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Conversations with Myself

Michael Wood: Fernando Pessoa, 19 July 2018

The Book of Disquiet 
by Fernando Pessoa, translated by Margaret Jull Costa.
Serpent’s Tail, 413 pp., £9.99, August 2018, 978 1 78125 864 4
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... In​ 1968, when not too many people outside Portugal had heard of Fernando Pessoa, now regarded as one of the great Modernist poets, the linguist Roman Jakobson, in collaboration with Luciana Stegagno-Picchio, wrote an essay centring on Pessoa’s use of oxymorons. The piece was a complex formal study of a poem from Mensagem (1934), the single volume of verse Pessoa published in Portuguese in his lifetime ...

Getting Ready to Exist

Adam Phillips, 17 July 1997

A Centenary Pessoa 
edited by Eugénio Lisboa and L.C. Taylor.
Carcanet, 335 pp., £25, May 1995, 9780856359361
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The Keeper of Sheep 
by Fernando Pessoa, translated by Edwin Honig and Susan Brown.
Sheep Meadow, 135 pp., $12.95, September 1997, 1 878818 45 7
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The Book of Disquietude 
by Fernando Pessoa, translated by Richard Zenith.
Carcanet, 323 pp., £9.95, January 1997, 1 85754 301 7
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... True originality,’ Cocteau, Pessoa’s contemporary, wrote, ‘consists in trying to behave like everybody else without succeeding.’ It was once characteristically modern to idealise originality, and to conceive of it as a form of failure. The fittest as those who didn’t fit. If there is nothing more compliant now than the wish to be original – to find one’s own voice etc – it is also assumed that originality and success can, and should, go together ...

I haven’t been I

Colm Tóibín: The Real Fernando Pessoa, 12 August 2021

PessoaAn Experimental Life 
by Richard Zenith.
Allen Lane, 1088 pp., £40, July, 978 0 241 53413 7
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... As​ he grew older, Fernando Pessoa became less visible, as though he were inexorably being subsumed by dreams and shadows. The French translator and scholar Pierre Hourcade, who visited Lisbon in 1933, remembered leaving a café with Pessoa, and walking with him for a few blocks ...


Frederick Seidel, 26 February 2009

... end up at the harbor. Obrigado. And it’s off in a cab to Brasileira, the café in Chiado Where Fernando Pessoa spent so much time writing his immortal Multiple-personality-disorder poems, Now called Dissociated Identity Disorder. That’s where you find the statue. That’s where you pay homage. He sits at a little bronze table outdoors At the edge of ...


Michael Wood, 23 March 1995

The Stone Raft 
by José Saramago, translated by Giovanni Pontiero.
Harvill, 263 pp., £15.99, November 1994, 0 00 271321 7
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... a doubly fictional character, Saramago’s version of a figure invented by the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa, into the rainy, historical Lisbon of the Thirties, at the moment of Salazar’s accession to power. The bewildered ghost makes the material world seem palpably real and dense, far more unshakeable and present than realism usually manages to ...

Back to Their Desks

Benjamin Moser: Nescio, 23 May 2013

Amsterdam Stories 
by Nescio, translated by Damion Searls.
NYRB, 161 pp., £7.99, May 2012, 978 1 59017 492 0
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... in 1883, was an insurance company employee whose literary work consists mostly of fragments; Fernando Pessoa, born in 1888, was a translator of commercial correspondence for an import-export house, whose literary legacy came in the form of snippets of paper stuffed in a chest. In the visual arts, the scrap of paper would make the collages of Kurt ...

At the Video Store

Daniel Soar: Saramago, 2 December 2004

The Double 
by José Saramago, translated by Margaret Jull Costa.
Harvill, 292 pp., £15.99, August 2004, 1 84343 099 1
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... is scrupulous. The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis (1992) made semi-real one of the personas of Fernando Pessoa, a writer whose real name means ‘person’ and who wrote under four different aliases, for each of whom he invented a mini-biography and a set of temperamental tendencies. Pessoa disliked the word ...

A Kind of Gnawing Offness

David Haglund: Tao Lin, 21 October 2010

Richard Yates 
by Tao Lin.
Melville House, 206 pp., £10.99, October 2010, 978 1 935554 15 8
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... and reveals that he’s an alien before launching into a rambling disquisition about Buddhists and Fernando Pessoa, is half-baked. Still, the book captures the dispirited aimlessness of many recent college graduates in America as well as anything I’ve read. Eeeee Eee Eeee came out in 2007, a few months before Lin turned 24. Two years later a novella ...


Evan Kindley: Modernist Magazines, 23 January 2014

The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines: Volume I: Britain and Ireland 1880-1955 
edited by Peter Brooker and Andrew Thacker.
Oxford, 976 pp., £35, May 2013, 978 0 19 965429 1
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The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines: Volume II: North America 1894-1960 
edited by Peter Brooker and Andrew Thacker.
Oxford, 1088 pp., £140, July 2012, 978 0 19 965429 1
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The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines: Volume III: Europe 1880-1940 
edited by Peter Brooker, Sascha Bru, Andrew Thacker and Christian Weikop.
Oxford, 1471690 pp., £145, March 2013, 978 0 19 965958 6
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... familiar, others (nunisme, instantanéisme, noucentisme, poetism, formism) more recherché. Fernando Pessoa may hold the record, with three original isms to his name: the relatively seminal Paulismo, as well as the non-starters Sensationism and Intersectionism. By the end of the 1910s, an ism backlash had begun. ‘As convenient descriptions we do ...

The Irish Savant’s Problem

Julian Bell: Diderot on Blindness, 21 June 2012

Blindness and Enlightenment: An Essay 
by Kate Tunstall.
Continuum, 238 pp., £17.99, August 2011, 978 1 4411 1932 2
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... but why should ‘Denis Diderot’ be closed down as one thing only? Certain writers – Fernando Pessoa, for instance, with all his aliases – have been truly intent on slicing up their identity. But most of the rest are a little blurry, a little multiple and overlapping. Listen to Tunstall herself in her conclusion, archly sidling up to ...

Flann O’Brien’s Lies

Colm Tóibín, 5 January 2012

... alone.’ The cities in which they were alone were Lisbon, Buenos Aires, Dublin. The writers were Fernando Pessoa, born 1888, died 1935; Jorge Luis Borges, born 1899, died 1986; Flann O’Brien, born 1911, died 1966. Each of them was brought up not only in a shadow country and city, or a place that felt as though it lived now in the shade, but also with ...

Why can’t he be loved?

Benjamin Kunkel: Houellebecq, 20 October 2011

The Map and the Territory 
by Michel Houellebecq, translated by Gavin Bowd.
Heinemann, 291 pp., £17.99, September 2011, 978 0 434 02141 3
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... but the writer is not long for this world and anyway their relationship resembles that between Fernando Pessoa and his dying heteronym in Saramago’s Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis: male friendship is exempted from some of its ordinary difficulties when it can take place between two aspects of a single person. As for la jolie russe Olga, her bid ...

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