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The Book of Disquiet (Serpent's Tail Classics) Paperback – 6 May 2010

4.5 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Serpent's Tail; Main edition (6 May 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846687357
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846687358
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 13.3 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 246,011 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

In a time which celebrates fame, success, stupidity, convenience and noise, here is the perfect antidote (John Lanchester Daily Telegraph)

A meandering, melancholic series of reveries and meditations. Pessoa's amazing personality is as beguiling and mysterious as his unique poetic output (William Boyd)

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. We must be given the chance to learn more about him (Anthony Burgess Observer)

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 Independent)

The very book to read when you wake at 3am and can't get back to sleep - mysteries, misgivings, fears and dreams and wonderment. Like nothing else. (Philip Pullman)

Fernando Pessoa was simply one of the best 20th-century writers ever... captivating... a series of beautifully wistful reminiscences, diary entries ad aphoristic snippets... an accessibly slimmed down and beautifully translated version of this great classic and we recommend it like crazy. Pick one up and open it anywhere and we promise you'll be richly rewarded. (Stuart Hammond Dazed and Confused 2010-05-01)

To read and then contemplate him is to be lifted a little bit above the earth in a floating bubble. One becomes both of the world and not of it. There's no one like him, apart from all of us. (Nicholas Lezard Guardian 2010-05-22)

An odd, occasionally exasperating and sometimes beautiful book and one that will be your friend at 3am on a sleepless night. (Sophia Martelli Observer 2010-10-17)

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

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Paperback
First of all, this is not a novel. O Livro do Desassossego is a sort of diary of all of Pessoa's thoughts and feelings. Reading this book will not only make you understand a bit more who Pessoa was but make you wonder who we are and why we are all 'here' (and if we are). This diary just comes to show how ambiguous and pessimistic Pessoa was, but also how much he wanted to live. Pessoa is, in my opinion, by far the greatest poet/ writer of all times.
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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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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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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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