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The Book of Disquiet (Penguin Classics) Paperback – December 31, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

When Pessoa died in 1935, a few years short of 50, he left behind a trunk of mostly unpublished writing in a variety of languages; his Lisbon publishers and variously translators are still sifting them. This perpetually unclassifiable and unfinished book of self-reflective fragments was first published in Portuguese in 1982, and it is arguably Pessoa's masterpiece. Four previous English translations, all published in 1991, were compromised either by abridgement, poor translation or error-laden source texts. While he's now a Pessoa veteran-having edited and translated Fernando Pessoa & Co.: Selected Poems, the 1999 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation winner-Zenith's first pass at this book was one of the four misses. He bases this new translation on his own Portuguese edition of 1998, and has done an admirable job in bringing out the force and clarity in Pessoa's serpentine and sometimes opaque meditations. Pessoa often wrote as various personae (as Pessoa & Co. carefully demonstrated); Disquiet is no exception, being putatively the work of "Bernardo Soares, assistant bookkeeper in the city of Lisbon." Thus it is impossible to ascribe the book's anti-humanist logophilia directly to the author: "I weep over nothing that life brings or takes away, but there are pages of prose that have made me cry." That is just one of many permutations of similar sentiments, but the genius of Pessoa and his personae is that readers are left weighing each and every such sentence for sincerity and truth value.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.


“This superb edition of The Book of Disquiet is . . . a masterpiece.”  —John Lanchester, The Daily Telegraph“Pessoa’s rapid prose, snatched in flight and restlessly suggestive, remains haunting, often startling. . . . There is nobody like him.” —W. S. Merwin, The New York Review of Books“Extraordinary . . . a haunting mosaic of dreams, autobiographical vignettes, shards of literary theory and criticism and maxims.” —George Steiner, The Observer

"I plan to use this book every year in my course at Yale.  Thanks for making it available." —K. David Jackson, Yale University



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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics (Book 236)
  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (December 31, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141183047
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141183046
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #20,832 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

151 of 160 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 28, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is amazing. I had never heard of Pessoa before I spied the book at Shakespeare & Co here in Paris, read the attached reviews and thought it must be worth the 10 Euros to see what I was missing.

Pessoa is unlike any other writer you will ever read. The closest match to this book that I can think of is Augustine's Confessions, albeit a more lovely written, more moving, post-modernist, secular version of that classic. It is existential philosophy, literary theory, diary, poetry, dream journal and confession all wrapped into one. A profound and profoundly moving book which will leave you wondering why such an incredible writer and thinker remains so obscure. The book is written in snatches, better to be dipped into at leisure than read straight thru. You'll find yourself annotating passages, writing down qoutes, rereading sections endlessly. You'll begin to question the reality of your existence, if not your own sanity, if you read it too thoroughly.

This is truly Art of the highest order and should be read by every thinking person. I'd give it 6 stars if I could.
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93 of 98 people found the following review helpful By Hermenaut on September 10, 2004
Format: Paperback
It's quite difficult to describe this book; it's not about anything in particular. But if you have ever pondered the split seconds of mental webs strung in between your actual thoughts; if you have ever felt the presence of a question that threatens to disrupt your ability to function unless you write it down; if you have ever played with words and wondered if and how those words relate to what is real--then you must read Pessoa. One of the most compelling, fascinating, overwhelming things I have read. It will surely change you.
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94 of 101 people found the following review helpful By Monte Householter on March 24, 2005
Format: Paperback
I picked up this book based on the recommendation from British pop icon, Morrissey. Previously, I had never heard of Pessoa. Morrissey commented in a magazine that once you start reading this book, you won't put it down. And he was right!

Let me first say this book is astonishing in every way. Written in a prose/poetry/diary format, the images and landscapes invade your imagination and stay with you. With imagary such as: "To drag my feet homeward weighs like lead on my senses. The caress of extinction, the flower proffered by futility, my name never pronounced, my disquiet like a river contained between the banks, the privilege of abandoned duties, and - around the last bend in the ancestral park - that other century, like a rose garden." (page 391)

At times, it reads like a beautiful suicide note. But just when you think he's ready to do himself in, he says: "In certain particularly lucid moments of contemplation, like those of early afternoon when I observantly wander through the streets, each person brings me a novelty, each building teaches me something new, each placard has a message for me." (page 297)

I would say that Pessoa was the greatest writer to never publish. And the greatest of poet-philosophers to never exist. His place in history is long overdue. He should stand with the likes Baudelaire and Goethe and tower over most 20th century authors.

In summary, Pessoa has invented a new language for the forgotten, the alienated, the damned, the dispossessed, the "disquieted". The "Book of Disquiet" is the greatest masterpiece never finished. Read it with caution. You may find yourself in love with words again.
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44 of 48 people found the following review helpful By on October 31, 2005
Format: Paperback
At times some of it feels almost banal. It probably is. But some of it is simply more beautiful than anything i ever read. There is no plot and i like to read no more than a page a day. A recurring feeling of tiredness, a sense of no purpose in life, of immeasurable melancholy, but foremost a sense of being lost, alone, in a world one is not really part of, but can neither part from, is what informs Pessoa. It's probably not possible to express feelings like that in words, it certainly isn't possible to rationalize them, but never has anyone failed more beautifully at attempting than Pessoa.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Mark Nadja on June 26, 2008
Format: Paperback
*The Book of Disquiet* is one of those great books that isn't for the great majority of people. Basically a collection of fragments written over the good part of a lifetime and attributed to one of Pessoa's literary alter-egos Bernardo Soares, *Disquiet* was assembled and translated by editor Richard Zenith from a legendary trunkful of unpublished texts discovered after Pessoa's death.

These semi-autobiographical reflections are dominated by an all-pervading world-weariness and negation of ordinary life--a book of disgust, as it were--saved from out and out nihilism only by a sort of idealistic solipsism--a perverse counter-celebration of dream, inertia, solitude, impotence, and failure. From this unlikely recipe, Pessoa manages to distill a formula for taking a morbidly decadent pleasure from a total rejection of the bleak facts of human existence just this side of suicide!

The short texts that make up *The Book of Disquiet* range from philosophical speculations to surrealistic prose poems, from misanthropic diatribes worthy of Dostoyevsky's "underground man," to daily diary entries that reflect on a wide-range of everyday subjects. The result is an exhaustive if uneven and often repetitive text, although through no fault of Pessoa's inasmuch as putting together a finished book from these fragments was a project that eluded him in his shortened life. As an editor, what Zenith has done here--for better and for worse--is give us a text almost scholarly in its completeness. As such, there is a great deal of redundancy in this edition of *Disquiet.* It's hard to imagine that Pessoa wouldn't have cut and shaped a finished version differently.
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