17 August 2017
Our sumptuous complete edition of Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet is out now. Here are ten things you might not know about Portugal’s greatest writer.
- 1. Fernando Pessoa was born in Lisbon in 1888, and died there in 1935.
- 2. Between the ages of seven and seventeen, Pessoa lived with his mother and step-father (the Portuguese Consul to South Africa) in Durban, where he rapidly became fluent in both English and French. Many of the marginal notes Pessoa made to his manuscripts of The Book of Disquiet are written in English.
- 3. Most of his writing was not published during his lifetime. The Book of Disquiet first came out in Portugal in 1982.
- 4. Pessoa was a true polymath: a poet, writer, literary critic, translator, publisher and philosopher.
- 5. Pessoa wrote under as many as 136 different aliases, which he called ‘heteronyms’. He preferred this term to ‘pseudonym’, arguing that his heteronyms were more than that and describing them as ‘beings with a life of their own, with feelings I do not have, and opinions I do not accept.’
- 6. A bronze statue of Pessoa sits outside the Café a Brasileira in Lisbon – perhaps Pessoa’s second favourite café – where he would smoke, read and write, and where the short-lived but influential literary magazine Orpheu was founded by Pessoa and others.
- 7. The Book of Disquiet is Pessoa’s ‘factless autobiography’; a mosaic of dreams, hope, despair, aphorisms and ruminations, narrated by two of Pessoa’s heteronyms: the pre-1930 Vicente Guedes and the post-1930 assistant bookkeeper, Bernardo Soares.
- 8. Our new edition is most complete edition available, and the only one where the texts are arranged in the order in which Pessoa actually wrote them.
- 9. There’s a huge and dedicated world of Pessoa fans out there. This year, Half Pint Press created a limited run of 80 handmade ‘Boxes of Disquiet’: a collection Pessoa quotes typeset and printed by hand on a selection of everyday paraphernalia.
- 10. Pessoa developed a fascination with the English occultist Aleister Crowley. The unlikely pair met in 1930 in Lisbon, where Crowley enlisted Pessoa’s help in faking his own suicide.
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