The Selected Prose of Fernando Pessoa Paperback – 19 Jul 2002
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About the Author
Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935) was born in Lisbon and raised in South Africa. After returning to Lisbon to study, he made a living as a translator and wrote obsessively in English, French, and Portuguese. While acknowledged as an intellectual and a poet, his literary genius went largely unrecognized until after his death.
Richard Zenith lived in Brazil and France before immigrating to Portugal in 1987. He has translated the poetry of Luis de Camoes, Fernando Pessoa, Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen, and Joao Cabral de Melo Neto.
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Pessoa published little during his lifetime, but it was because he never submitted much of his work for publication. Apparetnly, the Portugese publishers still haven't published all of his works, either, and that is a shame.
One thing that stands out about this book is that Pessoa does not engage in any of the posturing that one might find in the works of other writers convinced of their genius. One senses that Pessoa considers his genius not in boast, but as if it were as unavoidable as his own face. It is fact to him; he cannot change it. His is a sad genius, not a violent genius. But do not pity him; he knew what he was doing. Pessoa was a man who knew what it meant to be a writer (that is, a perpetual other, an individual who can describe the world because he stands apart from it).
Pessoa is a wonder. Buy this book. I only wish it were the "Collected Prose" of Pessoa rather than the "Selected Prose."
One more note, if you are interested in Portugese literature you must read Anotnio Lobo Antunes, also published by Grove Press. A few of his works have been also translated by Richard Zenith (to whom I am grateful for his translations). If you like madness, madness in the Faulknerian sense, then you will love Lobo Antunes.
This collection complicates and deepens that perspective, with selections ranging from the whole of Pessoa's life, from the childhood Alexander Search to the elderly and Stoic Baron of Tieve, yet remains (as Pessoa remains) wholly delightful and charming. A Maria José even appears, in a letter "From A Hunchbacked Girl To A Metalworker" (a heartbreaking letter, I may add). Pessoa's possibly affected eccentricities are in full evidence here: witness the "Riddle Of The Stars," a kind of proto-"Changing Light At Sandover," wherein Pessoa receives otherworldly communiqués via automatic writing and the spirits exhort him repeatedly to lose his virginity. Other kicks: his "static drama" "O Marinhero" and Alvaro de Campos' "Ultimatum," where he personally attacks everyone responsible for World War I (and I mean, _everyone_).
Zenith's notes are indispensable (though he peculiarly abandons his "Disquietude" for "Disquiet," and chooses American English as his idiom). All in all, a welcome addition to the Pessoan archive in English, and a breathtaking array of further complications.