Conversations with Myself
- The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa, translated by Margaret Jull Costa
Serpent’s Tail, 413 pp, £9.99, August 2018, ISBN 978 1 78125 864 4
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. The complete poem, ‘Ulisses’, an elaboration in Pessoa’s best cryptic style of a myth that associates Ulysses with the founding of Lisbon, reads as follows (my translation, to borrow Jakobson’s expression for his own into French, is ‘literal in so far as possible’):
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[*] The translation, slightly modified, is by David Butler in Fernando Pessoa: Selected Poems (2004).