Monday, June 15, 2020

“A bridge between two mysteries”

Fernando Pessoa, from “Self-Examination,” The Book of Disquiet, trans. from the Portuguese by Richard Zenith (New York: Penguin, 2003).

Bernardo Soares, the authorial identity to whom Pessoa attributes The Book of Disquiet, sometimes seems to speak for everyone, sometimes only for himself. Here, I’d say, he speaks for us all.

Senhor Soares has come to remind me of Henry Darger: like Darger, he is a secret maker, the creator of imaginary worlds known only to him. No one passing Soares on the street would have any idea, &c. Soares also reminds me of J. Alfred Prufrock: like Prufrock, he lives as an observer of life, removed, renunciatory, acutely aware of what he calls “the shy and ridiculous abnormality of my soul.”

I also think of Soares in the company of Joseph Joubert and Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, writers whose work survives as pieces whose only order is the order of their composition. I think of Soares as especially close to Joubert: though Soares is far less given to aphorism, he too is a writer whose writing is always a preparation for writing, notes toward a project never to be realized. Here writing becomes a form of life: not the making of a great work but just what one does.

I once described Joubert as a writer who would be of interest to a reader who values “the fragmentary, the provisional, the unfinished.” So too Fernando Pessoa, in the person of Bernardo Soares.

This passage is the last I’m posting from The Book of Disquiet.

Related reading
All OCA Pessoa posts (Pinboard)

comments: 7

Manfred said...

Could it be that he is also playing with a famous quotation from Nietzsche? "Der Mensch ist ein Seil, geknüpft zwischen Tier und Übermensch – ein Seil über einem Abgrunde. Ein gefährliches Hinüber, ein gefährliches Auf-dem-Wege, ein gefährliches Zurückblicken, ein gefährliches Schaudern und Stehenbleiben." Zarathustra, Vorrede 4


Michael Leddy said...

Could be! Thanks for that. I didn’t know about Pessoa’s interest in Nietzsche.

Frex said...

Thanks for these posts. I look forward to getting the copy I ordered--

seems like a book to own.
Frex = Fresca

Manfred said...

I don't know either whether he was actually interested in Nietzsche.

Michael Leddy said...

@Fresca: I think it is. I’m sure I’ll reread it, though not soon.

@Manfred: Yes, there seems to be a fair amount written about Pessoa and Nietzsche. The intro to my translation doesn’t mention N. If this is Manfred from Taking Note, hello! I hope you’re well in this terrible time.

Manfred said...

Yes, this is the Manfred from the inactive Taking Note. We are well enough, I suppose. But three months of isolation seem more than enough.

I briefly looked at some publications on N and Pessoa after I posted. But I found mainly discussions of parallels and nothing about any actual interest by Pessoa. (Doesn't mean, of course, that there are no such discussions.)

Michael Leddy said...

I found mostly parallels too. There’s one article that argues for the work of Hans Vaihinger as Pessoa’s source for Nietzschean ideas. Google Books has a collection of essays on Pessoa in which one contributor mentions Also sprach Zarathustra as the one work of Nietzsche’s that Pessoa is known to have read (in Spanish translation). The article that cites Vaihinger describes Pessoa’s library but says nothing about works by Nietzsche.