
espectáculo) [LD 255].
Even if he could escape the self through multiplication, Soares cannot escape
sensations, and based on this hypothesis Pessoa throughout his work idealizes sensa-
tion as a fundamental mode of perception superior to thought. Yet he is doomed to
think rather than to live (mais vale pensar que viver) [LD 201]. As in serious meta-
physical quests, the voyage out from the self is a frightening leap into the unknown.
The inherent contradiction in a self that seeks greater truths by eliminating itself
quickly produces a horrifying self-perception of strangeness: Soares is “terrifyingly I”

(pavorosamente eu) [LD 214], caught in the sensation of watching an unfamiliar play
in which he is the actor (Aquilo a que assisto [. . .] sou eu) [LD 213] or, something
even lesser, “the role that got acted” (Representaram-me) [LD 39]. As if rehearsing
Kafka’s celebrated story of a metamorphosis, Soares foresees with X-ray vision (meus
olhos virados para dentro) [LD 298] the apocalyptic moment of revelation when all
that he was will be “swept outside the house” (varrido para fora da casa) [LD 202]
and all the rubbish of life will be discarded.

The act of writing and the very composition of the “Book” in question is a third
major theme. It begins as an adverse procedure, in that Soares-Pessoa is writing an
unclassifiable work close to the novel, or its subgenre the diary, that encompasses the
world, creating an ultimate if paradoxical mimesis of the totality; yet his “Book” is a
journal intime rather than an epic, internal rather then external. Its many fragments
amount to the confessions of a non-self in an empty diary that tells the non-events of
a life without action; yet writing and story are the very being of the narrator, and only
the “Book” connects the threads and ideas of his life and allows the fragments to
become fiction. The narrator is inseparable from his writing: “I unroll myself in sen-
tences and paragraphs. I turn into punctuation [. . .] I’ve become a character in a book [. . .]
my own face that studies me studying it” (Desenrolo-me em períodos e parágrafos, faço-
me pontuações [. . .] Tornei-me uma figura de livro [. . .] meu próprio rosto que me
contempla contemplá-lo) [LD 193]. The quintessential modernist artist, Pessoa
makes a point of rejecting eccentric or unorthodox forms of writing, because he ac-
cepts the normal and acceptable proficiency of the writer’s craft: “those strange poets
who are incapable of writing like the rest. I accept that they’re eccentric, however I’d
like to them to show me that it’s because they’re superior to the norm rather than
incapable of following it” (aqueles poetas estranhos que são incapazes de escrever
como os outros; Aceito que sejam estranhos; gostara, porém, que me provassem que
o são por superioridade ao normal e não por impotência dele) [LD 256]. Perhaps the
most famous quote from the “Book” sets forth the writer’s relationship with his
language, which is his only patriotic loyalty and standard for expression: “My nation
is the Portuguese language” (Minha pátria é a língua portuguesa) [LD 259]. A state-
ment on “exactly” how he writes is fabricated with Pessoa’s usual wry humor, as he
supports two contradictory principles. Proficient manipulation of grammar and syn-
tax is, he affirms, one of the paths to creative and accurate self-expression, or non–
self-expression; however, communication of one’s senses may also depend on
violating the rules of grammar, for example, by changing a verb from transitive to

How do I write actually? [. . .] I discover that my stylistic system is based on two

principles, and immediately, following the best tradition classical writers, I
elevate these two principles to be general foundations of all good style: to say
what you feel exactly as you feel it—clearly, if it is clear; obliquely, if oblique;
confusedly, if confused—to understand that grammar is an instrument and not
a law [. . .] however, a man who knows how to speak will often have to change
a transitive verb to an intransitive [. . .] What more can one demand from
philosophy and diction?

Em verdade, como escrevo? [. . .] descubro que o meu sistema de estilo assenta em

dois princípios, e imediatamente, e à boa maneira dos bons clássicos, erijo esses dois
princípios em fundamentos gerais de todo estilo: dizer o que se sente exactamente como
se sente—claramente, se é claro; obscuramente, se é obscuro, confusamente, se é
confuso—compreender que a gramática é um instrumento, e não uma lei [. . .] porém, o
homem de saber dizer tem muitas vezes de converter um verbo transitivo em intransitivo
[. . .] Que mais se pode exigir da filosofia e da dicção? [LD 84]

The immediate effects and final purposes of writing follow contradictory tracks.
Art takes us away from time and place, allowing the reader to become lost as in sleep or
delusion, to suppress conscious awareness of circumstances, to ignore life: “Literature is
the most agreeable way of ignoring life. [. . .] Writing is like the drug I abhor and keep
taking, the addiction I despise and depend on. There are necessary poisons [. . .] To write
is to lose myself, yes [. . .] without any joy” (A literature é a maneira mais agradável de
ignorar a vida [. . .] Escrever é como a droga que repugno e tomo, o vício que desprezo
e em que vivo. Há venenos necessários [. . .] Escrever, sim, é perder-me [. . .] sem ale-
gria) [LD 116, 152]. More radical than Machado de Assis’s narrator Brás Cubas, who
addresses the handful or less of his probable readers, Soares does not write to have
readers, but for an adverse reason: not to be read, to be forgotten (“Why should I care if
no one reads what I write?” / Que me pesa que ninguém leia o que escrevo?) [LD 118].
The “Book” chronicles the tragedy of Soares’s non-life, captive between a rich but phan-
tom inner life and an unfathomable and inexorable reality. Writing is his prison and his
liberation, governed by neobaroque illusion of dreams and a vision of mise-en-abyme:

And this makes me imagine the question whether everything in this sum total of a
world may not be an inserted series of dreams and novels, like little boxes inside
larger boxes—some inside others and those in yet larger ones—everything being a
story with interior stories, like A Thousand and One Nights, unraveling falsely dur-
ing the eternal nights.
E isto faz como que sonhe a pergunta se não será tudo neste total de mundo
uma série entreinserta de sonhos e romances, como caixinhas dentro de caixinhas
maiores—umas dentro de outras e estas em mais—sendo tudo uma história como
histórias, como as Mil e Uma Noites, decorrendo falsa na noite eterna. [LD 285]

In spite of the narrator’s lowly condition as an assistant bookkeeper (“books in which

I notate other’s accounts” / livros em que escrevo as contas alheias) [LD 106], he
predicts for his “Book” a place ahead of António Nobre’s only volume of verse,
Só—the single most successful book of poetry in Portuguese literary history64—in
which the nostalgia for the popular classes covers the nausea and frustration of exile
and marginality: “And this book is a moan. Once written, Alone will no longer be the
saddest book that there is in Portugal” (E este livro é um gemido. Escrito ele já o Só
não é o livro mais triste que há em Portugal) [LD 412]. If only the literary world
were everything, Soares dreams, “What ecstasy if real life were not included!” (O
êxtase que não incluísse a vida!) [LD 474].65
Yet the antithesis of this apostrophe rings more true, that literary expression is
the most important form of action and the intellectual life of the writer is the one
meaningful activity that gives vitality and thereby reality to life:66

To tell! To know how to tell! To know how to exist through the written voice and
intellectual image! All this is exactly what life is worth.
Dizer! Saber dizer! Saber existir pela voz escrita e a imagem intelectual! Tudo
isto é quanto a vida vale. [LD 117]

The author’s goal is similar to that of the ocean liners on which Campos and Soares
travel in their imaginations: the purpose is to reach a port, to deliver a message to a
waiting city. Pessoa’s ultimate faith in his “Book” and his craft can be found in the
saying attributed to the Roman general Pompey the Great (Gnaeus Pompeius Mag-
nus, 106–48 b.c.), Navigare necesse; vivere non est necesse, which Soares recasts as
a negative philosophical maxim in his “Book,” and which is again lifted from Pessoa
in lyrics made famous by contemporary Brazilian vocalist Caetano Veloso, Navegar
é preciso, viver não é preciso.67 It is an adverse voyage from the Latin context of epic
military engagements, “To sail is indispensable, to live is not indispensable,” to Pes-
soa’s creed of post-symbolist alienation in the modern reading, “To sail is necessary,
to live is not necessary” [LD 306].
When is Pessoa’s “Book” not a book? When it is his actual life.

The Mirror, the Coat Hanger,

and the Pen
Pessoa’s Labyrinth

A pair of ducks, a pair of ducks, a most ingenious

pair of ducks ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha!
a pair-of-ducks!
After Gilbert and Sullivan, Pirates of Penzance

In only a single field of our civilization has the

omnipotence of thought been retained,
and that is in the field of art.
Freud, Totem and Taboo

Mas, felizmente para a humanidade, cada homem

é só quem é, sendo dado ao génio, apenas, o ser
mais alguns outros.

Livro de Desassossego

A nossa tarefa é entender o mundo

diziam os antigos
Já sabiam
que o jogo somos nós
(the toys are us)
Ana Hatherly, “Fibrilações”

O suave labirinto lingüístico de Fernando

Décio Pignatari, Teoria da Poesia Concreta

In an avant-garde play in Lisbon titled “The Labyrinth,” a comedian in a conservative

black suit, hat, wire glasses, small mustache, bow tie, and overcoat walks on stage,
stops suddenly, glances fleetingly at the audience and without a word turns to point in
turn at three objects placed in the middle of a large empty stage: a mirror (laughter),


a coat hanger (louder laughter), and a pen lying on a flat wooden desk (uproarious
laughter). He bows and exits (tumultuous applause).

This is a play that Fernando Pessoa had not written yet, or as far as we know ever
imagined, and probably would never have thought of writing, although he did “point”
in prose to a mirror, a coat hanger, and a pen as three objects that prove the decadence
of representation and of Western civilization and symbolize the social conditions
responsible for his intellectual and spiritual alienation. An unwritten play aside, Pes-
soa would certainly have agreed with Elizabeth Bishop’s assessment of the potential
of unwritten works to be more stimulating than existing ones by other writers, as she
confessed to Robert Lowell: “I feel profoundly bored with all the contemporary po-
etry except yours [. . .] and mine that I haven’t written yet.”1 If unwritten works make
up a kind of encyclopedia of the possible, all the ones that do exist can be entered into
a universal library databank and become candidates for Pessoa’s quest for total au-
thorship. In the shadow of Darwin, the universal library promotes literary evolution
by personal selection, contributing to the eclectic, composite, and synthetic compo-
sition of Pessoa’s literary world. To desire to be the inventor of everything belonging
to a certain category—like cornering the market on all the books or jewelry ever
written or designed, for example—is one way of making oneself universal rather than
individual. In a performance, however, as in the short play above, to possess every-
thing is a form of comic metonymy belonging to the satirical tradition of the Greek
cynic Menippus (third century b.c.e.). Pessoa’s ideal of writing an entire literature
evokes echoes of a theme appearing in the late nineteenth century in novels of the
Brazilian master Machado de Assis, who includes a chapter on the “famous Athenian
maniac who imagined that all ships entering the Piraeus were his property” (famoso
maníaco ateniense, que supunha que todos os navios entrados no Pireu eram de sua
propriedade) in his novel, The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas (Memórias Póstu-
mas de Brás Cubas) [CLIV].2 In the following novel, Quincas Borba (1890),3 the main
character Rubião, who is beginning to show increasing signs of madness, visits the
political journalist Camacho to edit a vituperative article criticizing the government,
where he “composed and pondered so many phrases that he ended up writing all the
books he’d ever read. . . . For a few momentos Rubião felt he was author of many
works by other people” (tantas frases compos, que acabou por escrever todos os livros
que lera [. . .] durante alguns minutos, Rubião se teve por autor de muitas obras
alheias) [Quincas Borba, CXIII]. And in Esau and Jacob (1904),4 Machado similarly
describes how Natividade’s husband Santos surprises her with an unexpected and hid-
den birthday present, as he waits at the breakfast table for her eyes to light on the
newspaper article about the imperial dispatch in which the emperor named him Baron,
and her Baroness by extension. This shock of elevation was followed by the usual gift
of a splendid jewel, but now enhanced by the craftsmanship of the emperor, as San-
tos’s ego and pride knew no bounds and swept him to a timeless conceit of universal
authorship: “Santos felt himself the designer of the jewel, inventor of shape and stones”
(Santos sentia-se autor da jóia, inventor da forma e das pedras) [Esaú e Jacó, XX].
Pessoa’s theatrical direction of an open-ended coterie of authors, like the image
of the conductor of a literary orchestra, radicalizes these moments of delusion as
would a concert by a “mad fiddler” soloist, the very title he assigned to early poetry

in English by Alexander Search. Pessoa’s musician-writers—similar to the charac-

ters introduced by Machado de Assis who imagine themselves to be writers, owners,
or creators of everything that had hitherto been written, designed, or created—live the
breathtaking yet irresistible impression of the universal and invincible scope of their
own actions. Machado comments on the naturalness, almost the inevitability of the
sentiment in the case of Rubião, who makes the leap from coauthor of a short political
article with Camacho to authorship of all the books he ever read: “What certainly would
be the most difficult would be going from that phrase to the first book—from there on
the course would be rapid” (é certo que o que mais lhe custou foi ir da frase ao primeiro
livro—deste em diante a carreira fêz-se rápida) [Quincas Borba, CXIII]. In Pessoa’s
case, after the first heteronyms he invented as a youth, Charles Anon or the Chevalier de
Pas—and the handmade “newspapers” reproduced in Sadlier’s book—the others would
come in a rapid and inevitable sequel. Pessoa accelerates Soares’s confession, “I think
of what’s possible as real” (Suponho o possível atual) [BD 416].

The element of strangeness in their confection did not become a serious matter
until the now famous letter from Pessoa to poet and critic Adolfo Casais Monteiro
in January, 1935, in which Pessoa explained in detail the genesis of the principal
three heteronyms, including the “triumphal day” of their appearance or revelation.
As Zenith says, we are all left under the spell of Pessoa’s fantastic explanation or
literary magic,5 and thus we may lose sight of the wry operation that convinced us
to accept the imaginary in place of the real in a disguised creation myth. The
impulse to be multiple writers, or an entire literature as expressed in one of Pes-
soa’s aphorisms, bears close relation to the satire about the “Athenian maniac”
who claimed all the ships that passed before him. Pessoa’s wry humor plays a role
in his lengthy explanation to Casais Monteiro, which is also a lightly disguised
self-promotion, especially in view of the practical joke Pessoa played on him when
Casais came to Lisbon to meet him for the first time, a story told by Jorge de Sena.
Casais was to wait in the Rossio train station under the ceramic head of a cow that
hung over a dairy shop, and Pessoa kept him waiting almost an hour, during which
time people passing by gave him the most curious and deprecating looks. Casais
only later learned that the position under the cow was a notorious meeting place for
homosexuals. When Pessoa did show up, he talked for an hour only about opinions
that each of the heteronyms had about the others. While the heteronyms were deadly
serious to Pessoa, the detailed psychological explanation that he sent to Casais has a
margin of wry and mocking humor, especially when aimed to mystify a serious critic
from the University of Coimbra. Casais seemed to be commenting on this incident in
his personal impression of Pessoa published in the Lisbon press in 1937:
Few poets, even those most lost in the depths of time, have ever given me, as Fer-
nando Pessoa did, of whom I actually saw and heard, from whom at this moment I
still imagine hearing his joking laugh, and see his eyes shining with malice, few have
ever given me the impression of such distance, of such removal from time.
Raros poetas, mesmo os mais perdidos nas profundidades do tempo, me deram
jamais, como me deu Fernando Pessoa, a quem contudo vi e ouvi, de quem neste
momento ainda julgo ouvir o risonho trocista, e ver os seus olhos brilhando de malícia,
raros me deram jamais a impressão de tal distância, de tal afastamento no tempo.6

The above anecdote perhaps helps to reveal an absurd tragicomic effect in the
coterie of heteronyms and in the desire to create fragmented persons and genres that
is essential to be able to appreciate—much less to enter—Pessoa’s paradoxical laby-
rinth of authors and which adds to their tragic seriousness. Pessoa would certainly
have been aware that the origins of comedy consisted of people who pretended to be
someone else for comic effect, and that an adult male chorus was a prime feature of
old comedy from the City Dionysia.7 In their comic dimension, Pessoa’s heteronyms
could be lined up in an all-male Greek chorus playing satirical roles, all of them
being one person’s representation of someone else, or one person’s alteration of
another genre. While classical choruses performed comedy and tragedy sequentially,
Pessoa chose to superimpose them like magnets that repel:

Only Hegel’s absolute managed, on paper, to be two things at once. Non-being and
being do not join and conjoin in the sensations and reasons of life: each excludes the
other, by a reverse synthesis.
Só o absoluto de Hegel conseguiu, em páginas, ser duas coisas ao mesmo
tempo. O não-ser e o ser não se fundem e confundem nas sensações e razões da
vida: excluem-se, por uma síntese às avessas. [LD 406]

If the heteronyms have a comic dimension in their external role and representation,
their internal substance is tragic because it embodies an irresolvable conflict, which
is feeling alienated from expression, self without being, or content separated from its
generic form. Pessoa’s narrator in the Book of Disquietude confesses his incapacity
to feel directly or to express feelings in their natural genres:

One of the greatest tragedies in my life—although one of those that occur in shadow
and subterfuge—is my not being able to feel anything naturally. I am capable
of loving and hating like everyone and, like them all, feel fear and enthusiasm; but
neither my love nor my hate, nor my fear nor my enthusiasm, are exactly the emo-
tions they should be. Either they’re missing a certain ingredient, or they contain an
extra one. What’s certain is that they are some other thing, and what I feel is not right
with life [. . .]. By instinct, I denature my instincts. Without wishing to, I wish
Uma das grandes tragédias da minha vida—porém daquelas tragédias que se
passam na sombra e no subterfúgio—é a de não poder sentir qualquer coisa natu-
ralmente. Sou capaz de amar e odiar, como todos, de, como todos, recear e entusi-
asmar-me, mas nem meu amor, nem meu ódio, nem meu receio, nem meu entusiasmo,
são exactamente aquelas mesmas coisas que são. Ou lhe falta qualquer elemento,
ou se lhes acrescenta algum. O certo é que são qualquer outra coisa, e o que sinto
não está certo com a vida [. . .] Por instinto desnaturo os instintos. Sem querer,
quero erradamente. [LD 431]

He attributes the impossibility of escaping or answering the dilemma of his circum-

stances to an existential paradox irresolvable either by dreaming or acting:

The main tragedy in my life is, as in all tragedies, an irony of Destiny. I reject real
life as a condemnation; I reject dreaming as an ignoble liberation. But I live the most
sordid and daily real life; and I live the most intense and constant dream life [. . .] To

escape this would mean either to control it or reject it, and I neither control it,
because I don’t go beyond it in reality, or reject it, because no matter what I dream,
I am always exactly where I am.
A tragédia principal da minha vida é, como todas as tragédias, uma ironia do
Destino. Repugno a vida real como uma condenação; repugno o sonho como uma
libertação ignóbil. Mas vivo o mais sórdido e o mais quotidiano da vida real; e vivo
o mais intenso e o mais constante do sonho [. . .] fugir a isto seria ou dominá-lo ou
repudiá-lo, e eu nem o domino, porque o não excedo adentro do real, nem o repudio,
porque sonhe o que sonhe, fico sempre onde estou. [LD 187]

Such a mixture of elements that cannot be combined is the prime adverse material of
Pessoa’s theater of the absurd, or labyrinth of persons.

The public experience and personal drama to which Pessoa subjected Casais Mon-
teiro at the Rossio station opens another comic and theatrical diversion of his hetero-
nymic enterprise, which is composed of the critical appreciations that one heteronym
entertained about another. Pessoa was constantly planning future volumes as well as
prefaces and advertisements for them. The preface that Pessoa wrote for his projected
translation of Campos’s “ULTIMATUM” is presumably the work of a translator,
“Thomas Crosse,” who uses avant-garde bombast to praise the manifesto as “original
and magnificent” (original e magnífico) and “quite the cleverest piece of literature
called into being by the Great War” (a peça literária mais inteligente produzida pela
Grande Guerra).8 He baits the conservative readership both to excuse and to insinu-
ate his avant-garde tactics:

We may consider its theories to be unspeakably eccentric, we may disagree with the
excessive violence of its introductory invective, but no one, I believe, can deny that
the satirical part is magnificent in the studied precision of its application, and that the
theoretical part, think what we may of the value of its theories, has at least the rare
merits of originality and freshness.
Podemos considerar suas teorias como indizivelmente excêntricas, podemos
discordar da excessiva violência da invectiva introdutória, mas ninguém, acredito,
pode deixar de confessar que a parte satírica é magnífica na estudada precisão de
sua aplicação e que a parte teórica, pensemos o que pensarmos do valor das teo-
rias, tem pelo menos os raros méritos da originalidade e do viço.9

Crosse quotes comments from an earlier meeting with the author Campos, who
damned the “constructive incapacity” (incapacidade construtiva) of the age and in
particular the folly of the War—“doubtless a fool is sure to win it” (certamente um
louco a vencerá). And he finishes with a quote on the decay of civilization when
compared to classical times—one of Pessoa’s most enduring themes: “The age of
physical engineering has already arrived [. . .] but the age of mental engineering is
still distant. It shows how much we have receded from Greek and Roman civilization
and what a crime Christism has been against the substance of culture and progress”
(Ja chegou a era da engenharia física [. . .] mas a era da engenharia mental ainda
está distante. Mostra como temos regredido da civilização grega e romana e que
crime tem sido o Cristismo contra a substância da cultural e do progresso).10 The

attack against Christianity and its culture of subjectivity is shared with Caeiro in The
Keeper of Sheep, endorsed here by Campos’s scientific standing as an engineer.
In Álvaro de Campos’s Zen-like “Notes for the Memory of My Master Caeiro”
(Notas para a Recordação do meu Mestre Caeiro), he includes a subjective critique
and analysis that rivals Pessoa’s famous letter to Casais Monteiro, both penned in the
1930s, although ostensibly Campos’s analysis is written from “outside” Pessoa’s
conscious control of Campos’s position. The “Notes” are written as a dialogue plac-
ing a standard way of thinking about things against Caeiro’s penetrating replies and
questions, which seem to come from another universe because they deny sensation,
abstraction, metaphor, and even poetic language. While running through the series of
shocks he received upon meeting a mentality that he recognized as masterful, and
joined by the company of the other cosmopolitan Lisbon poets Ricardo Reis and
António Mora, Campos aims some belittling broadsides at Fernando Pessoa: “He is
a ‘ball of string inwardly wound around itself’” (um novelo embrulhado para o lado
de dentro); “he feels things, but does not react, even inside” (sente as coisas mas não
mexe, nem mesmo por dentro).11 In addition to the psychological approach, Cam-
pos’s slaps are meant to have the effect of cementing the superiority of Caeiro, while
at the same time intimating a lucid description of Pessoa’s adverse method of compo-
sition and of being, the coexistence of opposites that are brought together in order to
emphasize their separate identities:

More curious is the case of Fernando Pessoa who, strictly speaking, doesn’t exist
[. . .] He heard [Caeiro] recite The Keeper of Sheep. He went home feverish and
wrote the six poems of “Slanting Rain” in one draft [. . .] Moments after meeting
Caeiro he experienced the spiritual shock that gave rise to these poems [. . .] It was
instantaneous. Since he has an excessively active sensibility, accompanied by an
overwrought intelligence. Yes, there may be, or come to be, greater things among his
works, but never anything more original, fresher, and so I rather doubt there will ever
be anything greater [. . .] What could better express his constantly intellectualized
sensibility, his keen and inattentive attention, and the burning subtlety of his cold
self-analysis than these intersectionist poems, in which the narrator’s state of mind
is simultaneously two states, where the subjective and the objective, although sepa-
rated, join together, and where the real and the unreal mix, in order to remain dis-
tinct? [. . .] a true photograph of his very soul [. . .] In a flash, that unique moment,
he succeeded in having an individuality that he had never had before and can never
have again, because he has no individuality.
Mais curioso é o caso do Fernando Pessoa, que não existe, propriamente falan-
do. Ouviu ler o Guardador de Rebanhos. Foi para casa com febre, e escreveu, num só
lance ou traço, a Chuva Oblíqua [. . .] Mas, momentos depois de conhecer Caeiro,
sofreu o abalo espiritual que produziu esses poemas. Foi logo. Como tem uma sensi-
bilidade excessivamente prompta, por que acompanhada de uma intelligencia exces-
sivamente prompta [. . .] Sim, poderá haver ou vir a haver, coisas maiores na obra
d’elle, mas mais originaes nunca haverá, mais novas nunca haverá, e eu não sei
portanto se as haverá maiores [. . .] Que coisa pode exprimir melhor a sensibilidade
sempre intellectualizada, a attenção intensa e desattenta, a subtileza quente da analy-
se fria de si mesmo, do que esses poemas-intersecções, onde o estado de alma é
simultaneamente dois, onde o subjectivo e o objectivo, separados, se junctam, e ficam
separados, onde o real e o irreal se confundem, para que fiquem bem distinctos [. . .]

a verdadeira photographia da propria alma. Num momento, um unico momento, con-

seguiu ter a sua individualidade que não tivera antes nem poderá tornar a ter, porque
a não tem.12

The game continues with the presentation of each heteronym: Caeiro is interviewed;
prefaced by Campos, Reis, Mora, and Thomas Crosse; according to Reis, Caeiro’s
rhythm is “notably absent” (notavelmente ausente).13 Reis is described by Pessoa,
Frederico Reis, and Campos; he reflects on his own odes and enters into a debate on
aesthetics with Campos. Reis criticizes Campos for his inexact use of phrases, and
Campos makes insinuations about Reis’s sexuality. Pessoa and Campos write a letter
to author José Régio, and Campos writes to Ophelia Queiroz about her romance with
Pessoa. And all of them write numerous essays under their own names. This is the
chorus line of an Old Comedy.

A state or awareness of depersonalization is a natural and common experience among

authors, perhaps best known in the modernist period from T. S. Eliot’s essay. In an
interview about his novel The Enchantress of Florence, Salmon Rushdie tells why he
finds writing both scary and exhilarating: “There’s a writing self which is not quite
your ordinary social self and which you don’t really have access to except at the mo-
ment when you’re writing, and certainly in my view, I think of that as my best self,”
he said. “To be able to be that person feels good; it feels better than anything else.”14
Deepening the depersonalization, art historian Bernard Berenson (1885–1959) com-
ments, “A complete life may be one ending in so full identification with the non-self
that there is no self to die.”15 Fernando Pessoa had an unlimited supply of writing
selves, a coterie of others who replaced his ordinary social self with a whole library
of writers. Out of his writer’s self, we could say that Pessoa created a “theory of dra-
matic editions,” which could be seen as an impersonal parallel to Machado de Assis’s
“theory of human editions”: “Every season of life is an edition that corrects the one
before and which will also be corrected itself until the definitive edition, which the
publisher gives to the worms gratis” ([C]ada estação da vida é uma edição que cor-
rige a anterior, e que será corrigida também, até a edição definitiva, que o editor dá
de graça aos vermes) [Brás Cubas, XXVII)]. Machado’s main character makes use
of the fanciful theory to describe his current condition: “at that time I was in my
fourth edition, revised and corrected, but still contaminated with countless errors and
incorrect usage” (naquele tempo, estava eu na quarta edição, revista e emendada,
mas ainda inçada de descuidos e barbarismos) [Brás Cubas, XXXVIII]. Pessoa’s
theater of authors is likewise a drama in which he plays the parts of all the writers
whose books he ever read; its editions are not stages of life, as in Machado de Assis’s
novel, but a private library of limited editions whose authors expressed parallel ideas
in many different genres. Pessoa’s theory of dramatic editions reconfigures masters of
these genres by pairing them, as through a magic mirror, with their disciples among
the heteronyms: for example, Poe—“A Very Original Dinner,” Maeterlinck—“The
Mariner,” Whitman—Campos, Horace—Reis, Sir Philip Sidney—Caeiro, and
Amiel’s Journal Intime—Book of Disquietude. As an actor, he threw himself into the
parts of all the other authors, and through an Ars combinatoria he altered their generic
DNA so that he could represent them dramatically. Pessoa is both actor and author in

the theater of authors, a sequel to Machado’s character Rubião, who for his moment
in the limelight becomes all the books he ever read.
The most fatalistic and formal of the group of heteronyms, the Stoic-Epicurean
Ricardo Reis, is surprisingly the author of a mischievous poem with undercurrents of
pathos about their mutual inability to be. We can imagine him declaiming or singing
it with devious humor in the burlesque chorus line of authors:

Yes, I know for certain

That I’ll never be a person.
I know full well
That I’ll never have works to sell.
I know ex-ces-sive-ly
That I’ll never know anything about me.
Yes, but alas
While this hour lasts,
This moonlight, the boughs swaying in air,
This peace that we share
Let me believe
In what I’ll never be able to achieve.16
Sim, sei bem
Que nunca serei alguém.
Sei de sobra
Que nunca terei uma obra
Sei, enfim,
Que nunca saberei de mim.
Sim, mas agora,
Enquanto dura esta hora,
Este luar, estes ramos,
Esta paz em que estamos,
Deixem-me crer
O que nunca poderei ser.
(7–8–1931 OP 220)17

To enter Pessoa’s labyrinth is to pass through the looking glass into the maze of
authors who were and were not Pessoa. A mirror within a labyrinth would constitute
an ultimate puzzle, or puzzlement, and a game challenging the player to distinguish
between image and reality. It is as if the labyrinth were a mirror of images within
images, reflecting an infinite receding series of Pessoas, just as he was seen on the
streets of Lisbon with hat, glasses, bow tie, overcoat and umbrella. Imagine that they
are all strolling down the mirrored paths of the labyrinth, and the reader’s task is to
choose the one real person or be devoured by the Minotaur.

Pessoa convinces us to accept him on his own terms. The only way to “know” Pessoa
is not to try or want to know him, or to solve the labyrinth, but to enter each of his
many identities enthusiastically and with a passion for the paradox of their nonexis-
tence. They are the mirrors, the coat hangers, fountain pens, hats, and spectacles of a

sensibility and philosophical imagination that is exploring an adverse side of being.

Readers intent on a comprehensive understanding of Pessoa may wish to heed R. H.
Blyth’s warning about the pitfalls of reading haiku poetry, which is comparable to the
verses of Pessoa’s poets in being “a way of life and manner of living daily.” As such,
it is unrelentingly didactic but at the same time an art form. Like readers of haiku,
readers of Pessoa may mistake the explanation for the poetry, the descriptions and the
expository prose of the heteronyms for their poetic intuition. The supreme irony of
learning to read haiku, according to Blyth, is that “the aim of any explanation [. . .] is
to make itself unnecessary [. . .] the indispensable must be got rid of in order that the
truth may emerge.”18 Pessoa’s coterie of poets is, in comparable terms, both indis-
pensable and unnecessary for a reader to grasp the truth of his method.
Pessoa changes genres and literature in an answer to the modern problem of the
excessive and unrelenting consciousness of consciousness, “the mirror that poisoned
the human heart” (o espelho envenenou a alma humana”) by making any true feeling
impossible. Pessoa removed the self from the equation, thereby altering the object of
consciousness. He displaced the individual self into another, an anonymous and uni-
versal actor in a recurring drama, playing the tragicomic story of existence in which
intelligence searches for elusive meaning, while accepting the limits that fate has
imposed upon the play. He worked with two related if contradictory truths, the first
drawn from English aestheticism and the second from modernist relativity: “The first
is that next to the reality of life, all the fictions of literature and art look pale” (A
primeira é de que, perante a realidade da vida, soam pálidas todas as ficções da
literatura e da arte) [BD 232]. His drama and his heteronyms give a decentered
design to consciousness, spread among multiple voices and meanings that convey
plural and diverse realities; but the nothingness of the individual self, a postulate of
the design, keeps every voice internal, even the brash shouting in the “Maritime
Ode,” to reflect the subjectivity of all realities. By making the self internal and
generic, as unlikely as it may seem, Pessoa raises his writings to a position, in Amiel’s
words, “greater than the world”:19

We have, suddenly, a sensation of absolute possession, of easy and ample dominion —as
I said—of relief and ease [. . .] The noises are all distant, as if they belonged to a universe
nearby, but independent.
Temos, de repente, uma sensação de posse absoluta, de domínio fácil e largo,
de amplitude—como disse— de alívio e sossego [. . .] Os ruídos são todos alheios,
como se pertencessem a um universo próximo mas independente. [LD 409]

While the forgotten self writes with a renewed sense of mental freedom that ener-
gizes modernist art and literature, only through a Stoic denial of the here and now
and exclusive dedication to subjectivity can such a self reach the desired plenitude of

The second truth is that, since it is the desire of every noble soul to live life to the
fullest, experiencing everything, every place and every sentiment, and since this is
impossible, the only way to live life fully is subjectively; only life denied can be
lived in its full substance. These two truths are not compatible.

A segunda é de que, sendo desejo de toda alma nobre o percorrer a vida por
inteiro, ter experiência de todas as coisas, de todos os lugares e de todos os senti-
mentos vividos, e sendo isto impossível, a vida só subjetivamente pode ser vivida por
inteiro, só negada pode ser vivida na sua substância total. Essas duas verdades são
irredutíveis uma à outra. [LD 232]

Pessoa substitutes the tyranny of excessive analysis by individual consciousness,

whether of itself or of external perceptions, both by creating a drama of replacement
and expansion of the self, whereby analysis is replaced by imagination, and by trans-
ferring our fundamental inability to know our circumstances as living beings from
the status of metaphysical crisis to that of a performance of virtual realities in the
hands of an artist-philosopher. Pessoa creates a “fictional interlude” (ficção do inter-
lúdio), his chosen title for collected poetry by the heteronyms, full of wry wit and
humor, although never published as such, for the purpose of “entertaining the heart”
(para entreter o coração), the verse with which he ends the poem Autopsicografia
(“Autopsychography”). His performance transforms taboo into totem: Soares the
clerk at Vásques & Company, as does Stephen Dedalus in Joyce’s A Portrait of the
Artist as a Young Man (1916), creates a new state of mind, forging in the smithy of
his non-soul the creative and critical consciousness of potential, virtual worlds. His
selfless environs, idealizing their Greek roots, are ennobling, cultivated, and even
reverent to the extent that they provide answers, fateful as they may be, to the skep-
tical awareness of our nothingness by making of each creative mind a microcosm,
capable of recreating the universal drama. Pessoa upgrades the setting of the perfor-
mance by replacing his own circumstances with virtual universes of the mind in the
theater of heteronyms.
Unlike some heroes who assaulted Olympus in a furious charge or others who
rebelled, Pessoa conquered Olympus by accepting its terms. Acting as an artist, he
then changed its content from ontological tragedy in real time to an art form, almost
an entertainment, fragmenting the cyclical drama of existence in which we recognize
the actors as generic and universal. If “the play’s the thing,”20 it was for Pessoa, con-
trary to the verses of poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade,21 both a rhyme and a solu-
tion, in which he completed the Faustian trade of his predictable life as an individual
for the greatness of its comprehensive universality. He is held with Cavafy, Pound,
Eliot, Kafka, Rilke, Carlos Drummond de Andrade, and Borges to be one of the foun-
ders of literary modernity and, according to Harold Bloom, one of the twenty-six
essential authors of Western literature. The monumental, Olympian scale to Pessoa’s
literary world is the expansion of a single pervasive and profound perception drama-
tized as an idea, rather than the world of voluble expressive genius of a Camões,
Goethe, Shakespeare, Milton, or Dante Alighieri (1265–1321).22 Pessoa is the mani-
festation of Amiel’s supposition that “The universe is but the kaleidoscope which
turns within the mind of the so-called thinking being, who himself is a curiosity
without a cause, an accident conscious of the great accident around him” (March 19,
1868).23 With his heteronyms, Pessoa is both the prescient and mischievous philoso-
pher, the scintillating essayist, and the deadpan comedian, whom Amiel describes
with a simile so reminiscent of Pessoa that it could only have been composed by an
unrecognized early heteronym: “The philosopher laughs, for he alone escapes being

duped [. . .] He is like some mischievous spectator of a ball who has cleverly taken
all the strings from the violins, and yet sees musicians and dancers moving and pir-
ouetting before him as though the music were still going on” (March 19, 1868).24
Pessoa’s use of tradition is revolutionary not because he proclaims a futurist
break with the past, a reordering of the world under the aegis of the new, but
because he changes our relationship with literary antecedents. Pessoa invokes
authors and genres selectively and implicitly, reshaping the nature of reference by
relocating and rewriting the gestures, expressions, and contexts of works chosen
from his personal library. The kind of multiple citations of philosophers, states-
men, authors, and events that one finds in the novels of Machado de Assis, subtly
altered to indicate that life repeats its main events in variations, a veritable encyclo-
pedia and gazetteer of our common past that prefigures the modern novel, is reduced
in Pessoa to genres chosen for avant-garde recomposing under his own direction.
Pessoa’s coterie of heteronyms, who themselves appropriate historical literary
genres, announces a further secondary coterie, who are the authors from Pessoa’s
library whose works receive adverse redesign. The revolutionary impact of Pes-
soa’s strategy is activated by changing our reading of tradition in light of its recon-
stitution into a contemporary aesthetic. Pessoa’s revision of a world library focuses
historical genres onto the present moment of composition, laying bare our frag-
mentary, parasitical, and assimilative relationship to an inheritance that has made
of us its necessary dependents. Pessoa transforms a common literary inheritance
into a play of linguistic and symbolic systems by questioning and altering their
“images of the world.”25
The “false haiku” of Alberto Caeiro, who created his own Orientalism to chal-
lenge Western philosophy and poetics, are indicative of Pessoa’s appropriation and
adverse reordering of our common literary predecessors. His “Very Original Dinner”
opened the psychic and cultural depths of primitivism to reveal its colonial and
racist origins; his absent mariner, so faithfully awaited, turned the myth of Ulysses or
Robinson Crusoe into a recurring and irresolvable paradigm of the Western salvation
theme; popular and lyric poetry clearly and simply expressed the paradox separating
hope from fate and self from other; Álvaro de Campos commanded the phantom epic
voyage through his non-self from a Lisbon pier; Pessoa’s love letters to Ophelia
tested the rhetoric of infantile sexuality to disguise deep and personal feelings; an
anarchist banker unwittingly exposed the power of rationalization and the flaws of
logic in evolving and competing systems of governance and economy; Ricardo Reis
joined Epicureanism and Stoicism in an adaptation of the classical ode to modern
anxiety; the heraldry of Portuguese heroes became the occult insignia of a modern
sense of absence, shrouded in doubt and hesitation; and a disquiet, menial clerk
forged among the warehouses of Lisbon’s business district a philosophical diary of
the artist. These are Pessoa’s contemporary mariners without an ocean, national
heroes who cannot return because they never departed, the exiles of a present
moment who doubt their memories of a forgotten past and dare not imagine a differ-
ent future.
What, then, could be the positive contribution of Pessoa’s work and its frag-
mented collection of ideas that demands our interest and even our passion? The anx-
iety of modernity, the general reorganization of metaphysics, the use of systematic

doubt to question metaphorical poetics and symbolic language, the sense of useless-
ness and absurdity of the most ingenious search for truth or self; the uncertain equi-
librium of self versus other, being versus non-being, language versus symbol, or
perception versus reality; the unchanging human condition in the face of fate and the
gods; the sudden emptiness and raw primitivism of the general reconstitution of real-
ity devoid of its myths and rationality. These are the multiple paths in Pessoa’s laby-
rinth, his “forest of estrangement” that the reader must enter in order to pursue his
imaginative, fragmented, and adverse representation of modernity’s “triumphal

In the widely reproduced 1954 “Portrait of Fernando Pessoa” by his modernist

companion Almada Negreiros, the poet is seated alone behind a small rectangular
table in a Lisbon coffeehouse, dressed formally in a black suit with bow tie, wear-
ing a hat and glasses, casually holding a cigarette in his right hand bent over the
table, looking intently into space at nothing at all: “I’ve stripped myself of my own
being in such a way that to exist consists of getting dressed” (De tal modo me des-
vesti do meu próprio ser que existir é vestir-me) [BD 456]. His blank but concen-
trated gaze has turned the table into a private abstract domain of the immobile
writer. Without the company of any of his literary companions, real or imagined, he
is an empty figure frozen in a pose, as if waiting for the next idea to come to mind,
an immobile hangar for his clothes. Contrasting to his severe black and white dress
is an interior in bright reds and yellows, and the floor is an optical checkerboard of
colored tiles of similar hues. Rays of sunlight beam from unseen windows to frame
the scene, yet what calls the observer’s attention, within the intricate geometrically
superimposed planes of color, are the objects placed prominently on display in the
foreground on the table. The objects supersede the person and fill in the character-
istics missing in the rigid portrait, almost a caricature of anonymity. The poet’s
right hand rests on the table, securing a blank sheet of paper of a light mauve color
on which a black pen lies horizontally on the right front corner nearest the viewer.
A demitasse of espresso coffee sits toward the front on the viewer’s left, and on the
front left corner, highlighted by a ray of sunlight, are two books, obviously on dis-
play. The volume on top, propped toward the viewer, carries the title ORPHEU 2,
therefore the one hidden underneath might be the first and preceding number of the
1915 journal that launched major works by Pessoa and Álvaro de Campos. Alma-
da’s portrait, placing its subject against an “intersectionalist” or Cubist background,
compresses the epic of Pessoa’s literary production into a completely static, immo-
bile and minimalist drama, communicated symbolically by the four objects on the
table. The pen is horizontal to Pessoa’s hands and at rest on blank paper. Any spe-
cific content seems very distant from the anonymous intensity of Pessoa’s blank
gaze, while the most incongruous objects on the table are the two highlighted jour-
nals, acceptable agents of official literary communication, highlighted in a special
rectangle of light outside the planes of the author’s abstract and detached medita-
tion. The journals are the ultimate products and dialectical opposites of his almost
empty presence in the coffeehouse. In the portrait, Almada has captured Pessoa’s
“own” description from the Book of Disquietude of composing in a Lisbon café,
reminiscent of static drama:

At this time of stagnated feelings when everything seems to be something else—my

senses just a confused and lucid error, I spread my wings but don’t move, like an
imaginary condor.
Being a man of ideas, who knows if my greatest ambition is really no more than
to keep occupying my place at this table in this café?
Nesta hora dos sentidos estagnarem-me e tudo me parecer outra coisa—as
minhas sensações um erro confuso e lúcido, abro asas mas não me movo, como um
condor suposto.
Homem de ideais que sou, quem sabe se a minha maior aspiração não é real-
mente não passar de ocupar este lugar a esta mesa deste café? [LD 453]

The fetishistic function of the objects on the table enhances the mystery that Pessoa
finds in banal, everyday moments:

Ah, how the ordinary things abolish mysteries for us! How on the surface that light
touches, in this complex human life, Time with its uncertain smile, appears on the
lips of Mystery! How modern all this sounds! And at the core so ancient, so occult,
so having some other meaning besides the one that shines in all this!
Ah, como as coisas quotidianas roçam mistérios por nós! Como à superfície
que a luz toca, desta vida complexa de humanos, a Hora, sorriso incerto, sobe aos
lábios do Mistério! Que moderno que tudo isto soa! E, no fundo tão antigo, tão
oculto, tão tendo outro sentido que aquele que luze em tudo isto! [LD 453]

The “other” meaning of the static scene, sensed by Pessoa, emanates from the sym-
bolic and iconic force of the common objects on the table, the social symbols of his
metaphysical predicament, including the pen through which his voyaging imagina-
tion is distilled into words and ink and the journal that converted them into definitive
printed texts.
Just as Almada placed four symbolic objects on the table in front of his subject,
Pessoa selected three objects in the Book of Disquietude to represent the decadence
of representation and of modern civilization. They represent impediments created by
material culture to the direct expression of the body, its forms and movements, and to
classical concepts of beauty. As if he were the silent figure in Almada’s coffeehouse,
Pessoa states: “If they asked me to explain soul’s condition, based on a social ratio-
nale, I would reply speechlessly by pointing to a mirror, a clothes hanger, and a pen”
(Se me pedissem que explicasse o que é este meu estado de alma, através de uma
razão social, eu responderia mudamente apontando para um espelho, para um cabi-
de e para uma caneta com tinta) [LD 457]. The mirror, once invented, made it
impossible to return to the innocence of not being able to see one’s own face, an
impossibility that Pessoa thought to be a gift of Nature. For him, there is nothing
more sinister or ignominious than beholding the self by staring into one’s own eyes,
thereby engendering enhanced degrees of self-awareness and self-consciousness that
separate even further thoughts from acts and the self from Nature: “The inventor of
the mirror poisoned the human heart” (O criador do espelho envenenou a alma
humana) [LD 466]. Wardrobes with clothes hangers are another sign of the discon-
nection between the body and the natural world, a critique whose roots in Fauvism,
Pre-Raphaelism, and Primitivism were captured in the pithy prose lines of Oswald de

Andrade’s “Cannibal Manifesto” (“Manifesto Antropófago”) of 1928: “What clashed

with the truth was clothing, that raincoat placed between the inner and outer worlds.
The reaction against the dressed man” (O que atropelava a verdade era a roupa, a
impermeável entre o mundo interior e o mundo exterior. A reação contra o homem
vestido). Social reality, concluded the manifesto, was dressed and oppressed, provid-
ing complexes for Freud to psychoanalyze—“Down with the dressed and oppressive
social reality registered by Freud” (Contra a realidade social, vestida e opressora,
cadastrada por Freud).26 Pessoa criticizes in particular the aesthetic and psychologi-
cal artificiality of culturally devised clothing and fashion: “The point isn’t just that
our suit has become part of us. The suit has become complex, with the curious qual-
ity of having almost no relationship with the features of natural elegance of the body
or with its movements” (Não é só o facto de que o nosso traje se torna uma parte de
nós. É também a complicação desse traje e a sua curiosa qualidade de não ter quase
nenhuma relação com os elementos da elegância natural do corpo nem com os dos
seus movimentos) [LD 457]. As if quoting e. e. cumming’s sonnet, “Cambridge ladies
who live in furnished souls / are unbeautiful and have comfortable minds” (1923),27
Pessoa alleged that souls became clothed along with the body, thus losing their inher-
ent open form and universal empathy: “We’ve become dressed creatures, body and
soul. And since the soul always conforms to the body, a spiritual suit developed. We
began to have an essentially dressed soul, in the same way that we advanced—as
men, bodies—to the category of dressed animals” (Passámos a ser criaturas vesti-
das, de corpo e alma. E como a alma corresponde sempre ao corpo, um traje espiri-
tual estabeleceu-se. Passámos a ter a alma essencialmente vestida, assim como
passámos—homens, corpos—à categoria de animais vestidos) [LD 457]. The foun-
tain pen is the occult object on the table, the bridge between interior and exterior
worlds for which the poet is medium: “I’m not the one who describes. I’m the canvas
/ An occult hand colors someone in me” (Não sou eu quem descrevo. Eu sou a tela /
E oculta mão colora alguém em mim) [Passos da Cruz XI]28—and its function, as
Pessoa writes with deceptive humor in the late poem Liberdade (“Liberty”), is to
spread meaningless ink on paper: “Books are papers colored with ink [. . .] in which
the distinction / Is indistinct between nothing and nothing at all” (Livros são papéis
pintados com tinta [. . .] em que está indistinta / A distinção entre nada e coisa nen-
huma).29 This neutral writing instrument, whose liquid has no meaning in itself, is the
body, soul, and sex of the poet, assuming the power to replace Pessoa’s life in synec-
doche to the point that he lives solely by his literary imagination in the role of writer,
producer, director, and actor in the unfolding “comedies in my soul” (comédias na
Appendix 1
A Very Original Dinner


It was during the fifteenth annual session of the Gastronomical Society of Berlin that
the President, Herr Prosit, made the famous invital to its members. The session was
of course a banquet. During the dessert a very great discussion had arisen concerning
originality in the art of cooking. The period was bad for all arts.
Originality was in decay. In gastronomy also there was a decay and a weakness.
All productions of the cuisine, which were called “new” were but variations on dishes
already known. A different sauce, a slightly diverse way of spicing or of seasoning—
in this way the latest dish was different from the one before it. There were no real
novelties. There were but innovations. These things were all deplored at the banquet
in a unity of voices with a variety of intonations and with various degrees of
While warmth and conviction were poured into the discussion, yet there was
among us no one man who, although he was not the only man who was silent, was
nevertheless the one man who noticeably did not speak, for from him most of all
intervention might have been expected. This man was of course Herr Prosit, presi-
dent of the Society, chairman at this meeting. Herr Prosit was the only man who gave
no heed to the discussion—he was quiet more than inattentive. His voice of authority
was lacking. He was thoughtful, he, Prosit, he was silent, he, Prosit, he was serious,
he, Wilhelm Prosit, president of the Gastronomical Society.
The silence of Herr Prosit was, for most men, a rare thing. He resembled (let
the comparison pass) a storm. Silence was not of his essence. Quietness was not
his nature. And like a storm (to follow the simile) if silence were ever with him,
it was as a rest and as a prelude to an outburst greater than all. Of him was this
opinion held.
The President was a man remarkable in many ways. He was a merry man and
social, yet all this with an abnormal vivaciousness, with a noisiness of bearing that
seemed a perpetual unnaturalness of disposition. His socialness seemed pathologic;
his wit and jokes, while seeming not in any way forced, seemed compelled from


within by a faculty of the spirit which is not the faculty of wit. His humour seemed
falsely true, his restlessness naturally assumed.
In the society of his friends—and he had many—he kept up a steady current of
mirth. He was all joy and all laughter. Yet it is remarkable that this strange man
should not bear in his habitual countenance an expression of mirth or joy. When he
ceased to laugh, when he forgot to smile, he seemed to fall, by the contrast which his
face betrayed, into an unnatural seriousness, as of something sister to pain.
Whether this were due to a fundamental unhappiness of character, or to sorrows
of earlier life, or to any other ill of the spirit, I who tell this could hardly presume to
say. Besides, this contradiction in his character, or, at least, in its manifestations was
perceived only by the observant, the others did not see it, nor was there any need that
they should.
As in a night of storms following one upon another yet with intervals, he who is a
witness calls the whole night a night of storm, forgetting the stops between the out-
bursts, and naming the night after that character of it which stuck him most, even so,
following an inclination of mankind, men called Prosit a merry man, because what
stuck most in him was his noisiness in mirth, the uproar of his joy. In the storm the
witness forgot the deep silence of the intervals. In this man easily did we forget, his
wild laughter, the sad silence, the sullen heaviness of the intervals of his social nature.
The President’s countenance, I repeat, also bore and betrayed this contradiction.
That laughing face lacked animation. No perpetual smile seemed the grotesque grin
of those on whose faces the sun is striking, the natural contraction there of the mus-
cles before a strong light; here as a perpetual expression most unnatural and most
It was commonly said (among those who knew him to be thus) that he had taken
to a merry life to escape a Ruid of family nervousness of nature, or, at most, morbid-
ness, for he was the son of an epileptic and had had as forefathers, not mentioning
many over-extravagant rakes, several unmistakable neurotics. He himself might have
been a sufferer by his nerves. But of this I speak with no certainty.
What I can give as true beyond doubt is that Prosit had been brought into the
society of which I speak by a young officer, also a friend of mine and a merry fellow,
who had picked him up somewhere, having been extremely amused by some of his
practical jokes.
This society—that in which Prosit moved—was, truly to speak, one of those
dubious side-societies, which are not uncommon, formed of high and of low ele-
ments in a curious synthesis, even of the nature of a chemical change, for they have
often a new character, of their own, different from that of their elements. This was a
society whose arts—arts they must be called—were that of eating, that of drinking,
and that of making love. It was artistic, no doubt. It was coarse, less doubt. And it
united these things without discord.
Of this group of people, socially useless, humanly rotting, Prosit was the leader,
because he was the coarsest of them. I cannot enter, obviously, into the psychology,
simple yet intricate, of this case. I cannot explain, here, the reason of the fact that the
leader of such a society should have been chosen from its lowest part. All through
literature much subtlety, much intuition has been spent over cases of this kind. They
are manifestly pathologic. Poe gave to the complex sentiments that inspire them,

trusting they were but one, the general name of perverseness. But this case I chron-
icle, and no more. The feminine element of the society came, conventionally speaking,
from below, the masculine element from above. The pillar of this arrangement, the
hyphen of this compound,—nay, better, the catalytic agent of this chemical change,
was my friend Prosit. The centres, the meeting-places of the society were two: a
certain restaurant, or the respectable X hotel—, according as the feast was a revel
empty of thought, or was a chaste, masculine, artistic session of the Gastronomical
Society of Berlin. As to the first, suggestion is impossible; not a hint is possible
within a hair’s breadth from indecency. For Prosit was not normally coarse, but
abnormally; his influence lowers the aim of his friends’ lowest desires. As to the
Gastronomical Society, that was better; it represented the spiritual side of that group’s
concrete aspirations.
I have just said that Prosit was coarse. It is true, so he was. His exuberance was
coarse, his humour coarsely manifested. I inform of all this with care. I write neither
praise nor calumny. I am sketching, as neatly as I can, a character. As far as my
mind’s vision permits, I follow on the tracks of truth.
But Prosit was coarse, no doubt. For even in the society where, by being in touch
with elements socially high, he was sometimes forced to live, he did not lose much
of his native brutality. He indulged in it half with consciousness. His jokes were not
always inoffensive nor pleasant; they were almost all coarse, though, to those who
could appreciate the point of such performances they were funny enough, witty
enough, sufficiently well contrived.
The better aspect of this vulgarity was its impulsiveness, in so far as it was
ardour. For the President entered with ardour into all things which he undertook,
especially into culinary enterprises and into love affairs; in the first he was a poet of
gustation, daily gaining inspiration; in the last his lowness of character was ever at its
horrible best. Nevertheless his ardour, as the impulsiveness of his mirth, could not be
doubted. He carried others along with him by the violence of his energy, created
ardour in them, animated their impulse without consciousness that he did so. Yet his
ardour was for himself, to himself, was an organic necessity; it was not meant for a
relation with the world outside. This ardour could not, it is true, be long sustained;
but, while it lasted, its influence as an example, however unconscious, was
But, let it be noticed, though the President was ardent, impulsive, at bottom coarse
and rude, yet he was a man who was never cross. Never. No man could put him into a
rage. Besides, he was always ready to please, always ready to avoid a quarrel. He seemed
to desire everybody to be well with him. It was curious to observe how he restrained his
ire, how he held it in hand with a firmness no one had given him credit for, least of all
those who knew him impulsive and ardent, his most intimate friends.
It was chiefly on account of this, I conjecture, that Prosit was such a favourite.
Perhaps, indeed, taking into consideration the fact that he was coarse, brutal, of
impulse, yet never behaving brutally in the showing of rage and of aggressiveness,
never impulsive in ire—perhaps we, unconsciously considering this, laid on this the
basis of our friendliness. Besides, there was the fact that he was always ready to
please, to be pleasant. As for being rough, with men who mattered little, for the Pres-
ident was a good fellow.

It is obvious therefore, and now that Prosit’s attractiveness (so to call it) was in
this: in his being insuccecptible to rage, in his earnestness to please, in the peculiar
fascination of his coarse exuberance, perhaps even, ultimately, also in the uncon-
scious intuition of the slight enigma which his character presented.
Enough! My analysis of Prosit’s character, perhaps excessive in details, is nev-
ertheless defective, because I suppose, it has missed or left inevident the elements
that point to a final synthesis. I have ventured beyond my ability. My comprehension
cannot be matched to the clearness that is my desire. Wherefore I shall say no
One thing remains nevertheless on the superficies of all that I have said,
the eternal view of the President’s character. It remains clear that, for all conceiv-
able intents, for all imaginable purposes, Herr Prosit was a merry man, an odd
fellow, a man who was merry habitually, who impressed other men with his mirth,
a man prominent in his society, a man who had many friends. His coarse tendencies
as they gave the character to the society of men in which he lived, that is to say,
as they were creators of environment, disappeared by excessive obviousness,
passed gradually into the domain of the unconscious, became imperceived, ended
The dinner was already at an end. The conversation grew, in the number of
those who spoke, in the noise of their combined, discordant, interpenetrated voices.
Prosit was still silent. The principal speaker, Captain Grecive, was discoursing
lyrically. He insisted on the lack of imagination (so he called it) improductive of
modern dishes. He grew enthusiastic. In the art of gastronomy he observed, new
dishes were always needed. His manner of comprehending was narrow, restricted
to the art he knew. He contended, falsely gave to understand, that in gastronomy
alone newness was of preeminent value. And this may have been a subtle way of
saying that gastronomy was the only science and the only art. “Blessed art,” the
Captain cried, “whose conservation is a perpetual revolution!” “Of it I could say,”
he continued, “what Schopenhauer says of the world, that it preserves itself by its
“Why, Prosit,” said a member from the extreme end of the table, noticing the
silence of the President; “Why, Prosit, you have not yet given your opinion. Say
something man. Are you absent-minded? Are you melancholy? Are you ill?”
Everybody looked towards the President. The President smiled upon them in his
usual way, his usual smile, malicious, mysterious, half humourless. Yet this smile had
a meaning; it foreboded in some way the strangeness of the President’s words.
The President broke the silence, which was made for his expected answer.
“I have a proposal to make, an invital;” he said, “Have I your attention? Can I
As he said this, silence seemed to grow more profound. All eyes looked towards
him. All actions, gestures, stopped where they were, for attention seized upon all.
“Gentlemen,” began Herr Prosit, “I am about to invite you to a dinner the like of
which, I contend, none of you have ever attended. My invital is at the same time a
challenge. Afterwards I shall explain.”
There was a slight pause. No one moved, except Prosit, who finished a glass of

“Gentlemen,” he repeated in a manner eloquently direct, “my challenge to any

man is contained in this, that ten days from now, I shall give a new sort of dinner, a
very original dinner. Consider yourselves invited.”
Murmurs for explanation, questions poured in from all sides. Why that sort of
invital? What did he mean? What had he proposed? Why that obscurity of expres-
sion? What, clearly speaking, was the challenge which he had made?
“At my house,” said Prosit, “in the square.”
“You are not going to transfer to your house the meeting-place of the society?”
inquired one member.
“No, it is only on this occasion.”
“And is it going to be something so very original, Prosit?” inquired obstinately
a member who was inquisitive.
“Very original. A complete novelty.”
“The originality of the dinner lies,” said the President, as one speaking an after-
thought, “not in what it conveys or appears, but in what it means, in what it contains.
I defy any man here (and I could say any man anywhere, for the matter) to say, having
finished it, in what it is original. No one, I assert, will guess. This is my challenge.
Perhaps you thought it would be that no man could give a more original banquet. But
no, that is not it; it is as I have said. As you see it is much more original. It is original
beyond your expectation.”
“May we know,” a member asked, “the motive of your invital?”
“I am urged to this, “ Prosit explained, and his face was sarcastic in its deter-
mined look, “by a discussion which I had before dinner. Some of my friends here
present may have heard the dispute. They can inform those who desire to know. My
invital is made. Do you accept?”
“Of course! Of course!” came in shouts from all parts of the table.
The President nodded, smiled; nursing amusement at some inner vision he
relapsed into silence.
When Herr Prosit had made his astonishing challenge and invital, conversa-
tions, separately maintained among the members, fell upon the real motive
thereof. Some were of the opinion that this was another joke of the President’s,
others that Prosit had desired to make another assertion of his culinary skill, ra-
tionally gratuitous, since (said these) no one had challenged it, but pleasant to any
man’s vanity in his art. Others again were certain that the invital was indeed made
because of certain young men of the city of Frankfort between whom and the
President there was a rivalry in gastronomy. It turned out soon, as those who read
this will see, that the end of the challenge was certainly this third—the immediate
end, I mean, for, as the President was a human being, and, especially, a very orig-
inal one, his invital bore psychologically traces of the three intentions that were
imputed to him.
The reason why it was not immediately believed that Prosit’s true reason for the
invital was the dispute—(as he himself has said) was that the challenge was too
vague, too mysterious, to seem but a reply to a provocation, to appear a vengeance
and no more. At last, however, it had to be believed.

The discussion the President had mentioned had been (said those who knew)
between him and five young men from the city of Frankfort. These were no particular
young men, except that they were gastronomers, that was, I believe, their only title to
our attention. The discussion with them had been long. Their contention had been, as
far as was remembered, that some dish which one of them had invented, or some
dinner which they had given, was superior to some gastronomic performance of the
President’s. Over this the dispute had come; round this centre the spider of conten-
tion had spun with industry its web.
The discussion had been hot—on the young men’s part; soft and moderate on
Prosit’s, as was his custom, as I have said, never to yield to rage. On this occasion,
however, he had been almost angry on account of the heat of his opponents’ retorts.
But he remained calm. It was thought, now that this was known, that the President
was about to play some gigantic joke on the five young men, to have in his usual
manner the revenge of that harsh dispute. On this account expectation soon was high;
whispers of a quaint joke were set running, tales of a striking originality in the ven-
geance. Given the case and the man, these rumours suggested themselves, they were
built clumsily upon truth. They were all, sooner or later, told to Prosit; but, as he
heard them, he shook his head and while seeming to do justice to their intention,
lamented their coarse appearance. No one, he said, had guessed aright. It was impos-
sible, he said, that anyone should guess aright. All was a surprise. Conjecture, guess,
hypothesis, were ridiculous and without use.
These rumours, of course, were of later occurrence. Let us return to the dinner at
which the invital had been made. It had just ended. We were going towards the
smoking room when we came across five young men of fairly refined appearance,
who saluted Prosit with some coldness.
“Ah, my friends,” the President explained turning to us, “these are five young
gentlemen of Frankfort whom I once defeated in a challenge in matters gastronom-
ical. . . .”
“I hardly think you defeated us, you know,” retorted one of the young men, with
a smile.
“Well, let that be as it is, or as it was. As a matter of fact, my friends, the chal-
lenge which I have now made before the Gastronomical Society” (with a wide sweep
of his hand he designated us) “is of a much larger import and of a nature much more
artistic.” He explained it to the five. They listened as impolitely as they could.
“When I made this challenge, just now, gentlemen, I was thinking of you.”
“Oh, you were, were you? And what have we got to do with it?”
“Oh, you’ll soon see! The dinner is on the week after next, on the seventeenth.”
“We don’t wish to know the date. We don’t need to.”
“No, you are right!” chuckled the President. “You don’t. It won’t be necessary.
Nevertheless,” he added, “you will be present at the dinner.”
“What!” cried one of the three young men. Of the other two, one grinned and the
other started. The President grinned back.
“Ay, and you will contribute to it most materially.”
The five young men manifested physiognomically their doubt of this, and their
half-interest in the matter.

“Come, come,” said the President as they were going. “When I mean a thing I
mean it, and I mean you to be present at the dinner. I mean you to contribute to this
This was spoken in a tone of such obvious and pointed sneering that the young
men were angered and hastened down stairs.
The last one turned round.
“We will be there in spirit, perhaps,” he said, “thinking of your failure.”
“No, no, you will be there right enough. You will be there in body, in body, I
assure you. Don’t trouble about that. Leave everything to me.
A quarter of an hour after all proceedings being over, I followed Prosit down-
“Do you think you can make them be present, Prosit?” I asked him as he put on
his overcoat.”
“Certainly,” he said, “I am sure of it.”
We went out together, I and Prosit parting at the hotel door.


The day soon came when Prosit’s invital was to be fulfilled. The dinner took place at
Prosit’s house at half-past-six in the evening.
The house—that of which Prosit had spoken as being in the square—was not
properly speaking, his house, but was of an old friend of his who lived out of Berlin
and who lent the house to Prosit when the President desired. It was always at his
disposal. Yet he rarely needed it. Some of the earliest banquets of the Gastronomical
Society had been held there, until the superior convenience of the hotel—comfort,
appearance, locality—had been ascertained. In the hotel, Prosit was well known, it
was after his directions that the dishes were made. His initiative still had there as
much scope as at the house, with cooks either of his, or of the members, or imported
from some restaurant; and not only had his still as much scope, but the execution of
his designs was prompter, better; they were more neatly and more accurately accom-
As to the house in which Prosit lived—no one knew it, not did anyone care to
know. For some banquets the house was used of which I have just spoken, for love
affairs he had a small suite of rooms. He had a club—nay, two clubs—and he was
often to be seen at the hotel.
Prosit’s house, I say, none knew; that he had one apart from the places men-
tioned, which he frequented, was a matter of vulgar certainty. But where the house
was, none suspected. The people with whom he there lived were also unknown to us.
Who the associates of his retirement were, Prosit had never given us to understand.
That they existed, not even this had he said. It was merely the conclusion of our rea-
soning, simple and homely in the matter. Prosit had been, we knew—though I
remember not—by whom—in the Colonies, in Africa or in India or elsewhere—and
had there made a fortune upon which he lived. Thus much being known, the rest only
idleness could research.

The reader now knows sufficiently the state of things to dispense my further
observations, either on the President or on the house itself. I pass on therefore to the
scene of the banquet.
The room in which the banquet table had been spread was large and long, though
not lofty. On the side there were no windows but only doors, leading off to several
rooms. At the top, on the side facing the street, a high and wide window was cut,
splendid, that of itself seemed to breathe the air it allowed to enter. It took the place
of three ordinary large windows and filled it well. It was divided into three parts, by
mere partitioning of the casement. Though the room was large, this window was
sufficient, it gave light and air to the whole, every corner was not robbed of Nature’s
most natural things.
In the middle of the dining hall a long table had been set for the banquet; at the
head of this the President sat with his back turned to the window. I, who write as the
oldest member, sat at his right hand. Other details are unessential. The attendance
was fifty-two. The room was lighted by chandeliers placed above the table, three in
number. By a skilful arrangement of their ornaments, the lights were singularly con-
centrated on the table, leaving rather in the dark the spaces between it and the walls.
It seemed, by its arrangement, the lighting arrangement over billiard tables. However
as here it was not obtained as there, by a device the end of whose use was manifest,
what existed in the mind, at most, was a sensation of strangeness with regard to the
lights in the dining hall. Had there been other tables, collaterally, the sense of the
darkness between them had been of something obtrusive. As there was but one table,
no such thing happened. I myself only noticed this later, as the reader who follows
me will see. Although I as all who were there when I first entered looked everywhere
for strangeness, yet this was unperceived somehow.
How the table was laid, dressed, ornamented, partly I cannot remember, partly it
needs not to remember. What difference there may have been from other dinner tables
was a difference within normalness, not a difference because of originality. Descrip-
tion in this case were sterile and to no end.
The members of the Gastronomical Society—fifty-two, as I have said—began to
turn up at a quarter to six. Some three, I remember, came only within a minute of the
dinner hour. One—the last one—appeared as we were sitting down to the table. In
these things, in this part of the session, as was proper among artists, all ceremonial
was set aside. By this late coming no one was offended.
We sat down to the table in a contained fever of expectation, of inquiry, of intellec-
tual suspicion. This was to be, each man remembered, a very original dinner. Each
man had been challenged—thus to discover in what was the originality of the dinner.
This was the difficult point. Was the originality in something inapparent, or in an ob-
vious thing? Was it in some dish, in some sauce, in some arrangement? Was it in some
trivial detail of the dinner? Or was it, after all, in the general character of the banquet?
As is natural being every one of us in this state of mind, every possible thing,
everything vaguely probably, everything sanely improbable, impossible, was a cause
of suspicion of self-inquiry, of bewilderment. Was the originality in that? Did that
contain the joke?
Thus all of us, the guests, as soon as we had sat down to dinner, began minutely,
curiously, to scan the ornaments and flowers on the table, nay, not only these, but also

the pattern of the plates, the disposition of the knives and forks, the glasses, the
bottles of wine. Several had already examined the chairs. Not a few had, with the
appearance of unconcern, paced round the table, round the room. One had looked
under the table. Another had felt with his fingers, rapidly and carefully, the underside
of the same. One member dropped his table napkin and dropped very low to pick it
up, which he did with half-ludicrous difficulty; he had wished to see, he told me
afterwards, whether there were not a trapdoor which, at a given moment of the ban-
quet, might not swallow us up or the table only or us and the table together.
I cannot now accurately call to mind what my suppositions were or my conjec-
tures. I remember distinctly however that they were sufficiently ridiculous of the
same kind as I have shown in others. Fantastic and extraordinary notions succeeded
each other in my mind by a purely mechanical association of ideas. Everything was
at the same time, suggestive and unsatisfactory. Well considered everything con-
tained a singularity (so will anything anywhere contain it). But no one thing pre-
sented clearly, neatly, indubitably, the sign of its being the key to the problem, the
hidden word of the enigma.
The President had defied any of us to find the originality in the dinner. Given that
challenge, given the capacity for jokes for which Prosit was renowned, no one could
say how far the confounding went, whether the originality was ridiculously insignif-
icant, on purpose, or hidden in excessive obtrusiveness, or, for such a thing was
possible, consisting in there being no originality at all. This was the state of mind in
which the guests in their totality—I say it without boldness of expression—sat down
to the eating of a very original dinner.
Attention was on all things.
The first thing to be noticed was that the service was done by five black servants.
Their countenances could not be well seen, not only on account of the somewhat
extravagant costume in which they were dressed (which included a peculiar turban)
but also on account of that singularity in the light arrangement by which, as in bil-
liard saloons, but not by the same device, the light was turned upon the table and left
darkness all around.
The five black servants were trained well; not excellently, perhaps, but well. They
betrayed this in many things, perceptible most especially to men such as we who were
in relation with such people daily and importantly, on account of our art. They seemed
to have been very well trained, outside, for a dinner which was the first at which they
served. This was the impression which their serving made on my experienced brain,
but I, for the moment, dispelled it, seeing in it nothing extraordinary. Servants could
not be found anywhere. Perhaps I thought, on the moment, Prosit had brought them
with him from where he had been, abroad. That I did not know them would be no
reason to doubt them, because, as I have said, Prosit’s more intimate life, as well as
his place of dwelling, were not know to us, were kept private by him, for reasons
which he probably had and which it was no business of ours to search for or to appre-
ciate. My thoughts of the five dark servants, when first I noticed them, were these.
The dinner was then begun. It puzzled still more. The peculiarities which it
offered were before reason so meaningless that it was in vain that an interpretation of
any kind was put upon them. The observations which one of the guests made, humor-
ously, towards the end of the dinner, gave fit expression to all this.

“The only thing which my attentive and acute mind can perceive here of orig-
inal,” said, with assumed pompousness, a titled member, “is, primo, that our atten-
dants are dark and more or less in the dark, though it is we that are decidedly so;
secundo, that this, if it mean anything, means nothing at all. I see nowhere anything
fishy, unless in a decent sense, in the fish.”
These light-minded observations met with approval, though their wit was lower
than poor. Everybody, however, had noticed the same things. But no one believed—
though many were vague in mind—that Prosit’s joke was this and no more. They
looked towards the President to see if his smiling countenance betrayed any senti-
ment, any indication, anything,—but the smile was on it, usual and inexpressive.
Perhaps it grew slightly wider, perhaps it implicated a wink, when the titled had
made those observations, perhaps it grew more sly, but there is no certainty of this.
“In your words,” Prosit said at length, to the member who had spoken, “I am
pleased to see an unconscious recognition of my ability in concealing, in masking a
thing to appear other than it is. For, I see that you have been deceived by appearances.
I see that you are yet far from knowing the truth, the joke. You are far from guessing
the originality of the dinner, and I may add that if there be anything fishy in it, which
I do not deny, it is certainly not the fish. Nevertheless I thank you for your praise.”
And the President bowed in mockery.
“My praise?”
“ ‘Your praise,’ because you did not guess. And, not guessing, you proclaim my
ability. I thank you!”
Laughter put an end to that episode.
Meanwhile I, who had been reflecting, during the whole time, arrived suddenly
at a strange conclusion. For, as I considered the reasons of the dinner, calling to mind
the words of the invital and the day on which it had been made. I remembered sud-
denly that the dinner was considered by all as the result of a discussion of the Presi-
dent’s with the five gastronomers from Frankfort. I recalled Prosit’s expressions of
the time. He had told the five young men that they would be present at his dinner, that
they would contribute to it materially. This was the very word he had used.
Now these five young men were not guests.… At this moment the sight of one
of the black servants put me naturally in mind of them and immediately after of the
fact that they were five. The discovery startled me. I looked up to the places where
they were, to see if their faces betrayed anything. But the faces, themselves dark,
were in darkness. It was at this moment that I perceived the extreme skill with which
the lighting arrangement threw the whole glare upon the table, leaving in compara-
tive night the room around, most especially at the height from the floor at which were
the heads of the five servants who attended. Strange, bewildering as the matter was,
no doubts remained with me. I was absolutely certain that the five young gentlemen
of Frankfort had become, for the moment, the five black servants at the dinner. The
entire incredibility of the whole thing detained me awhile, but my conclusions were
too well-drawn, too obvious. It could not be but as I had found.
Immediately did I remember that, five minutes or so before, at the same banquet,
the black servants having naturally attracted attention, one of the members, Herr
Kleist, an anthropologist, had asked Prosit what was their race (he being entirely
unable to see their countenances) and where he had got them from. The contrariety

which the President had shown may not have been absolutely manifest, nevertheless
I saw it clearly, perfectly, though I had not yet then the stimulus to attention of the
discovery which afterwards I made. But I had seen Prosit’s confusion and had won-
dered. Shortly afterwards—as I had subconsciously noticed—one of the servants
holding the dish by Prosit, the latter had said something in a low voice. The result of
this had been the five blacks keeping further in the shadow, exaggerating perhaps the
distance to one who paid attention to the stratagem.
The President’s fear was, of course, quite natural. An anthropologist like Herr
Kleist, one familiar with human races, with their types, with their facial characteris-
tics, would, perforce, were he to see he faces, discover at once the imposture. Hence
Prosit’s extreme unrest at the question; hence his order to the servants to keep well in
the darkness. How he evaded the question I forget. I have suspicions, however, that it
was by declaring the servants not his and protesting his ignorance of their race and of
their manner of coming to Europe. In making this reply he was, however, as I noticed,
considerably ill at ease, this with the fear that Herr Kleist might, precisely to know
the race, wish suddenly to examine the blacks. But he could not, obviously, have said
not denying that they belonged to him: “this race” or “that race,” for being ignorant
of races, and knowing himself to be so, he might venture on a type one of whose most
elementary and most apparent characteristics, as, for instance, stature, might be in
open contradiction to that of the five black attendants. I remember vaguely that after
this reply Prosit had covered it with some material incident, by directing attention to
the dinner, or to a gastronomy, to something I know not what, which was not the
I regarded as trifles made on purpose to turn aside the attention, so manifest was,
I considered, their character of petty absurdity, of striking littleness, of willed uncon-
The fact in itself was, it is true, exceedingly, unutterably strange, the more rea-
son then, I said to myself, to contain the originality of Prosit’s. It was indeed bewil-
dering, I reflected, that it should have been accomplished. How? How could five
young men absolutely hostile to the President be induced, trained, obliged to act the
part of servants at a dinner, a thing repugnant to every man of a certain social condi-
tion? It was a thing that started grotesquely like the reality of a woman’s body on a
fish’s tail. It made, in the mind, the world to tread on its own heels.
As to their being black, that was easily explained. Obviously Prosit could not
present the five young men, before the members of the society, with their own coun-
tenance. It was natural that he should avail himself of the vague knowledge which he
knew we had of his having been in the Colonies to cover his joke with their black-
ness. The torturing question was how this had been done, and that only Prosit could
reveal. I could understand—and yet could not very well—a man acting a servant’s
part, for a great friend and a joke, and as a very great favour. But in this case!
The more I reflected the more extraordinary the case appeared, but, at the same
time, given all the proofs it had, given the character of the President, the more prob-
ably, the more certain that Prosit’s joke was contained therein. Well might he chal-
lenge us to discover the originality of the banquet! The originality, as I had found it,
was not, it is true, properly in the dinner; still it was in the servants, in something
connected with the dinner. At this point of my reasoning I wondered that I had not

seen before that the banquet being given on account of the five young men (as was
not known) could not but bear upon them, as a revenge, and bearing upon them,
obviously, could not do so in anything more directly connected with the dinner than
in the servants.
These arguments, reasonings, which I have here taken a few paragraphs to set
forth passed in a few minutes through my mind. I was convinced, bewildered,
satisfied. The rational clearness of the case dispelled its extraordinary nature from
my brain. I saw lucidly, accurately in the matter Prosit’s challenge had been won
by me.
The dinner was almost at an end, on the before-side of the dessert.
I resolved, that my ability might be recognized, to tell Prosit of my discovery. I
re-considered, that I might make no failure, no mistake, the strangeness of the matter,
as I conceived it, creeping through my sureness of fact. At length, I bent my head
towards Prosit and said in a low tone:
“Prosit, my friend, I have the secret. These five black people and the five young
men of Frankfort….”
“Ah! You have guessed that there is some connection between them.” He said
this half sneeringly, half in doubt, yet I could see that he was put out and only irated
by the acuteness of my reasoning, which he had not expected. He was ill at ease and
looked on my face with attention. “Certainty, I thought, is mine.”
“Of course,’ I replied, “they are the five. Of that I have no doubt. But how on
earth did you do it?”
“Brute force, my dear fellow. But don’t say anything to the others.”
“Of course not. But how by brute force, my dear Prosit?”
“Well, that is a secret. It cannot be told. It’s as secret as death.”
But how do you manage to keep them so quiet. I am astonished. Won’t they get
away or revolt—?”
The President was convulsed inwardly with laughter. “There’s no fear of that,”
he said with a wink that had more than meaning. “They won’t run away—not they.
Absolutely impossible.” And he looked at me quietly, slyly, mysteriously.
At length the end of the dinner was reached—no, not the end of the dinner—
another singularity, apparently imposed for effect—when Prosit proposed a toast.
Everybody was astonished at this toast just after the last dish and before the dessert.
All wondered, excepting myself, who saw in this another eccentricity, meaningless in
itself, to divert the attention. Nevertheless the glasses were all filled. As they were
being filled, the President’s bearing was extremely altered. He shifted about in his
chair in great excitement, with the ardency of a man who will speak, of one who must
reveal a great event, who must make a great revelation.
This demeanour was at once noticed. “Prosit has some joke to reveal—the joke.
It’s Prosit all through! Out with it, Prosit!
As the moment of the toast approached the President seemed to go mad with
excitement; he moved about in his chair, he writhed, he grinned, smiled, made faces,
chuckled meaninglessly and without end.
The glasses had all been filled. Every man was ready. A profound silence was
made. In the tension of the moment I remember hearing two footsteps in the street
and feeling angry at two voices—one a man’s, another a woman’s—that held

converse in the square, below. I lost them from attention. Prosit rose to his feet;
nay, rather, he bounded almost upsetting the chair.
“Gentlemen,” said he. “I am going to reveal my secret, the joke, the challenge.
It is very amusing. You know how I said to the five young men of Frankfort that they
would be present at this banquet, that they would aid it most materially? The secret’s
there, in this, I mean.”
The President spoke hurriedly, incoherently, in his haste to arrive at the point.
“Gentlemen, this is all I have to say. Now the first toast, the great toast. It con-
cerns my five poor rivals. . . . Because none guessed the truth, not even Meyer [this
is I], not even he.”
The President paused, then, lifting his voice into a shout, “I drink,” said he, “to
the memory of the five young gentlemen of Frankfort who have been present in body
at this dinner and have contributed to it most materially.”
And haggard, savage, completely mad, he pointed with an excited finger to the
remains of flesh in a dish which he had caused to be left upon the table.
These words has no sooner been spoken than a horror that laughs at expression
fell with weird coldness upon all. All were for the moment crushed by the unthink-
able revelation. It seemed, in the intensity of honour, in its silence, as if no one had
heard, no one understood. Madness above all dreams was horrible in the nest of
reality. A silence that lasted a moment yet seemed by sentiment, by significance, by
horror, to have the duration of ages, was on all, a silence the like of which has never
been dreamt nor thought. I conceive not with what expression each one was, all of us
were. But those faces must have had looks such as no vision as yet met.
This for a moment—short, ageing, profound.
My own horror, my own commotion cannot be conceived. All the humorous
expressions and innuendoes, which I had naturally, innocently connected with my
hypothesis of the five black servants, yielded now their deeper, their most horrible
meaning. All the malicious undertone, all the suggestiveness of Prosit’s voice—all
this, I say, appearing now to me in its true light, thrilled and shook me with a fear that
cannot be spoken. The very intensity of my terror seemed to prevent me from faint-
ing. For a moment I, like the others, but with greater fear, and with more reason, sat
back in my chair and stared at Prosit with a horror no words can express.
For a moment this, for a moment and no more. Then, excepting some of us, the
weaker-hearted, who had fainted, the guests all beside themselves with a just and
uncontrollable rage, rushed maniacally at the cannibal, at the mad author of this more
than horrible exploit. It must have been, to a pure spectator, a horrible scene, these
well-bred, well-dressed, refined semi-artistic men animated by a fury of more than
beasts. Prosit was mad, but at that moment we were mad also. He had no chance
against us—none at all. Indeed, at this instant, we were madder than he. Even one of
us, in the rage we were, had sufficed to punish horribly the President.
Myself, first of all, bore a blow against the offender. With a rage so terrible it
seemed someone else and seems now so, for my memory of it is as of a sight devily
seen. I seized the wine decanter, which was near me and hurled it, with a horrible
exaltation of ire, at Prosit’s head. It struck him full in the face, mixing blood and wine
upon it. I am mild, sensitive, abhorrent of blood. Thinking upon it now, I cannot
realise how it is possible that I should have done an act to my normal self of such

dreadful cruelty, however just, for mostly by the passion that inspired it it was a cruel,
a most cruel deed. How great then must have been any rage and my madness! And
that of others, how great!
“Out of the window,” cried a terrible voice. “Out of the window!” shrieked a
formidable chorus. And it is characteristic of the brutality of the moment that the way
of opening the window was by breaking it entirely. Someone put a strong shoulder to
it and dashed the central part (for the window was divided in three) into the square
More than a dozen animal hands were eagerly, disputingly laid upon Prosit,
whose madness was thrilled by his ill-speakable fear. With a nervous motion he was
hurled towards the window, but he did not pass it for he contrived to hold with one of
the partitions of the casement.
Again those hands clutched him more firmly, more brutally, more savagely still.
And with a Herculean joining of strength, with an order, with a combination per-
fectly diabolic in such a moment, they swung the President in the air and hurled him
from them with incalculable violence. With a thud that had sickened the strongest,
but which was the maker of calm in our eager and expecting hearts, the President fell
into the square, four or five feet beyond the pavement.
Then no word, no sign exchanged, each man locked in the horror of himself,
each of us departed from the house. Once outside, the fury passed and the horror that
made it like a dream, we experienced the inenarrable horror of meeting naturalness
again. All without exception were turned sick and many fainted soon or late. I fainted
at the very door.
The five dark servants of Prosit—they were really dark, being old Asiatic pirates,
of a murderous and abominable tribe—these who, understanding the affair, had fled
during the fray, were caught—all with the exception of one. It appears that Prosit for
the consummation of his great joke, had, with an adroitness perfectly diabolic, bit by
bit awakened in them brutal instincts which slumbered in civilization. They had been
ordered to stand as far as they could from the table in dark places, on account of
Prosit’s ignorant and criminal fear of Herr Kleist, the anthropologist, who, for all
Prosit knew of his science, might have been able to see in the black faces the ill-
determined stigmas of criminality. The four of them who were caught were punished
fitly and well.

Alexander Search
June, 1907

Original facsimile manuscript in Maria Leonor Machado de Sousa, Fernando Pessoa

e a Literatura de Ficção, Lisboa, Novaera, 1978, transcription by K. David Jackson.
Appendix 2
Ricardo Reis: A Note on the Texts

Fernando Pessoa published twenty-eight odes by Ricardo Reis in his lifetime, twenty
in the Lisbon journal ATHENA (in five numbers from October, 1924 until February,
1925), followed by eight in the Coimbra journal Presença (three in number 6, July,
1926; two in number 10, March, 1928; two in number 31/32, March–June, 1931; and
the last in number 37, February, 1933). All are signed by Ricardo Reis, and after the
first twenty in Pessoa’s own journal ATHENA, all subsequent odes had their original
orthography modernized by the journals.
Since Pessoa’s death in 1935, unpublished odes by Ricardo Reis from Pessoa’s
literary archive have been added to subsequent editions. In 1946, ninety-six odes
were added to the volume published by Ática, compiled by critics Luís de Montalvor
and João Gaspar Simões. The odes are published in order of composition, from June
12, 1914 to November 13, 1935, with the last thirteen odes undated. Later, three more
odes were added to the Ática edition, for a total of 127. One more ode came out in
1957, and in 1960, Editora Nova Aguilar, in Rio de Janeiro, published an edition
based on Ática’s, edited by Maria Aliete Galhoz, to which it added one more ode. In
the second edition of 1965, yet another ode was added, bringing the total published
odes to 130.
In light of intensive research into Pessoa’s papers, now located in the Biblioteca
Nacional in Lisbon, recent editions have both altered and greatly added to the corpus
of the odes. Silva Belkior’s edition in 1988, in addition to the 127 odes previously
recognized, printed eight variants, seven additional attributed odes, and eight-six
previously unpublished odes from the papers. There are three other editions in the
last decade, which, excepting the original twenty-eight odes, are all different. It is
likely that as many odes will be added to the work of Ricardo Reis as constituted the
basic corpus for fifty years.
The present unpublished translation by Benjamin Norwood is based on the
traditional canon of odes in the Ática and Aguilar editions, as emended in the group
of “posthumously published odes (1935–1987)” by Silva Belkior in 1988. His collec-
tion of 127 odes corresponds to Ricardo Reis as he has been known by readers after


Pessoa’s death, with a few corrections and additions, before the massive but yet unor-
ganized additions to the corpus after 1988. Norwood plans a second volume of trans-
lations for the recently discovered additions.

ATHENA (1924–1925)

Also in Ática & Galhoz / Silva Belkior / Parreria da Silva First lines

01 A37 SB 01 MPS I Seguro assento na

coluna firme
02 A12 SB 02 MPS II As rosas amo dos
jardins de Adônis
03 A22 SB 03 MPS III O mar jaz; gemem em
segredo os ventos
04 A14 SB 04 MPS IV Não consentem os deuses
mais que a vida
05 A52 SB 05 MPS V Como se cada beijo
06 A20 SB 06 MPS VI O ritmo antigo que há
em pés descalços
07 A115 SB 07 MPS VII Ponho na altiva mente o
fixo esforço
08 A48 SB 08 MPS VIII Quão breve tempo é a
mais longa vida
09 A3 SB 09 MPS IX Coroai-me de rosas
10 A46 SB 10 MPS X Melhor destino que o de
11 A116 SB 11 MPS XI Temo, Lídia, o destino.
Nada é certo
12 A45 SB 12 MPS XII A flor que és, não a que
dás, eu quero
13 A54 SB 13 MPS XIII Olho os campos, Neera
14 A47 SB 14 MPS XIV De novo traz as
aparentes novas
15 A51 SB 15 MPS XV Este, seu scasso campo
ora lavrando
16 A53 SB 16 MPS XVI Tuas, não minhas, teço
estas grinaldas
17 A117 SB 17 MPS XVII Não queiras, Lídia,
edificar no spaço
18 A118 SB 18 MPS XVIII Saudoso já deste verão
que vejo
19 A50 SB 19 MPS XIX Prazer, mas devagar
20 A13 SB 20 MPS XX Cuidas, ínvio, que
cumpres, apertando

PRESENÇA (1926, 1928, 1931, 1933)

21 A57 SB 21 MPS 70 Não só vinho, mas nele o olvido, deito

22 A58 SB 22 MPS 72 Quanta tristeza e amargura afoga
23 A63 SB 23 MPS 80 A nada imploram tuas mãos já coisas
24 A67 SB 24 MPS 88 O rastro breve que das ervas moles
25 A56 SB 25 MPS 71 Já sobre a fronte vã se me acinzenta
26 A77 SB 26 MPS 105 Quando, Lídia, vier o nosso outono
27 A78 SB 27 MPS 106 Tenue, como se de Éolo a esquecessem
28 A105 SB 28 MPS 136 Para ser grande, sê inteiro: nada

Odes in Subsequent Editions

Ática & Galhoz/Silva Belkior/Parreria da Silva First lines

1982 1988 2000
A1 SB 29 MPS 1 Mestre, são plácidas
A2 SB 30 MPS 3 Os deuses desterrados
A3 SB 09 ATHENA MPS IX Coroai-me de rosas
A4 SB 31 MPS 2 O deus Pã não morreu
A5 SB 32 MPS 4 De Apolo o carro rodou pra
A6 SB 33 MPS 5 Vem sentar-te comigo, Lidia, à
beira do rio
A7 SB 34 MPS 7 Ao longe os montes têm neve al
A8 SB 35 MPS 8 Só o ter flores pela vista fora
A9 SB 36 MPS 11 A palidez do dia é levemente
A10 SB 37 MPS 12 Não tenhas nada nas mãos
A11 SB 38 MPS 13 Sábio é o que se contenta com o
espetáculo do mun
A12 SB 02 ATHENA MPS II As rosas amo dos jardins de
A13 SB 20 ATHENA MPS XX Cuidas, ínvio, que cumpres,
A14 SB 04 ATHENA MPS IV Não consentem os deuses mais
que a vida
A15 SB 39 MPS 15 Cada coisa a seu tempo tem seu
A16 SB 40 MPS 17 Da nossa semelhança com os
A17 SB 41 MPS 18 Só esta liberdade nos concedem
A18 SB 42 MPS 19 Aqui, Neera, longe
A19 SB 43 MPS 20 Da lâmpada noturna
A20 SB 06 ATHENA MPS VI O ritmo antigo que há em pés

A21 SB 44 MPS 21 Vós que, crentes em Cristos e

A22 SB 03 ATHENA MPS III O mar jaz; gemem em segredo os
A23 SB 45 MPS 26 Antes de nós nos mesmos
A24 SB 46 MPS 28 Acima da verdade estão os
A25 SB 47 MPS 27 Anjos ou deuses, sempre nós
A26 SB 48 MPS 29 Tirem-me os deuses
A27 SB 49 MPS 30 Bocas roxas de vinho
A28 SB 50 MPS 31 Ouvi contar de outrora, quando a
A29 SB 51 MPS 32 Prefiro rosas, meu amor à
A30 SB 52 MPS 33 Felizes, cujos corpos sob as
A31 SB 53 MPS 34s Segue o teu destino
A32 SB 54 MPS 35 Feliz aquele a quem a vida grata
A33 SB 55 MPS 37 Não a ti, Cristo, odeio ou te não
A34 SB 57 MPS 37b Não a ti, Cristo, odeio ou
(var.) menosprezo
A35 SB 58 MPS 38a Sofro, Lídia, do medo do destino
A36 SB 59 MPS 41 Uma após uma as ondas apressa-
A37 SB 01 ATHENA MPS I Seguro assento na coluna firme
A38 SB 60 MPS 54 Não quero as oferendas
A39 SB 61 MPS 55 Vossa formosa juventude leda
A40 SB 62 MPS 56 Não canto a noite porque no meu
A41 SB 63 MPS 57 Não quero recordar nem conhec-
A42 SB 64 MPS 58 A abelha que, voando, freme
A43 SB 65 MPS 59 Dia após dia a mesma vida é a
A44 SB 66 MPS 157 Flores que colho, ou deixo
A45 SB 12 ATHENA MPS XII A flor que és, não a que dás, eu
A46 SB 10 ATHENA MPS X Melhor destino que o de conhec-
A47 SB 14 ATHENA MPS XIV De novo traz as aparentes novas
A48 SB 08 ATHENA MPS VIII Quão breve tempo é a mais longa

A49 SB 67 MPS 63 Tão cedo passa tudo quanto

A50 SB 19 ATHENA MPS XIX Prazer, mas devagar
A51 SB 15 ATHENA MPS XV Este, seu scasso campo ora
A52 SB 05 ATHENA MPS V Como se cada beijo
A53 SB 16 ATHENA MPS XVI Tuas, não minhas, teço estas
A54 SB 13 ATHENA MPS XIII Olho os campos, Neera
A55 SB 68 MPS 69 No ciclo eterno das mudáveis
A56 SB 25 PRESENÇA MPS 71 Já sobre a fronte vã se me
A57 SB 21 PRESENÇA MPS 70 Não só vinho, mas nele o olvido,
A58 SB 22 PRESENÇA MPS 72 Quanta tristeza e amargura afoga
A59 SB 69 MPS 75 Frutos, dão-os as árvores que
A60 SB 70 MPS 76 Gozo sonhado é gozo, ainda que
em sonho
A61 SB 71 MPS 78 Solene passa sobre a fértil terra
A62 SB 72 MPS 79 Atrás não torna, nem, como
Orfeu, volve
A63 SB 23 PRESENÇA MPS 80 A nada imploram tuas mãos já
A64 SB 73 MPS 82 Aqui, dizes, na cova a que me
A65 SB 74 MPS 83 Lenta, descansa a onda que a maré
A66 SB 75 MPS 87 O sono é bom pois despertamos
A67 SB 24 PRESENÇA MPS 88 O rastro breve que das ervas
A68 SB 76 MPS 89 Pesa o decreto arroz do fim
(variantes) certeiro
A69 SB 77 MPS 95 Nos altos ramos de árvores
A70 SB 78 MPS 94 Inglória é a vida, e inglório o
A71 SB 79 MPS 97 Tudo que cessa é morte, e a morte
é nossa
A72 SB 80 MPS 99 A cada qual, como a statura, é
A73 SB 81 MPS 100 Nem da erva humilde se o Destino
A74 SB 82 MPS 101 Quem diz ao dia, dura! e à treva,

A75 SB 83 MPS 102 Negue-me tudo a sorte, menos

A76 SB 84 MPS 104 Se recordo quem fui, outrem me
A77 SB 26 PRESENÇA MPS 105 Quando, Lídia, vier o nosso
A78 SB 27 PRESENÇA MPS 106 Tenue, como se de Éolo a
A79 SB 85 MPS 107 No breve número de doze
A80 SB 86 MPS 108 Não sei de quem recordo meu
(var.) passado
A81 SB 87 MPS 110 O que sentimos, não o que é
A82 SB 88 MPS 113 Quer pouco: terás tudo
A83 SB 89 MPS 114 Não só quem nos odeia ou nos
A84 SB 90 MPS 115 Não quero, Cloe, teu amor, que
A85 SB 91 MPS 112 Não sei se é amor que tens, ou
amor que finges
A86 SB 92 MPS 116 Nunca a alheia vontade, inda que
A87 SB 93 MPS 117 No mundo, só comigo, me
A88 SB 94 MPS 118 Os deuses e os Messias que são
A89 SB 95 MPS 119 Do que quero renego, se o
A90 Omitted Sim, sei bem
A91 SB 96 MPS 121 Breve o dia, breve o ano, breve
A92 SB 97 MPS 122 Domina ou cala. Não te percas,
A93 SB 98 MPS 123 Tudo, desde ermos astros
A94 SB 99 MPS 124 Ninguém, na vasta selva virgem
A95 SB 100 MPS 125 Se a cada coisa que há um deus
A96 SB 101 MPS 137 Quanto faças, supremamente faze
A97 SB 102 MPS 138 Rasteija mole pelos campos ermos
A98 SB 103 MPS 126 Azuis os montes que estão longe
A99 SB 104 MPS 127 Lídia, ignoramos. Somos
A100 SB 105 MPS 128 Severo narro. Quanto sinto,

A101 SB 106 MPS 130 Sereno aguarda o fim que pouco

A102 SB 107 MPS 131 Ninguém a outro ama, senão
que ama
A103 SB 108 MPS 133 Vive sem horas. Quanto mede
A104 SB 109 MPS 134 Nada fica de nada. Nada
A105 SB 28 PRESENÇA MPS 136 Para ser grande, sê inteiro: nada
A106 SB 110 MPS 139 Quero ignorado, e calmo
A107 SB 111 MPS 140 Cada dia sem gozo não foi teu
A108 SB 112 MPS 141 Pois que nada que dure, ou que,
A109 SB 113 MPS 142 Estás só. Ninguém o sabe. Cala e
A110 SB 114 MPS 143 Aqui, neste misérrimo
A111 SB 115 MPS 144 Uns, com os olhos postos no
A112 SB 116 MPS 145 Súdito inútil. de astros
A113 SB 117 MPS 147 Aguardo, equânime, o que não
A114 SB 118 MPS 149 Vivem em nós inúmeros
A115 SB 07 ATHENA MPS VII Ponho na altiva mente o fixo
A116 SB 11 ATHENA MPS XI Temo, Lídia, o destino. Nada é
A117 SB 17 ATHENA MPS XVII Não queiras, Lídia, edificar no
A118 SB 18 ATHENA MPS XVIII Saudoso já deste verão que vejo
A119 SB 119 MPS 154 Deixemos, Lídia, a ciência que
não põe
A120 SB 121 MPS 155 É tão suave a fuga deste dia
A121 SB 122 MPS 177 Para os deuses as coisas são mais
(frag.) coisas
A122 SB 123 MPS 164 No magno dia até os sons são
A123 SB 124 MPS 167 Quero dos deuses só que me não
A124 SB 125 none Aos deuses peço só que me
A125 SB 126 MPS 52 Cada um cumpre o destino que
lhe cumpre
A126 SB 127 MPS 159 Meu gesto que destrói
A127 SB 128 MPS 170 Sob a leve tutela

Previously Unpublished Odes

Ricardo Reis. Poesia. Manuela Parreira da Silva, ed. Lisbon: Assírio & Alvim, 2000.
MPS 6 SB 64 (inéditos) Neera, passeemos juntos
MPS 9 SB 68 (inéditos) Pobres de nós que perdemos quanto
MPS 10 SB 63 (inéditos) Diana através dos ramos
MPS 14 SB 13 (inéditos) Breve o inverno virá com sua branca
MPS 16 SB 12 (inéditos) Quero, Neera, que os teus lábios laves
MPS 22 none Nesse dia em que os campos são de Apolo
MPS 23 none Aqui, nem outro Apolo do que Apolo
MPS 24 SB 51 (inéditos) Não como ante donzela ou mulher viva
MPS 25 none Em Ceres anoitece
MPS 36 SB 55 (inéditos) Deixa passar o vento
MPS 38 SB 132 (variantes) Sofro, Lídia do medo do destino
MPS 39 SB 46 (inéditos) Sê o dono de ti
MPS 40 SB 38 (inéditos) Não sem lei, mas segundo ignota lei
MPS 42 SB 05 (inéditos) Manhã que raias sem olhar a mim
MPS 43 none Cedo vem sempre, Cloe, o inverno, e a dor.
MPS 44 none No momento em que vamos pelos prados
MPS 45 SB 36 (inéditos) Cumpre a lei, seja vil ou vil tu sejas
MPS 46 variant of SB 49 Um verso repete
MPS 47 SB 73 (inéditos) A mão invisível do vento roça por cima
das ervas
MPS 48 SB “D” Tornar-te-ás só quem tu sempre foste
MPS 49 none Em vão procuro o bem que me negaram
MPS 50 none Não quero a glória, que comigao a têm
MPS 51 SB 60 (inéditos) Pequeno é o espaço que de nós separa
MPS 53 SB 03 (inéditos) Quero versos que sejam como jóias
MPS 60 SB 37 (inéditos) Pequena vida consciente, sempre
MSP 61 SB 26 (inéditos) De um só vez recolhe
MPS 62 SB 84 (inéditos) Folha após folha nem caem
MPS 64 SB 22 (inéditos) Não inquiro do anónimo futuro
MPS 65 SB 11 (inéditos) Hora a hora não dura a face antiga
MPS 66 SB 10 (inéditos) Não torna atrás a negregada prole
MPS 67 SB 06 (inéditos) Com que vida encherei os poucos breves
MPS 68 none Não perscrutes o anónimo futuro
MPS 73 SB 23 (inéditos) Não torna ao ramo a filha que o deixou
MPS 74 SB 14 (inéditos) Nem vã sperança nem, não menos vã
MPS 77 none O relógio de sol partido marca
MPS 81 none Enquanto eu vir o sol doirar as folhas
MPS 84 SB 31 (inéditos) Quantos gozam o gozo de gozar
MPS 85 SB 35 (inéditos) Floresce em ti, ó magna terra, em cores
MPS 86 none Toda visão da crença se acompanha
MPS 87 none O sono é bom pois despertamos dele

MPS 89 none Pesa a sentença atroz do algoz ignoto

MPS 90 none Vou dormir, dormir, dormir
MPS 91 SB 09 (inéditos) Doce é o fruto à vista, e à boca amaro
MPS 93 SB 33 (inéditos) Concentra-te, e serás sereno e forte
MPS 96 SB 59 (inéditos) O anel dado ao mendigo é injúria, e a sorte
MPS 98 SB 18 (inéditos) Tarda o verão. No campo tributário
MPS 103 SB 42 (inéditos) Sê lanterna, dá luz com vidro à roda
MPS 109 SB 29 (inéditos) Quem fui é externo a mim. Se lembro, vejo
MPS 111 SB 19 (inéditos) Débil no vício, débil na virtude
MPS 120 SB 21 (inéditos) Quem és, não o serás, que o tempo e a sorte
MPS 129 SB 17 (inéditos) Flores amo, não busco. Se aparecem
MPS 132 SB 39 (inéditos) Para quê complicar inutilmente
MPS 135 SB 07 (inéditos) Que mais que um ludo ou jogo é a extensa vida
MPS 146 SB 54 (inéditos) Coroa ou tiara
MPS 148 SB 20 (inéditos) Amo o que vejo porque deixarei
MPS 150 SB 44 (inéditos) Cada momento que a um prazer não voto
MPS 151 SB 58 (inéditos) Cada um é um mundo; e como em cada fonte
MPS 152 SB 85 (inéditos) Cantos, risos e flores alumiem
MPS 153 SB 16 (inéditos) Como este infante que alourado dorme
MPS 156 none Eu nunca fui dos que a um sexo o outro
MPS 158 SB 27 (inéditos) Ininterrupto e fluido guia o teu curso
MPS 160 SB 40 (inéditos) Não mais pensada que a dos mudos brutos
MPS 161 SB 41 (inéditos) Não morreram, Neera, os velhos deuses
MPS 162 SB 67 (inéditos) Não porque os deuses findaram, alva Lídia,
MPS 163 SB 15 (inéditos) No grande espaço de não haver nada
MPS 165 SB 02 (inéditos) Outros com liras ou com harpas narram
MPS 166 SB “C” Quatro vezes mudou a stação falsa
MPS 168 SB 56 (inéditos) Se hás-de ser o que choras
MPS 169 none Sem clépsidra ou sem relógio o tempo escorre
MPS 171 SB 53 (inéditos) Sob estas árvores ou aquelas árvores
This page intentionally left blank

1. The Pirates of Penzance, or The Slave of Duty, a comic opera in two acts by W. S.
Gilbert (1836–1911) and composer Arthur Sullivan (1842–1900) that premiered in New York
City on December 31, 1879 and in London on April 3, 1880, remains a favorite today. By
carrying absurdities to their logical conclusion, the libretto advances a procedure adopted by
Fernando Pessoa in works such as “The Anarchist Banker.”
2. From “Reflexos Paradoxais” (ms. 1916?), in Fernando Pessoa, Obras em Prosa
(Rio de Janeiro: Editora Nova Aguilar, 1982), 38.
3. “Carta a Dois Psiquiatras Franceses,” in ibid., 1982, 57–59.
4. For information on Pessoa’s English education in South Africa, see Alexandrino
E. Severino, Fernando Pessoa na Africa do Sul: a formação inglesa de Fernando Pessoa
(Lisbon: Publicações Dom Quixote, 1983).
5. Robert Bréchon, Étrange Étranger (Paris: C. Bourgois, 1996).
6. The books of poetry in English are Antinous: A Poem (Lisbon: Monteiro, 1918); 35
Sonnets (Lisbon: Monteiro, 1918); and two volumes titled English Poems I–II (1921) and
English Poems III. Epithalamium (Lisbon: Olisipo, 1921).
7. Letter to Armando Côrtes-Rodrigues (1891–1971), November 19, 1914, in Obras
em Prosa, 1982, 49.
8. “Consciência da Pluralidade” (ms. 1915?), in ibid., p. 81.
9. “Formação Cultural” (Carta a José Osório de Oliveira, 1900–1964), in ibid., 68–69;
Charles Dickens (1812–1870), The Pickwick Papers, published in nineteen installments over
twenty months from March 1836 to October 1837; William Shakespeare (1564–1616); John
Milton (1608–1674); Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822).
10. “Autocentrismo e Indefinição” (1910?), in Obras em Prosa, 1982, 38–39.
11. Letter to Armando Côrtes-Rodrigues, January 19, 1915, in ibid., 54.
12. “Autocentrismo e Indefinição,” in ibid., 38–39.
13. Letter to Armando Côrtes-Rodrigues, January 19, 1915, in ibid., 55.


14. Darlene Sadlier, An Introduction to Fernando Pessoa: Modernism and the Parado-
xes of Authorship (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1998), 117.
15. Note to the reader: quotes from the Book of Disquiet/Livro do Desassossego are
identified by the number given to their prose section in the editions in English (2001) and
Portuguese (1998) edited by Richard Zenith. The translations are mine.
16. Sadlier notes Pessoa’s fascination with signatures and invented names, as well as
handwriting as a sign of character, dating back to his handwritten journals A Palavra and O
Palrador. His fictional names were often anagrams or phonetic variations, as in “Caeiro” for
“Carneiro.” Cf. An Introduction, 137, notes 15–16.
17. T. S. Eliot (1888–1965), “Hamlet and His Problems,” in The Sacred Wood: Essays
on Poetry and Criticism (London: Methuen & Co., 1920).
18. “Apresentação dos Heterónimos” (Prefácio para a edição projetada das suas obras),
in Obras em Prosa, 1982, 81–84.
19. The concept of synthesis and redemption is taken from Walter Benjamin, “On the
Concept of History,” Selected Writings, vol. 4, 1938–1940, ed. Howard Eiland and Michael
W. Jennings (Harvard University Press, 2003), 396, quoted in Buescu, 2008, 3.
20. See Ângelo de Lima, Poesias Completas, F. Guimarães, ed. and intro. (Oporto:
Inova, 1971); ORPHEU 2, ed. and intro. Maria Aliete Galhoz (Lisbon: Ática, 1976).
21. From the Livro do Desassossego, fragment 299, ed. Richard Zenith (Lisbon: Assírio
& Alvim, 1998), 284.
22. Obras em Prosa, 1982, 156.
23. Irene Ramalho Santos, Atlantic Poets: Fernando Pessoa’s Turn in Anglo-American
Modernism (Hanover & London: University Press of New England, 2003), 257.
24. Jacinto do Prado Coelho (1920–1984), “O Fernando Pessoa de Leyla Perrone-Moisés
ou a Recuperação do Ego Suprimido,” Colóquio-Letras 71 (1983); republished in Camões e
Pessoa: Poetas da Utopia (Lisbon: Europa-America, 1983); cited in Leyla Perrone-Moisés,
Fernando Pessoa: Aquém do Eu, Além do Outro (São Paulo: Martins Fontes, 2001), xiv.
25. Luís de Camões (1524?–1580), considered Portugal’s greatest writer, is author of the
epic poem Os Lusíadas (Lisbon: António Gonçalves, 1572), newly translated by Landeg White
(The Lusiads, Oxford University Press, 1997); Fernão Mendes Pinto (1509?–1583) is author of
the Peregrinaçam (Lisbon: Pedro Crasbeeck, 1614), the most famous travel novel of its day
(The Travels of Mendes Pinto, trans. Rebecca Catz, University of Chicago Press, 1989).
26. Thomas De Quincey (1785–1859), Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (Lon-
don: Printed for Taylor and Hessey, 1822).
27. The creation of independent creatures as a scientific enterprise has an element of
fantasy in the tradition of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s (1797–1851) Frankenstein (1818)
and Mário de Sá-Carneiro’s stories bordering on science fiction, such as “A Estranha Morte do
Prof. Antena” published in Céu em Fogo (Lisbon: Livraria Brazileira, 1915).
28. See Leyla Perrone-Moisés, Aquém do Eu, Além do Outro, 37, “a perpetuação do
Nada, a infinitização da alteridade.”
29. See “Preface for an Anthology of Sensationist Poets” by Álvaro de Campos, in
Always Astonished: Selected Prose, trans. Edwin Honig (San Francisco: City Lights,
1988), 37; “Prefácio para uma Antologia de Poetas Sensacionistas,” in Obras em Prosa,
1982, 450.
30. Álvaro de Campos—Livro de Versos, transcribed and organized by Teresa Rita
Lopes with introduction and notes (Lisbon: Editorial Estampa, 1993), 246.
31. G. H. Hardy, A Mathematician’s Apology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1967), 152–53.
32. An extensive bibliography of recent studies of Pessoa is available in my critical
anthology, Portugal: As Primeiras Vanguardas (Frankfurt: Vervuert, 2003), 93–192.
NOTES TO PAGES 10–17 217

33. Octavio Paz (1914–1998), “El desconocido de si mismo,” Cuadrivio: Darío,

López Velarde, Pessoa, Cernuda (México: J. Mórtiz, 1965); Adolfo Casais Monteiro
(1908–1972), Fernando Pessoa: O Insincero Verídico (Oporto: Ed. Inquérito, 1954); Jorge
de Sena (1919–1978), “Fernando Pessoa: O Homen que Nunca Foi,” Persona 2 (July 1978),
34. George Monteiro, “In Quest of Jorge de Sena,” Hispania 70.2 (May 1987),
35. Leyla Perrone-Moisés, Aquém do Eu, Além do Outro and Ettore Finazzi-Àgro,
L’alibi infinito: il progetto e la pratica nella poesia di Fernando Pessoa (Galeati, Imola: Gra-
fiche Galeati, 1983); Portuguese translation, O Álibi Infinito: O Projecto e a Prática na Poesia
de Fernando Pessoa (Lisbon: Imprensa Nacional / Casa da Moeda, 1987).
36. Pablo Picasso (1881–1973); Arnold Schoenberg (1874–1951), Drei Klavierstücke,
op. 11 (Vienna: Universal Edition, 1910); Ezra Pound (1885–1972), The Cantos, written from
1922–1962, first published in book form as A Draft of XVI Cantos (Paris: Three Mountains
Press, 1924–1925).
37. Haroldo de Campos, “A Obra de Arte Aberta,” Diário de S. Paulo (July 3, 1955);
republished in Augusto de Campos, Décio Pignatari, Haroldo de Campos, Teoria da Poesia
Concreta, 2nd ed. (São Paulo: Duas Cidades, 1975), 30–33; Cf. A Arte no Horizonte do Pro-
vável (São Paulo: Perspectiva, 1969).
38. Michel Butor, “Esquisse d’un seuil pour Finnegan,” La Nouvelle Revue Française
60 (Dec. 57), 1033–53.
39. “A Ignorância da Crítica a Respeito do Futurismo,” June 4, 1915, Letter to the
Director of the “Diário de Notícias,” in Obras em Prosa, 1982, 154.
40. Published in Presença 49 (June 1937).
41. Sadlier, An Introduction, 15–17.
42. Letter to Adolfo Casais Monteiro, January 13, 1935, in Obras em Prosa, 1982,
43. “Um Criador de Mitos” (ms. 1930?), in ibid., 1982, 84.
44. “A Obra de Arte Produto do Instinto Intelectual,” in ibid., 1982, 221–23.
45. Luciana Stegagno Picchio, “Filologia vs. Poesia? Eu Defendo o ‘Dia Triunfal’,” in
Um Século de Poesia: Encontro Internacional do Centenário de Fernando Pessoa (Lisbon:
Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, 1988), 63–70.
46. “Apresentação dos Heterónimos,” in Obras em Prosa, 1982, 84.
47. Such is the approach in Jacinto do Prado Coelho’s Diversidade e Unidade em
Fernando Pessoa (Lisbon: Edição da Revista Ocidente, 1949).
48. Letter to Casais Monteiro, 20 January 1935, in Obras em Prosa, 1982, 100.
49. “A Gênese dos Heterónimos” (ms. 1935?), in ibid., 92.
50. Pessoa discusses the nature of modernist composition in Páginas Íntimas e de Auto-
Interpretação, (Lisbon: Ática, 1966), 193–210.
51. Pessoa refers to Stéphane Mallarmé (1842–1898), French symbolist poet; António
Vieira, S.J. (1608–1697), Jesuit author of Portugal and Brazil; Paul Verlaine (1844–1896),
French symbolist poet; Horace (65–8 b.c), Roman poet; and Homer (ninth- to eighth-century
b.c.), fabled author of Greek epics.
52. Jorge de Sena, “Introdução ao Livro do Desassossego,” in Fernando Pessoa & Cia.
Heterónima, 2nd. ed. (Lisbon: edições 70, 1984), 177–242.
53. Robert N. Anderson III, “The Static Drama of Fernando Pessoa,” Hispanófila 35.2
(104) (January 1992), 89–97.
54. In Fernando Pessoa: Obra Poética, selection, organization, and notes by Maria
Aliete Galhoz, with introduction by Nelly Novais Coelho (Rio de Janeiro: Nova Aguilar,
1983), 99.
218 NOTES TO PAGES 17–21

55. “Um Criador de Mitos” (ms. 1930?), in Obras em Prosa, 1982, 84. Almada Negrei-
ros formulated a similar idea in the statement “Nós inventamos as palavras que já foram inven-
tadas,” quoted in Kenneth David Jackson, “Invenção e Razão na Poesia de Almada,” in Celina
Silva, coordination., Almada Negreiros: A Descoberta como Necessidad, (Oporto: Fundação
Eng. António de Almeida, 1998), 359–67.
56. Sadlier, An Introduction, 114, 117.
57. Álvaro de Campos, Livro de Versos, 246, 254–55.
58. Letter to Adolfo Casais Monteiro, Jan. 20, 1935, in Obras em Prosa, 1982, 101.
59. Letter to Adolfo Casais Monteiro, Jan. 13, 1935, in ibid., 1982, 96.
60. “A Ignorância da Crítica a Respeito do Futurismo, Carta ao Diretor do ‘Diário de
Notícias’,” June 4, 1915, in ibid., 1982, 154.
61. Letter to Casais, Jan. 13, 1935, in ibid., 1982, 96.
62. “Apresentação dos Heterónimos,” in ibid., 1982, 83.
63. Fernando Pessoa, “Os Heterónimos e os Graus de Lirismo,” in ibid., 1982, 85–87.
64. Álvaro de Campos—Livro de Versos, 254.
65. “Os Heterónimos e os Graus de Lirismo,” in Obras em Prosa, 1982, 86–87.
66. As you like it; a concordance to the text of the first folio (Oxford: Clarendon Press,
67. Letter to Armando Côrtes-Rodrigues, Oct. 4, 1914, in Obras em Prosa, 1982, 47.
68. Letter to Adolfo Casais Monteiro, Jan. 20, 1935, in ibid., 1982, 101.
69. Robert Bréchon, Le voyageur immobile (Croissy-Beaubourg : Editions Aden, 2002).
Pessoa did travel to Portalegre, where he used a small inheritance to purchase a printing press
for a business initiative he called “Empresa Ibis,” after a family nickname, however, Ibis failed
almost immediately.
70. David S. Reynolds, Beneath the American Renaissance: The Subversive Imagina-
tion in the Age of Emerson and Melville (New York: Knopf, 1988), 508.
71. Craig Eric Harwood, “Subversive Strategies: Conventions and Manipulation of
Gesture and Syntax in Mozart” (PhD diss., Yale University, 2003).
72. Ibid., 199.
73. Ibid., 4. He uses the critical term “relocation” to describe Mozart’s play with the
syntax of the classical musical style.
74. Harwood, “Abstract,” n.p.
75. David Schroeder, Mozart in Revolt: Strategies of Resistance, Mischief and Decep-
tion (Yale University Press, 1999), quoted in Harwood, 34.
76. Helena Carvalhão Buescu, “Voltar atrás para a frente: a elisão da história em Ricardo
Reis,” Chiaroscuro, Modernidade e Literatura (Oporto: Campo das Letras, 2001), 237–56.
77. Antoine Compagnon, “L’arrière-garde, de Péguy à Paulhan et Barthes,” in William
Marx, “Introduction,” Les Arrières-gardes au XXe. Siècle. L’autre face de la modernité esthé-
tique (Paris : Presses universitaires de France, 2004), 93–101; Eda Cufer and Peter Weibel,
Irwin: Retroprincip 1983–2003, ed. I. Arns (Frankfurt: Revolver-Archiv für aktuelle Kunst,
2003), quoted in Buescu, 2008, 8. Comparable to Foucault’s idea of madness in the age of
reason, the arrière-garde in the age of the avant-garde constitutes its necessary “hidden face”
(Marx, 6).
78. The concept of a personal synchronic library or museum of percursors is explored
in André Malraux’s Psychologie de l’art (Geneva: A. Skira, 1947–1950) and in Musée imagi-
naire de la sculpture mondiale (Paris: Gallimard, 1952–1954); Haroldo de Campos’s “A Obra
de Arte Aberta,” in O Diário de São Paulo, July 3, 1955, republished in Teoria da Poesia Con-
creta (São Paulo: Edições Invenção, 1965); João Cabral de Melo Neto’s Museu de Tudo:
Poesia (Rio de Janeiro: José Olympio, 1975); and João Alexandre Barbosa’s A Biblioteca
Imaginária (São Paulo: Ateliê, 1996).
NOTES TO PAGES 22–25 219

79. Sadlier notes that not only did Pessoa write an undated poem satirizing Italian
futurist Filippo Tommaso Marinetti’s (1876–1944) nomination to the Italian Academy
of Letters, but also translated into English a letter written by Raul Leal (1886–1964) to
Marinetti about the folly of abandoning the past. Pessoa’s strategy was to assimilate the
past synchronically and change its character in his own terms. See Introduction, 142–43,
notes 29–30.
80. José de Almada Negreiros, “Nós e as Palavras,” in “A Invenção do Dia Claro,”
Obras Completas 4 poesia (Lisbon: Estampa, 1971), 151.
81. Raul Leal, Antéchrist et la gloire du Saint-Esprit: hymne-poème sacré (Lisbon: Rio
de Janeiro: Portugália, 1920).
82. “Os Heterónimos e os Graus de Lirismo,” in Obras em Prosa, 1982, 87.
83. Álvaro de Campos—Livro de Versos, 199.
84. “Do Paganismo,” in Obras em Prosa, 1982, 172–74.
85. “Uma Nova Crítica Menos Restrita do Cristianismo” (1917?), in Obras em Prosa,
86. Søren Kierkegaard (1813–1855), The Point of View (Princeton: Princeton Univer-
sity Press, 1998).
87. Arthur Conan Doyle (1859–1930), The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (London:
George Newnes, limited, Southampton street and Exeter street, Strand, 1892).
88. Valéry Larbaud (1881–1957), Poèmes par un riche amateur ou oeuvres françaises
de M. Barnabooth, précédés d’une introduction biographique (Paris: Librairie Léon Vanier);
A. O. Barnabooth. Ses oeuvres complètes, c’est-à-dire un Conte, ses Poésies et son Journal
intime, (Éditions de la Nouvelle revue française, 1913).
89. Ezra Pound, Personae of Ezra Pound (London: Elkin Mathews, 1909); Hugh Selwyn
Mauberly (London, The Ovid Press, 1920).
90. In Poetry: A Magazine of Verse (June 1915).
91. Luigi Pirandello’s (1867–1936), Sei personaggi in cerca d’autore; commedia da
fare (Firenze: R. Bemporad, 1921).
92. Gertrude Stein (1874–1946), Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (London: John Lane,
The Bodley Head, 1933).
93. Rrose Sélavy, containing puns by Duchamp, is volume 4 of the series Biens nouve-
aux, (Paris: GLM, 1939). Jorge de Sena includes Rilke’s Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge
in this category.
em Prosa, 1982, 240–46.
95. Teresa Rita Lopes, Fernando Pessoa et le Drame Symboliste: Héritage et Création
(Paris: Centro Cultural Português da F. Gulbenkian, 1977), 333. “English Translation: The
anti-Aristotelian poet should therefore be capable of feeling in a certain way, shall we call it,
abstract, ‘through the person of another’ or, in other words, dramatically.”
96. Morag Harris, “Coleridge: on becoming an ‘expert, self-maintaining gardener’,”
Linguistic Transformations in Romantic Aesthetics from Coleridge to Emily Dickinson,
ed. Morton Paley and Meg Harris (Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellon Press, 2002), 68.
97. Mariagrazia Bellorini, “Pippa Passes de Robert Browning verso un nuovo
teatro: sperimentazione di un genere drammatico ibrido,” in Ai confini dei generi: casi di
ibridismo letterario, ed. Alberto Destro and Annamaria Sportelli (Bari: B.A. Graphis, 1999),
136. “English Translation: “contamination by an original Classical model, which gives voice
to the dramatic demands of man in contemporary society”
98. Leo Marchetti, “E. A. Poe, dalla contaminazione dei generi all rottura dei vasi,” in ibid.,
145. “English Translation: “Poe sells in his Northern newspapers stories that draw on a system of
codes much more indebted to the European tradition of the matrix of romantic theater.”
220 NOTES TO PAGES 25–32

99. Wladimir Krysinski, “Sur quelques généalogies et formes de l’hybridité dans la lit-
térature du XXe siècle,” in Le Texte Hybride, ed. Dominique Budor and Walter Geerts (Paris :
Presses Sorbonne Nouvelle, 2004), 27–39. He writes, “Le phénomène marquant, dans l’order
littéraire européen, c’est la diversité de l’hybridation.”
100. Krysinski, “les mots deviennent des objets autonomes, que échappent à
l’entendemento commun. Le lecteur peut comprendre l’intentionalité des hybrides, mais il
risque de devenir victime de leur hypertrophie.”
101. Jacques Derrida, “The Law of Genre,” Critical Inquiry (Autumn, 1980), vol. 7, no.
1, 55; reprinted in Modern Genre Theory, ed. and intro. David Duff (London: Longman, New
York, Pearson Education, 2000), 219–31; revised original, “La loi du genre,” Parages (Paris:
Galilée, 1986), 249–87.
102. Two similar paintings of Fernando Pessoa by Almada Negreiros are dated 1954 and
1964. The 1954 painting is in the Museu da Cidade while the 1964 canvas is in the Centro de
Arte Moderna of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. Curiously, these two paintings are
almost mirror images, as the seated Pessoa is looking to the viewer’s left in the 1954 and to the
right in 1964.

Chapter 1
1. Arthur Morrison (1863–1945), Chronicles of Martin Hewitt (New York: D. Apple-
ton, 1896); Oscar Wilde, Picture of Dorian Gray (New York, London, and Melbourne: Ward
Lock & Co., 1891).
2. Páginas Íntimas, 11–12.
3. The Choice Works of Edgar Allan Poe (London: Chatto & Windus, 1902).
4. Páginas Íntimas, 11–12.
5. Charles Dickens, The Mystery of Edwin Drood (London: Chapman & Hall, 1870);
Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s (1814–1873), In a Glass Darkly (London: R. Bentley & Son, 1872);
Robert Louis Stevenson (1850–1894), The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Boston:
J. H. & A. L. Brigham, 1880); George du Maurier (1834–1896), Trilby (New York: Harper &
Brothers, 1894); Bram Stoker (1847–1912), Dracula (Westminster: Archibald Constable and
Co., 1897); Henry James (1843–1916), The Turn of the Screw (New York: The Macmillan
Co., 1898); and Arthur Machen (1863–1947), Fantastic Tales (Carbonnek: privately printed,
6. Maria Leonor Machado de Sousa, Fernando Pessoa e a Literatura de Ficção
(Lisbon: Novaera, 1978), 11.
7. Um Jantar Muito Original Seguido de A Porta por Fernando Pessoa (Lisbon: Reló-
gio d’Água, [1988] 2008); Um Jantar Muito Original, São José Lapa, voice CD (Lisbon: 101
Noites, 2007).
8. Max Nordau (1849–1923), Degeneration (New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1895); Die
Entartung, 2 vols. (Berlin: C. Dunker, 1892–1893); Otto Seeck (1850–1921), Die Entwicklung
der antiken Geschichtschreibung und andere populare Schriften (Berlin: Siemenroth & Tros-
chel, 1898); and Oswald Spengler (1880–1936), The Decline of the West (New York: Knopf,
1930); Der Untergang des Abendlandes (Vienna & Leipzig: Wilhelm Braumuller, 1918).
9. Sir James George Fraser (1854–1941), The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and
Religion, 4 vols. (London: Macmillan, 1894–1904).
10. Ibid., 480.
11. Sigmund Freud, Totem und Tabu: einige Übereinstimmungen im Seelenleben der
Wilden und der Neurotiker (Leipzig: Vienna: Hugo Heller & Co., 1913); Totem and Taboo;
resemblances between the psychic lives of savages and neurotics, trans. and intro. A. A. Brill
(New York: Moffat, Yard & Co., 1918); Das Unbehagen in der Kultur (Vienna: Internationaler
NOTES TO PAGES 32–42 221

Psychoanalytischer Verlag, 1930); Civilization and Its Discontents, trans. Joan Riviere (New
York: Jonathan Cape & Harrison Smith, 1930).
12. Henri Bergson, L’Evolution créatrice (Paris: F. Alcan, 1907); Creative Evolution,
trans. Arthur Mitchell (New York: Henry Holt, 1911).
13. Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents, 51.
14. Henri Bergson, Le rire (Paris: Félix Alcan, 1900); Laughter: An Essay on the
Meaning of the Comic, trans. Cloudesley Brereton and Fred Rothwell (New York: Macmillan,
15. Bergson, chapter 3, “The Comic in Character,” in Laughter.
16. Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents, 26–27.
17. Freud, Totem and Taboo, 140.
18. Ibid., 144.
19. Quoted in ibid, 44, from Fraser, 1911b, 7 f.
20. Northcote W. Thomas, “Taboo,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1910–1911.
21. Freud, Totem and Taboo, 50.

Chapter 2
1. O Marinheiro, ORPHEU 1 (Lisbon: 1915); illus. Luís Filipe Cunha (Lisbon, Expo
’98, 1997); English translation, The Mariner, The Selected Prose of Fernando Pessoa, ed. and
trans. Richard Zenith (New York, Grove, 2001), 18–35.
2. Auguste Villiers de L’Isle-Adam (1838–1889), Axël, intro. and notes Pierre Mariel
(Paris: Le Courrier du livre, [1890] 1969 ); English translations, Axel, trans. H. P. R. Finberg,
with preface by William Butler Yeats (London: Jarrolds, 1925); Axel, trans. June Guicharnaud
(Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1970).
3. Maurice Maeterlinck, Ariane et Barbe-Bleue: conte en trois actes, poème de Maurice
Maeterlinck musique de Paul Dukas; partition pour chant et piano réduite par l’auteur, (Paris:
A. Durand, 1906); English translation, Sister Beatrice and Ariadne & Barbe Bleue, two plays
translated into English verse from the manuscript of Maurice Maeterlinck by Bernard Miall
(New York: Dodd, Mead and Co., 1905).
4. Béla Bartók (1881–1945), Bluebeard’s Castle: op. 11, original edition, 1921, piano
reduction by the composer (Mineola, N.Y.: Dover, 2001).
5. “Teatro Estático” (ms. 1914?), in Obras em Prosa, 1982, 283.
6. Maurice Maeterlinck, Le Trésor des Humbles (Paris: Société du Mercure de France,
1896; Bruxelles: Éditions Labor, 1986); English translation, The Treasure of the Humble, trans.
Alfred Sutro, with introduction by A.B. Walkley (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1925).
7. The Treasure of the Humble, 1925, 122.
8. Maeterlinck, Le Trésor des Humbles, 105.
9. Teresa Rita Lopes, “O encontro de Fernando Pessoa com o simbolismo francês,”
Persona 8, 1983, 10.
10. “Prefácio para uma Antologia de Poetas Sensacionistas,” in Obras em Prosa, 1982,
11. Teresa Rita Lopes, Fernando Pessoa et le Drame Symboliste: Héritage et Création
(Paris: Centro Cultural Português da F. Gulbenkian, 1977), 183–236.
12. Bettina Knapp, Maurice Maeterlinck (Boston: G. K. Hall & Co, 1975), 90.
13. Antonio Tabucchi, “Una sciarada per Il marinato,” in Fernando Pessoa, Il marinaio:
dramma statico in un quadro (Torino: Einaudi, 1988), 54–55.
14. “Realidade e Imaginação na Poesia” (ms. 1914?), in Obras em Prosa, 1982, 271.
15. Samuel Becket, En attendant Godot (Paris, Éditions du Minuit, 1970); English ver-
sion, Waiting for Godot: a tragicomedy in two acts (London: Faber and Faber, 1956).
222 NOTES TO PAGES 43–50

16. Quoted in Arthur Symons, The Symbolist Movement in Literature (New York: E. P.
Dutton & Co., 1958, 85–86.
17. Ibid. 84–88.
18. Ibid., 95.
19. Ricardo de Silveira Lobo Sternberg, “O Marinheiro and the Ontological Question in
Pessoa,” Bulletin of Hispanic Studies, 60.2, 1983, 121–28.
20. Lopes, “Encontro,” 14.
21. Ibid.
22. The episode of the “Doze da Inglaterra” (“Twelve of England”) in Luís de Camões,
Os Lusíadas, Canto VI, 43–69.
23. The phrase “seaborne empire” became well known from a classic book by British
historian Charles R. Boxer, Portuguese Seaborne Empire, 1415–1825 (London: Hutchinson,
24. Primera parte de las comedias de don Pedro Calderón de la Barca (Madrid: María
de Quiñones, 1636).
25. Daniel Defoe (1659/61?–1731), Robinson Crusoe (London: W. Taylor, 1719); Ber-
nardin de Saint-Pierre (1734–1814), Paul et Virginie (Paris: Nelson, 1787); Robert Louis
Stevenson, Treasure Island (New York: McLoughlin Brothers, 1883); Rudyard Kipling (1865–
1936), The Jungle Books (New York, Macmillan, 1894).
26. English translation by Edwin Honig and Susan M. Brown, in The Keeper of Sheep
by Fernando Pessoa (Riverdale, N.Y.: The Sheep Meadow Press, 1997). By permission of the
Sheep Meadow Press.
27. The concept of the world out of concert is expressed in a poem by Camões:
Os bons vi sempre passar
No mundo graves tormentos;
E para mais me espantar,
Os maus vi sempre nadar
Em mar de contentamentos.
Cuidando alcançar assim
O bem tão mal ordenado,
Fui mau, mas fui castigado.
Assim que, só para mim,
Anda o mundo concertado.


I watched the world tasking
good men with adversity,
and, on my further asking,
evil I saw basking
in an ocean of prosperity.
When I tried to question
why goodness was disdained,
I was called bad, and arraigned.
It seems I’m the only one
for whom matters are so ordained.
Landeg White, trans., in The Collected Lyric Poems of Luís de Camões (Princeton: Prin-
ceton University Press, 2008), 289. By permission of Landeg White.
NOTES TO PAGES 50–60 223

28. Bernardo Gomes de Brito (1688–1760), Historia tragico-maritima em que se escrevem

chronologicamente os naufragios que tiveraõ as naos de Portugal, depois que se poz em exercicio
a navegaçaõ da India. Tomo primeiro [-segundo], Lisboa Occidental, Na Officina da Congre-
gaçaõ do Oratorio, M. DCC. XXXV [1735–1736]; English translation, The Tragic History of
the Sea, 1589–1622; narratives of the shipwrecks of the Portuguese East Indiamen São Thomé
(1589), Santo Alberto (1593), São João Baptista (1622), and the journeys of the survivors in Sou-
th East Africa, ed. C. R. Boxer (Cambridge: Published by the Hakluyt Society at the University
Press, 1959); reprinted as Tragic History of the Sea, ed. and trans. C. R. Boxer, with foreword and
additional translation by Josiah Blackmore (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001).
29. Gil Vicente (1465?–1537), English translation in Three discovery plays: Auto
da barca do inferno, Exortação da guerra, Auto da Índia, ed. and trans. Anthony Lappin
(Warminster, England: Aris & Phillips, 1997).
30. Published in Camões’ Rhythmas, 1595 (first edition).
31. Translation by Leonard Bacon (1887–1954) in The Lusiads of Luis de Camões (New
York: Hispanic Society of America, 1950), 418. By permission of the Hispanic Society of
32. For a history of the military orders, see Francis A. Dutra, Military Orders in the Ear-
ly Modern Portuguese World: the Orders of Christ, Santiago, and Avis (Aldershot, Hampshire;
Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate, 2006).
33. Axël, trans. June Guicharnaud, 1970, 166–69.
34. Axël, Pierre Mariel, intro. and notes, 1969, 245–49.
35. Ibid., 250.
36. “A Fernando Pessoa,” in Obra Poética, 1983, 275.
37. Symons, Symbolist Movement, 88.
38. Zenith, The Mariner, 35.

Chapter 3
1. Readers may note that the word fingedor, feigner in Portuguese, divides into “finge”
and “dor,” or feigns-pain.
2. Jean R. Longland, trans., “Translations: Fernando Pessoa,” Poet Lore, 66, October
1970, 280–292. Reprinted with the permission of Poet Lore. Among the many translations of
“Autopsicografia” is George Monteiro’s, in Fernando Pessoa: Self-Analysis and Thirty Other
Poems (Lisbon: Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, 1988), 17:
The poet is a forger who
Forges so completely that
He forges even the feeling
He feels truly as pain.
And those who read his poems
Feel absolutely, not his two
Separate pains, but only the
Pain that they do not feel.
And thus, diverting the
Understanding, the wind-up
Train we call the heart
Runs along its track.
3. Cartas de Fernando Pessoa a João Gaspar Simões, with introduction, appendix, and
notes by João Gaspar Simões (Lisbon: Publicações Europa-América, 1957), 2nd ed., IN-CM,
224 NOTES TO PAGES 60–78

4. The Portuguese “Cancioneiros” are collections found in three principal repositories

of verse in manuscript, located in the Cancioneiro da Ajuda, the Cancioneiro da Vaticana, and
the Cancioneiro da Biblioteca Nacional (formerly Colocci-Brancuti). The Cancioneiros bring
together the female-voiced cantigas de amigo, the male-voiced cantigas de amor, as well as
the satirical cantigas de escárnio e mal-dizer and other forms, such as the cantiga de romaria,
pastorela, baila, and alba.
5. English translations are my own unless otherwise noted.
6. Georg Rudolf Lind, “Prefácio,” in Fernando Pessoa, Quadras ao Gosto Popular,
ed. Georg Rudolf Lind and Jacinto Prado Coelho (Lisbon: Ática, 1965), 8–9.
7. Ibid.
8. Ibid., 7–8.
9. Quadras e Outros Cantares, ed. Teresa Sobral Cunha (Lisbon: Relógio d’Água,
1997); Quadras, ed. and postface Luísa Freire (Lisbon: Assírio & Alvim, 2002).
10. Lind and Prado Coelho, Quadras, 1965, 10.
11. Ibid., 35.
12. Cunha, Quadras, 1997, 7. She quotes from an unpublished philosophical story.
13. Sadlier, An Introduction, 58.
14. Lind and Prado Coelho, Quadras, 33–34.
15. Critical, dual-language edition of Quadras ao gosto popular/Quatrains in the
popular style/by Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa. trans. and intro., with notes by Philip
Krummrich (Lewiston, N.Y.: E. Mellen Press, 2003), 139, verse 323 (revised).
16. Freire, Quadras, 2002, 48, quatrain 149.
17. Obra Poética, 1983, 113.
18. Quadras ao Gosto Popular, 1965, 24–25.
19. Freire, Quadras, 2002, 152.
20. Sadlier, Introduction, 58.
21. Lind and Prado Coelho, Quadras, 30–35.
22. Freire, Quadras, 2002, 147.
23. Ibid., 152.
24. “Carta a João Gaspar Simões,” Obra em Prosa, 1982, 66.
25. “Teoria do Dualismo,” in Obras em Prosa, 528–29c.
26. “Mudança,” in ibid., 537.
27. Obra Poética, 1983, 78–79.
28. “Teoria do Dualismo,” in Obras em Prosa, 1982, 528–29.
29. “Relação e Distinção Entre os Entes,” in ibid., 529.
30. Obra Poética, 1983, 79.
31. “Tratado da Negação,” in Obras em Prosa, 1983, 552.
32. “Do Livro Arbítrio,” in ibid., 537.

Chapter 4
1. Obras em Prosa, 84.
2. Páginas Íntimas, 415.
3. Obras em Prosa, 1982, 97.
4. The two essays first appeared in ATHENA: REVISTA DE ARTE, vol. 1, no. 2 (November
1924), 59–62 and vol. 1, no. 3 (December 1924), 113–15.
5. Portugal Futurista, 2nd facsimile ed. (Lisbon: Contexto Editora, 1982), 30–34.
The first and only number to come out in 1917 was collected by the police and few copies
6. Obras em Prosa, 1982, 83.
NOTES TO PAGES 78–88 225

7. Reprinted in Páginas Íntimas, 412.

8. A verse in the poem “Afinal, a melhor maneira de viajar é sentir,” by Álvaro de
Campos, in Obras em Prosa, 340.
9. Notas para a Recordação do meu Mestre Caeiro, organization and preface by Teresa
Rita Lopes (Lisbon: Editorial Estampa, 1997), 52–53.
10. Ibid., 33.
11. “Reflexões,” Obras em Prosa, 1982, 163.
12. Cited by Cleonice Berardinelli in Fernando Pessoa: Outra vez te revejo (Rio de
Janeiro: Lacerda, 2004), 37, from Sven Johansen, Le Symbolisme: Étude sur le style des sym-
bolistes français (Copenhagen: Munksgaard, 1945), 255ff.
13. A description located in Pessoa’s archive at the Biblioteca Nacional (Esp. B.N.
65–10, TRL, 15).
14. Álvaro de Campos—Livro de Versos, 219 [poem 59, Oct. 28, 1924?].
15. Álvaro de Campos, “A Ignorância da Crítica a Respeito do Futurismo” (June 4,
1915), in Obras em Prosa, 1982, 153–54.
16. Notas, 57.
17. Teresa Rita Lopes, Fernando Pessoa et le Drame Symboliste: Héritage et Création
(Paris: Centro Cultural Português da Fundação Gulbenkian, 1977), 331. English Translation:
“the most contradictory of his Fictions”.
18. Álvaro de Campos—Livro de Versos, 321, 258 respectively.
19. Ibid., 218, Poem 56.
20. Cited in Irene Ramalho Santos, Atlantic Poets, 266, 269.
21. The New York Times (Dec. 28, 2008), WK 3.
22. Obra Poética, 1983, 97.
23. Álvaro de Campos, “Com as malas feitas e tudo a bordo.”
24. Jorge de Sena, “Fernando Pessoa: O Homem que Nunca Foi,” Persona 2 (July 1978),
27–41; republished in Fernando Pessoa & Cia. Heterónima: Estudos Colegidos, 1940–1978,
2nd ed., 1984, 424.
25. “Saudação a Walt Whitman,” Álvaro de Campos—Livro de Versos, variant “s,” 157.
26. “Ah, perante esta única realidade,” in Obra Poética, 1983, 336–37.
27. Álvaro de Campos—Livro de Versos, (poem 141), 294.
28. “Afinal, a melhor maneira de viajar é sentir,” Obra Poética, 1983, 341.
29. “Pecado Original,” in ibid., 322.
30. Álvaro de Campos, “Ambiente,” Presença 3 (April 8, 1927).
31. Álvaro de Campos—Livro de Versos, 278, Poem 123 “Paragem Zona.”
32. Irene Ramalho Santos, Atlantic Poets, 260–64.
33. The Selected Prose of Fernando Pessoa, ed. and trans. Richard Zenith (New York:
Grove, 2001), 425.
34. Ibid., 426.
35. Álvaro de Campos—Livro de Versos, 33.
36. Harold Bloom, The Western Canon: The Books and Schools of the Ages (New York,
Harcourt, Brace, 1994) 452. Bloom mistakenly attributed the reference to Portuguese scholar
Irene Ramalho, who had studied at Yale and perhaps passed the information to him. Susan
Margaret Brown’s dissertation is “The Poetics of Pessoa’s ‘Drama em Gente:’ The Function
of Alberto Caeiro and the Role of Walt Whitman” (PhD diss., University of North Carolina at
Chapel Hill, 1987), 412 pp., AAT 8722269.
37. Richard Zenith, “Introduction: The Birth of a Nation,” in Fernando Pessoa, A Little
Larger Than The Entire Universe: Selected Poems (London: Penguin, 2006), xxiv–xxv.
38. Berardinelli, Outra vez te revejo, 71.
39. Álvaro de Campos—Livro de Versos, 18.
226 NOTES TO PAGES 88–96

40. Ibid., 102.

41. Berardinelli, Outra vez te revejo, 370.
42. R. Jackson Wilson, Figures of Speech: American Writers and the Litera-
ry Marketplace, from Benjamin Franklin to Emily Dickinson (New York: Knopf, 1989),
43. Álvaro de Campos—Livro de Versos, Poem 224h; 367, “Passagem das Horas ou Walt
44. Ibid., poem 24.
45. Ibid., poem 18s.
46. Ibid., 374, Poem 238, “Tramway,” 188, Poem 27–l, “A Partida.”
47. Ibid., poem 141.

Chapter 5
1. Cartas de Amor de Fernando Pessoa. ed. David Mourão-Ferreira with postface and
notes (Lisbon: Ática, 1978), 39–40. According to Manuela Nogueira, Pessoa’s family was
never informed of the courtship or letters to Ophelia. English translations are mine unless
otherwise noted.
2. Ibid. 56.
3. João Gaspar Simões, Vida e Obra de Fernando Pessoa: História duma Geração
(Lisbon: Livraria Bertrand, 1950); 4th ed., 1980.
4. Cartas de Amor de Ofélia a Fernando Pessoa, org. Manuela Nogueira and Maria da
Conceição Azevedo (Lisbon: Assírio & Alvim, 1996). The book includes a selection from the
230 letters, forty-six postcards, two telegrams and other notes written by Ophelia Queiroz,
with further omissions required by the Queiroz family. See Anna Klobucka, “Together at Last:
Reading the Love Letters of Ophelia Queiroz and Fernando Pessoa,” in Embodying Pessoa:
Corporeality, Gender, Sexuality eds. Anna M. Klobucka and Mark Sabine (Toronto: University
of Toronto Press, 2007), 224–41.
5. Cartas de Amor de Ofélia, 16.
6. “Estas ‘Cartas de Amor’ de Fernando Pessoa,” postface to Cartas de Amor, 184–85.
7. Cartas de Amor, 207.
8. Antonio Tabucchi, “Sulle lettere d’amore,” Un Baule Pieno di Gente: Scritti su
Fernando Pessoa (Milano: Feltrinelli, 1990), 93–101.
9. Haroldo de Campos, “Réquiem para Miss Cíclone, Musa Dialógica da Pré-
História Textual Oswaldiana,” in Oswald de Andrade, O Perfeito Cozinheiro das Almas
deste Mundo (São Paulo: Ex-Libris, 1987). Haroldo’s essay treats the muse of Oswald’s
garçonnière in São Paulo in 1918, “Miss Cíclone,” whose story unfolds in the group’s diary-
10. Robert Desnos, et al., The Automatic Muse: Surrealist Novels, trans. Terry Hale and
Iain White (London: Atlas, 1994).
11. André Breton, Nadja (Paris: Gallimard, 1928).
12. See Cartas de Amor, 207.
13. Ibid., 139–40.
14. Ibid., 98.
15. In Fernando Pessoa: Self-Analysis and Thirty Other Poems, trans. George Monteiro,
16. George Monteiro, “Ophelia’s Lovers,” Selected Proceedings of the Thirty-Fifth
Annual Mountain Interstate Foreign Language Conference, ed. Ramón Fernández-Rubio
(Greenville, S.C.: Furman University Press, 1987), 245–54.
17. In Obra Poética,1983, 519. Translation by Monteiro.
NOTES TO PAGES 97–107 227

18. Cartas de Amor, 65–66.

19. In Ibid., 221.
20. Manuela Nogueira, “Apresentação,” in Cartas de Amor de Ofélia, 17.
21. Cartas de Amor de Ofélia, 33–34.
22. Cartas de Amor, 62.
23. Ibid., 33–34.
24. Ibid., 21.
25. Ibid., 22–24.
26. See ibid., 32.
27. See Klobucka, who revealed the meaning in “Together at Last.”
28. Cartas de Amor, 38.
29. Sadlier, An Introduction, 133; see Jorge de Sena, Fernando Pessoa e C.a Heterónima.
30. Cartas de Amor, 77–78.
31. Ibid., 208.
32. Cartas de Amor de Ofélia, 317.
33. Cartas de Amor, 91.
34. Ibid., 29. My translation.
35. Cartas de Amor de Ofélia, 334.
36. Cartas de Amor, 38.
37. Ibid., 78.
38. Cartas de Amor, 161.
39. See Maria José de Lancastre, “Peregrinatio ad Loca Fernandina,” in Quaderni Por-
toghesi 1, 1977.
40. Cartas de Amor, 153.
41. Ibid., 77.
42. Cartas de Amor de Ofélia, 319.
43. Cartas de Amor, 109.
44. Cartas de Amor de Ofélia, 326.
45. Cartas de Amor, 129.
46. Ibid., 157.
47. Ibid., 155.
48. Obra Poética, 333–34. Translation in Monteiro, revised here.
49. Ibid., 333.
50. Ibid., 291.
51. Cartas de Amor, 131.
52. Ibid., 150.
53. Ibid., 151.
54. Ibid., 141.
55. See Ettore Finazzi-Agrò, Portuguese translation, O Álibi Infinito, Amílcar M.R.
Guerra, trans. (Lisbon: Imprensa Nacional; Casa da Moeda, 1987).
56. The Book of Disquiet, 2003, fragments 427, 348, and 359.
57. Cartas de Amor de Ofélia, 314. See Finzazzi-Agrò, L’alibi infinito.
58. The Book of Disquiet, 2003, p. 202.
59. Cartas de Amor de Ofélia, 314.
60. Livro de Desassossego composto por Bernardo Soares, ajudante de guarda-livros
na cidade de Lisbon, ed. Richard Zenith (Lisbon: Assírio & Alvim, 1998), 232–33. One must
consider whether Bernardo Soares in this statement, and by extension Pessoa, is not simply
imitating Chateaubriand, whom he quotes on his character René in the same fragment, “it
wearied him to be loved” (on le fatigait en l’aimant).
61. Cartas de Amor de Ofélia, 277.
228 NOTES TO PAGES 108–110

Chapter 6
1. “O Banqueiro Anarquista,” Contemporânea (1922); O Banqueiro Anarquista e
Outros Contos de Raciocínio, org. Fernando António Nogueira de Seabra Pessoa with preface
by Fernando Augusto de Freita Mota (Lisbon: Lux, 1964); O Banqueiro Anarquista e Outras
Prosas, selection and intro. Massaud Moises (São Paulo: Cultrix; Editora da Universidade de
São Paulo, 1988); O Banqueiro Anarquista (Lisbon: Ulmeiro, 1987, 1997; Lisbon: Antígo-
na, 1995, 1997); O Banqueiro Anarquista, ed. Teresa Sobral Cunha (Lisbon: Relógio d’Agua
Editores, 1997); O Banqueiro Anarquista (Lisbon: Livraria Civilização, 1997); O Banqueiro
Anarquista, ed. Manuela Parreira da Silva (Lisbon: Assírio & Alvim, 1999). Translations: The
Anarchist Banker, trans. Margaret Jull Costa (Manchester: Carcanet, 1997); Ein Anarchis-
tischer Bankier, trans. and intro. Reinold Werner (Berlin: Verlag Klaus Wagenbach, 1987);
Banker anarchista, trans. Pavla Lidmilová with illustrations by Jirí Voves (Prague: Vyd, 1998);
El Banquero anarquista y otros cuentos de raciocinio,” trans. Miguel Angel Viqueira (Madrid:
Alianza, 1986); 3ª. ed., org. and notes José Antonio Llardent (Valencia: Pre-Textos, 1995).
2. For criticism of Pessoa”s story, see Suzette Macedo, “Fernando Pessoa’s ‘O
Banqueiro Anarquista’ and ‘The Soul of Man under Socialism’,” Portuguese Studies
7 (1991), 106–132; Massaud Moisés, “O Banqueiro Anarquista: Banquete Sofístico?” in
Canticum Ibericum: neuere spanische, portugiesische und lateinamerikanische Literatur
im Spiegel von Interpretation und Ubersetzung, org. Georg Rudolf Lind, Erna Pfeiffer,
and Hugo Kubarth (Frankfurt am Main: Vervuert, 1991), 153–63; Ellen Sapega, “On Logi-
cal Contradictions and Contradictory Logic: Fernando Pessoa’s ‘O Banqueiro Anarquis-
ta’,” Luso-Brazilian Review 26.1 (Summer 1989), 111–17; Satoru Yabunaka, “A Ideologia
Política de Fernando Pessoa: Notas Elementares,” in Um Século de Pessoa: Encontro
Internacional do Centenário de Fernando Pessoa (Lisbon: Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian,
1988), 188.
3. Ettore Finazzi-Agrò, “O ‘Conto Im-Possível’ de Fernando Pessoa,” Minas Gerais-
Suplemento Literário 22.1110 (November 19, 1988), 14–15; reprinted in Actas do Primeiro
Congresso da Associação Internacional de Lusitanistas, Université de Poitiers, 1984 (Coim-
bra: Gráfica, 1988), 335–46. See especially p. 344.
4. Teresa Sousa de Almeida, “Athena, ou a Encenação Necessária.” in ATHENA, Edi-
ção facsimilar (Lisbon: Contexto, 1982), n.p. The quotation is “Ao delírio da razão opõe-se
agora a razão da loucura, tal como o corvo negro de Poe tinha pousado no ‘alvo busto de
ARISTOTÉLICA - I.” ATHENA 1.3 (December 1924: 113–115; II, 1.4 (January 1925),157–
160; facsimile ed. (Lisbon: Contexto Editora, 1983); “O que é a Metaphysica?” Athena 1.2
(November 1924): 59–62. Pessoa always used capital letters for these titles.
6. Pessoa’s theoretical essays can be found in Páginas de Doutrina Estética, sel.
Jorge de Sena with preface and notes (Lisbon: Inquérito, 1946); Páginas de Pensamento
Político: 1910–1919, 1925–1935, org. António Quadros with introduction and notes (Mem
Martins: Europa-América, 1986); Textos de Crítica e de Intervenção (Lisbon: Edições Áti-
ca, 1993); Textos de Intervenção Social e Cultural: A Ficção dos Heterónimos, org. António
Quadros with introduction and notes (Mem Martins: Publicações Europa-America, 1986);
and Textos Filosóficos, ed. António de Pina Coelho (Lisbon: Ática, 1994). For a critique,
see Carlos D’Alge, “Sobre a Arte Não-Aristotélica de Fernando Pessoa,” Actas do 2.º Con-
gresso Internacional de Estudos Pessoanos (Oporto: Centro de Estudos Pessoanos, 1985),
7. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Du contrat social, ou, Principes du droit politique (Amster-
dam : Chez Marc-Michel Rey, 1762).
NOTES TO PAGES 110–118 229

8. O Banqueiro Anarquista, 1997, 51.

9. Robert Bréchon, “La Politique selon Fernando Pessoa,” Um Século de Pessoa:
Encontro Internacional do Centenário de Fernando Pessoa (Lisbon: Fundação Calouste
Gulbenkian, 1988), 109–11. See especially p. 109.
10. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Discours sur l’origine et les fondemens de l’inégalité parmi
des hommes (Amsterdam : Marc-Michel Rey, 1755).
11. O Banqueiro Anarquista, 1997, 51–52.
12. John Locke, An Essay Concerning Humane Understanding: in four books (London:
Printed for Tho. Basset, and sold by Edw. Mory. . . , 1690).
13. Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, or, The matter, form, and power of a common-wealth
ecclesiastical and civil (London: Printed for Andrew Crooke, 1651).
14. Daniel Malthus, An Essay on the Principle of Population as It Affects the Future
Improvement of Society (London: J. Johnson, 1798).
15. Álvaro de Campos, “Ultimatum,” in Portugal Futurista, 1 (1917): 30–34.
16. Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations
(London: W. Strahan and T. Cadell, 1776).
17. O Banqueiro Anarquista, 1997, 46–47.
18. René Descartes, Discours de la methode pour bien conduire sa raison, & chercher la
verité dans les sciences. Plus la dioptrique. Les meteores. Et la geometrie. Qui sont des essais
de cette methode (Leyden : Jan Maire, 1637).
19. Benedict Spinoza, Tractatus theologico-politicus: continens dissertationes aliquot,
quibus ostenditur libertatem philosophandi non tantum salva pietate, & reipublicae pace pos-
se concedi : sed eandem nisi cum pace republicae, ipsaque pietate tolli non posse (Amster-
dam : C. Conrad, 1670).
20. Robert L. Heilbroner, The Worldly Philosophers (New York: Simon & Schuster,
21. O Banqueiro Anarquista, 1997, 20.
22. Ibid., 25–26.
23. Ibid., 53.
24. Oscar Wilde, Intentions: The Decay of Lying. Pen, Pencil and Poison. The Critic as
Artist. The Truth of Masks (London: J. R. Osgood, McIlvaine, 1891).
25. O Banqueiro Anarquista, 1997, 49.
26. Luigi Pirandello, Così è (se vi pare): parabola in tre atti (Rome:, Direzione della
Nuova Antologia, 1918). The play was premiered at Milan’s Teatro Olimpia on June 18,
Prosa, 1982, 242.
28. Ibid. 244.
29. Finazzi-Agrò, “ ‘Conto Im-Possível’,” 341.

Chapter 7
1. William Empson (1906–1984), Some Versions of Pastoral (London: Chatto & Win-
dus, 1935; 4th ed., New York: New Directions, 1974).
2. Alberto Caeiro, “De ‘O Guardador de Rebanhos’,” ATHENA, vol. 1, no. 4 (January
1925), 145–156. The first publication includes only twenty-three poems, numbers I, V, IX, X,
XLIII, XLV, XLVI, XLVII, XLVIII, XLIX; English translation, The Keeper of Sheep by Fer-
nando Pessoa,, trans. Edwin Honig and Susan M. Brown (Riverdale, N.Y.: The Sheep Meadow
Press, 1997). Bilingual edition.
230 NOTES TO PAGES 118–132

3. Caeiro’s spiritual journey in these poems could be read as if a skeptical, agnostic

rewriting of San Juan de la Cruz’s (1542–1591) Dark Night of the Soul (Noche oscura del
alma) [1586–1587] or Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s (1749–1832) novel of a journey of self-
realization, Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship (Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre) [1795–1796].
4. Jorge de Sena, “O “Meu Mestre Caeiro” de Fernando Pessoa e Outros Mais,”
Fernando Pessoa & C.a Heterónima, 449.
5. English translations are from Honig and Brown, The Keeper of Sheep.
6. George Herbert (1593–1633), vol. 1, 91, l. 17, F.W.L.ed., cited in The Complete
Poems of Sir Philip Sidney, vol. 2, ed. Rev. Alexander B. Grosart (London: Chatto & Windus,
1877), 151.
7. Cambridge Companion to John Cage, ed. David Nichols, 51, from Cage 1952a,
95–96. John Cage (1912–1992) challenged concepts and materials of music composition,
incorporating an interest in Oriental philosophy, which D. T. Suzuki (1870–1966) promoted in
writings and lectures in Western universities.
8. Caeiro satirizes the Hegelian dialectic with his “thesis, antithesis, tautology.”
9. In Leyla Perrone-Moisés, “Os ‘haicais’ de Caeiro,” Aquém do Eu, Além do Outro,
174–206. See especially p. 183.
10. Reginald Horace Blyth (1898–1964), “Preface,” Haiku, vol. 1, Eastern Culture
(Kamakura: Bunko, 1949), iv–v.
11. Privately printed broadside of seventy-two haiku poems in translation, July, 1905.
12. El jarro de flores: disociaciones líricas, illus. Adolfo Best Maugard (New York:
Escritores Sindicados, 1922).
13. For a discussion of “false” haiku in Caeiro, see Perrone-Moisés, Aquém do Eu, Além
do Outro, 184.

Chapter 8
1. Characterization of Ricardo Reis by Fernando Pessoa in Poesia, Ricardo Reis, org.
Manuela Parreira da Silva (São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2000), 230.
2. Páginas Íntimas e de Auto- Interpretação, ed. Jacinto do Prado Coelho and Georg
Rudolf Lind (Lisbon: Ática, 1966), 385.
3. Helena Buescu, “Voltar Atrás para a Frente: A Elisão da História em Ricardo Reis,”
Chiaroscuro. Modernidade e Literatura (Oporto: Campo das Letras, 2001), 237–56. Buescu
cites a text by Pessoa on Ricardo Reis reproduced in Poemas de Ricardo Reis, edited by Luiz
Fagundes Duarte, 1994, 47.
4. From Páginas Íntimas, 385.
5. The concept of cultural repetition is introduced in relation to Reis in Helena Buescu,
“Pessoa’s Unmodernity: Ricardo Reis,” read at King’s College London at the conference
“Fernando Pessoa: Influences, Dialogues, Responses” on December 11–12, 2008, 2.
6. Frank Wynne’s book, I Was Vermeer, treats the renowned art forger Hans Van
Meegeren (1889–1947) who challenged the art world by copying paintings by great masters.
His work was so exact that not only were many of his copies authenticated by experts but were
also considered to be masterpieces. In contrast, Ricardo Reis was appropriating, or borrowing
the Horatian ode, not for the purpose of passing the odes off as the work of Horace, but to
produce an exaggeratedly pure and thematically focused work that would stand as a modernist
reference and homage to Horace. As in a common Portuguese saying, “it’s the truth for being
a lie.”
7. The role of anachronism and the arrière-garde is discussed in Buescu, 2008, with
reference to William Marx, “Introduction,” Les Arrières-gardes au XXe. Siècle. L’autre face
de la modernité esthétique (Paris : Presses universitaires de France, 2004).
NOTES TO PAGES 132–140 231

8. Letter of June 27, 1914, cited in Buescu.

9. Buescu, “Pessoa’s Unmodernity: Ricardo Reis,” 3.
10. Sadlier hints at a distant origin for the idea of Ricardo Reis in a classmate’s imitation
of Horace in 1904 in Durban High School. Pessoa’s teacher, Dr. C. H. Haggar, parodied the
imitation, and Pessoa entered the fray with a critical appraisal and his own parody in verse,
which he signed “C. R. Anon.” See Introduction, 137, note 14.
11. The relationship between Pessoa’s Ricardo Reis and Saramago’s novel, The Year of
the Death of Ricardo Reis, is studied by Irene Ramalho Santos in Atlantic Poets, 9–14.
12. All translations of the Odes in this chapter are from an unpublished English transla-
tion by Benjamin Norwood.
13. The concept of parasitism has been applied to the novelistic world of Machado de
Assis (1839–1908) by such critics as Helen Florence Caldwell (1904–1987) and John Gled-
son, whether referring to social relationships or to the author’s extensive references to literary
and philosophical precursors.
14. Páginas Íntimas, 386.
15. Quoted in George Monteiro, Fernando Pessoa and Nineteenth-Century Anglo-American
Literature, 20. From Pessoa, Páginas de Estética, 151.
16. Monteiro, Fernando Pessoa, 13–14. William Wordsworth, Lyrical Ballads, with
Other Poems, Vol. 1 (London: Printed fo T. N Longman and O. Rees, by Biggs and Co., Bris-
tol, 1800).
17. Ode “Tirem-me os deuses,” Galhoz [G] 335, Silva Belkior [SB] 48, Parreira da Silva
[PS] 29.
18. Pessoa, Páginas Íntimas, 323.
19. H. Rackham, “Introduction,” Cicero, De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum (Cambridge:
Harvard University Press, 1961), xiv.
20. Ode “Vossa Formosa juventude leda,” G 348, SB, 61, PS 55.
21. Ricardo Reis, “Cristianismo e Paganismo,” in Obras em Prosa, 1982, 188.
22. In Poemas de Ricardo Reis, ed.Luiz Fagundes Duarte (Lisbon: Imprensa Nacional,
Casa de Moeda, 1994), 47.
23. Louis A. Ruprecht, Jr., Afterwords : Hellenism, Modernism, and the Myth of Deca-
dence (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996).
24. In Poemas de Ricardo Reis, 214.
25. The ode “O Deus Pã Não Morreu,” G 313, SB 31, PS 2.
26. The ode “Sob a leve tutela,” G 436, SB 128, PS 170.
27. Max Nordau, Degeneration (New York; D. Appleton, 1895); Die Entartung, 2 vols.
(Berlin: C. Dunker, 1892–1893).
28. The ode “Anjos ou deuses, sempre nós tivemos,” G 334, SB 47, PS 27.
29. The ode “Aqui neste misérrimo desterro,” G 419, SB 114, PS 143.
30. The ode “Cada coisa a seu tempo tem seu tempo,” G 324, SB 39, PS 15.
31. The ode “Nada fica de nada, Nada somos,” G 413, SB 109, PS 134.
32. T. S. Eliot, born the same year as Pessoa, had published The Waste Land in 1922
(New York: Boni and Liveright, 1922).
33. The ode “Acima da verdade estão os deuses,” G 333, SB 46, PS 28.
34. The odes “A flor que és, não a que dás, eu quero,” ATHENA 12; “Coroai-me de
rosas,” ATHENA 9.
35. The ode “Vivem em nós inúmero,” G423, SB 118, PS 149.
36. The ode “Não tenhas nada nas mãos,” G 319, SB 37, PS 12.
37. Quoted in Fernando Pessoa & Co.: Selected Poems, ed. and trans. Richard Zenith
(New York: Grove, 1998), 95–96.
38. The ode “Só esta liberdade nos concedem os deuses,” G 326, SB 41, PS 18.
232 NOTES TO PAGES 140–153

39. The ode “Não quero, Cloe, teu amor, que oprime,” G 393, SB 90, PS 115.
40. The ode “Mestre, são plácidas,” G 310, SB 29, PS 1.
41. The ode “Quero dos deuses só que me não lembrem,” G 432, SB 124, PS 167.
42. The ode “Ponho na altiva mente o fixo esforço,” ATHENA 07, G 424, SB 07, PS VII.
43. The odes “Vem sentar-te comigo, Lidia, à beira do rio,” G 315, SB 33, PS 5; and
“Sofro, Lídia, do medo do destino,” G 344, SB 58, PS 38a (var.).
44. The odes “Lídia, ignoramos. Somos estrangeiros,” G 408, SB 104, PS 127; and
“Aqui, Neera, longe,” G 327, SB 42, PS 19.
45. The ode “Prazer, mas devagar,” ATHENA 19, G 359, SB 19, PS XIX.
46. The odes “Quantos gozam o gozo de gozar,” SB 31 (unpublished), Parreira da Silva
84; “Cada dia sem gozo não foi teu,” G 416, SB 111, PS 140 (var.).
47. The odes “Deixemos, Lídia, a ciência que não põe,” G 428, SB 119, PS 154; “Como
se cada beijo,” ATHENA 05, G 361, SB 05, PS V; “Ao longe os montes têm neve al sol,” G
316, SB 34, PS 07; “É tão suave a fuga deste dia,” G 429, SB 121, PS 155.
48. The ode “A folha insciente, antes que a própria morra,” Poemas de Ricardo Reis, ed.
Luiz Fagundes Duarte, 1994, 105a.
49. The ode “O sono é bom pois despertamos dele,” G 375, SB 75, PS 87.
50. The ode “Sob estas árvores ou aquelas árvores,” SB 53 (unpublished), PS 171.
51. The ode “Segue o teu destino,” G 340, SB 53, PS 34s.
52. The ode “Não a ti, Cristo, odeio ou te não quero,” G 342, SB 55, PS 37.
53. The odes “Tão cedo passa tudo quanto passa!” G 358, SB 67, PS 63; “Olho os cam-
pos, Neera,” ATHENA 13, G 363, SB 13, PS XIII; “Sereno aguarda o fim que pouco tarda,” G
410, SB 106, PS 130.
54. The odes “Não quero recordar nem conhecer-me,” G 350, SB 63, PS 57; “Melhor
destino que o de conhecer-se,” ATHENA 10, G 355, SB 10, PS X.
55. The odes “Frutos, dão-os as árvores que vivem,” G 368, SB 69, PS 75; “Nada fica de
nada. Nada somos,” G 413, SB 109, PS 134; “Não quero recordar nem conhecer-me,” G 350,
SB 63, PS 57; “A nada imploram tuas mãos já coisas,” Presença 23, G 372, SB 23, PS 80.

Chapter 9

1. Fernando Gil (1937–2006), Helder Macedo, Viagens do olhar: retrospecção, visao e

profecia no Renascimento português (Oporto: Campo das Letras, 1998).
2. Mensagem (Lisbon: Pereira, 1934).
3. Message, trans. Jonathan Griffin (1906–1990) (London: The Menard Press; King’s
College, 1992). English translations in this chapter by Jonathan Griffin, with kind permission
of The Menard Press and Anthony Rudolf.
4. António Vieira (1608–1697), História do Futuro, intro. Maria Leonor Carvalhão
Buescu (Lisbon: Imprensa Nacional / Casa da Moeda), 1992.
5. “Blessed be the Lord our God Who gave us a sign.” The mystical sign has a prece-
dent in Constantine the Great’s vision of a Greek phrase in the sky before the battle against
Maxentius in a.d. 312, “ev toútwl víkox,” rendered into Latin as “in hoc signo vinces,” a phra-
se also seen on Portuguese coins.
6. David T. Haberly (1985: 246) interpreted the three parts of Mensagem by correlating
sexual imagery with imperialist expansion. The first section is “a preparation for intercourse,
primarily described in terms of erection”; the second is “penetration, ejaculation, a sudden
consciousness of an enormous sin against nature”; and the third is “a dirge of impotence, with
undercurrents of onanism, narcissism, and homosexuality.”
7. Ferdinand de Saussure (1857–1913), Cours de linguistique générale, ed. Charles
Bally and Albert Sechehaye, with Albert Reidlinger (Paris: Payot, 1916).
NOTES TO PAGES 155–163 233

8. Editora Ática, Lisbon, 1959.

9. See Richard Zenith, ed., A Little Larger Than the Entire Universe (New York:
Penguin, 2006), 372.
10. António Cirurgião, in O Olhar “Esfíngico” da Mensagem de Pessoa (Lisbon: Instituto
de Língua e Cultura; Ministério da Educação, 1990) interprets the nothing to be Ulysses while
the everything is Lisbon, the city that he founded and a metonymy for the nation.
11. Noting the great variety of Mensagem, António Cirurgião classifies it as a “hybrid
genre,” that is, a mix of epic, lyric, and elegiac poems (O Olhar “Esfíngico” da Mensagem de
Pessoa), 16.

Chapter 10

1. “Na Floresta do Alheamento,” in A Águia, 2.a série, n.o 20 (Oporto: August 1913),
38–42. Teresa Sobral Cunha’s 2008 edition of O Livro do Desassossego (Lisbon: Relógio
d’Água), divides the book into two large sections, attributing the first to Vicente Guedes and
the second to Bernardo Soares.
2. See Jorge de Sena, “Introdução ao Livro de Desassossego,” Fernando Pessoa &
C.a Heterônima. The titles are “Symphony of a Restless Night,” “Apotheosis of the Absurd,”
“Glorification of the Sterile,” “Dance,” “Ethics of Silence,” “Epiphany,” and “Pre-Dawn
3. “Trecho do ‘Livro do Desassossego’,” Solução Editora, n.os 2 e 4 (Lisbon: 1929), 25,
42 “Trecho de um Livro do Desasocego composto por Bernardo Soares, ajudante de guarda-
livros na cidade de Lisboa,” Presença, n.o 27 (Coimbra: June-July, 1930), 9; “Livro do Desas-
sosssego [Cinco fragmentos],” Descobrimento, vol. I, n.o do Outono (Lisbon, 1931), 403–15;
“Do Livro do Desassossego composto por Bernardo Soares, ajudante de guarda-livros na cidade
de Lisboa,” Presença, ano V, vol. 2.o, n.o 34, (Coimbra: November-February 1932), 8.
4. Livro do Desassossego. Páginas Escolhidas (Oporto: Arte & Cultura, 1961).
5. Fernando Pessoa, Livro do desassossego por Bernardo Soares, transcription by Aliete
Galhoz and Teresa Sobral Cunha with preface and organization by Jacinto do Prado Coelho
(Lisbon: Atica, 1982).
6. Livro do desassossego de Bernardo Soares, Maria Alzira Seixo, intro., selection,
José Blanco, bibliography (Lisbon: Editorial Comunicação, 1986); Livro do desassossego por
Bernardo Soares, intro. and new org. António Quadros (Mem Martins, Portugal: Publicações
Europa-América, 1986–1988); Livro do desassossego, org. and notes Teresa Sobral Cunha
(Lisbon: Presença, 1990; Relógio d’Água, 1997, 2008); Livro do desassossego composto por
Bernardo Soares, ajudante de guarda-livros na cidade de Lisboa, ed. Richard Zenith (Lisbon:
Assírio & Alvim, 1998, 2008).
7. Book of Disquiet: A Selection, trans. and intro. Iain Watson (London: Quartet Books,
1991); Book of Disquiet, trans. Alfred MacAdam (New York: Pantheon Books, 1991); Book
of disquiet, ed. Maria José de Lancastre, trans. Margaret Jull Costa (London, Baltimore, New
York: Serpent’s Tail, 1991); Book of Disquietude by Bernardo Soares, assistant bookkeeper
in the city of Lisbon, trans. and intro. Richard Zenith (Riverdale, N.Y., Sheep Meadow Press,
8. Some 8,500 books in Yale’s Sterling Memorial Library begin with the words “Book
of. . . .”
9. From a letter from Pessoa to Armando Côrtes-Rodrigues, Nov. 19, 1914, quoted in
Zenith, “Introdução,” Livro do Desassossego, 1998, 13.
10. Note to the reader: henceforth the sections carry identifying numbers from the Book
of Disquiet (2003) / Livro do Desassossego (1998), both edited by Richard Zenith, and are
identified in brackets, for example, [LD 474]. My translations of the original Portuguese.
234 NOTES TO PAGES 163–164

11. Marcel Proust (1871–1922), A la recherche du temps perdu (Paris : Grasset & Galli-
mard, 1913–1927).
12. J. M. Eça de Queirós, A Correspondencia de Fradique Mendes: (Memoria e Notas)
(Oporto: Livraria Chardron, De Lello & Irmão, 1900); J. M. Machado de Assis, Memorial de
Ayres (Rio de Janeiro: H. Garnier, 1908). English translation, The Correspondence of Fradique
Mendes, trans. Edgar Prestage (London: Sherratt and Hughes, 1906); Counselor Ayres’ Memo-
rial, trans. Helen Caldwell (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982).
13. Antonio Tabucchi, “Bernardo Soares, Uomo Inquieto e Insonne,” in Fenando Pessoa,
Il Libro dell’Inquietudine (Milan: Feltrinelli, 2006), 8. “English Translation: the subtle literary
feigning of the autobiography [. . .] made by a non-existent character [is] the only great narra-
tive work that Pessoa had left: his novel”.
14. The passage of the philosophical diary into the vanguardist mode can be seen in
Valéry Larbaud’s “intimate journal” attributed to the nonexistent South American writer he
invents: A. O. Barnabooth. Ses oeuvres complètes, c’est-à-dire un Conte, ses Poésies et son
Journal intime (Paris : Éditions de la Nouvelle revue française, 1913).
15. Henri-Frédéric Amiel (1821–1881), Journal intime, Bernard Gagnebin and Philippe
M. Monnier, eds., 12 vols. (Lausanne : Éditions L’Age d’homme, 1976–1994; Amiel’s Jour-
nal: The Journal intime of Henri Frédéric Amiel, Mrs. Humphrey Ward, trans., intro., and
notes (London: Macmillan, 1885).
16. Charles de Secondat, baron de Montesquieu (1689–1755), Oeuvres (Paris: Éd. Stéré-
otype, 1802–1803); Complete works (London: Printed for T. Evans, 1777), “haché, heurté
comme des notes jetées au hasard. . .” (December 30, 1850), Fragments d’un Journal Intime, I,
Geneva, 1887, 12).
17. Joseph Joubert (1724–1854), Pensées, essais, maximes et correspondance de J. Jou-
bert recueillis et mis en ordre, par Paul Raynal; et précédés d’une notice sur sa vie, son
caractère et ses travaux, (Paris: Ve Le Normant, 1850); Thoughts on the meaning of life,
Lloyd E. Smith, ed., intro. (Girard, Kan.: Haldeman-Julius Co., 1924). “Cette pensée haché,
fragmentaire, par gouttes de lumière, sans haleine” (February 17, 1851); Du Journal Intime,
ed. Roland Jaccard (Brussels: Ed. Complexe, 1897, 119).
18. Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768–1834), Theologische Zeitschrift (Berlin: G. Rei-
mer [1819, 22]); Brief outline of the study of theology, drawn up to serve as the basis of
introductory lectures, to which are prefixed reminiscences of Schleiermacher by Friedrich
Lücke, William Farrer, trans. (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1850). “car le centre de l’univers,
c’est encore le Moi” (February 1, 1852), Fragments d’un Journal Intime, I, Geneva,
1887, 38).
19. Alexandre Rodolphe Vinet (1797–1847), Crestomathie française, ou Choix de Mor-
ceau des meilleurs écrivains français, 15th ed. (Lausanne : G. Bridel, 1880). “Profondeur
et purité. . .mais non proprement la grandeur” (November 9, 1852), Fragments d’un Journal
Intime, I, Geneva, 1885, 58).
20. Ernest Naville (1816–1909), Le Christ; sept discours, 2nd. ed. (Geneva : A.
Cherbuliez et Cie., 1882); The Problem of Evil: Seven Lectures, Edward W. Shalders, trans.
(Edinburgh : T & T Clark, 1871). “le manque de sens génétique, historique, speculatif et criti-
que” (December 13, 1859), Journal Intime, III, Lausanne, 1980, 834.
21. Eduard von Hartmann (1842–1906), Philosophie des unbewussten. 6. aufl. (2. stereotyp-
ausg.) (Berlin: C. Duncker, 1874); Philosophy of the Unconscious, William Chatterton
Coupland, trans. (London: Trübner & Co., 1884). “l’illusion seule nos masque l’horreur de
l’existence” (December 8, 1869), Fragments d’un Journal Intime, II, 1884, 73.
22. Victor Cherbuliez (1829–1899), Études de littérature et d’art (Paris : Hachette
et cie, 1873). “remplaçant par l’ironie que lasse libre le pectus que rend sérieux” (December 4,
1876), Fragments d’un Journal Intime, II. Geneva, 1887, 220.
NOTES TO PAGES 164–166 235

23. Eugénie de Guérin (1805–1848), Journal et fragments (Paris: Didier, 1876).

“mille ressouvenirs d’une ancienne existence” (September 19, 1864), Journal Intime, V,
Lausanne, 1983; “Au fond chacun de nous est un caléidoscope perpétuel, un théâtre magique
où se joue l’interminable comédie des apparences que nos appelons notre vie particulière,”
24. The novelistic theme of the search for self-realization holds points of comparison
with the work of German-Swiss author Hermann Hesse (1877–1962), who in his youth was a
keeper of books, discovered the works of Schopenhauer and became interested in theosophy,
and incorporated Buddhist and Chinese philosophy into his novels.
25. Pessoa had read Max Nordau’s (1849–1923) Die Entartung (Berlin: C. Dunker,
1892–1893) in the French translation, Dégénérescence, trans. August Dietrich (Geneva: Sla-
tkin Reprints, 1998). The English translation was Degeneration (New York: D. Appleton,
1895). In the “Book” he cites Ernst Heinrich Haeckel (1834–1919), German biologist and phi-
losopher, Die Welträtsel: Gemeinverständliche studien über monistische philosophie (Bonn,
1900 [1895–1899], Riddle of the universe at the close of the nineteenth century, trans. Joseph
McCabe (New York, London: Harper & Brothers, 1900).
26. “B. Duas Notas,” in “Escritos de Pessoa relativos ao Livro do Desassossego,” Livro
do Desassossego, ed. Richard Zenith (Lisbon: Assírio & Alvim, 1998), 505.
27. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Les confessions de J. J. Rousseau, suivies des Rêveries du
promeneur solitaire (Geneva: n.p., 1782).
28. François-René Chateaubriand (1768–1848), Mémoires d’outre-tombe, Bruxelles &
Livourne, Meline, Cans et compagnie (Leipzig: J. P. Meline, 1848–1850).
29. Jean-Charles-Léonard Simonde de Sismondi (1773–1842), Fragments de son jour-
nal et correspondance (Geneva: J. Cherbuliez, 1857).
30. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre: Ein Roman (Berlin :
Johann Friedrich Unger, 1795–1796); Wilhelm Meister’s apprenticeship. A novel (Edinburgh:
Oliver & Boyd; London: G. & W.B. Whittaker, 1824); Rainer Maria Rilke, Die Aufzeich-
nungen des Malte Laurids Brigge (Leipzig: Insel-verlag, 1910); Notebook of Malte Laurids
Brigge, John Linton, trans. (London: The Hogarth Press, Tavistock Square, 1930).
31. Sigbjørn Obstfelder (1866–1900), En praests dagbog (Copenhagen, 1900); A Priest’s
Diary, trans. James McFarlane (Norwich: Norvik, 1987).
32. Sena, “Introdução ao Livro do Desassosssego”, 177–242.
33. In Richard Zenith’s translation, Pessoa states that Amiel attributes the “conscious-
ness of consciousness” to Scherer, however this attribution is missing from some Portuguese
texts. Pessoa may be misquoting Amiel or not remember his exact phrase.
34. “Heim était l’impartialité de la conscience, Naville la moralité de la conscience,
Lecoultre la religion de la conscience, Scherer l’intelligence de la conscience, et moi la cons-
cience de la conscience” (February 10, 1853), Journal Intime, II, Lausanne, 1978, 441.
35. “Le grand abîme implacable ou s’engouffrent toutes ces illusions que s’appellent les
êtres” (March 18, 1869), Journal Intime, VII, Lausanne, 1987, 661.
36. “Une fois emprisonné dans l’existence, il faut en subir les lois de bonne grâce. . .
des qu’on s’interdit le suicide” (September 11, 1873) Journal Intime, IX, Lausanne, 1990,
37. “Toutes les origines sont des secrets; le principe de toute vie individuelle ou
collective est un mystère, c’est-à-dire, quelque chose d’irrationnelle, d’inexplicable,
d’indéfinissable. Allons jusqu’au boute: toute individualité est une énigme insoluble, et
aucun commencement ne s’explique” (October 26, 1875), Fragments d’un Journal Intime,
II, Geneva, 1905, 198.
38. “Je n’ai pas d’ambition proprement dite, et je fais des bulles de savon pour faire
quelque chose” (May 15, 1876), Fragments d’un Journal Intime, II, Geneva, 1905, 204.
236 NOTES TO PAGES 166–168

39. “Comme on sent bien l’infixable mobilité de toute chose. Apparaître et s’évanouir,
c’est la toute la comédie de l’univers, c’est la biographie de tous les individus, ciron et planète,
quelle que soit la durée du cycle d’existence qu’ils décrivent” (April 2, 1864), Journal Intime,
V, Lausanne, 1983, 391.
40. “Entrer dans le jeu de Maia, faire de bonne grâce sa partie dans la Tragi-comédie
fantastique qu’on appelle l’Univers. . . Il me semble que l’intellectualisme aboutit là. L’esprit
en tant que pensée arrive a l’intuition que toute réalité n’est que le rêve d’un rêve” (December
11, 1872), Journal Intime, IX, 1990, Lausanne, 595.
41. “Il n’est point nécessaire d’être grand, pourvu qu’on soit dans l’ordre” (March 17,
1870), Journal Intime, VII, Lausanne, 1987, 1316.
42. “Mais combien n’avons-nous pas toujours à apprendre de ces immortels aïeux? et
comme ils ont mieux résolu leur problème que nous ! . . . comme ils one mieux révéré, cultivé,
anobli l’homme qu’ils connaissaient. A mille égards encore, nous sommes auprès d’eux des
barbares. . . . Barbares en éducation, en éloquence, en vie publique, en poésie, en fait d’art,
etc. . . . Nous apportons en nous de beaucoup plus grandes choses, mais nous sommes bien
plus petits” (November 10, 1852), Journal Intime, II, Lausanne, 1978, 314–15.
43. “À voir avec quelle aisance je deviens étranger à moi-même, au moi présent, pour me
trouver table rase et carte blanche” (July 1864), Fragments d’un Journal Intime, I, Geneva,
1885, 182.
44. “Je n’ai pas de moi particulier et nominative. . . Ma nature prodigieusement incom-
mode pour la pratique est assez avantageuse pour l’étude psychologique. En m’empêchant
de prendre parti, elle me permet de comprendre tous les partis” (August 14, 1869), Fragments
d’un Journal Intime, II, Geneva, 1884, 64.
45. “Que d’hommes dans un homme, que de styles dans un grand écrivain!” (August 13,
1865), Fragments d’un Journal Intime, I, Geneva, 1905, 217.
46. “Au lieu de n’être qu’un bloc, on devient légion, multitude, tourbillon, on est un
cosmos” (April 28, 1871), Fragments d’un Journal Intime, II, Geneva, 1884, 115.
47. “À présent, je puis considérer l’existence a peu près comme d’outre-tombe, comme
d’au-delà ; tout m’est étrange ; je puis être en dehors de mon corps et de mon individu, je suis
dépersonnalisé, détaché, évolué. Est-ce là de la folie?” (July 8, 1880), Fragments d’un Journal
Intime, II, Geneva, 1884, 289.
48. “De là ce que j’appelle la loi de l’ironie, c’est-à-dire la duperie inconsciente, la réfu-
tation de soi par soi-même, la réalisation concrète de l’absurde” (November 15, 1876), Frag-
ments d’un Journal Intime, II, Geneva, 1884, 212.
49. “J’ai senti vivre en moi cette insondable pensée, j’ai touché, éprouvé, savouré,
embrassé mon néant et mon immensité” (April 21, 1855), Fragments d’un Journal Intime, I,
Geneva, 1905, 98.
50. “Son aspect comique, c’est la capacité de conduire les autres devenant incapacité de
se conduire soi-même, c’est le rêve de l’infiniment grand arrêté par l’infiniment petit, c’est
l’apparence de la parfaite inutilité des dons. Arriver à l’immobilité para l’excès du mouve-
ment, à l’impuissance par l’excès des tentations, au zéro par la pléthore des nombres, c’est
étrangement bouffon et tristement drôle; et la moindre commère peut en faire des gorges chau-
des” (September 12, 1876), Journal Intime, X, Lausanne, 1992, 909.
51. “Je suis un esprit qui n’a pas épousé un corps, une patrie, un préjugé, une voca-
tion, un sexe, un genre . . . il me semble se aisé d’être autre chose, que ce choix me paraît
arbitraire . . . Une fois qu’on a tâté de l’absolu, tout ce que pourrait être autrement qu’il n’est
vous paraît adiaphoron” (July 3, 1874), Journal Intime, X, Lausanne, 1992, 27.
52. The comparison with Mallarmé is described in Leyla Perrone-Moisés, Aquém do
Eu, Alem do Outro, 229–32; Stéphane Mallarmé, Oeuvres completes (Paris: Gallimard, 1979),
NOTES TO PAGES 168–178 237

53. John Cage, Silence: Lectures and Writings (Middletown: Wesleyan University Press,
1961), 109.
54. Márcia Correia compares Soares’ book with Joyce’s Stephen Dedalus in “A Portrait
of the Artist as a Young Man: O Livro de Desassossego de James Joyce,” in Novos Caminhos
da História e da Cultura, org. Carlos Ceia and Isabel Lousada (Lisbon: Minerva, 2007), n.p.
55. Zenith, “Introduction,” in The Book of Disquiet , xxv.
56. A similar thematic organization is found in the 1982 Ática edition by Galhoz, Cunha,
and Prado Coelho.
57. The voluptuosity of nothingness is a theme studied in Machado de Assis’s
1880 novel Memórias Póstumas de Brás Cubas (Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas) by
critic João Alexandre Barbosa, “The Lascivious Volputuousness of Nothing: A Reading of
Epitaph of a Small Winner,” in Tropical Paths, ed. Randal Johnson (New York: Garland, 1993),
58. The “Book’s” subliminal eroticism and masochistic sensibility may be compared
with Álvaro de Campos’s homoeroticism in “Maritime Ode” (“Ode Marítima”), “Opium
Voyage” (“Opiário”), as well as the English poems “Epithalamium” and “Antinoo.”
59. Cesário Verde (1855–1886), Portugal’s major realist poet who published only some
forty poems in newspapers in his lifetime. His work was reunited in O Livro de Cesário Verde
and published posthumously (Lisbon: Typographia Elzeviriana, 1887). Verde’s reputation was
enhanced with recognition by Pessoa and his generation.
60. “Pierre Menard, autor del Quijote” (“Pierre Menard, author of Don Quijote”) is a
short story by the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges that first appeared in the magazine Sur in
May 1939 and thereafter in the collection El Jardín de senderos que se bifurcan (The Garden
of Forking Paths) in 1941. The nonexistent Menard wishes actually to recreate the Quijote
word for word, rather than simply translate it.
61. Pessoa wrote a guide to Lisbon for the tourist in English, Lisbon: What the Tourist
Should See (Exeter: Shearsman Books, 2008; Lisbon: Livros Horizonte, 1997), bilingual text)
62. René Magritte (1898–1967), Belgian surrealist known for his witty images opening
transparent gaps or holes in material reality.
63. See Jorge de Sena, “Maneirismo na Poesia Portuguesa dos Séculos XVI e XVII,”
Luso-Brazilian Review 2.2 (1965), 29–53.
64. A Portuguese symbolist who studied and lived in Parisian exile, publishing his
famous volume of verse, Só (“Alone”), in 1892 (Paris: Leon Vanier, éditeur).
65. Fragment 474 in the 2000 edition, ed. Richard Zenith did not appear in the 1998
Assírio & Alvim edition.
66. Again this point is close to Álvaro de Campos’s expansive compositions contained
entirely within his mind, whereby the literary work of his imagination replaces and becomes
superior to any actual or possible experience. And despite Soares’s laments and retreat into an
interior world, the “Book” does exist, even in the condition of an accumulation of fragments,
and is included by Pessoa on lists of his major works to be published.
67. The line is included in the lyrics to the song “Os Argonautas” on Caetano Veloso’s
third album, Caetano Veloso (Álbum Branco), recorded in Salvador, Bahia, produced by Rogé-
rio Duprat, and released under the Philips label.

Chapter 11
1. Elizabeth Bishop (1911–1979) in Words in Air: The Complete Corresponden-
ce Between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell, ed. Thomas Travisano with Saskia
Hamilton (New York: Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 2008); Robert Lowell (1917–1977), American
238 NOTES TO PAGES 178–186

2. Machado de Assis, Memórias Póstumas de Brás Cubas, 4th ed. (São Paulo: Cultrix,
[1881] 1965); The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas, trans. Gregory Rabassa (New York:
Oxford University Press, 1996).
3. Machado de Assis, Quincas Borba (Rio de Janeiro: Civilização Brasileira, Instituto
Nacional do Livro, [1890] 1975); trans. Gregory Rabassa (New York: Oxford, 1998).
4. Machado de Assis, Esaú e Jacob (Rio de Janeiro: Civilização Brasileira, Instituto
Nacional do Livro, [1904] 1976); Esau and Jacob, trans. Elizabeth Lowe (New York: Oxford
University Press, 2000).
5. The Selected Prose of Fernando Pessoa, trans. and ed. Richard Zenith (New York:
Grove, 2001, 37.
6. Adolfo Casais Monteiro, “O exemplo de Fernando Pessoa,” Diário de Lisboa (Dec.
9, 1937) cited in João Alves das Neves, “Estudos Pessoanos: Subsídios Para os Estudos Pesso-
anos no Brasil,” in Intelectuais e Artistas Portugueses no Brasil (São Paulo: Edição do Centro
de Estudos Americanos Fernando Pessoa, 1992), 67. My translation.
7. See “Comedy (Greek), Origins of” in The Oxford Classical Dictionary, 2nd. ed.
N.G.L.Hammond & H. H. Scullard (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977), 268–69.
8. Obras em Prosa, 1982,161.
9. Ibid..
10. Ibid., p. 162.
11. Ibid., p. 108.
12. Document quoted in Pessoa Por Conhecer II, ed. Teresa Rita Lopes, 413–14.
13. Páginas Íntimas e de Auto-Interpretação, ed. Georg Rudolf Lind and Jacinto do Pra-
do Coelho (Lisbon: Ática, 1966), 374.
14. Patricia Cohen, “Now She’s Only Hunted by Cameras,” New York Times (May 25,
2008), 7.
15. Epigraph in Clarice Lispector, A Paixão Segundo G. H. (Rio de Janeiro: Editora do
Autor, 1964).
16. “Sim, eu sei.” My translation.
17. Obras em Prosa, 1982, 220.
18. R. H. Blyth, “Preface,” Haiku, Vol. 1, Eastern Culture (Kamakura: Bunko, 1949),
19. Henri-Frédéric Amiel, Amiel’s Journal, trans. Mrs. Humphry Ward (New York:
Brentano’s, 1928), 51 [Feb. 10, 1853].
20. “I’ll have grounds
More relative than this—the play’s the thing
Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King.”
Hamlet Act 2, scene 2
21. In “Poema de sete faces,” the lead poem of Alguma Poesia (1930) by Carlos Drum-
mond de Andrade (1902–1987) asked if poetry were a rhyme or a solution:
Mundo mundo vasto mundo
se eu me chamasse Raimundo
seria uma rima, não seria uma solução.
Mundo mundo vasto mundo,
mais vasto é meu coração.
World world vast world
if I were named Raymond
it would be a rhyme, not a solution
World world vast world
My heart is vaster.
NOTES TO PAGES 186–190 239

22. Jorge de Sena makes a similar point in his essay, “Introdução ao Livro do Desassos-
sego,” in Fernando Pessoa & C.a Heterónima, 193. “Pessoa não é, tenhamos paciência e ele
postumamente também, um Dante, um Camões, um Goethe, ou o Shakespeare ou o Milton.”
23. “L’univers n’est que le caléidoscope qui tourne dans l’esprit de l’être dit pensant,
lequel est lui-même une curiosité sans cause, un hasard qui a conscience de tout le grand
hasard et qui s’en amuse pendant que la phénomène de sa vision dure encore,” Henri-Frédéric
Amiel, Fragments d’un Journal Intime, 4th ed., Geneva, 1887, 23.
24. “Le philosophe rit, parce qu’il n’est dupe de rien . . . Il est pareil au malin spectateur
d’un bal qui aurait adroitement enlevé aux violines toutes leur cordes et qui verrait néanmoins
se démener musiciens et danseurs, comme s’il y avait musique,” in ibid.
25. For an analysis of this point, see José Arthur Giannotti, “A Perda do Mundo,” Novos
Estudos CEBRAP 82 (November, 2008): 69–95.
26. Oswald de Andrade, “Manifesto Antropófago,” Revista de Antropofagia 1 (May
1928), 3, 7; trans. Leslie Bary, Latin American Literary Review 19.38 (1991), 35–47.
27. e. e cummings, “Tulips and Chimneys” (1923), Poems 1923–1954 (New York: Har-
court, Brace & World, Inc., 1954), 58.
28. Fernando Pessoa, Obra Poética, 1983, 61.
29. Dated March 16, 1935, this poem has a satirical epigram, “Lacking a quotation from
Seneca” (“Falta uma citação de Sêneca”), in ibid., 122–23.
30. The final verse of Opiário, written “on board ship in the Suez canal” (“No Canal de
Suez, a bordo”) and published in the first number of ORPHEU (1915).
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1. Editions of Works by Fernando Pessoa

Álvaro de Campos—Livro de Versos. Introduction by Teresa Rita Lopes. Lisbon: Editorial
Estampa, 1993.
Álvaro de Campos: Vida e Obras do Engenheiro. Edited by Teresa Rita Lopes. Lisbon: Edito-
rial Estampa, 1990.
O Banqueiro Anarquista. Edited by Manuela Parreira da Silva. Lisbon: Assírio & Alvim, 1999.
O Banqueiro Anarquista. Lisbon: Livraria Civilização, 1997.
O Banqueiro Anarquista. Edited by Teresa Sobral Cunha. Lisbon: Relógio d’Água Editores,
O Banqueiro Anarquista, 4ª ed. Lisbon: Antígona, 1995; 5ª. ed., 1997.
O Banqueiro Anarquista. Lisbon: Ulmeiro, 1987 3ª. ed., 1997.
“O Banqueiro Anarquista.” Contemporânea (Lisbon, 1922).
O Banqueiro Anarquista e Outros Contos de Raciocínio. Fernando António Nogueira de
Organized by Seabra Pessoa; preface by Fernando Augusto de Freita Mota. Lisbon: Lux,
O Banqueiro Anarquista e Outras Prosas. Selection and introduction by Massaud Moises. São
Paulo: Cultrix; Editora da Universidade de São Paulo, 1988.
Cartas de Amor de Fernando Pessoa. Edited by David Mourão-Ferreira. Lisbon: Ática, 1978.
Cartas de Fernando Pessoa a Armando Côrtes-Rodrigues. Lisbon: Editora Confluência, 1945;
2nd ed., Livros Horizonte, 1985.
Cartas de Fernando Pessoa a João Gaspar Simões. Lisbon: Europa-América, 1957.
Correspondência Inédita. Edited by Manuela Parreira da Silva. Lisbon: Livros Horizonte,
Critical, dual-language edition of Quadras ao gosta popular / Quatrains in the popular style.
Translated by Philip Krummrich. Lewiston, N.Y.: E. Mellen Press, 2003.
Fernando Pessoa: Obra Poética. Selection by Maria Aliete Galhoz; introduction by Nelly
Novais Coelho. Rio de Janeiro, Nova Aguilar, 1983.


Fernando Pessoa: Obras em Prosa. Organized by Cleonice Berardinelle. Rio de Janeiro: Nova
Aguilar, 1982.
Um Jantar Muito Original, seguido de A Porta. Translated by Maria Leonor de Machado de
Sousa. Lisbon: Relógio d’Água, [1988] 2008.
Um Jantar Muito Original. São José Lapa, voice CD. Lisbon: 101 Noites, 2007.
Lisbon: What the Tourist Should See. Exeter: Shearsman Books, 2008; Lisbon: Livros Hori-
zonte, 1997.
Livro do Desassosssego. Vicente Guedes / Bernardo Soares. Edited by Teresa Sobral Cunha.
Lisbon: Relógio d’Água, 2008.
Livro do Desassossego I. Edited by Vicente Guedes. Organized by Teresa Sobral Cunha. Lis-
bon: Relógio d’Água, 1997.
Livro do Desassossego. Vol. 1, Vicente Guedes / Bernardo Soares; vol. 2, Bernardo Soares, ed.
Teresa Sobral Cunha, org. Campinas: Editora da Unicamp, 1994.
Livro do Desassossego, Vol. 1, Vicente Guedes / Bernardo Soares; vol. 2, edited by Bernardo
Soares, organized by Teresa Sobral Cuha. Lisbon: Presença, 1990–1991.
Livro do Desassosssego, composto por Bernardo Soares, ajudante de guarda-livros na cidade
de Lisbon. Edited by Richard Zenith. Lisbon: Assírio & Alvim, 1998; São Paulo: Compa-
nhia das Letras, 1999; Lisbon: Círculo de Leitores, 2006.
Livro do Desassossego de Bernardo Soares. Introduction by Maria Alzira Seixo. Lisbon: Edi-
torial Comunicação, 1986.
Livro do Desassossego por Bernardo Soares. 2 vols. Introduction by António Quadros. Mem Mar-
tins: Europa-América, 1986; edited by Leyla Perrone Moisés. São Paulo: Brasiliense, 1986.
Livro do Desassossego por Bernardo Soares. 3 vols. Edited by Maria Aliete Galhoz and Teresa
Sobral Cunha; preface by Jacinto do Prado Coelho. Lisbon: Ática, 1982.
O Marinheiro. Illustrated by Luís Filipe Cunha. Lisbon, Expo ’98, 1997.
“O Marinheiro” ORPHEU (Lisbon, 1915).
Mensagem. Lisbon: Pereira, 1934.
Mensagem: Poemas Esotéricos. José Augusto Seabra, critical edition, coord. Lisbon: Coleção
Archivos; Fundação Eng. A. Almeida, 1993.
Notas para a Recordação do meu Mestre Caeiro. Organized by Teresa Rita Lopes. Lisbon:
Editorial Estampa, 1997.
Obra Poética. Organized by Maria Aliete Galhoz. Reprint of 8th ed. (1981). Rio de Janeiro:
Editora Nova Aguilar, [1960] 1983.
Obra Poética e em Prosa. 3 vols. Edited by António Quadros & Dalila Pereira da Costa. Oporto:
Lello & Irmãos, 1986.
Obras em Prosa. Organized by Cleonice Berardinelle. Rio de Janeiro: Nova Aguilar, [1974]1982 .
Odes de Ricardo Reis. Lisbon: Presença, 1999.
Odes de Ricardo Reis. Mem Martins, Portugal: Publicações Europa-America, 1996.
Odes de Ricardo Reis: seguidas de Fernando Pessoa e os seus heteronimos: em textos selec-
cionados do poeta, incidindo em especial sobre R. Reis. Introduction by Antonio Qua-
dros. 2nd ed. Lisbon: Publicações Europa-America, 1987.
Pessoa Inédito. Organized by Teresa Rita Lopes. Lisbon: Livros Horizonte, 1993.
Poemas Completos de Alberto Caeiro. Preface by Ricardo Reis. Álvaro de Campos, posfácio.
Edited by Teresa Sobral Cunha. Lisbon: Editorial Presença, 1994.
Poemas de Alberto Caeiro. Obras Completas de Fernando Pessoa-III. Edited by Luís de Mon-
talvor and João Gaspar Simões. Lisbon: Edições Ática, 1946.
Poemas de Álvaro de Campos. Edited by Cleonice Berardinelli. Edição Crítica de Fernando
Pessoa, II. Série maior. Lisbon: Imprensa Nacional / Casa da Moeda, 1990.
Poemas de Ricardo Reis. Edited by Luiz Fagundes Duarte. Lisbon: Imprensa Nacional, Casa
de Moeda, 1994. Edicao crítica de Fernando Pessoa. Série Maior, v. 3.

Poemas de Ricardo Reis. Introduction by Manuel Gusmão. Lisbon: Editoral Communicação, 1992.
Poemas Dramáticos; Poemas Ingleses; Poemas Franceses; Poemas Traduzidos. Edited by
Maria Aliete Galhoz. Rio de Janiero: Nova Aguilar, 1976.
Poesia de Fernando Pessoa. 2 vols. Edited by Adolfo Casais Monteiro. Lisbon: Editora Con-
fluência, 1942.
Poesias de Fernando Pessoa. Vol. 1. Edited by Luís de Montalvor and João Gaspar Simões.
Lisbon: Ática, 1942.
Quadras. Edited by Luísa Freire. Lisbon: Assírio & Alvim, 2002.
Quadras ao Gosto Popular. Edited by Georg Rudolf Lind and Jacinto Prado Coelho. Lisbon:
Ática, 1965.
Quadras e Outros Cantares. Edited by Teresa Sobral Cunha. Lisbon: Relógio d’Água, 1997.
Ricardo Reis. Poesia. Edited by Manuela Parreira da Silva. Obras de Fernando Pessoa 15.
Lisbon: Assírio & Alvim, 2000.
Texto Crítico das Odes de Fernando Pessoa-Ricardo Reis. Edited by Silva Bélkior. Lisbon:
Imprensa Nacional / Casa da Moeda, 1988.
“A Very Original Dinner.” In Maria Leonor Machado de Sousa. Fernando Pessoa e a Litera-
tura de Ficção. Lisbon: Novaera, 1978.

2. Social, Political, and Philosophical Essays

ATHENA 1.3 (December 1924): 113–115; II, 1.4 (Janeiro 1925): 157–60; facsimile ed.
Lisbon: Contexto Editora, 1983.
Campos, Álvaro de. “O que é a Metaphysica?” ATHENA 1.2 (November 1924): 59–62;
facsimile ed. Lisbon: Contexto Editora, 1983.
———. “ULTIMATUM.” Portugal Futurista 1 (1917).
Da República. Edited by Joel Serrao. Lisbon: Ática, 1978.
Páginas de Doutrina Estética. Selection by Jorge de Sena. Lisbon: Inquérito, 1946.
Páginas de Estética e de Teoria e Crítica Literárias. Texts by Georg Rudolf Lind and Jacinto
do Prado Coelho. Lisbon: Ática, 1994.
Páginas de Pensamento Político: 1910–1919, 1925–1935. Organized by António Quadros.
Mem Martins: Europa-América, 1986.
Páginas Íntimas e de Auto-Interpretação. Edited by Jacinto do Prado Coelho and Georg
Rudolf Lind. Lisbon: Ática, 1966.
Textos de Crítica e de Intervenção. Lisbon: Edições Ática, 1993.
Textos de Intervenção Social e Cultural: A Ficção dos Heterónimos. Introduction by António
Quadros. Mem Martins: Publicações Europa-America, 1986.
Textos Filosóficos. Edited by António de Pina Coelho. Lisbon: Ática, 1994.

3. Translations
Bibliographical essay
Blanco, José. “Fernando Pessoa’s Critical and Editorial Fortune in English: A Selective Chro-
nological Overview.” Portuguese Studies 24.2 (2008): 13–32.

List of selected translations

The Anarchist Banker. Translated by Margaret Jull Costa. Manchester: Carcanet, 1997.
Ein Anarchistischer Bankier, Ein. Translated by Reinold Werner. Berlin: Verlag Klaus Wagen-
bach, 1987.

Banker anarchista. Translated by Pavla Lidmilová; illustrated by JiÏví Voves. Prague: Vyd,
El Banquero anarquista, y otros cuentos de raciocinio. Translated by Miguel Angel Viquei-
ra. Madrid: Alianza, 1986; Organized by José Antonio Llardent. 3ª. ed., Valencia: Pre-
Textos, 1995.
Le Banquier anarchiste: fiction, 4ª ed. translated by Joaquim Vital. Paris: La Différence,
The Book of Disquiet. Translated by Alfred Mac Adam. New York: Pantheon, 1991; Boston:
Exact Change, 1998.
The Book of Disquiet. Translated by Margaret Jull Costa; edited by José de Lancastre. London:
Serpent’s Tail, 1991.
The Book of Disquiet. Translated by Richard Zenith. London: Allen Lane, 2001.
The Book of Disquiet: A Selection. Translated by Iain Watson. London: Quartet Books, 1991.
The Book of Disquietude. Translated by Richard Zenith. Manchester: Carcanet, 1991; , New
York; Hammonsworth, Middlesex: Penguin, 2002, 2003.
The Book of Disquietude. By Bernardo Soares, assistant bookkeeper in the city of Lisbon.
Translated by Richard Zenith. Manchester: Carcanet; Gulbenkian Foundation, 1996;
Riverdale-on-Hudson: Sheep Meadow Press, 1996.
Fernando Pessoa & Co.: Selected Poems. Edited and translated by Richard Zenith. New York:
Grove Press, 1998.
Fernando Pessoa: Self-Analysis and Thirty Other Poems. Translated by George Monteiro. Lis-
bon: Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, 1989.
The Keeper of Sheep. Translated by Edwin Honig and Susan M. Brown. Riverdale-on-Hudson,
N.Y.: Sheep Meadow Press ; New York, N.Y.: distributed by Persea Books, 1986.
Il Libro dell’Inquietudine di Bernardo Soarres. Preface by Antonio Tabucchi. Translation by
Maria José de Lancastre and Antonio Tabucchi. Organized by Maria José de Lancastre.
Milan: Feltrinelli, 2000.
A Little Larger Than the Entire Universe: Selected Poems. Edited and translated by Richard
Zenith. London: Penguin, 2006.
Le marin: drame statique, 2 ed. Translated by Françoise Laye. Paris: Christian Bourgois,
Le marin: drame statique en un tableau. Preface by José Augusto Seabra. Translation by Ber-
nard Sesé. Paris: Librairie José Corti, Ibériques, 198-.
Il marinaio: dramma statico in un quadro. Edited by Antonio Tabucchi. Torino: Einaudi,
Marinela: kuadro bakarreko drama estatikoa. Translated by Joseba Sarrionandia. Susa,
“The Mariner.” In The Selected Prose of Fernando Pessoa. Edited and translated by Richard
Zenith. New York: Grove, 2001:18–35.
El marinero. Translated by Carmen Martín Gaite. Alcala de Henares: Alcalá Fundación Cole-
gio del Rey, 1990.
O Mar Sem Fim / The Boundless Sea. Translated by Edwin Honig and Susan M. Brown. Lis-
bon: Instituto Português do Património Arquitectónico, 2000.
Message. Illustrated by Pedro Sousa Pereira. Translated by Richard Zenith. Lisbon: Oficina
do Livro, 2008.
Message. Translated by Jonathan Griffin. London: Menard Press, King’s College, 1992.
Poems of Fernando Pessoa. Translated and edited by Edwin Honig and Susan M. Brown. New
York, Ecco Press, 1986; San Francisco: City Lights, 1998.
Selected Poems. Translated by Edwin Honig. Chicago: Swallow Press, 1971.
Selected Poems. Translated by Peter Rickard. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1971.

The Selected Prose of Fernando Pessoa. Translated and edited by Richard Zenith. New York:
Grove, 2001.

4. Secondary Bibliography
Ai confini dei generi: casi di ibridismo letterario. Organized by Alberto Destro and Annamaria
Sportelli. Bari: B.A. Graphis, 1999.
Aiex, Anoar. “O Livro do Desassosssego e a crise do pensamento europeu.” In Actas do 2.o
Congresso Internacional de Estudos Pessoanos. Oporto: Centro de Estudos Portugueses,
1985: 15–24.
Almeida, Teresa Sousa de. “Athena, ou a Encenação Necessária.” ATHENA. Edição facsimi-
lar. Lisbon: Contexto, 1982, n.p.
Amiel, Henri-Frédéric. Fragments d’un journal intime, Bernard Gagnebin and Philippe
M. Monnier, eds., 12 vols. (Lausanne: Éditions L’Age d’homme, 1976–1994 ; Amiel’s
Journal. Translated by Mrs. Humphrey Ward. London: Macmillan, 1885.
Ancona, Ronnie. Time and the Erotic in Horace’s Odes. Durham: Duke University Press, 1994.
Anderson III, Robert N. “The Static Drama of Fernando Pessoa.” Hispanófila 35.2 (104)
(January 1992): 89–97.
Andrade, Carlos Drummond de. Alguma Poesia. Belo Horizonte: Edições Pindorama, 1930.
Andrade, Maria Ivone de Ornellas de. “Sete Reflexões sobre ‘O Marinheiro’.” Centro da His-
tória da Cultura da Universidade Nova (1986): 671–701.
Andrade, Oswald de. “Manifesto Antropófago.” Revista de Antropofagia 1 (May 1928), 3, 7;
translated by Leslie Bary. Latin American Literary Review 19.38 (1991): 35–47.
Antunes, Alfredo. Saudade e Profetismo em Fernando Pessoa: Elementos para uma Antropo-
logia Filosófica. Braga: Publicações da Faculdade de Filosofia, 1983.
Arata, Stephen. Fictions of Loss in the Victorian fin de siècle. Cambridge: New York: Cam-
bridge University Press, 1996.
Machado de Assis, J. M. Esaú e Jacó. Rio de Janeiro: Civilização Brasileira, Instituto Nacional
do Livro, [1904] 1976 ; Esau and Jacob. translated by Elizabeth Lowe. New York: Oxford
University Press, 2000.
———. Quincas Borba. Rio de Janeiro: Civilização Brasileira, Instituto Nacional do Livro,
[1890] 1975 ; translated by Gregory Rabassa. New York: Oxford, 1998.
———. Memorial de Ayres. Rio de Janeiro: H. Garnier, 1908; Counselor Ayres’ Memorial.
Translated by Helen Caldwell. Berkeley: California University Press, 1982.
———. Memórias Póstumas de Brás Cubas, 4th ed. São Paulo: Cultrix, [1881] 1965 ; The Post-
humous Memoirs of Bras Cubas. Translated by Gregory Rabassa. New York: Oxford, 1996.
Baradez, François; Martins, Albano. “ ‘Cartas de Amor de Fernando Pessoa’: Pelo Buraco da
Fechadura.” Letras & Letras 5.63 (1992): 13–14.
Barbosa, João Alexandre. The Lascivious Volputuousness of Nothing: A Reading of Epitaph
of a Small Winner.” In Tropical Paths. Edited by Randal Johnson. New York: Garland,
1993, 11–29.
Barthes, Roland. Fragments d’un discours amoureux. Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1977.
Bartók, Béla. Bluebeard’s Castle: op. 11, original edition, 1921, piano reduction by the com-
poser. Mineola, N.Y.: Dover, 2001.
Beckett, Samuel. En attendant Godot. Paris: Éditions du Minuit, 1970; English version, Wait-
ing for Godot: A Tragicomedy in Two Acts. London: Faber and Faber, 1956.
Belkior, Silva. Fernando Pessoa—Ricardo Reis: os originais, as edições, o cânone das odes.
Lisbon: Imprensa Nacional / Casa da Moeda; Oporto: Centro de Estudos Pessoanos,

———. Horácio e Fernando Pessoa. Rio de Janeiro: Companhia Brasileira de Artes Gráficas,
———. Texto Crítico das Odes de Fernando Pessoa-Ricardo Reis. Lisbon: Imprensa Nacional /
Casa da Moeda, 1988.
Bellorini, Mariagrazia. “Pippa Passes de Robert Browning verso un nuovo teatro: sperimen-
tazione di un genere drammatico ibrido.” In Ai confini dei generi: casi di ibridismo let-
terario, edited by Alberto Destro and Annamaria Sportelli. Bari: B.A. Graphis, 1999:
Berardinelli, Cleonice. Fernando Pessoa: Outra vez te revejo. Rio de Janeiro: Lacerda, 2004.
Bergson, Henri. L’Évolution créatrice. Paris: F. Alcan, 1907; Creative Evolution. Translated
by Arthur Mitchell. New York: Henry Holt, 1911.
———. Le rire. Paris: Félix Alcan, 1912; Laughter: An Essay on the Meaning of the Comic.
New York: Macmillan, 1911.
Bernstein, Mark H. Fatalism. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1992.
Bishop, Elizabeth. Words in Air: The Complete Correspondence Between Elizabeth Bishop
and Robert Lowell. Edited by Thomas Travisano, with Saskia Hamilton. New York: Far-
rar, Strauss & Giroux, 2008.
Bloom, Harold. The Western Canon: The Books and Schools of the Ages. New York: Harcourt,
Brace, 1994.
Blyth, R. H. Haiku, Vol. 1, Eastern Culture. Kamakura: Bunko, 1949.
Boltzman, Ludwig. Populäre Schriften von Dr. Ludwig Boltzmann. Leipzig: J.A. Barth, 1905.
———. Theoretical Physics and Philosophical Problems: Selected Writings. Edited by Brian
McGuinness. Foreword by S. R. de Groot; translated by Paul Foulkes. Dordrecht; Boston:
Reidel, 1974.
Borges, Jorge Luis. “Pierre Menard, autor del Quijote.” El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan.
Buenos Aires: SUR, 1942.
Boxer, Charles R. Portuguese Seaborne Empire, 1415–1825. London: Hutchinson, 1969.
Braga, Theóphilo. Cancioneiro popular, colligido da tradição por Theophilo Braga.
Coimbra: Imprensa da Universidade, 1867.
———. Romanceiro geral portuguez. Lisbon: M. Gomes, 1906–1909.
Bréchon, Robert. Étrange Étranger. Paris: C. Bourgois, 1996.
———. L’Innombrable: un tombeau pour Fernando Pessoa. Paris: Christian Bourgois Édi-
teur, 2001.
———. “La Politique selon Fernando Pessoa.” Um Século de Pessoa: Encontro Internacional do
Centenário de Fernando Pessoa. Lisbon: Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, 1988: 109–11.
Breton, André. Nadja. Paris: Gallimard, 1928.
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absence in language, 95–97

of a deity, 173 and non–Aristotelian esthetics, 25
existential, 82, 91 technique of, 15
of national purpose, 81 alienation 7, 8, 50, 65, 72, 80, 138, 170, 176,
vs. presence, 50 178
in Saudosismo, 8 “All love letters are ridiculous” (Campos),
of self, 10, 145 91–92, 93, 104–05
sensation, perception of, 37, 42, 89–90, Almada Negreiros, José de, 22, 27, 103, 109,
153, 187 188–89
theme of, 43 Amiel, Henri-Frédéric
absurd, absurdity cited by Pessoa, 164
attitude of, 16, 172 embracing contradictions, 166
comic humor of, 91, 100, 166, 170, 180 entries on consciousness, 164–65
of life, 7, 52, 90, 92 influence on The Book of Disquietude,
of logic or reason, 18, 101, 109, 130 183
of self, 69, 188 skepticism, 167
sensation of, 89, 169 analysis
theater of, 109, 170, 181 beyond, 121
Adamastor (Camões), 151. See criminal, 28
“Mostrengo,” 157–58 cultural, 167
adverse genres excessive powers of, 80, 84, 91, 186
deception in, 19, 24 intellectual, 39
and deconstruction, 26 methods of rational, 109, 118
definition of, 16–19 of character, 31
in the detective story, 30 of self 4, 12, 78
in folk quatrains, 62, 69–71 of works, 17, 72
in the heteronyms, 18, 19–20, 79, 114 psychological, 32–33, 97
and hybridism, 25 subjective, 182


Anarchist Banker, The, 28–36 difference in, 132

Anderson III, Robert N., 16 of duty, 4, 111
Andrade, Carlos Drummond de, 186 heightened, 165, 189
Andrade, Oswald de, 190 of language, 83
anxiety, 7, 52, 57, 89, 136, 145, 172, 187 of life, 131
aphorisms modes of, 118
ethical, 144–45 of non-being, 82, 183, 186
fantasy, 179 of self, 54, 78, 89, 119, 121, 170
in Message, 156 of time, 167
philosophical, 78 of writing, 130
witty, 3, 11, 24
Apollinaire, Guillaume, 126 Bakhtin, Mikhaill, 34
Aristotle Bandarra, Gonçalo, 151, 154, 160
In “Anarchist Banker,” 112 baroque, 47, 84, 90, 99, 145, 154, 156–57,
genres, 19 159–60, 175
logic, 110 Bartók, Béla, 37
syllogisms, 110, 112–13 Beckett, Samuel, 4
violating rules of, 16 being, non-being
Arnold, Matthew, 137 in Ângelo de Lima, 6
ATHENA (review) of heteronyms, 13, 82
Caeiro, 119 vs. identity, 7, 156, 162
Campos, 110 vs. k