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The Book of Disquiet (Penguin Modern Classics) [Paperback]

Fernando Pessoa , Richard Zenith
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
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Book Description

30 May 2002 Penguin Modern Classics

A modernist masterwork that has now taken on a similar iconic status to Ulysses, The Trial or In Search of Lost Time, Fernando Pessoa's The Book of Disquiet is edited and translated with an introduction by Richard Zenith in Penguin Modern Classics.

'Fernando Pessoa, strictly speaking, doesn't exist,' - so claimed Alvaro de Campos, one of the 'heteronyms', fully-realised substitute personalities invented by Fernando Pessoa to spare himself the trouble of living real life. In this extraordinary book, the putative 'factless autobiography' of an accountant named Bernardo Soares, Fernando Pessoa explores and dismantles the nature of memory, identity, time and narrative, creating one of the greatest - but also the strangest - modernist texts. An assembly of sometimes-linked fragments, The Book of Disquiet is a mesmerising, haunting 'novel' without parallel in any other culture.

This edition includes notes on the reconstruction of the text, appendices containing material omitted from the final version and letters which Pessoa intended to incorporate into the text. This edition also includes a table of the 'heteronyms' used by Pessoa in his writing.

Fernando Pessoa (1888–1935) was born in Lisbon and brought up in Durban, South Africa. A prolific writer, ascribing his work to a variety of personas or 'heteronyms', Pessoa published little in his lifetime. Although acknowledged as an intellectual and a poet, his literary genius went largely unrecognised until after his death.

If you enjoyed The Book of Disquiet, you might like Finnegan's Wake, also available in Penguin Modern Classics.

'One of the twentieth century's greatest literary talents ... This superb edition of The Book of Disquiet is ... a masterpiece'
John Lanchester, Daily Telegraph

'Must rank as the supreme assault on authorship in modern European literature'
John Gray, New Statesman

'Portugal's greatest modern poet ... deals with the only important question in the world, not less important because it is unanswerable: What am I?'
Anthony Burgess, Observer

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Product details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (30 May 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141183047
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141183046
  • Product Dimensions: 19.3 x 13.5 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 124,882 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"This superb edition of The Book of Disquiet is . . . a masterpiece." --John Lanchester, The Daily Telegraph "Pessoa's rapid prose, snatched in flight and restlessly suggestive, remains haunting, often startling. . . . There is nobody like him." --W. S. Merwin, The New York Review of Books "Extraordinary . . . a haunting mosaic of dreams, autobiographical vignettes, shards of literary theory and criticism and maxims." --George Steiner, The Observer"I plan to use this book every year in my course at Yale. Thanks for making it available." --K. David Jackson, Yale University

About the Author

Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935) was born in Lisbon and brought up in Durban, South Africa. He returned to Lisbon in 1905. A prolific writer, ascribing his work to a variety of personas or heteronyms, Pessoa published little in his lifetime and supported himself by working as a commercial translator. Although acknowledged as an intellectual and a poet, his literary genius went largely unrecognised until after his death

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
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. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
By Mr. Nadim Bakhshov VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Fernando Pessoa remains one of the most enigmatic writers of the 20th Century. Thanks to the recovery of a trunk, full of unpublished manuscripts, and the recognition of the poet's genius, we are slowly beginning to build up a picture of his marvellous universe. Thanks especially to Richard Zenith.

For those familiar with Kierkegaard will recognise the idea of using a false personage to write a piece. In Kierkegaard's case, his numerous alter egos were ways of articulating a subtle and sophisticated truth of our condition. Pessoa, in an imaginary world, read Kierkegaard and went one step further. He invented not just masks (pseudonyms) to write through but gave up authorship to his 'heteronyms', partial personalities who existed with some autonomy and distance from Pessoa himself and had very different views and experiences of life.

Bernando Soares, the eponymous author of The Book of Disquiet, a book-keeper in Lisbon, records his observations of everyday life as if we were walking through an art gallery. He takes a simple gesture, a familiar place and transforms it magically into something more.

It is not a book of desolation (as one reviewer would have it). It is full of delight, mystery and wonder.

Thoroughly recommended.
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51 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Bible of Disaffection 21 Aug 2002
I happened upon "The Book of Disquiet" quite by accident in a branch of Waterstones close to where I work, and thought I would pick it up, not really expecting anything momentous from it. After I had spent the first day with it I realised I had been very wrong indeed.
What Pessoa has accomplished is a kind of anti-bible. "The Book of Disquiet" is a hymn to defeatism, obscurity and monotony. Far from being anyone's worst idea of what to write a book about, it is instead a truthful, often painful portrayal of the commonality of all human experience.
It is in my opinion and experience quite unparalled in its insight and ruthless honesty. Utterly unlike anything else in the medium, "The Book of Disquiet" will continue to reverberate long after most works masquerading as "literature" are so many worthless collections of words.
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51 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars undressing your depression 31 May 2001
By A Customer
It's hard to say anything about this book. it's a book that you must read at a certain point, or points, in your life. For me, it's like a cup of cocoa, a nightcap, an antidote. At other times (the wrong times), it's like a suicide pact, a kiss goodbye - all the most pointless thoughts I ever had, justified. This isn't a book to read from beginning to end. That would not work. Instead, it sneaks into ones' subconciousness,twisting and dragging you down(if that is the state the reader is verging on) or up(if that is the state the reader is aiming for). Within all its' 'disquiet', I found an affirmation of life, that, despite all the protestations of the futility of everything, hje still found the time to write. He still found the desire to spread the message that undoubtably, he felt he had to say. And this is where the negativity loses its' push. This is where we find the true Pessoa. He did not want you think that you wanted to die. He did not want you to think that life was futile.He did not want you to go down. All he wanted was for people to see the other side of the fence. The side you are afraid to even LOOK over. Although a consistantly ignored writer as far as English speaking readers are concerned,his desperation of the human state remains universal. So does mine; but at least he's made me laugh at it.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the literary hand 26 Oct 2008
To give you an example of Pessoa's thinking: on one solitary page of The Book of Disquiet the author remarks that there is nothing more difficult, it is said, to describe a spiral in words; that people find it necessary to use the unliterary hand to depict the object. Pessoa then describes a spiral as a snake without a snake, wound vertically around a branch that isn't there. I am paraphrasing, as it is possible that I have misquoted him slightly, but Pessoa's ability to describe his thoughts should still be evident. This is not a novel, it is instead pages upon pages of lucid fragments of thought and art. It is a pleasure to re and reread it.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
By ajay
Most works of fiction and non fiction celebrate and propagate success! Success in your chosen profession. Success in the amount of money you make. Success with members of the opposite sex. Success in everything you desire in this life. There are plenty of evangelists and miracle men who can even tell you how to succeed in your future life. Or whether you were a success or a failure in your past lives. SUCCESS! Our ego's swelling up like giant balloons. Rising up into the transfixed air. Dazzling the world. Filling the pages of national dailies and history books. Oozing out of television screens.

The Book Of Disquiet celebrates Failure. Loneliness. Disconnect. "Disquiet" -The inability to find contentment, solace or meaning in our everyday life. The never ending search for another world. A world which in all probability will never exist. The Book of Disquiet is one of the greatest work of renunciation to have come out of the west. There have been many remarkable texts on renunciation but the human race has always followed a different piper. Collectively we are all aspiring,perspiring and conspiring to possess more and more. The only credo that has a universal appeal is: "Greed is Good and Power is Great".

Nabokov wrote in Speak Memory-"The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness." Writers like Fernando Pessoa, Robert Musil, Jorge Luis Borges, Franz Kafka, Albert Camus, Marcel Proust, James Joyce and Vladimir Nabokov widened that crack to let more light pass through into the 20th century.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply wonderful
spiritually soul saving literature one should carry when on a mind-numbing daily grind to the workplace...Tranquil pastures throughout the read...
Published 2 months ago by william casey
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't hesitate!
I won't go into a drawn out eulogy about Fernando Pessoa and this magnificent book - just but it and see - and then forever after, whenever you pick it up to read or dip into,... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Mr. P. Noakes
2.0 out of 5 stars Poor philosophy, bad repetition, self-indulgent misery
Why publish someone's diary? There are many reasons to do so but this collection doesn't meet them. It purports to offer a view of living (or non-living) along a sort of dreamy... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Declan Sheerin
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Literature in a excellent translation
This is a book that I can't recommend enough, it's one of those RARE books that can change you. You will never forget it! Read more
Published 13 months ago by Luís de Deus
1.0 out of 5 stars Drivel
Imagine Sue Townsend had begun writing Adrian Mole & then suddenly had a massive sense of humour bypass. Now you have some idea what a terrible load of drivel this is. Read more
Published on 19 Mar 2011 by Crispy
4.0 out of 5 stars The Book of Disquiet
Doing a review on Fernando Pessoa is extremely difficult, or better it is not absolute possible caught up in words his 72 fictive identities, they posses distinct temperaments,... Read more
Published on 15 Dec 2010 by Italo Perazzoli
1.0 out of 5 stars Drivel
I very rarely give up on a book, but after slogging through 100 pages of this I had to throw in the towel. Boring, pretentious, often nonsensical... Read more
Published on 13 Jan 2010 by I. Hingle
2.0 out of 5 stars A disappointing fragment
Unfortunately I do not agree with the positive reviews of this book. I am disappointed by the fragmentary nature of the book, most of which are stray thoughts noted down by the... Read more
Published on 8 Aug 2009 by C. J. Eales
5.0 out of 5 stars the best book ive ever read
This is a difficult book to describe. It isnt a story and doesnt really have any plot or theme. This is like reading the journals of a madman and a genius and a poet rolled into... Read more
Published on 17 April 2009 by Dennis B. Jewell
5.0 out of 5 stars Nothing else I've ever read comes close
This is not a great work of fiction, so look elsewhere if that's what you want. What this book is is quite simply the most honest description of the human condition I've ever read... Read more
Published on 18 April 2008 by concerned
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