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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 FernandoPessoa, 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 ...
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 ...


Frederick Seidel

26 February 2009
... From the hotel. You walk downhill all day On the Avenida de la Libertad and never lose your way. You end up at the harbor. Obrigado. And it’s off in a cab to Brasileira, the café in Chiado Where FernandoPessoa 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 ...


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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... Saramago’s The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis (1984, English translation 1991) introduces a doubly fictional character, Saramago’s version of a figure invented by the Portuguese poet FernandoPessoa, 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 ...

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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... fragments, failures, long stints in the office – belongs to the 20th. Kafka, born a year after Nescio in 1883, was an insurance company employee whose literary work consists mostly of fragments; FernandoPessoa, 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 ...


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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... a tidal wave of tendencies ending in ‘ism’, some of them, like Imagism and Surrealism, relatively familiar, others (nunisme, instantanéisme, noucentisme, poetism, formism) more recherché. FernandoPessoa 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 ...

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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... Engendering such people – and such drama – should cause many novelists no qualms, but Saramago is scrupulous. The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis (1992) made semi-real one of the personas of FernandoPessoa, 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 ...

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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... in which the unnamed president of the United States joins Andrew and his friends at a sushi place and reveals that he’s an alien before launching into a rambling disquisition about Buddhists and FernandoPessoa, 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 ...

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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... in the textual conversation is not exactly the harried family man living in the second-floor apartment, but why should ‘Denis Diderot’ be closed down as one thing only? Certain writers – FernandoPessoa, 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 ...
5 January 2012
... that ‘I have no ambitions and no desires. To be a poet is not my ambition, it’s my way of being alone.’ The cities in which they were alone were Lisbon, Buenos Aires, Dublin. The writers were FernandoPessoa, 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 ...

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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...  it is never clear why – when the boy was six.) He feels stirrings of affection for Houellebecq, but the writer is not long for this world and anyway their relationship resembles that between FernandoPessoa 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 ...

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