114 of 120 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Change your life - read Pessoa
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...
Published on February 28, 2004
26 of 35 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Tedium of Tediums, saith Pessoa
"Tedium", the most recurrent theme in these collections, by Pessoa's (or, excuse me, one of his "heteronym's") definition is the "serious disease of feeling there's nothing worth doing." Another one of these heteronyms remarks at an earlier point that "...the very idea of reading vanishes as soon as I pick up a book from the table." This, at any rate, was the effect this...
Published on January 25, 2008 by Daniel Myers
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114 of 120 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Change your life - read Pessoa,
By A Customer
This review is from: The Book of Disquiet (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)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.
74 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning and, well, disquieting,
This review is from: The Book of Disquiet (Penguin Classics) (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.
74 of 81 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "The Caress of Extinction",
This review is from: The Book of Disquiet (Penguin Classics) (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.
31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most beautiful account ever of a feeling of loneliness and being lost,
This review is from: The Book of Disquiet (Penguin Classics) (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.
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book which will change the way you think,
This review is from: The Book of Disquiet (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)It's not a book based on plot or persuasion; merely a book which presents incredible feelings and ideas in a fantastic way. Often we have all wondered about the true nature of simply BEING. Often we feel as though the world passes us by, or hunts us, or seeks to confuse us. Pessoa simply puts these feelings into beautifully flowing prose. Complex ideas and feelings are written of so skillfully that I feel as if we had been the same person. This book is well worth reading.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing,
This review is from: The Book of Disquiet (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)Its hard to describe this book. Amazing, beautiful, depressing, enlightening, pleasurable, magnificent, etc. One could go on. I found this book randomly on the shelf and could barely wait to read it all. I think its best read this slowly, as there is a lot to take it and ponder. Sometimes one needs to stop after reading just one phrase or idea; as its too much to take it at once. His choice of words are outstanding, as are his descriptions of Portugal and life in general. An outstanding book. I'm not sure why its not more popular and required reading in university. A must read.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars To dream instead of to live...,
This review is from: The Book of Disquiet (Penguin Classics) (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. The fact that he didn't, however, is not only a consequence of his short life, but of his own documented indecision of just how to proceed with the task.
And yet, as Zenith convincingly points out in his introduction, the very "messiness" of *Disquiet* is part of its charm; it's unfinished and indeterminate nature is a perfect realization of Pessoa's message--a reflection in prose form of the man and his beliefs. While many readers--and occasionally I was one of them--might wish for an abridged and "cleaned-up" version of *Disquiet* it's ultimately hard to complain about what, in the end, is nothing more egregious than too much of a good thing.
Certainly one of the more unique texts in world literature, *The Book of Disquiet* is a daring assertion of the meaninglessness of life and an unorthodox response to despair through a radical withdrawal from life into an interior realm of the literary imagination.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Disquieting Semi-Fiction of Genius,
This review is from: The Book of Disquiet (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)"B of D" is a work of pure genius written in gloriously lyrical, existential prose: it wants to be poetry and, at times, it is.
Pessoa is a profoundly introspective and honest writer who defined existential themes based upon his frank study of his own life and dreams: it's possible that Pessoa is the most honest writer who ever lived. He is highly self-critical, self-effacing and suffers from the "disquiet" of his simple life as a bookkeeper in Lisbon. He wrote "B of D" in that richly germinal literary era in Europe of Proust and Joyce.
He composed 481 fragments about the absurdity of life by which he means the inability of man to understand his own existence.
"Each of us is a speck of dust that the wind lifts up and then drops."
Pessoa's disquieting themes eventually grew into the philosophical worldview claimed by the existentialists but he was an existentialist before many of them. Pessoa writes with the passion of Nietzsche. He is Camus before Camus. He has Kafka's rich sense of the absurd. He experiences daily Sartre's nausea.
I devoured every word of "B of D" by Pessoa who had the misfortune to remain largely undiscovered and unread until long after his death. His work is existential in the genre of Camus or Sartre ("I think, therefore, I am a mustache.") He is dark, at times, but his introspection is oceanic in its breadth, depth and turbulent existential Angst.
His writing has been described as "semi-fiction" and "anti-literature" by his translator. Great writers inevitably challenge the logic of traditional syntax as well as the genres in which they write to transform their genres by the genius of their innovative literary styles which become legacies in themselves.
Pessoa writes in fragments which are neither fiction nor poetry but are autobiographical and as such show his disconnect both with life and his own art -- there is no real flow between one fragment and the next like life itself in his existential worldview. He considered his life "an intermission with band music."
He also wrote in heteronyms under several noms de plume as if to say he couldn't really even attest to his own single identity as a writer. His fragments are deep, consuming, intellectual dives into his own everyday life. Normally, autobiography is a sign of an immature writer, which Pessoa clearly is not. He writes about his dull job as an accountant among Lisbon's streets and his sightings while smoking at outdoor cafes as well as about thunderstorms, solitude, dreams, the absurdity and futility of life, art, sex, JJ Rousseau and his work.
My only criticism of Pessoa comes from his odd observations and poor advice about sex. His translator, Richard Zenith, believes it was possible that Pessoa died a virgin. I make it a practice never ever to take advice on sex from priests, nuns and lifelong virgins.
Richard Zenith's translation is truly luminous and he brings rich nuance into the discourse of every line. Like my copy of "The Recognitions" by William Gaddis, I have underlined fragments on nearly every page because it is so deeply relevant, honest and compelling in its pure intellectual grandeur.
Here are a few favorite passages which stand out for me from "B of D":
"Irony is the first sign that our consciousness has become conscious and it passes through two stages: the one represented by Socrates, when he says, "All I know is that I know nothing' and the other represented by Sanches, when he says, 'I don't even know if I know nothing.'"
"No one understands anyone else... However much one soul strives to now another, he can know only what is told him by a word -- a shapeless shadow on the ground of his understanding... I love expressions because I know nothing of what they express."
"I don't know the meaning of this journey I was forced to make, between one and another night, in the company of the whole universe... We achieve nothing. Life hurls us like a stone, and we sail through the air saying, 'Look at me move.'"
"The only attitude worthy of a superior man is to persist in an activity he recognizes is useless, to observe a discipline he knows is sterile, and to apply certain norms of philosophical and metaphysical thought that he considers utterly inconsequential."
"All life is a dream. No one knows what he's doing, no one knows what he wants, no one knows what he knows. We sleep our lives, eternal children of Destiny. That's why, whenever this sensation rules my thoughts, I feel an enormous tenderness that encompasses the whole of childish humanity, the whole of sleeping society, everyone, everything. It's an immediate humanitarianism, without aims or conclusions, that overwhelms me right now. I feel a tenderness as if I were seeing with the eyes of a god. I see everyone as if moved by the compassion of the world's only conscious being. Poor hapless men, poor hapless humanity! What are they all doing here?"
He worked uselessly every business day for a brute capitalist and recognized by night that his writing was utterly hopelessly, inscrutably and irretrievably futile. The miracle, and the sense of this should not be lost upon you, is that every day he still writes anyway like Van Gogh painting despite making only one sale in his lifetime.
I recognized Pessoa instantly from the first few fragments of his life in "B of D": I am Pessoa. And he is also you.
"Book of Disquiet" is life changing. I can't remember ever having been so disappointed to see a book come to an end: it's that good. I implore you to read this immortal literary work of genius by Pessoa. It may be absurd, and even futile, to do so but sometimes the best answer to both is simply to be just as absurd.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful oppression,
This review is from: The Book of Disquiet (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)I wouldn't advise dipping into this book if you're feeling happy---it's sure to knock you off your cloud. I would also advise against reading it if you're feeling melancholy---it will plunge you into the pits of despair. Only if you're feeling a nameless oppression and to wish to see your existential condition examined from a beautifully written literary perspective, would I suggest these musings of Bernardo Soares.
You can safely approach this work if you do so with the curious equanimity of an anthropologist visiting the country called Inertia for the first time---the dreariness is so extreme that it's fascinating as a field study, but fortunately for you, you can pack up and leave at any time. Poor Fernando Pessoa couldn't leave, and had to invent the remarkable persona of Bernardo Soares to express the anguished monotony of his days. Bernardo is an accountant, a loner, and bored out of his mind. Nothing happens in his external life, but his internal universe is complex, rich, and full of extraordinary insight. He is a "...a prose writer who poeticizes, a dreamer who thinks, a mystic who doesn't believe..." according to Richard Zenith, the competent translator. When you sit with Bernardo in stunned exhaustion as he labors long and uselessly to express his thousand forms of angst, you realize: nowhere else will you find the torment and tediousness of mundane existence so tenderly articulated. Bernardo goes about this with the determined insistence of a somnambulist. Pessoa has said that Bernardo was the heteronym that he used where he was drowsy, and Bernardo is indeed given to uninhibited and endless reverie.
At 450 pages of small print, it is a unique form of self-punishment to read more than twenty pages at one sitting. It can also be some of the most rewarding reading you will ever do. The journal-like entries are numbered, so it's easy to pick up where you left off if you want to read in increments. It's also good to read this in conjunction with one of Pessoa's volumes of poetry, where the other heteronyms offer rational and emotional relief, rounding out the work of this astonishing and little-known genius.
26 of 35 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Tedium of Tediums, saith Pessoa,
This review is from: The Book of Disquiet (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)"Tedium", the most recurrent theme in these collections, by Pessoa's (or, excuse me, one of his "heteronym's") definition is the "serious disease of feeling there's nothing worth doing." Another one of these heteronyms remarks at an earlier point that "...the very idea of reading vanishes as soon as I pick up a book from the table." This, at any rate, was the effect this book had on me. Normally, I knock off a book of this length in a couple days. It's taken me a month now to complete. Every time I picked up this particular book, I said to myself, time and again, "What's the point? It's just going to be more tedious description of tedium." And I was quite correct. I think most readers would do well to heed another remark made in this book, to wit, that all this has been said before in the book of Ecclesiastes. He might have added that Ecclesiastes is much shorter, more moving and less redundant as well.
What saves The Book of Disquiet from being an utter wash is the conflict essential in it. Pessoa and his heteronyms, despite their sense of life's futility, love literature and words with such utter devotion that living life as if in a book seems the only hope of salvation from the torpor of existence:
"To see all things that happen to us as accidents or incidents from a novel, which we read not with our eyes but with life. Only with this attitude can we overcome the mischief of each day and the fickleness of events." P.211
This, and Pessoa's beautiful use of language, as translated by Robert Zenith in any event, save the day:
"We don't know if what ends with daylight terminates in us as useless grief, or if we are just an illusion among shadows, and reality just this vast silence without wild ducks that falls over the lakes where straight and stiff reeds swoon. We know nothing. Gone is the memory of the stories we heard as children, now so much seaweed; still to come is the tenderness of future skies, a breeze in which imprecision slowly opens into stars. The votive lamp flickers uncertainly in the abandoned temple, the ponds of deserted villas stagnate in the sun, the name once carved into the tree now means nothing, and the privileges of the unknown have been blown over the road like torn-up paper, stopping only when some object blocked their way. Others will lean out the same window as the rest; those who have forgotten the evil shadow will keep sleeping, longing for the sun they never had; and I, venturing without acting, will end without regret amid soggy reeds, covered with mud from the nearby river and from my sluggish weariness, under vast autumn evenings in some impossible distance. And through it all, behind my daydream, I'll feel my soul like a whistle of stark anxiety, a pure and shrill howl, useless in the world's darkness." P.179
Perhaps a bit on the belaboured side anent reeds and rivers and wild ducks---Still, never was meaningless death by sluggishness so gloriously apotheosized. Passages like this make the book worth reading, perhaps. But, caveat lector, don't expect to close the cover with any sense of enchantment. The book, cover to cover, is full of emptiness.
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The Book of Disquiet (Penguin Classics) by Fernando Pessoa (Paperback - December 31, 2002)