Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Fernando Pessoa's Modernity without Frontiers

Fernando Pessoa's Modernity without Frontiers: Influences, Dialogues, Responses

Edited by Mariana Gray de Castro
Series: Monografías A
Volume: 320
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 264
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Fernando Pessoa's Modernity without Frontiers
    Book Description:

    Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa claimed that he did not evolve, but rather travelled. This book provides a state of the art panorama of Pessoa's literary travels, particularly in the English-speaking world. Its eighteen short, jargon-free essays were written by the most distinguished Pessoa scholars across the globe. They explore the influence on Pessoa's thinking of such writers as Whitman and Shakespeare, as well as his creative dialogues with figures ranging from decadent poets to the dark magician Aleister Crowley, and, finally, some of the ways in which he in turn has influenced others. They examine many different aspects of Pessoa's work, ranging from the poetry of the heteronyms to the haunting prose of The Book of Disquiet, from esoteric writings to personal letters, from reading notes to unpublished texts. Fernando Pessoa's Modernity Without Frontiers is a valuable introduction to this multifaceted modern master, intended for both students of modern literature and general readers interested in one of its major figures.

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-112-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-ix)
    (pp. x-x)
  5. List of Contributors
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  6. Foreword
    (pp. 1-2)

    Fernando Pessoa’s youthful ambition was to become an English-language poet and, with the exception of a small book of poems, Mensagem [Message] (1934), the books he published during his lifetime were all in English. Most of his vast output in Portuguese was scattered among literary magazines or remained unpublished at his death. In English, Pessoa is an old-fashioned, albeit interesting poet; in Portuguese, he is one of the world’s greatest modern poets. Fortunately, we can now read his work in good English translations and there are many perceptive English-language studies of Pessoa. The present collection of essays is an important...

  7. Introduction
    (pp. 3-8)

    Fernando Pessoa’s Modernity Without Frontiers: Influences, Dialogues and Responses, a title borrowed from Helder Macedo’s description of the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa’s work in the Foreword to this book, aims to provide a state-of-the-art panorama of the latest research being conducted on Pessoa’s national and international influences, artistic dialogues, and responses his work has generated. In making this scholarship available to an English-speaking readership, thus adding to the small number of books of essays on Pessoa in English,¹ it equally hopes to cement his position at the heart of world literature.

    Pessoa cryptically claimed that he did not evolve, but...

  8. Chronology of Fernando Pessoa’s Life and Work
    (pp. 9-20)
  9. Part I: Influences

    • 1 ‘O Deus que Faltava’: Pessoa’s Theory of Lyric Poetry
      (pp. 23-36)

      Wallace Stevens, a poet I have often brought into contact with Fernando Pessoa, says in one of his ‘Adagia’ that ‘poetry is a sense’.² It seems to me that, more than a sense, poetry is an affair of the senses. Stevens himself would agree: ‘With my whole body I taste these peaches’, reads a line of ‘A Dish of Peaches in Russia’.³ For many modernist poets, the sensuous experience of everydayness tends to be far more important poetically than divinity or transcendence. Pessoa’s poetry as a whole is witness to this conception, which is best grasped in his heteronym Alberto...

    • 2 Pessoa and Walt Whitman Revisited
      (pp. 37-52)

      As a revisitor to the encounter between Fernando Pessoa and Walt Whitman, my modest aims in the following pages are: 1) to summarise the valuable observations and insights set forth by the first in-depth visitor to that encounter, Eduardo Lourenço, 2) to add some new information on how Pessoa viewed Whitman’s influence on his work (this by way of a still unpublished text from Pessoa’s archive), 3) to show that the most obviously Whitmanesque portions of Pessoa’s oeuvre – the poetry of Alberto Caeiro and Álvaro de Campos – were instances of conscious, wilful appropriation and even distortion (more than ‘misreading’), and...

    • 3 The Poet as Hero: Pessoa and Carlyle
      (pp. 53-62)

      During his adolescence, Fernando Pessoa was an admiring reader of Thomas Carlyle. The Scottish writer was part of the young poet’s school curriculum,¹ and the book Sartor Resartus. Heroes Past and Present (1833–4) can be found in his personal library at the Casa Fernando Pessoa in Lisbon.² This opus was very much on Pessoa’s mind, for he made several references to it in his writings, quoting the same phrase by Carlyle, for example, in two different fragments of the Livro do Desassossego [Book of Disquiet].³

      In Fernando Pessoa na África do Sul [Fernando Pessoa in South Africa], Alexandrino E....

    • 4 Álvaro de Campos, English Decadent
      (pp. 63-74)

      Unlike the death of Alberto Caeiro, which Pessoa tells us happened decades earlier, or that of Ricardo Reis, which was determined by Saramago and others to have occurred later, the disappearance of Álvaro de Campos, it has been assumed, took place on Saturday, 30 November 1935, the same day that Pessoa himself died. Readers of Portuguese newspapers read the news, but no British newspaper reported the Portuguese poet’s death. But there was one death notice in the London Times that has caught my attention. On the very day that Pessoa (and presumably Campos) died, John Drew Cormack, who was born...

    • 5 Pessoa’s Unmodernity: Ricardo Reis
      (pp. 75-86)

      According to the story (or at least one of its versions), Ricardo Reis was one of the most important of Pessoa’s heteronyms to appear, in June 1914, shortly after his master (actually, the master of them all) Alberto Caeiro (March 1914) and only a few days before the first manifestation of the futurist Álvaro de Campos.¹ (One wonders if there might be any connection in this temporal coincidence between a classical man being born immediately before a futuristic man or, at any rate, one wonders about this strong connection between classicism and futurism.) Reis was a classicist formally trained as...

    • 6 From FitzGerald’s Omar to Pessoa’s Rubaiyat
      (pp. 87-100)

      Omar Khayyam, the great Persian rationalist philosopher, astronomer and mathematician, was first introduced as a poet to the West by the Victorian writer Edward FitzGerald.² The first edition of the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám (1859) was a twenty-four-page booklet published by an antiquarian bookseller without the name of the translator. FitzGerald’s name appeared in the new, expanded and revised editions of 1868, 1872, and 1879, which did not cancel or supersede the previous ones: the fourth and final edition of 1879 was, in fact, an unabridged reprint of the four 1859–79 editions. FitzGerald did not render into English verse,...

    • 7 The Solitary Reaper Between Men (and Some Women)
      (pp. 101-112)

      Literary tradition, influence and genealogy are overlapping tropes of historical emplotment that have been centrally important, and indeed in many instances structurally indispensable, to feminist criticism of lyric poetry over the past four decades. At the same time, as Jonathan Culler notes, while it has been both easy and productive ‘to treat novels as social and political documents that record the travails of women […] lyric poetry has been less amenable to such treatment and the question of its relationship to feminist issues and what sort of historical act or historical representation it involves remains largely unsettled’.¹ Despite the chronologically...

    • 8 Mostrengos
      (pp. 113-126)

      It is impossible to bring to the fore the figure of the ‘mostrengo’ [monster] without evoking the ghostlike presence of Camões’s Adamastor which, although undeniably at work, seems to reduce Pessoa’s poem ‘O Mostrengo’ [The Monster], from a critical perspective, to a mere answer, a reply, and echo of Adamastor. The aim of this essay is not to envisage the Pessoa poem through the prism of a ‘monster’ theme but rather to address the difficulty of naming otherness and of clearly delimiting ‘self’ and ‘other’. The indeterminate figure of the ‘monster’ in Pessoa’s poem disseminates meanings, demonstrating how the structuring...

  10. Part II: Dialogues

    • 9 Inverted Aesthetics: Pessoa, Campos and António Botto’s Canções
      (pp. 129-142)

      Like so much of his literary criticism, Pessoa’s writings on his friend and younger contemporary António Botto offer less illumination of their ostensive subject than of Pessoa’s own preoccupations – both philosophical and personal – and of the artistic objectives, and inherently dramatic logic, of the concept of heteronymity. The exchange published in José Pacheco’s review Contemporânea [Contemporary] in 1922, in which the counterposed identities of Pessoa ‘himself’ and of Álvaro de Campos assert diametrically opposed vindications of Botto and his homoerotic Canções [Songs] (1922), is one of the most striking, and still little-studied, instances of the expressly performative aspect of Pessoa’s...

    • 10 Pessoa, Shakespeare’s Sonnets, and the Problem of Gaspar Simões
      (pp. 143-156)

      Pessoa was fascinated by the sexuality of the writers he admired, notwithstanding his continual disclaimers to the contrary.¹ One of the representative books he owned on the topic was Walt Whitman’s Anomaly (1913), with a note on the cover stating that ‘The sale of this book is restricted to Members of the Legal and Medical professions.’² Whitman’s ‘anomaly’, according to this book, is homosexuality.

      Pessoa believed that William Shakespeare’s ‘abnormal inclinations’, as he put it in an unpublished list titled ‘Psychology of the author of Shakespeare’s works’, were the same as Whitman’s.³ He says as much in ‘Erostratus’ when he...

    • 11 The Alchemical Path: Esoteric Influence in the Works of Fernando Pessoa and W. B. Yeats
      (pp. 157-168)

      Throughout their lives, Fernando Pessoa and W. B. Yeats displayed a sustained interest in occultism that encompassed different esoteric currents, comprising hermeticism, magic, alchemy, astrology and theosophy. This examination of esoteric influences in their works centres on the Western traditions of the Kabbalah and Rosicrucianism, focusing particularly on Kabbalistic principles largely derived from the teachings and rituals of Rosicrucian hermetic orders. Particular attention is devoted to the metaphor of transmutation of personality and of style that underpinned the articulation of Yeats’s theory of the Mask and Pessoa’s depersonalisation into heteronyms and elicited parallel strategies of stylistic diversification in their poetry....

    • 12 An Implausible Encounter and a Theatrical Suicide – its Prologue and Aftermath: Fernando Pessoa and Aleister Crowley
      (pp. 169-180)

      In September 1930 a curious, fascinating encounter took place in Lisbon between an occultist with a certain gift for poetry and a poet who was inclined to occultism. Aleister Crowley (1875–1947) and Fernando Pessoa were in biographical terms such different personalities that their ever meeting at all might appear, at least at first, almost unimaginable. But in spite of the apparent implausibility, the meeting actually took place: the famous and notorious practitioner of occultist arts came to the rather provincial city of Lisbon in order to visit the completely unknown and shy translator of commercial correspondence. The meeting led...

    • 13 Bernardo Soares, Pig of Destiny!
      (pp. 181-192)

      The title of this essay is a liberal translation of a phrase found in fragment 1/81-2 of Livro do Desassossego [Book of Disquiet]: ‘Há porcos de destino, como eu, que se não afastam da banalidade quotidiana por essa mesma atracção da própria impotência’³ [there are pigs of destiny, like me, who do not retreat from the banality of the quotidian because of the very attraction of their own impotence]. At a certain level, ‘pig of destiny’ is a description well suited to Bernardo Soares, who wallows triumphantly in the resentment of his life, employing a self-deprecating humour and some striking...

    • 14 The Birth of Literature
      (pp. 193-200)

      Let me recall a few of the more obtrusive characteristics of Fernando Pessoa’s Livro do Desassossego [The Book of Disquiet] by Bernardo Soares.

      The first is the series of descriptions of landscapes that pervades the book, usually skyscapes over Lisbon or over the bank of the river that skirts the city to the south. Such descriptions are Ruskin-like in their loving attention to chromatic detail. Colours are broken down into shades, shades into shades of shades, while the movement and shapes of clouds are clearly traced. The syntax of these weather charts seems to mirror their pictorial intent: sentences are...

    • 15 The Ecology of Writing: Maria José’s Fernando Pessoa
      (pp. 201-214)

      In this essay I will propose a course of action for reading Pessoa’s ‘Carta da Corcunda ao Serralheiro’ [Letter from a Hunchback Girl to a Metalworker] (by Maria José, circa 1930).¹ Despite its late appearance in the ongoing publication of his oeuvre (1990), the letter has already attracted significant critical insight.² The relevance of this distressed letter rests on the following four arguments: first, its preeminence among the poet’s works and the challenge it presents to thriving Pessoan hermeneutics; secondly, the chain of association formed by texts – some from the ‘exemplary tradition’ – which may be of use in the demanding...

  11. Part III: Responses

    • 16 Patrícia Galvão on Pessoa in Brazil, 1955–61
      (pp. 217-232)

      The celebrated Brazilian novelist, journalist and woman of letters Patrícia Galvão, known as ‘Pagu’ (1910–62), dedicated eight newspaper columns to Fernando Pessoa,¹ who was almost unknown in Brazil at the time, the first one published in Fanfulla (São Paulo) in 1950 in the series ‘De Artes e de Literatura’ [On Art and Literature],² followed by seven more in the newspaper A Tribuna (Santos), from 1955 to 1961. Written over a period of eleven years, four of the eight commemorate the fifteenth, twentieth and twenty-fifth anniversaries of the poet’s death (in 1950, 1955 and 1960, respectively).³ The remaining four report...

    • 17 Great Pessoans: A Tribute
      (pp. 233-242)

      On 18 July 1902, the Lisbon newspaper O Imparcial published a poem by a young boy called Fernando Pessoa, under the heading ‘A 14-year-old Poet’. It was a naive but correct little poem, presented as the work of a charming and restless child of promising poetical talent. Chronologically speaking, the unknown commentator was the first Pessoan. And he was right about the promising talent of the young poet who, ninety-two years later, in 1994, was to be included by Harold Bloom among the twenty-six writers in The Western Canon.

      Today, Pessoa’s oeuvre can be read in thirty-seven languages. His name...

    (pp. 243-245)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 246-248)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 249-249)