A reunion with Disquiet, anyone?

So. At the close of June 2011, I picked up The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa. In the weeks that followed, I frequently dipped into the book–at first linearly, and then I had to throw up my arms and say, “Aw, fuck it,” and just opened the page at random. Always with my high-lighter aloft, my pens at the ready.

I had the purest intentions, I did. But now, Disquiet has been sitting forlornly in one shadowed corner of a shelf somewhere–I think I’ll know where it is, if pressed. I seem to have fallen off, although, please, the first nine days, at least, can attest to the fever of my infatuation with this ridiculously beautiful books:

Dated 04 July 2011 [see original post here].

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.

Long-winded and self-indulgent flashbacks of my schmaltz aside, I’m sharing that the awe-worthy Tom of Wuthering Expectations is having a group read of The Book of Disquiet, and I’m reckless enough to join in on the fun. I apologize in advance if this means that more of the above posts will continue to appear in this page. No dignity of mine goes un-crumbled in this book blog, ladies and gentlemen. Brace yourselves. Oh, and also, join us. Take it from Tom:

Imagine the poor reader, trapped in his deathbed, who has read all 1,001 books except #PessoaDisquiet. He feebly turns the pages of the Richard Zenith translation, but his eyesight and concentration are insufficient for the difficult concepts and miniscule type of Pessoa’s text. His strength wanes; the book slips from his fingers; he feels the icy shadow of Death approach, knowing that he ends his life unloved, and badly read. Just one book short of being well-read, actually.

Do not be that reader.

Nope, don’t.

7 thoughts on “A reunion with Disquiet, anyone?

  1. I know exactly what you mean about reading a book and finding that it was not only written FOR you, but also appears to have been written ABOUT you. I just had that very experience reading Jeanette Winterson’s memoir, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? There were so many instances when WInterson would write something that pierced my very core, her words mirroring my own thoughts and feelings. I feel odd saying that a memoir, written about someone’s own life feels like my own story, just bundled in a different guise. Obviously not everything in Winterson’s life is identical to my own (for one, I’m not adopted, for two, I’m not a lesbian), but the things that were the same were the things you would not know by looking at us anyway.

  2. Also noticed Tom’s readalong and I’m really tempted to join in. I’ve been meaning to read it for a long time and I might add a different perspective, since I’m a Lisbon-native myself.


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