An excellent introduction to the works of Fernando Pessoa. The slightly quirky concepts and philosophical musings of Pessoa make refreshing reading in these English translations. However, not having read them in orginal Portuguese, I cannot comment on the quality of the translation. For the main part the concepts seem to flow well and are very readable. Not for those who like their poetry rhyming or fully rounded, but the range of Pessoa's writing as different personas, with different points of view, makes an interesting book to dip into again and again. Would recommend to anyone looking for something a little quirky but strangely uplifting.
The new selection of Pessoan texts translated by Richard Zenith is marvellous in almost every respect. It comes with an informative introduction and an authoritative set of notes: in short, it provides a new, perhaps a definitive, presentation of Pessoa's extraordinary poetic acheivement.
My only reservation is that the text is not bilingual, since it is notoriously hard to translate any poet, and without the cadences of Pessoa's strange Portuguese it is often hard to think of these texts as poetry at ll. I have also found (so far) one typo - a bad one, in a crucial text, "Ela canta, pobre ceifeira". On p.284 of Zenith, the 4th stanza has "In me what feels is always is always / Thinning...", when the last word should clearly be "Thinking" (translating "Pensando"). This slip threatens to make a nonsense of the poem, which is unfortunate to say the least. If I find any more such howlers, I'll report directly.
The first poem I alighted upon so perfectly matched my own feelings about love at that moment that I felt it was destiny that I should buy this book and live with these verses. The reality, naturally, has proven more complicated, since Pessoa wrote not only under his own name but also through the eyes of his various personae, the famous heteronyms, all quite independent voices.
Unsurprisingly, I found myself in accord and just as quickly at odds with one and then another. The heteronyms may be only a sophisticated literary game, a means to eloquent pastiche of various antique or modern poets, but the points of view are still sincerely expressed and ulitmately we have to decide for ourselves: find our own way of living.
In sum, this is ingenious and very accessible poetry that seeks to communicate and not to perplex the reader. A fascinating character, Fernando Pessoa. He gives hope to us all.
The Book of Disquiet shows clearly the talent FP had for writing in a poetic strain, so it should come as no surprise he turned his hands - the pieces collected here are attributed to his heteronyms (literary alter egos) - to verse. The same facility with words (though I can't read Portuguese), the gift for fusing language and ideas, and the acute perception of nature and his own emotions (though not others') are all there in spades. Unfortunately, the soft intellectual backbone evident in the Book undermines these qualities in the poetry too and what we often end up here with becomes fey and inconsequential - "I broke with the sun and stars. I let the world go./ I went far and deep with the knapsack of things I know." There's nothing wrong with any of that but compared to Wallace Stevens, whose themes and metaphysics FP parallels, it's flabby and content with "the mere surface of things". And I wonder why that is? Clues are found in Richard Zenith's stunning introduction, one of the best essays on a poet and poetry I have ever read. He concludes FP never really grew up (Wallace Stevens undertook a difficult marriage and fathered a daughter) and I would go along with that. Lacking the insights relationships can bring to sensibilities, FP never quite jumped the divide between excellence and greatness. That he failed to do so deprived us of a major European talent but, for all that, there is still plenty to enjoy and ponder in this marvellous volume.
An opportunity to read one of the most fascinating poets of all time. Pessoa was not only a creator of poetry but he also gave life to many other "characters" - heteronyms - that are also present in this book.
I found this sublime. Pessoa has ventured where others fear to tread, or are unconscious of such perception. His brave sensitivity within his explorations are truely worth taking the time to read, even if you don't necessarily understand them at first, or find some of his narrative out of sink / quirky. And perhaps this is part of the appreciation, to take your time with each word, each sentence, pausing to let it permeate ITS meaning rather than YOUR understanding........
I cannot comment on the quality of translation, but the text throughout hangs together consistently, so have an impression Zenith has done it justice (I've previously read 'The Book of Disquiet', so have already had an introduction to Pessoa's work (and can recommend this too).
All in all, Pessoa is to be SAVOURED like a vintage wine, for he is truly enriching to imbue.