The Book of Disquiet- Fernando Pessoa



“I follow the course of my dreams, making them images into steps toward other images; folding casual metaphors like fans into grand pictures of interior vision; I untie life from myself, and I toss it aside as if it were a too-tight suit.”

You know a writer is great when he makes you want to learn a new language to understand his work in the original. The Book of Disquiet is easily the best book I’ve read this year, and possibly the one I’ve copied the most quotes from.Β  I’d only ever read Pessoa’s poetry and I had no idea what to expect from his prose. It turns out he does poetry and prose equally well.

I would love to have a conversation with Pessoa, although I would probably bug him as he desires solitude. But having a deep, philosophical conversation with him would be almost heavenly. I like how he thinks. I like how he delves into the complexity of humans: “Each of us is various, many people, a prolixity of selves.” So is that the reasons for his alter-egos?

I feel that this is the sort of book that people will either think is brilliant or will think Pessoa is too sentimental. It’s autobiographical snippets of his writing and I have to say that I rarely come across a writer who thinks so deeply and obsessively about certain things. Pessoa’s favourite topics seem to be dreams, solitude, writing, the futility of life (was he an existentialist? He reminds me a bit of Meursault). I may share his melancholy but I don’t share his negative outlook, his depression and his misanthropic nature! Even so, this was a brilliant book and one I’m so glad I finally read.

“When I write, I visit myself solemnly. I have special rooms, remembered by someone else in the interstices of my self-representation, where I take pleasure in analyzing what I do not feel, and I examine myself as if I were a painting in the shadows.”

The feelings I got from reading this one! I did feel lonely, I felt the grief that he felt, I had to shake myself and remember that’s not how I felt at all! His writing really consumed me at several points. Sometimes I felt that we were the same person, the way he explained some abstract idea.

Reading about his alter egos was pretty cool as I’d encountered them in his poetry. I guess a man who said he didn’t have any friends would do well with creating some.If this book is as autobiographical as I think it is, I can’t even imagine how he lived with himself; it must have been extremely intense.

Must buy a copy, must re-read!


12 thoughts on “The Book of Disquiet- Fernando Pessoa

  1. A wonderful review Rowena and an interesting subject, I listened to a BBC podcast at the weekend on the subject of solitude that reminds me a little of this, very interesting subject and this author a new one for me, will make note of it.

      1. Radio 4 is fabulous like that, I often listen live on a weekend morning, but I do love how podcasts mean we can pick and choose and it is as if it were live. Happy to have introduced it to you πŸ™‚

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