Fernando Pessoa
September 12, 2003 11:32 AM   Subscribe

Fernando Pessoa was a Portuguese poet and mastermind. He created and maintained several heteronyms who each had their own distinct writings, went on to lead interesting lives, and even interacted with each other. All in the public eye.

The truth about their existence was only discovered after the death of Pessoa and the subsequent discovery of a trunk containing writings from all of them.
posted by ODiV (14 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
"a Portuguese poet and mastermind"? He lives....
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:36 AM on September 12, 2003 [1 favorite]

his faked death was the masterpiece.
posted by th3ph17 at 11:39 AM on September 12, 2003

cool! thanks ODiv, great and interesting link.
posted by cell divide at 11:47 AM on September 12, 2003

There's a good book with excerpts from many of the heteronyms (The Selected Prose of Fernando Pessoa, ed by Richard Zenith)...there were so many alter-egos Pessoa invented (some English, some French, some Portuguese), each to cover a different subject of interest i think, and some simply to critize others--it's fascinating. There's an interesting section with Raphael Baldaya, an astrologist heteronym, communicating with Henry More, an astral being, thru automatic writing, among others. It's sort of like each subject that interested him occasioned the creation of a new being.

"I contain multitudes" indeed. (if that's the right famous quote)
posted by amberglow at 11:56 AM on September 12, 2003

Sort of like a latter day Ashton Kutcher. Except for the mastermind part.
posted by hellinskira at 12:53 PM on September 12, 2003

In pulpspace, nobody knows if you're a heteronym.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 2:10 PM on September 12, 2003

And all America has to offer is Phil Hendrie. :-(
posted by tbc at 2:35 PM on September 12, 2003

quonsar's American, tbc. Can't forget him.
posted by billsaysthis at 3:56 PM on September 12, 2003

seems as if he wanted to say something about this matter
posted by clavdivs at 5:42 PM on September 12, 2003

Thanks, ODiV - Pessoa is indeed almost indispensable. I would recommend The Book Of Disquiet as one of the ten or twenty great works of the 20th Century.

Reading Pessoa changes you for the better and the more interesting: he sort of allows individual complexity in a way no other author can. So each reader has a different Pessoa.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 8:11 PM on September 12, 2003

Oops, bad link. Second attempt.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 8:12 PM on September 12, 2003

Another important Portugese writer, José Saramago, paid an interesting homage to Pessoa in his book, The year of the death of Ricardo Reis. In the novel, Reis, one of Pessoa's heteronyms, returns to Lisbon in 1936 (the year of the rise of fascism in Portugal) after living in Brazil for many years and has various discussions with his recently deceased creator (Pessoa died in 1935). There are also some nods to Borges with whom I believe Pessoa had much in common. Consider the Pessoa quote at the beginning of the novel:

If they were to tell me that it is absurd to speak thus of someone who never existed, I should reply that I have no proof that Lisbon ever existed, or I who am writing, or any other thing whatever it might be.

My favorite poem of his I only know in Spanish and I am loathe to translate it for fear of butchering it:


El poeta es un fingidor.
Finge tan completamente
Que hasta finge que es dolor
El dolor que en verdad siente.

Y quienes leen lo que escribe
En el dolor leído sienten
No los dos que el poeta vive
Mas sólo aquél que no tienen.

Y así en la vida se mete,
Distrayendo la razon
Y gira el tren de jugete
Que se llama el corazón.

posted by sic at 5:28 PM on September 13, 2003

I guess I don't have to translate it....
posted by sic at 5:47 PM on September 13, 2003

If I recall correctly, Drugstore's beautiful "Song for Pessoa" was dedicated to him. Check it out, it's worth it.
posted by swordfishtrombones at 11:22 AM on September 14, 2003

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