← Back to My Links

Pessoa: A Biography

By Richard Zenith

About half way thru. Very nicely done.


Pessoa described himself as a “secret orchestra.” Rimbaud as a piece of wood transformed by destiny into a violin.

Detective Fiction ?

Pessoa lamented the hesitation and incompletion that plagued so much of what he wrote.

In Book of Disquiet, illustrates the uncertainty principle that runs throughout his written universe.

Variations on the Invented Self. Powered by ideas rather than plot. Self multiplication.

Part 1: The Born Foreigner 1888-1905

Chapter 1

Born June 13, 1888. A Gemini.

Saudade: word signifies intense longing, yearning, nostalgia, as state of mind, existential condition.

Tagus River, sometimes called Mar da Palha or Straw Sea.

Writing as painting: “Against the blue made pale by the green of night, the cold unevenness of the buildings on the summer horizon formed a jagged, brownish-black silhouette, vaguely haloed by a yellowed gray.” Book of Disquiet — BOD

Both parents passionately into language. Father a Music Theatre Critic side job. Defined his ancestry as a mixture of aristocrats and jews. Mother Catholic.

Restless religious curiosity. Read extensively. Including astrology.

However closely you touch me

When I pass by, always drifting,

You are to me like a dream —

In my soul your ringing is distant.

With every clang you make,

Resounding across the sky,

I feel the past farther away,

I feel nostalgia close by.

First published piece of creative prose “In The Forest of Estrangement.”

His father secure in a government job. Reading by four. Fondness for comics.

Chapter 2

Brother born 1893, contracted TB, like his father. Fathers’s mother bouts of dementia that alternated between sullen withdrawal and exalted verbal eruptions. Father searching for a cure at sanatoriums. Father died 1893. Mother Maria forced to downsize from spacious apartment with two housekeepers and grand view of Targus. Those days were over. Brother Jorge died 1894.

Mother met Joao Rosa on streetcar, made in America, they called the Americano. He became the great love of her life. A ships captain in Navy, had sailed all over the world.

Was promoted to Port Captain. His ship called the Liberal. Campaign to subdue Mozambique rebels. Slated to become Portuguese consul in Durban South Africa.

Chapter 3

A true and intimate disbelief

Has made the whole world a desert for me.

Bullfights at Campo Pequeno with his Uncle Cunha. Portuguese bullfights, known as the corrida, somewhat less gruesome than those in Spain. Attended concerts, opera with Aunt Maria.

From the 1920’s? “And instead of ending with my childhood, this tendency expanded in my adolescence, taking firmer root with each passing year… Today I have no personality: I have divided all my humanness among the various authors whom I’ve served as literary executor. Today I am the meeting place of a small humanity that belongs only to me.”

First heteronym Chevalier de Pas, knight and letter writer. At five or six. Knight of No ? Pas also means steps. Mother herself, diligently wrote letters to her family, constantly.

MOI: Letters for me are, and always have been, an explosive aberration. Serve as an annex or extension, to break against boundaries, crash selves even. Open my life up to both relative and the absurd as a promulgation. A place occasionally can devolve into, however taboo, lit up against what occurred to my char as a direct affront, ceaselessly repetitive limitations of reality.

Pessoa’s niece found and published some of Uncle Cunha’s letters to Fernando.

Pessoa would dress up for Carnival. Majority maternal relatives, great aunts and their husbands, lived in Lisbon. Mothers family came from Azores, an island archipelago, west of Lisbon, northwest of Morocco.

Chapter 4

Mother getting ready for marriage and Mozambique struggling over whether to bring Fernando. Grandmother wanted him in Azores. Mother did not want to leave him, afraid of tropical diseases.

From Poem called Tobacco Road

No I dont believe in me.

Insane asylums are full of lunatics with certainties!

Pessoa recited to his mom laboring over decision whether to bring him: Here I am in Portugal. The land where I was born. However much I love it, I love you even more. The boy’s “will” prevailed. Together they would set sail. To Durban, on eastern seaboard of S. Africa. Wedding took place without the groom, older brother as proxy! Church of our lady of mercy. His paternal grandmothers ranting had become so loud that neighbors insisted she be put into Lisbon’s mental hospital. Durban was an english speaking colony. Pessoa would get a thoroughly English education.

…how real and true the things of his madness are to the madman…

Chapter 5


Views: 25


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.