Nine days ago, I began reading The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa. The above picture was taken in the first hour I spent with this book, and by then I was already more than a little scared of how it would eventually matter to me, how it would be my book. Perhaps only five hours in total in those five days, but this book—it will unhinge me.
I am enamored by its utterances:
- Could it think, the heart would stop beating.
- I feel the chill of a sudden sickness in my soul.
- Everything was sleeping as if the universe were a mistake.
- And the chill of what I won’t feel gnaws at my present heart.
This book is threatening to be a record of my disquiet, my factless autobiography. That’s me when he says, “If I write what I feel, it’s to reduce the fever of feeling,” or, “Ah, it’s my longing for whom I might have been that distracts and torments me!” That’s my tedium, too:
A tedium that includes the expectation of nothing but more tedium; a regret, right now, for the regret I’ll have tomorrow for having felt regret today—huge confusions with no point and no truth, huge confusions.
And that’s me, petty and alive with it: “Let’s not forget to hate those who enjoy, just because they enjoy, and to despise those who are happy, because we didn’t know how to be happy like them.” And all that bordering on being Alarmingly Pathetic Goat, that’s me, for the love of cheesecake.
It’s embarrassing how much of me is in this book, and it’s a relief. How many times does this happen in a reader’s life? A book that is not only yours, but describes you, articulates what you cannot—will not?
Futile and insensitive, I’m capable of violent and consuming impulses—both good and bad, noble and vile—but never of a sentiment that endures, never of an emotion that continues, entering into the substance of my soul. Everything in me tends to go on to become something else. My soul is impatient with itself, as with a bothersome child; its restlessness keeps growing and is forever the same. Everything interests me, but nothing holds me. I attend to everything, dreaming all the while.
Bernardo Soares—who lamented, “Ah, how often my own dreams have raised up before me as things, not to replace reality but to declare themselves its equals…”—Bernardo Soares I officially my latest spirit animal.
And Soares/Pessoa even wrote: “How I’d love to infect at least one soul with some kind of poison, worry or disquiet! This would console me a little for my chronic failure to take action. My life would be to pervert. But do my words ring in anyone else’s soul? Does anyone hear them besides me?”
And in the margin, in mauve ink and minute cursive, I wrote, I do, sir.