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A Little Larger Than the Entire Universe: Selected Poems + The Book of Disquiet (Penguin Classics) + Philosophical Essays: A Critical Edition
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Translator Zenith's new selection of Portugal's major 20th century poet is more inclusive than any to date and includes works from all of Pessoa's alter-egos (each has his own biography, poetics and politics). Alberto Caeiro, the self-educated nature poet and shepherd, is a realist who is nonetheless given to flights of fantasy and idealism: "To think a flower is to see and smell it, / And to eat a fruit is to know its meaning." Ricardo Reis, a physician and literary descendant of Horace, wants a world that matches his classic ideals, and Zenith includes many odes to this effect. Alvaro de Campos is Pessoa's poet of great feeling and Whitmanesque abundance: "If only I could be all people and all places." The persona of Fernando Pessoa describes the effects of all this shape-shifting: "To be myself is not to be. / I'll live as a fugitive / But live really and truly." The absence of the original poems to compare to Zenith's translations is a loss; nevertheless, this a well-organized, generous and lucidly translated selection of Portugal's greatest modern poet.
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* Eight years ago, Fernando Pessoa & Co., a 300-page volume of Richard Zenith's translations of Portugal's great modernist poet, was one of the events of the year in poetry. Fortunately, Pessoa (1888-1935) was so prolific that only four short poems reappear in Zenith's new 100-pages-longer selection. To further prove himself no slouch, Zenith has written a new introductory essay for this book, explaining again Pessoa's partition of his poetry-writing consciousness into four distinct personae: Alberto Caeiro, a pastoral poet who died young; Caeiro's disparate disciples, stoic, classical Ricardo Reis and ebullient bisexual engineer and Whitman apostle, Alvaro de Campos; and the nostalgic "Fernando Pessoa--himself," as Zenith denominates the persona that bears Pessoa's name. There were additional "heteronyms," as Pessoa called his noms de plume, including some that wrote poems in English (which Pessoa learned as a boy in South Africa) and the bookkeeper who penned the prose work, The Book of Disquiet; Pessoa created biographies for them all. All four of Pessoa's principal Portuguese poet-personalities are obsessed with time, which apparently flows but is physically apprehensible only as an elusive point. Each wrote quite differently from the others, and as Zenith renders them, all wrote brilliantly. Particularly entertaining in this book are de Campos' lengthy odes, which are both moving tributes to and hilarious parodies of Whitman. Ray Olson
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (April 4, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143039555
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143039556
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #87,614 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Shalom Freedman HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on July 19, 2011
Format: Paperback
There is Poetry great in its own language which does not translate. I know that Pushkin is for Russians the supreme Russian poet, but in translation the greatness is not felt. Goethe and Heine are supreme lyrical voices but do not translate their greatness into English. Borges on the other hand and Pessoa do translate. I sense this is because they are 'poet thinkers' who provide a kind of 'meaning' the reader can grapple with and struggle to interpret. They somehow tell us something that we can contend with in our own rewritings of their words in our readings.
In his outstanding introduction to this work the translator Richard Zenith provides us with a guide to the Pessoa alter egos, or as he called them 'heteronyms'. He also tells in brief the story of Pessoa's life , a life dedicated more to his own genius than to real action in the world.
In certain ways Pessoa offends my sensibility and this especially in regard to his anti- religious Poetry. But on the whole his work is challenging and inspiring. He sees Nature in the poems of one of the heteronyms in such a direct and powerful way. He contemplates the meaning of Life and Death with ironies. He plays upon his own ambitions as a Poet , defining himself as Greatness and yet seeing ironically the whole of the human enterprise.
In this small review I have indicated only a small number of the themes of his poetry, and a small part of its virtues. It is Poetry which challenges and inspires.
For the long - time reader any discovery of a writer who sees in a new way is a great gift.
I feel this book of Poetry is such a gift.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Anand Krishnaswamy on August 24, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Pessoa is stunning. He probably belongs to the heavenly club of writers like Shakespeare & Nabokov. His sheer breadth & immense sensitivity is sufficient to inspire any ardent reader to pick up a pen and attempt writing. This book is a collection of some of his poems (written under 3 homonyms). Not all the poems are spectacular but the collections is sufficiently brilliant for the aesthetic soul. Buy this book for the love of the word & the singular opportunity to be in the presence of such a beautiful soul called Pessoa.
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24 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Flippy on June 11, 2008
Format: Paperback
This is the poetry I long to read everything I pick up a book of poetry. I really can't stand American poetry (Lowell, Creeley, Merwin, especially). There is something overly Eastern-Ivy-school Pompous or plain irrelevant about their work. It is very difficult to penetrate their writings and I found it rarely rewarding when I understood their works - or whatever I understood.... They write, from what I have gleaned, without their hearts and overburden their writings with mind, intellect, a callous intelligence.

Pessoa, like Neruda, Hernandez, Lorca and other Iberian/Latin American poets write with a genuine simplicity and beauty. In translation, there is feeling, depth, philosophy and simplicity - which is what I enjoy, what edifies me. I want layers and this wonderful collection has layers. Whether writing as himself or as his 'alter-egos', Pessoa is the great idyllic poet, the great poet of resignation, weariness, tenderness, melancholy and withdrawal, viewing the world from his various abodes of personality.

Maybe there is a time and place for American poetry of the twentieth century - I much prefer the nineteenth century giant, Walt Whitman (who heavily inspired Pessoa, Neruda and other Portuguese/Spanish poets). At this point, a book like this is a boon, making poetry accessible, beauty available as opposed to being imprisoned in Ivy-tower constructions. (As a side note, Pessoa never graduated from a university - he attended a few courses and continued his education through personal studies... highly admirable.)

Discover this great-but-little-known-genius. His "Book of Disquiet" is the prose version of his poetry, the same philosophy, same beauty, the same melancholy transposed into a quasi-journal narrative. Your life will certainly be changed.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Guttersnipe Das on February 23, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If I had to name my favorite ten writers, Fernando Pessoa would be at least four of them. Not satisfied with making poetry, he made poets as well, each with his own history and style. This book is thus one of the world’s great anthologies, like the Bible, a chorus in different voices and deserves to be read in that way.

Here is Alberto Caeiro, the sage, who sees in things only the things themselves and announces, “All it takes to be complete is to exist.” And here is the sad and wise Ricardo Reis who counsels us to “Let’s love with greater calm / Our uncertain life”. These are Fernando Pessoa’s “heteronyms”, but here also is Fernando Pessoa himself, no slouch as a poet.

My wife, whose name is Solitude,
Keeps me from being glum.
Ah, what good it does my heart
To have this non-existent home!

If you are shopping for a volume of Fernando Pessoa in English, it is useful to know that this book (published by Penguin in 2006) and Fernando Pessoa & Co (published by Grove in 1999), are both translated by Richard Zenith, but contain almost totally different poems. If you love Pessoa, you’ll want them both but, if you can only buy one at a time, this volume seems to me the most essential. Frankly, how people manage to live their lives without these poems is a mystery to me. How did I get by before I read Pessoa? I can’t remember.

For Pessoa’s prose -- most of all for selections from the diary of the assistant bookkeeper Bernardo Soares -- read Zenith’s Selected Prose. If you are a fan of Pessoa, it is thrilling to read Jose Saramago’s novel A Year in the Life of Ricardo Reis but, be warned, Saramago’s time-traveling stunt will change the way you read the poems forever.
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