By Pessoa, Fernando; Lisboa, Eugénio; Taylor, Len Clive
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Poetry is the revelation of his unreality: Between the moonlight and the foliage, Between the stillness and the grove, Between the fact of night and the fact of the breeze, A secret passes. My soul follows it as it passes. Is the one who passes Pessoa or someone else? The question is repeated down the years and throughout the poems. He does not even know if what he writes is his own. ’ Only from this perspective can the complete significance of the heteronyms be perceived. They are a literary invention and a psychological necessity, but they are something more.
Nothing can or should be said about this Pessoa. Revelation, deception, self-deception? All three together, perhaps. Like the master in one of his hermetic sonnets, Pessoa ‘knows and is silent’. Anglomaniac, myopic, courteous, evasive, dressed darkly, reticent and agreeable, cosmopolitan who preaches nationalism, solemn investigator of futile things, humorist who never smiles but chills our blood, inventor of other poets and destroyer of himself, author of paradoxes clear as water and, as water, dizzying; to pretend is to know yourself, mysterious man who does not cultivate mystery, mysterious as the mid-day moon, taciturn phantom of the Portuguese mid-day, who is Pessoa?
Educated at a Jesuit College, a physician by profession, a monarchist, exiled to Brazil since 1919, pagan and sceptic by conviction, Latinist by education, Reis lives outside time. He seems, but is not, a man of the past: he has chosen to live in a timeless sagesse. Cioran recently pointed out that our century, which has invented so many things, has not created the one thing we most lack. It is not surprising therefore that some seek it in the Eastern tradition: Taoism, Zen Buddhism; in fact those doctrines fulfil the same function as the moral philosophies of the end of the ancient world.
A centenary Pessoa by Pessoa, Fernando; Lisboa, Eugénio; Taylor, Len Clive