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The Book of Disquiet (1982)

by Fernando Pessoa

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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5,015742,143 (4.31)194
A richly insightful guide to Fernando Pessoa's masterpiece, for both students and the common reader.

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» See also 194 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 54 (next | show all)
This is a unique and spell-binding collection of random meditations on the dreaminess of life; the impossibilities and possibilities of relating, communicating or understanding; the illusions and sensations of ordinary or extraordinary awareness; journeys of the imagination; and so on and so on. It could have gone on forever, and I'm glad it didn't - while I found it relaxing and intriguing and thought-provoking, I could only read it in small dollops, like tasting again and again a favourite ice-cream, both satisfying and too rich to consume in quantity. Despite the fig-leaf of an authorial character, there is no plot, no narrative as such. It's fiction, but not quite as we know it. A fiction of a wandering mind, as it alights on an evanescent series of forms of attention, fantasy and opaque reminiscence without landing on many of the concrete practical details of everyday conscious living. Yes there are glimpses of other people and an office and some urban environment with which this mind is loosely wreathed, but they are ghosts in a spiritual, philosophical and psychological fog through which Pessoa's writing twists and bounces in a kind of Brownian motion of the soul. ( )
  breathslow | Jan 27, 2024 |
One of those enjoyable, despite (or being more frank, because of) the often melancholic tone of the content, books. Also compulsive, despite the almost complete absence of anything like a plot. I suppose it isn’t for everyone, but those who like Cioran, Leopardi, Ligotti, Eugene Thacker, Osamu Dazai etc will likely enjoy this too. The internal focus and broken stream-of-consciousness seems modernist, although I’m not well read enough in that area to make a good comparison there.

The writing is so good (for which some credit must go to the translation) that it's tempting to continually jump to the next entry/fragment, but I made a conscious effort to slow down as so many entries contain so much in so few words that mulling them over is equally rewarding. Almost every one contains the sort of deep insight into this character's internality that would typically be scattered throughout other novels. The kind of thing that is built up to as some great revelation of character or profundity in other works is the basic stuff of the Book of Disquiet. It is fantastically dense with feeling. Spreading out the reading allows a revisiting of Soares over a lengthier period of time, which feels more aligned with the way Pessoa presents him - there are several entries that commence with a lamentation of having been unable to write for weeks or months. There is also much to come back to, one could open the book at a random location and find an interesting passage that stands on its own.

Imagery laden entries are mixed with entries entirely concerned with Soares' internal or dream life. Much of the imagery is seasonal in parts, but it’s debatable whether the book could be seen to track follow the course of a year, given its fragmentary nature.

For me, fragments concerning the perils of overthinking felt particularly relatable. These are juxtaposed with many passages on the futility and imperfection of any action (there’s that Cioran comparison again). A slightly contradictory positive view of procrastination is offered. This kind of occasional use of juxtaposition and oxymoron is achieved well throughout.

I did find that Soares the theistic apologist is far less interesting than Soares the dreamer, or bookkeeper. Another area of weakness for him is love. That said, in all of these areas, I think Pessoa is inviting a deeper reading than simply what Soares writes. ( )
  laurence_gb | Sep 10, 2023 |
DNF @ 29%. Started off interesting enough, but eventually felt like a chore to read. ( )
  kylecarroll | Jul 15, 2023 |
"Wanting to go and die in Peking (and not being able to)"

We are reminded of those lines of Alice Goodman from Nixon in China,
Nixon: The Chairman’s book enthralled / a nation, and have changed the world.
Mao: I could not change it. / I’d be glad to think that in the neighborhood of Peking / something will remain.

Goodman's Nixon, intending praise, recalls the original sense of 'enthrall' (see John Donne: "Take me to you, imprison me, for I, / Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,"). Mao responds with facetious modesty that is also a ridiculous hope. The second cultural revolution is already underway (passage of time, the other theme of the opera), and it will erase all traces. From this we can produce the perhaps-amusing epitaph of someone who has never been to Peking "I'd be glad to think that in the neighborhood of Peking something will remain," At a gravesite in Lisbon it would not be any more ludicrous than were it inscribed on Mao's tomb. By comparison, Pessoa's melancholy meandering is not felt very deep.

It's a kind of homosexual misogyny which interprets the lack of desire for the Object as a kind of distant respect, and therefore permits itself excesses of vitriol/paternalism perceived by the author as a kind of objective/instructive comment. The sensibility of the text is hysterical existentialism, with all the gendered baggage that attends the term.

It has been remarked that Osamu Dazai's No Longer Human, is already the not-entirely-Human-therefore-all-too-human text, such that it is regularly taught in the gradeschool curriculum. Pessoa's Disquiet is, in view of this interpretation, the conciliatory movement of the antisocial impulse which is already turning to speak to another. Not disquiet-ing, but the mood of oneone who was disquiet-ed, but perhaps no longer:
"My only desire is to die, at least temporarily, but this, as I said, is only because I have a headache"

73. retreat to dreams. imperfect mental object as the all-too-real. reflections of Murnane.
77.fear of love. why regret life / which is so much like a dream ( )
  Joe.Olipo | Jun 4, 2023 |
have to tap out of this one, feeling bad enough & after finishing "prisoner of infinity", a book on child abuse / narrative development with a preoccupation on 'false' enlightenment leading to total inaction, actually grabbed this to try to chill out. pessoa & co's poetry is serene (or otherwise cathartic) but so far this is meditations on locating the maximal point of self-obliteration, then staring at it. permanent orbit around the void, culture of the void, but never the release of actually falling into the void

remarkable and fascinating, honestly, just the exact wrong thing to read rn if my goal is to stay sane/alive. cannot imagine the degree of pain involved in dedicating yourself to a project like this, for this long. the pain of not being able to be alberto caiero, of caiero dying in 1915 as the book of disquiet starts slowly seeping into reality like tar. pessoa's soul would set off all the alarms at airport security.
  normal_woman | May 21, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 54 (next | show all)
In addition to the size and the disorder of the Pessoa archive, there is another confounding level of complexity: it is, in a sense, the work of many writers. In his manuscripts, and even in personal correspondence, Pessoa attributed much of his best writing to various fictional alter egos, which he called “heteronyms.” Scholars have tabulated as many as seventy-two of these. His love of invented names began early: at the age of six, he wrote letters under the French name Chevalier de Pas, and soon moved on to English personae such as Alexander Search and Charles Robert Anon. But the major heteronyms he used in his mature work were more than jokey code names. They were fully fledged characters, endowed with their own biographies, philosophies, and literary styles. Pessoa even imagined encounters among them, and allowed them to comment on one another’s work. If he was empty, as he liked to claim, it was not the emptiness of a void but of a stage, where these selves could meet and interact.
added by elenchus | editThe New Yorker, Adam Kirsch (Sep 4, 2017)
Pessoa was mostly a poet and The Book of Disquiet can be read, if you wish, as a series of notes for poems as yet unwritten; or prose poems, of a kind, themselves. If all this sounds rather vague then that is because Pessoa wished it so. 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.
added by kidzdoc | editThe Guardian, Nicholas Lezard (May 22, 2010)
Here in the famously striving city I’d been infected by a book whose credo, if it has one, is that “Inaction is our consolation for everything, not acting our one great provider.” ... Reading a page or two a day, I would find myself curiously preoccupied along certain lines for a week or more—weird: in the sunlight I’d been thinking constantly of rain—and then the topic would change and, like a spell of weather, move on.

» Add other authors (36 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Pessoa, Fernandoprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Adam, Alfred J. MacTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Costa, Margaret JullTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Crespo, ÁngelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Guedes, Vicentesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Laye, FrançoiseTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pernu, SannaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zenith, RichardEditor/Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I'm writing to you out of sentimental necessity - I have an anguished, painful need to speak with you. It's easy to see that I have nothing to tell you. Just this: that I find myself today at the bottom of a bottomless depression. The absurdity of the sentence speaks for me.
I was born in a time when the majority of young people had lost faith in God, for the same reason their elders had had it—without knowing why. (Penguin Classics ed., trans. Zenith, skipping the Preface.)
To write is to forget. Literature is the most agreeable way of ignoring life.
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A richly insightful guide to Fernando Pessoa's masterpiece, for both students and the common reader.

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"Il libro di Soares è certamente un romanzo. O meglio, è un romanzo doppio, perché Pessoa ha inventato un personaggio di nome Bemardo Soares e gli ha delegato il compito di scrivere un diario. Soares è cioè un personaggio di finzione che adopera la sottile finzione letteraria dell'autobiografia. In questa autobiografia senza fatti di un personaggio inesistente consiste l'unica grande opera narrativa che Pessoa ci abbia lasciato: il suo romanzo."
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