Book Review: Cheer Up, Fernando!

The Book of Disquiet (Penguin Classics)

The Book of Disquiet is a collection of thoughts or musings of Portuguese author, Fernando Pessoa that is apparently written from the perspective of a persona known as Bernardo Soares.  I am not sure how to describe this since this is not really story.  I was reading a translation by Richard Zenith.  The first publication of this work occurred in 1982.  Pessoa died in 1935.  Apparently, the writings were discovered in some tucked away trunk somewhere.

This is not the book to be reading if one is struggling with severe depression because the best way I can describe it is as “bleak”.  Pessoa writes of someone in the midst of overwhelming tedium and disconnection from his fellow denizens of Lisbon.

I do admire the eloquence of the prose, or at least how this version was translated.  Pessoa expresses himself in such a manner that I could envy and appreciate, but there is no resolution to this story or life.  The passages are separated numerically and vary in length.  Some paragraphs are very short and abrupt while others take up a few pages.

I did find myself relating to what was being described.  It’s not quite clinical depression but a certain persistent apathy to everyday life.  Pessoa or Soares or whoever seems to give up on finding any lasting enjoyment in life.  He seems keenly aware of how temporary most pleasures really are.

Although I appreciates the opportunity a new style of writing and expression, I am not sure this is one I will be revisiting all that much.  I can wallow in my own cynicism without this kid of help.  I will suggest that one could read it once at least in order experience something very different and maybe gain a little insight into Portuguese culture.  There is no question that Pessoa was a uniquely talented wordsmith with probably some insight into how many people felt about their place in existence in the world. Unfortunately, Pessoa leaves this malaise as a somewhat insoluble problem.

This little entry into my blog probably doesn’t do the endeavor justice, and I am probably overlooking quite a number of insights and revelations this was intended to illuminate, however those will have to be discovered by whoever else reads The Book of Disquiet.

Although I never quit reading something, I will be taking a break from the heavier literary contributions to something of more familiar territory.  James Lovegrove has just published a new Sherlock Holmes anthology, so I will join the great detective and the steadfast Dr. Watson in the familiar surroundings of 221 B Baker Street for The Manifestations of Sherlock Holmes.

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