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The Book of Disquiet: The Complete Edition Hardcover – August 29, 2017
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From Publishers Weekly
A better title might be The Books of Disquiet . Each entry in this fictional diary of one Bernardo Soares represents an attempt to create a distinct biography, for Soares lives according to the maxim: "Give to each emotion a personality, to each state of mind a soul." Through every rumination he records Soares longs to father someone because he is "nobody, absolutely nobody." His monotonous work as a bookkeeper in a Lisbon office and his solitary, celibate existence have contributed to the dissolution of his identity. Yet this grants him the ultimate imaginative freedom: "Because I am nothing, I can imagine myself to be anything." One effect of this freedom is a sense of exhaustion before the sheer number of possibilities for being. Another is a sense--at once paternal and disturbingly erotic--of intimacy with the whole human race. Of sleep Soares muses: "When someone sleeps they become a child. . . . I experience an immense, boundless tenderness for all of infantile humanity." More elegantly translated here than in the recent Pantheon edition, this novel presents paradoxes of identity that are more than just an occasion for meditation for Pessoa (1888-1935), one of Portugal's greatest writers and among this century's most enigmatic. They parallel Pessoa's own lived experience. He created several distinct personalities--called "heteronyms"--through which he wrote in an astonishing variety of styles and even in different languages. Soares represents a "semiheteronym," perhaps closest of all to the "real" Pessoa. Whoever Pessoa was, he managed to address through Soares's abstruse, at times excruciatingly precious musings the essential condition of human identity as represented in Western literature. Soares's separation from a common order might be the stuff of tragedy but for the fact that "my self-imposed rupture with any contact with things, led me precisely to what I was trying to flee." For all his quixotic tilting at windmills, Soares admits: "Whenever I see the figure of a young girl in the street . . . I wonder, however idly, how it would be if she were mine." Yet Sancho Panza's suit never hangs on Soares's skinny bones, and this is his dilemma. He is stalled between the poles of tragedy and comedy: "I can be neither nothing nor everything: I'm just the bridge between what I do not have and what I do not want." And herein lies the reason for the multifarious forms of his--and our--disquiet.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
Recognized as Portugal's greatest poet since Camoens, Pessoa (1888-1935) wrote poetry under various heteronyms to whom he attributed biographies different from his own. Likewise, this rich and rewarding notebook kept by the solitary, celibate, and semi-alcoholic Pessoa during the last two decades of his life, is written under yet another heteronym (Bernardo Soares), a Lisbon bookkeeper with a position that is like a siesta and a salary that allows him to go on living. Soares knows no pleasure like that of books, yet he reads little. Like Camus, he is irritated by the happiness of men who don't know they are wretched, and his main objective is to perceive tedium in such a way that it ceases to hurt. There are no gossipy details in this heteronymous memoir, only the cerebral workings of a first-rate thinker on the dilemma of life. Full of fresh metaphors and unique perceptions, The Book of Disquiet can be casually scanned and read profitably even at random.
- Jack Shreve, Allegany Community Coll., Cumberland, Md.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Pessoa explores these themes in a unique, memorable and effective way. Apparently, he wrote using a variety of pseudonyms — or semi heteronyms, whatever that means, according to the foreword — both as an artistic statement and, I presume, as a means of putting some space between his writing and his own filters and experiences. The Book of Disquiet is “written” by one of his personas, Bernardo Soares, an assistant bookkeeper in an inconsequential office, as a diary or journal of ruminations on a life that, by his own admission, is truly not worthy of ruminating about. The guiding force is page after page of Soares — uneasy that he is even alive — thinking about what it means to think, to feel, to live, to exist and to work. It is a disquieting exploration of what it means to be human, and what it means to exist, from someone who seems almost disappointed that he is human and does exist.
Soares is content to move through life — his own and the world around him — as a reluctant observer, focused on his own reactions to reacting, and grounded in his experiences of experiencing, his own feelings at feeling, with only his incomplete senses serving as a somewhat reliable source of truth in a world billowing with half truths. And that truth, for him, is that even with only the most fleeting of closer looks, life is absurd and those of who stride boldly through the world with a sense of purpose are mistaken and misguided. In today’s world, Soares would probably be considered a depressive, asexual narcoleptic — and likely be highly medicated — but in this book, he becomes a champion of reacting rationally and effectively to the truth of existential despair — that is, by embracing the notion that nothing matters and living a specific life that mirrors, and celebrates, the meaningless of all life.
It was a grinding slog, reading the musings of a (created) man constantly questioning what it means to be human, and finding the answer in his ability to find no answers. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t find it accurate, and moving. For me, no other author has so successfully captured the disorienting liberty of existentialism. And, because the “real” author was an accomplished poet, the almost monotonous reflections on reflecting, the most minute observations on his sensory observations, glittered with powerful, lyrical lines that literally caused me to put the book down and close my eyes, just so I could think about them longer undisturbed. Lines like these:
“If the heart could think it would stop beating.
In modern life the world belongs to the stupid, the insensitive and the disturbed.
I envy in everyone the fact that they are not me.
What would become of the world if we were human? If man really felt, there would be no civilization.
To know oneself is to err.
The life one lives is one long misunderstanding, a happy medium between a greatness that does not exist and a happiness that cannot exist.
I’m just the bridge between what I do not have and what I do not want.
Leadership requires insensitivity. Only the happy govern because to be sad it is necessary to feel.
What has happened to us has either happened to everyone or to us alone; if the former it has no novelty value and if the latter it will be incomprehensible. I write down what I feel in order to lower the fever of feeling. What I confess is of no importance because nothing is of any importance. I make landscapes out of what I feel. I make a holiday of sensation.
… the insatiable, unquantifiable longing to be both the same and other.
Action is a disease of thought, a cancer of the imagination.”
The Book of Disquiet may not be for everyone, but it’s a tremendous journey into the heart of self-doubt that powers existentialism, the self-doubt that — if we’re as honest as the dishonest (manufactured) Soares — constantly lurks just below the surface of life.
The Book of Disquiet is written by one of Pessoa's heteronyms, Bernardo Soares, an assistant bookkeeper in a textile company in Lisbon. Indeed we even get an introduction from Pessoa about when he `met' this person.
Sure enough at times Soares/Pessoa comes over as being a bit like Hamlet's more indecisive twin, but the use of language is often profound and frequently mesmerising. It's certainly on the heavy side of the reading scale, but it positively soars in its contemplation of life. "It's like having a cold in the soul" he says. How beautiful is that?
Some of the pieces are simply a single line, others a little longer but few more than a couple of pages. The ideas are often deep, but the language is far from impenetrable.
To give you another example, have you ever had trouble sleeping? How about this then: "Anyone wanting to make a catalogue of monsters would need only to photograph the things the night brings to somnolent souls who cannot sleep".
I could go on picking these superb musings at random. The book is full of them. It's unlike anything else you will have read, and a book that I know that I will dip into frequently. It's a mystery why his work isn't more widely known.
If you are of a contemplative disposition, then this may well be one of those books that truly changes how you see things. It's stunning. I'll leave the last word to Pessoa, which sums up my feelings on this book: "I stare out from the window of my room at the multitudes of stars; at multitudes of stars and nothing, but oh so many stars..."
The hidden beauty of Fernando Pessoa’s book is made even more so by the improbability of it having been written throughout his entire lifetime, let alone that it was stashed away, undiscovered for over half a century! Having only recently been released into the arsenal of humanity, we are indebted to the treasure-hunter, and the translators for helping to resurrect this rare organism of a book.
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My copy hasn't disturbed me with a single peep. I'M COMPLETELY AT EASE!!!Read more