Category Archives: Pessoa

I don’t know what time is

I don’t know what time is. I don’t know what its real measure is, presuming it has one. I know that the clock’s measure is false, as it divides time spatially, from the outside. I know that our emotions’ way of measuring is just as false, dividing not time but our sensation of it. The way our dreams measure it is erroneous, for in dreams we only brush against time, now leisurely, now hurriedly, and what we live in them is fast or slow, depending on something in their flowing that I can’t grasp.

— Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet (tr. Zenith)

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Where did I take refuge?

I fell into a complex state of mental indiscipline and general indifference. Where did I take refuge? My impression is that I didn’t take refuge anywhere. I abandoned myself to I don’t know what.

— Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet (tr. Zenith)

Look how it’s getting dark!

If our life were an eternal standing by the window, if we could remain there for ever, like hovering smoke, with the same moment of twilight forever paining the curve of the hills…. If we could remain that way for beyond forever! If at least on this side of the impossible we could thus continue, without committing and action, without our pallid lips sinning another word!

Look how it’s getting dark! …The positive quietude of everthing fills me with rage, with something that’s a bitterness in the air I breathe. My soul aches … A slow wisp of smoke rises and dissipates in the distance… A restless tedium makes me think no more of you…

All so superfluous! We and the world and the mystery of both.

Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet (tr. Zenith), via here

To spare himself the trouble of organizing and publishing the richest part of his prose, Pessoa invented The Book of Disquiet, which never existed, strictly speaking, and can never exist. What we have here isn’t a book but its subversion and negation: the ingredients for a book whose recipe is to keep sifting, the mutant germ of a book and its weirdly lush ramifications, the rooms and windows to build a book but no floor plan and no floor, a compendium of many potential books and many others already in ruins.

–Richard Zenith, from his Introduction to The Book of Disquiet

Everything slips away from me. My whole life, my memories, my imagination and all it contains, my personality: it all slips away. I constantly feel that I was someone different, that a different I felt, that a different I thought. I’m watching a play with a different, unfamiliar setting, and what I’m watching is me.

— Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet (tr. Zenith)

‘I don’t sleep’

First it’s a sound that makes another sound, in the nocturnal hollow of things. Then it’s a low howl, accompanied by the creaking of the street’s swaying signboards. And then the voice of space becomes a shout, a roar, and everything shudders, nothing sways, and there’s silence in the dread of all this, like a speechless dread that sees another dread when the first one has passed.

Then there’s nothing but wind, just wind, and I sleepily notice how the doors shake in their frames and how the glass in the windows loudly resists.

I don’t sleep. I interexist. A few vestiges of consciousness persist. I feel the weight of slumber but not of unconsciousness. I don’t exist. The wind… I wake up and go back to sleep without yet having slept. There’s a landscape of loud and indistinct sound beyond which I’m a stranger to myself. I cautiously delight in the possibility of sleeping. I really do sleep, but don’t know if I’m sleeping. In what seems to me like a slumber there is always a sound of the end of all things, the wind in the darkness, and, if I listen closely, the sound of my own lungs and heart.

— Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet (tr. R. Zenith)

The existence of others

Like someone whose eyes, when lifted up after staring at a book for a long time, wince at the mere sight of a naturally bright sun, so too, when I lift my eyes from looking at myself, it hurts and stings me to see the vivid clarity and independence-from-me of the world outside, of the existence of others, of the position and correlation of movements in space. I stumble on the real feelings of others. The antagonism of their psyches towards mine shoves me and trips up my steps. I slide and tumble above and between the sounds of their strange words in my ears, the hard and definite falling of their feet on the actual floor, their motions that really exist, their various and complex ways of being persons who are not mere variants of my own.

— Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet (trans. R. Zenith)