A prize-winning international classic, first published in English by Serpent's Tail in 1993, now with a new introduction by William Boyd
Fernando Pessoa, one of the founders of modernism, was born in Lisbon in 1888. He grew up in Durban, South Africa, where his stepfather was Portuguese consul. He returned to Lisbon in 1905 and worked as a clerk in an import-export company until his death in 1935. Most of Pessoa's writing was not published during his lifetime; The Book of Disquiet first came out in Portugal in 1982. Since its first publication, it has been hailed as a classic.
When Pessoa died in 1935, a few years short of 50, he left behind a trunk of mostly unpublished writing in a variety of languages; his Lisbon publishers and variously translators are still sifting them.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. (Dec. 3) Forecast: The release of this book as part of the newly redesigned Penguin Classics series should further assure Pessoa's place in the modernist pantheon. Pessoa and Co. was well reviewed, but the fact that Disquiet's previous appearances in English were relatively recent may limit review attention. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
In a time which celebrates fame, success, stupidity, convenience
and noise, here is the perfect antidote -- John Lanchester * Daily
A meandering, melancholic series of reveries and meditations. Pessoa's amazing personality is as beguiling and mysterious as his unique poetic output -- William Boyd
Disturbs from beginning to end... There is a distinguished mind at work beneath the totally acceptable dullness of clerking. The mind is that of Pessoa. We must be given the chance to learn more about him -- Anthony Burgess * Observer *
A complete masterpiece, the sort of book one makes friends with and cannot bear to be parted with. Boredom informs it, but not boringly. Pessoa loved the minutiae of what we care to deem the ordinary life, and that love enriches and deepens his art -- Paul Bailey * Independent *
The very book to read when you wake at 3am and can't get back to sleep - mysteries, misgivings, fears and dreams and wonderment. Like nothing else. -- Philip Pullman
Fernando Pessoa was simply one of the best 20th-century writers ever... captivating... a series of beautifully wistful reminiscences, diary entries ad aphoristic snippets... an accessibly slimmed down and beautifully translated version of this great classic and we recommend it like crazy. Pick one up and open it anywhere and we promise you'll be richly rewarded. -- Stuart Hammond * Dazed and Confused *
To read and then contemplate him is to be lifted a little bit above the earth in a floating bubble. One becomes both of the world and not of it. There's no one like him, apart from all of us. -- Nicholas Lezard * Guardian *
An odd, occasionally exasperating and sometimes beautiful book and one that will be your friend at 3am on a sleepless night. -- Sophia Martelli * Observer *
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.