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The Book of Disquiet (Extraordinary Classics) Paperback – 15 Sep 1991

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Paperback, 15 Sep 1991

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Serpent's Tail; Reprint edition (15 Sept. 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1852422041
  • ISBN-13: 978-1852422042
  • Product Dimensions: 20.5 x 13.9 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 561,889 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


?This book has moved me more than anything I have read in years. I have rarely encountered such exhilarating lugubriousness... A complete masterpiece, the sort of book one makes friends with and cannot bear to be parted with. Boredom informs it, but not boringly. Pessoa loved the minutiae of what we care to deem the ordinary life, and that love enriches and deepens his art. Paul Bailey, The Independent ?It could not have been written in England: there is too much thought racing hopelessly around. The elegance of the style, well conveyed in what seems to be a more than adequate translation, is an important component and a very ironic one. The diary disturbs from beginning to end? There is a distinguished mind at work beneath the totally acceptable dullness of clerking. The mind is that of Pessoa? Anthony Burgess, Observer

Many British reviewers have pegged Pessoa as a great long-lost modernist, but he also calls up echoes of Beckett's exquisite boredom; the dark imaginings of Baudelaire; Melville's evasive confidence man; the dreamscapes of Borges; even the cranky hermeticism of Witold Gombrowicz (VLS)

It was a real bonus when Serpent's Tail published The Book of Disquiet, a meandering, melancholic series of reveries and meditations?Pessoa's amazing personality is as beguiling and mysterious as his unique poetic output. We cannot learn too much about him (William Boyd (TLS Books of the Year))

Book Description

A prize-winning international classic, first published in English by Serpent's Tail in 1993, now with a new introduction by William Boyd --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Ripple TOP 500 REVIEWER on 4 May 2010
Format: Paperback
A collection of random musings of a fiercely contemplative mind rather than a novel. Indeed if you try to read The Book of Disquiet from cover to cover, it is almost oppressively melancholic. Nothing much happens, and what we have is a collection of reveries and thoughts - almost a diary, but not quite - of existential musings about life, loneliness and the human condition. It's so introspective that after a while the monotony of the writer's mundane existence starts to wear on the reader. But I would urge you not to read this book like that. Rather, dip into it at random and you will find a work of undeniable genius.

One of the strengths of this Serpent's Tail Classics edition is the brief introduction by William Boyd that puts Pessoa's life work into context. The Book of Disquiet is written by one of Pessoa's heteronyms, Bernardo Soares, an assistant bookkeeper in a textile company in Lisbon. Indeed we even get an introduction from Pessoa about when he `met' this person.

Pessoa's works were found in a trunk after his death. The prose writings here were in no discernable order and largely undated. So how you put them together is doubtless a source of great debate for Pessoa academics. There is no `right' order. Similarly the works have been translated into English by several people. The translation in this edition is by Margaret Jull Costa, widely accepted as the best translation and indeed it is remarkable how beautiful the writing is in places.

This Serpent's Tail Classics edition, edited by Maria José de Lancastre, attempts to put 257 different pieces of writing into a rough order by subject matter. These appear logical although there's no clear marking of the apparent subject matter making it more difficult to relocate the quote you are looking for.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy Persaud on 17 Mar. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I think describing this book as a novel is entirely misleading and can prejudice the readers attitude towards it. It is essentially a collection of notes and meditations on life and existential musings, that are deeply esoteric and almost impossible to read as a novel. It is more a book you dip into a few pages at a time and ponder over the profound and eloquent prose of a brilliant writer.

Pessoa touches on universal themes such as Love, Friendship, Dreams, Ambition, Faith and the after life - gliding with effortless skill through ideas that are very complex and recondite. The tone can sometimes seem quite melancholy, but I think Pessoa is playing devil's advocate rather than voicing any deeply held belief - and questions life and all its burdens as if on behalf of the reader. As such it is a joy to read, it transcends the page and you feel the words stir the soul with a power and skill that all the great writers possess.

It is a thought provoking read - that leaves you thinking long after you put it down and challenges the reader to look beyond mundane existence and focus on what Pessoa frequently refers too as the journey. He draws the attention of the reader from the everyday and routine, to a spiritual and meta-physical level that is rarely addressed in an increasingly secular world.
He asserts:

"Life is an experimental journey undertaken involuntarily. It is a journey of the spirit through the material world and, since it is the spirit that travels, it is in the spirit that it is experienced."

With this quality and skill with words, Pessoa takes the reader to new heights - it is certainly a challenging book to read, but the reward is more than worth the effort.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Maud on 20 Feb. 2011
Format: Paperback
A review of this book in the Guardian prompted me to seek it out. It exceeded my expectations - it's a mesmerising book which somehow cuts through all the extraneous matter of daily life and reaches through to the essence of life, the heart of the matter. It's a wonderfully consoling book which repays many visits. I can only imagine the beauty of the writing in the original Portuguese, but even in translation one senses its allusive power, the voice sometimes laconic, sometimes rhapsodic, sometimes spare and elegiac. A book to treasure.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Art Madams on 7 Jun. 2010
Format: Paperback
bought this following Nicholas Lezard's postive review in the Guardian. You never know whether its all hype with reviews or if somethings just not your thing, but this has the x factor. this is the first review I've ever written but i felt compelled - Pessoa's writing is strange but beautiful, bringing half-known truths to the surface and exploring life in that vaguely existential way reminiscent of Camus etc. as reviewer's suggest, but with a voice all of his own. its not good because its worthy or highbrow literature, you'll enjoy it because its magic.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Philoctetes TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 29 Oct. 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Not a novel, just the collected reflections of one of the author's personae. A man doing a humdrum office job, day after day the same again, but the routine is like a waking coma that leaves his imagination free to roam and reflect upon his own life, the lives of others, mortality, place and space, you name it...

The kind of book, like Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, that one should dip into here and there, now and then, for spiritual succour.

Superb. A keeper for life.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Scott Baker on 15 Dec. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Not a novel in the conventional sense, this is the cobbled writings of Fernando Pessoa put together by editors rather than in any format he chose himself. His musings are endlessly fascinating and always poetic. He takes a permanent leap from the ordinary to the creamy alchemical centre of himself to ponder on life and love and soul and all the big impossible abstract nouns that confuse the hell out of most, which is why they fear to question themselves and don't go looking. Many do go looking and don't make it back. Pessoa frequently did, returning armed to the teeth with literary gold. It's in this book.
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