Info On F. Pessoa:
Fernando Pessoa, born Fernando António Nogueira de Seabra Pessoa (Portuguese pronunciation: [feɾˈnɐ̃du ɐ̃ˈtɔnju nuˈgɐi̯ɾɐ dɨ siˈabɾɐ pɨˈsoɐ]) (June 13, 1888 – November 30, 1935), was a Portuguese poet, writer, philosopher, literary critic and translator, described as one of the most significant literary figures of the 20th century and one of the greatest poets in the Portuguese language. He also wrote in and translated from English and French.
Early years in Durban
On 13 July 1893, when Pessoa was five, his father, Joaquim de Seabra Pessoa, died of tuberculosis. The following year, on 2 January, his younger brother Jorge, aged only one, also died. His mother, Maria Madalena Pinheiro Nogueira, married again in December 1895. In the beginning of 1896, he moved with his mother to Durban, capital of the former British Colony of Natal, where his stepfather João Miguel dos Santos Rosa, a military officer, had been appointed Portuguese consul. The young Pessoa received his early education at St. Joseph Convent School, a Catholic grammar school run by Irish and French nuns. He moved to Durban High School in April, 1899, becoming fluent in English and developing an appreciation for English literature. During the Matriculation Examination, held at the time by the then University of the Cape of Good Hope, forerunner of the University of Cape Town, in November 1903, he was awarded the recently-created Queen Victoria Memorial Prize for best paper in English. While preparing to enter university, he also attended the Durban Commercial School during one year, in the evening shift. Meanwhile, he started writing short stories in English, some under the name of David Merrick, many of which he left unfinished.
At the age of sixteen, The Natal Mercury (July 6, 1904 edition) published his poem "Hillier did first usurp the realms of rhyme...", under the name of Charles Robert Anon, along with a brief introductory text: "I read with great amusement...". In December, The Durban High School Magazine published his essay "Macaulay". From February to June, 1905, in the section "The Man in the Moon," The Natal Mercury also published at least four sonnets by Fernando Pessoa: "Joseph Chamberlain", "To England I", "To England II" and "Liberty". His poems often carried humorous versions of Anon as the author's name. Pessoa started using pen names quite young. The first one, still in his childhood, was Chevalier de Pas, supposedly a French noble. In addition to David Merrick and Charles Robert Anon, the young writer also signed up, among other pen names, as Horace James Faber and Alexander Search, another meaningful pseudonym.
- The young Pessoa as seen by a schoolfellow
- "I cannot tell you exactly how long I knew him, but the period during which I received most of my impressions of him was the whole of the year 1904 when we were at school together. How old he was at this time I don’t know, but judge him to have 15 or 16."
- "He was pale and thin and appeared physically to be very imperfectly developed. He had a narrow and contracted chest and was inclined to stoop. He had a peculiar walk and some defect in his eyesight gave to his eyes also a peculiar appearance, the lids seemed to drop over the eyes."
- "He was regarded as a brilliant clever boy as, in spite of the fact that he had not spoken English in his early years, he had learned it so rapidly and so well that he had a splendid style in that language. Although younger than his schoolfellows of the same class he appeared to have no difficulty in keeping up with and surpassing them in work. For one of his age, he thought much and deeply and in a letter to me once complained of 'spiritual and material encumbrances of most especial adverseness'."
- "He took no part in athletic sports of any kind and I think his spare time was spent on reading. We generally considered that he worked far too much and that he would ruin his health by so doing."
- --Clifford E. Geerdts, "Letter to Dr. Faustino Antunes", April 10, 1907.
Adult life in Lisbon
While his family remained in South Africa, Pessoa returned to Lisbon in 1905 to study diplomacy. After a period of illness, and two years of poor results, a student strike against the dictatorship of Prime Minister João Franco put an end to his studies. Pessoa became a self student, a devoted reader who spent a lot of time at the library. In August, 1907, he started working at R.G. Dun & Company, an American mercantile information agency (currently D&B, Dun & Bradstreet). His grandmother died in September and left him a small inheritance, which he spent on setting up his own publishing house, the «Empreza Ibis». The venture was not a success and closed down in 1910, but the name ibis, the sacred bird of Ancient Egypt and inventor of the alphabet in Greek mythology, would remain an important symbolic reference for him.
Upon his return to Lisbon, Pessoa began to complement his British education with Portuguese culture, as an autodidact. Pre-revolutionary atmosphere surrounding the assassination of King Carlos I and Crown Prince Luis Filipe, in 1908, and patriotic environment resulting from the successful republican revolution, in 1910, certainly exerted a relevant influence in the formation of the writer. His stepuncle Henrique dos Santos Rosa, a retired general and poet, introduced the young Pessoa to Portuguese poetry, notably the romantics and symbolists of 19th century. In 1912, Fernando Pessoa entered the literary world with a critical essay, published in the cultural journal A Águia, which triggered one of the most important literary debates in the Portuguese intellectual world of 20th century: the polemic regarding a super-Camões. In 1915 a group of artists and poets, including Fernando Pessoa, Mário de Sá-Carneiro and Almada Negreiros, created the literary magazine Orpheu, which introduced modernist literature to Portugal. Only two issues were published (Jan-Feb-Mar and Apr-May-Jun, 1915), the third failed to appear due to funding difficulties. Lost for many years, this issue was finally recovered and published in 1984. Among other writers and poets, Orpheu published Pessoa, orthonym, and the modernist heteronym, Álvaro de Campos.
Pessoa also founded the literary review Athena (1924–25), which published the heteronym Ricardo Reis. Along with his activity as free-lance commercial translator, Fernando Pessoa undertook intense activity as a writer and literary critic, contributing to journals and magazines such as A Águia (1912–13), A Renascença (1914), Orpheu (1915), Exílio (1916), Centauro (1916), Portugal Futurista (1917), Ressurreição (1920), Contemporânea (1922–26), Athena (1924–25), Presença (1927–34) and Sudoeste (1935). He also published as a political analyst and literary critic in journals and newspapers such as Teatro (1913), O Jornal (1915), Acção (1919–20), Diário de Lisboa (1924–35), Sol (1926), Revista de Comércio e Contabilidade (1926) and Fama (1932–33).
Pessoa the flâneur
If Franz Kafka is the writer of Prague, Fernando Pessoa is certainly the writer of Lisbon. After his return to Portugal, when he was seventeen, Pessoa barely left his beloved city, which inspired the poems "Lisbon Revisited" (1923 and 1926), by his heteronym Álvaro de Campos. From 1905 to 1921, when his family returned from Pretoria after the death of his stepfather, he lived in fifteen different places around the city, moving from a rented room to another according to his financial troubles and the troubles of the young Portuguese Republic.
Pessoa had the flâneur's regard, namely through the eyes of Bernardo Soares, another of his heteronyms. This character was supposedly an accountant, working to Vasques, the boss of the office located in Douradores Street. Bernardo Soares also supposedly lived in the same downtown street, a world that Pessoa knew quite well due to his long career as free lance correspondence translator. In fact, from 1907 until his death, in 1935, Pessoa worked in twenty one firms located in Lisbon's downtown, sometimes in two or three of them simultaneously. In The Book of Disquiet, Bernardo Soares describes some of those typical places and its "atmosphere".
Pessoa was a frequent customer at Martinho da Arcada, a centennial coffeehouse in Comercio Square, surrounded by ministries, almost an "office" for his private business and literary concerns, where he used to meet friends in the 1920s. The statue of Fernando Pessoa (below) can be seen outside A Brasileira, one of the preferred places of the young writers and artists of the group of orpheu during the 1910s. This coffeehouse, in the aristocratic district of Chiado, is quite close to Pessoa's birthplace: 4, Largo de São Carlos (in front of the Opera House), one of the most elegant neighborhoods of Lisbon.
In 1925, Pessoa wrote in English a guidebook to Lisbon but it remained unpublished until 1992.
Literature and occultism
Pessoa translated into English some Portuguese books and from English The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne and the poems "The Raven", "Annabel Lee" and "Ulalume" by Edgar Allan Poe who, along with Walt Whitman, strongly influenced him. He also translated into Portuguese a number of books by leading theosophists such as C. W. Leadbeater and Annie Besant.
In 1912-1914, while living with his aunt "Anica" and cousins, Pessoa took part in "semi-spiritualist sessions" that were carried out at home. But he was considered a "delaying element" by the other members of the session. Pessoa's interest in spiritualism was truly awakened in the second half of 1915, when he translated a series of esoteric books. This was further deepened in the end of March 1916, when he suddenly started having experiences where he became a medium. The experiences were revealed through automatic writing. In June, 24, Pessoa wrote an impressive letter to his aunt, then living in Switzerland with her daughter and son in law, in which he describes this "mystery case" that surprised him.
Besides automatic writing, Pessoa also had "astral" or "etherial visions" and was able to see "magnetic auras" similar to radiographic images. He felt "more curiosity than scare", but was respectful towards this phenomenon and asked secrecy, because "there is no advantage, but a lot of disadvantages" in speaking about this. Mediumship exerted a strong influence in Pessoa writings, who felt "sometimes suddenly being owned by something else" or having a "very curious sensation" in the right arm that "was lifted into the air without my will". Looking in the mirror, Pessoa saw several times the heteronyms, his "face fading out" and being replaced by the one of "a bearded man", or another one, four men in total.
Pessoa also developed a strong interest in astrology, becoming a competent astrologist. He elaborated more than 1,500 astrological charts, of well-known people like William Shakespeare, Lord Byron, Oscar Wilde, Chopin, Maximilien Robespierre, Napoleon I, Wilhelm II, Leopold II of Belgium, Victor Emmanuel III, Benito Mussolini, Alfonso XIII, or the Kings Sebastian and Carlos of Portugal and Salazar. In 1915, Pessoa created the heteronym Raphael Baldaya, who was an astrologist, and planned to write in his name "System of Astrology" and "Introduction to the Study of Occultism". Pessoa established the pricing of his astrological services from 500 to 5,000 réis and made horoscopes of costumers, friends and also himself and, astonishingly, of the heteronyms.
Born on June, 13, Pessoa was native of Gemini and had scorpio as rising sign. The characters of the main heteronyms were inspired by the four astral elements: air, fire, water and earth. It means that Pessoa and his heteronyms altogether comprised the full principles of ancient knowledge. Those heteronyms were designed according to their horoscopes, all include Mercury, the planet of literature. Astrology was part of his everyday life and Pessoa kept that interest until his death, which he was able to predict with a certain degree of accuracy.
As a mysticist, Pessoa was an enthusiast of esotericism, occultism, hermetism and alchemy. Along with spiritualism and astrology, he also paid attention to rosicrucianism, neopaganism and freemasonry, which strongly influenced his work. His interest in occultism led Pessoa to correspond with Aleister Crowley. Later he helped Crowley plan an elaborate fake suicide when he visited Portugal in 1930. Pessoa translated Crowley's poem "Hymn To Pan" into Portuguese, and the catalogue of Pessoa's library shows that he possessed Crowley's books Magick in Theory and Practice and Confessions. Pessoa also wrote on Crowley's doctrine of Thelema in several fragments, including Moral.
Writing a lifetime
In his early years, Pessoa was influenced by major English classic poets as Shakespeare, Milton or Spenser and romantics like Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley and Keats. Later, when he returned to Lisbon for good, he was influenced by French symbolists Charles Baudelaire, Maurice Rollinat, Stéphane Mallarmé; mainly by Portuguese poets as Antero de Quental, Gomes Leal, Cesário Verde, António Nobre, Camilo Pessanha or Teixeira de Pascoaes. Later on, he was also influenced by modernists as Yeats, Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot, among many other writers.
During World War I, Pessoa wrote to a number of British publishers in order to print his collection of English verse The Mad Fiddler (unpublished during his lifetime), but it was refused. However, in 1920, the prestigious literary journal Athenaeum included one of those poems. Since the British publication failed, in 1918 Pessoa published in Lisbon two slim volumes of English verse: Antinous and 35 Sonnets, received by the British literary press without enthusiasm. Along with some friends, he founded another publishing house, Olisipo, which published in 1921 a further two English poetry volumes: English Poems I–II and English Poems III by Fernando Pessoa.
Politically, Pessoa considered himself a "mystical nationalist" and, despite his monarchist sympathies, he didn't favour the restoration of the monarchy. He described himself as conservative within the British tradition. He was an outspoken elitist and aligned himself against communism, socialism, fascism and Catholicism. He supported the military coups of 1917 and 1926, and wrote a pamphlet in 1928 supportive of the Military Dictatorship but after the establishment of the New State, in 1933, Pessoa become disenchanted with the regime and wrote critically of Salazar and fascism in general. In the beginning of 1935, Pessoa was banned by the Salazar regimen, after he wrote in defense of Freemasonry.
Pessoa died of cirrhosis in 1935, at the age of forty-seven, with only one book published in Portuguese: "Mensagem" (Message). However, he left a lifetime of unpublished and unfinished work (over 25,000 pages manuscript and typed that have been housed in the Portuguese National Library since 1988). The heavy burden of editing this huge work is still in progress. In 1988 (the centenary of his birth), Pessoa's remains were moved to the Hieronymites Monastery, in Lisbon, where Vasco da Gama, Luís de Camões, and Alexandre Herculano are also buried. Pessoa's portrait was on the 100-escudo banknote.
Extracts Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fernando_Pessoa
Edition: Areal Editores
|Pessoa in 1928, drinking a glass of red wine in Lisbon's downtown|