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Showing 1-6 of 6 reviews(3 star, Verified Purchases). See all 105 reviews
on June 1, 2014
Fernando Pessoa was a native of Lisbon who after adulthood rarely left the city. He educated himself at the National Library where he read everything to compliment the traditional English education he'd received as a boy. His first creative prose "The Book of Disquiet" came out in 1913 and his first poems in 1914. Much like Joseph Conrad and Jorge Borges, he was completely devoted to literature and was a leader of Portugal's Modernest movement as well as several others he invented himself. Personally he stood out of the limelight and published most of his work in magazines, leaving the bulk of his work in a trunk consisting of notebooks.

Pessoa kept adding to "The Book of Disquiet" writing in voices with dozens of names, creating personas he called "Heteronyms,' one of them the title of a book by Jose Saramago, "The Life and Death of Ricardo Reis."

Pessoa continued work on "The Book of Disquiet" all his life, but it remained fragmented, a non-book that is basically a manual for dreamers to develop their imaginations to escape the hopelessness of man's life in the universe. Richard Zenith's new complete translation has taken Pessoa's scattered writings and painstakingly tried to arrange them into a narrative that some critics have compared to "Ulysses," The Trial" or "In Search of Lost Time."

All that said, this reader found it contained a treasure of philosophy that though profound is repetetive and needed more focus. Despite many narrators, there is no cohesive point of view or story line as there are in the above named modernest classics.
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on June 1, 2014
Quite a beautiful book that almost wraps the reader with the narrative at one time. However, it becomes redundant at another moment and becomes too much to absorb.
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VINE VOICEon January 25, 2008
"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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on January 1, 2015
I guess I'm not in thrall to the critics views on Pessoa. I don't see the major writer in this work so much as an obsessive, withdrawn stand- in for one. Hard to say whether the writer himself would have approved this format for his work that began as diary sketches -- or scraps of ideas-- and have been shaped into a single narrative
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on January 14, 2014
Not exactly my style but nice when you have sleeping problems because it is just such a booooring book .........
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on February 23, 2017
Not sure how to appreciate this compared with his excellent poems.
Much of it is a bit incoherent.
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