10 October 2005

"New" Pessoa

Exact Change announces the release of a newly-translated work by Fernando Pessoa, The Education of the Stoic:
“I transferred to Teive my speculations on certainty, which lunatics have in greater abundance than anyone.”

Portuguese author Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935) was a multitude of writers: his works were composed by “heteronyms,” alter egos with distinct biographies, ideologies, influences, even horoscopes. The Education of the Stoic is the only work left by the Baron of Teive, who, having destroyed all his previous attempts at literary creation, and about to destroy himself, explains “the impossibility of producing superior art.”

The baron’s manuscript is found in a hotel-room drawer — not unlike editor and translator Richard Zenith’s own discovery, while conducting research in the Pessoa archives, of a small black notebook whose contents had never been transcribed. In it he found the missing pieces of this short but trenchant complement to Pessoa’s major prose work, The Book of Disquiet. Pessoa himself noted that despite their dialectical differences, the middle-class author of The Book of Disquiet (assistant bookkeeper Bernardo Soares) and the aristocrat Teive, “are two instances of the very same phenomenon -— an inability to adapt to real life.”
An excerpt can be found here:
There’s no greater tragedy than an equal intensity, in the same soul or the same man, of the intellectual sentiment and the moral sentiment. For a man to be utterly and absolutely moral, he has to be a bit stupid. For a man to be absolutely intellectual, he has to be a bit immoral. I don’t know what game or irony of creation makes it impossible for man to be both things at once. And yet, to my misfortune, this duality occurs in me. Endowed with both virtues, I’ve never been able to make myself into anything. It wasn’t a surfeit of one quality, but of two, that made me unfit to live life.

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