P D Dawson
The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa (Book Review)
"To fight is proof of one’s inability to do battle with oneself."
Fernando Pessoa is a writer of great genius and invention. He has the ability to uniquely philosophise about life, from the unique extremes of one man’s isolation and disconnection with the world, to more populous ideas that any soul can relate to. In fact given enough thought, anyone can relate to the beautiful and elegant reasoning and anti-reasoning Pessoa has about life and death.
Bernardo Soares is the main character, but Pessoa himself admits that much of what his character sees and feels of the world, is an extension of himself and his own outlook of the world, even though through the medium of literature, those truths and observations made of the world can sometimes be amplified and temper the truths with an acute anonymity, so that he might read his passages in some future date and wonder what poor and lonely soul could have written such morbid fantasises and witless observations about a world that is at times so unnervingly beautiful.
And so how can I review this book? Can I give you a plot to consider, or a description of a character to muse over? No, I can’t really give you any of these things, as like Água Viva by Clarice Lispector, this book is in the same kind of vein, of what some might describe as being existentialist literature, a stream of consciousness that philosophises about everything, but does so at a level beyond common thought and rationality.
The Book of Disquiet is like a diary of a withering soul, pragmatically filling in the discourse of life and death, and Pessoa does so with wonderful use of language and endlessly quotable lines, and I can only imagine this holds up well thanks to the wonderful translation. The creative reinventions of the same ideas are reconstituted in the package of a genius at play in words, and through them we view different angles of a single consciousness. But the text never becomes dull or trite, and one can feel Pessoa’s conscience is an endless river of wisdom fighting against the sea of life: on which Pessoa said himself - "How often my ordinary consciousness of myself is obscured by the dark sediment stirred up in some stagnant part of me."
I believe he is referring to life and death, and how those two poles stir up sediment in all of us, until we are unsure of seeing anything clearly at all.