The Book of Disquiet
Author:Fernando Pessoa

Exquisite psychology of truly static things, a psychology woven by eternity! And the expression of a painted figure, from the summit of its visible eternity, disdains our transitory fever, which never lingers at the windows of an attitude* nor pauses at the gates of a gesture.

 

Just imagine the folklore of the colourful people who inhabit paintings! The loves of embroidered figures – loves marked by a two-dimensional, geometric chastity – should be [probed] for the entertainment of venturesome psychologists.

 

We don’t love, we only pretend to. True love, immortal and useless, belongs to those figures whose feelings never change, since by nature they are static. Ever since I’ve known the Japanese man who sits on the convex [surface] of my teapot, he has yet to make a move. He has never savoured the hand of the woman who is forever out of reach. Enervated colours, like those of an emptied, poured-out sun, eternally unrealize the slopes of that hill. And the whole scene observes a moment of sorrow – a sorrow more faithful than the one that right now fills, without filling, the hollowness of my weary hours.

 

 

 

 

 

369

 

 

In this metallic age of barbarians, only a relentless cultivation of our ability to dream, to analyse and to captivate can prevent our personality from degenerating into nothing or else into a personality like all the rest.

 

Whatever is real in our sensations is precisely what they have that isn’t ours. The sensations common to us all are what constitute reality. Our sensations’ individuality, therefore, lies in whatever they have that’s erroneous. What joy it would give me to see a scarlet-coloured sun! How totally and exclusively mine it would be!

 

 

 

 

 

370

 

 

I never let my feelings know what I’m going to make them feel. I play with my sensations like a bored princess with her large, viciously agile cats.

 

I slam doors within me where certain sensations were about to pass in order to be realized. I quickly clear their path of mental objects that might cause them to make gestures.

 

Little nonsense phrases inserted into the conversations we pretend to be having, meaningless affirmations made from the ashes of other, equally meaningless affirmations…

 

– Your gaze reminds me of music played on a boat in the middle of a mysterious river with woods on the facing shore…

 

= Don’t say that it’s a chilly moonlit night. I abhor moonlit nights… There are people who actually play music on moonlit nights…

 

– That’s also a possibility… An unfortunate one, of course… But your gaze evidently wants to be nostalgic about something… It lacks the feeling it expresses… In the falseness of your expression I can see many of the illusions that I’ve had…

 

= I can assure you that I sometimes feel what I say and even, despite being a woman, what I say through my gaze…

 

– Aren’t you being harsh on yourself? Do we really feel what we think we’re feeling? Does this conversation, for example, have any semblance of reality? Surely not. It would be unacceptable in a novel.

 

= And with good reason… Look, I’m not absolutely certain that I’m talking with you… In spite of being a woman, I made it my duty to be an illustration in the picture book of a mad artist… Some of my detail is overly precise… I realize it gives the impression of an overwrought, somewhat forced reality… To be an illustration seems to me the only ideal worthy of a contemporary woman. As a child I wanted to be the queen of one of the suits in a deck of old cards we had at home… This seemed to me like such a compassionately heraldic vocation… For a child, of course, such moral aspirations are common… Only later, when all our aspirations are immoral, do we really think about this…

 

– Since I never talk to children, I believe in their artistic instinct… You know, even now as I’m talking I’m trying to fathom the true meaning of the things you’ve been telling me. Do you forgive me?

 

= Not entirely… We should never plumb the feelings that other people pretend to have. They’re always too intimate… Don’t think it doesn’t hurt me to share these intimate secrets, all of which are false but which represent true tatters of my pathetic soul… The most pitiful thing about us, believe me, is what we really aren’t, and our worst tragedies take place in the idea we have of ourselves.

 

– That’s so true… Why say it? You’ve hurt me. Why ruin the constant unreality of our conversation? This way it almost becomes a plausible interchange at a table set for tea, between a beautiful woman and a dreamer of sensations.

 

= You’re right… Now it’s my turn to ask forgiveness… But I was distracted and really didn’t notice that I’d said something that makes sense… Let’s change the subject… How late it always is!… Don’t get upset again – the sentence I just said, after all, is complete nonsense…

 

– Don’t apologize, and don’t pay any attention to what we’re talking about… Every good conversation should be a two-way monologue… We should ultimately be unable to tell whether we really talked with someone or simply imagined the conversation… The best and profoundest conversations, and the least morally instructive ones, are those that novelists have between two characters from one of their books. For example…

 

= For heaven’s sake! Don’t tell me you were going to cite an example! That’s only done in grammars; perhaps you’ve forgotten that we don’t even read them.

 

– Did you ever read a grammar?

 

= Never. I’ve always despised knowing the correct way to say something… All I ever liked in grammar books were the exceptions and pleonasms… To dodge the rules and say useless things sums up the essentially modern attitude. Did I say that correctly?…

 

– Absolutely… What’s especially irritating in grammars (have you noticed how exquisitely impossible it is for us to be talking about this?) – the most irritating part of grammars is the chapter on verbs, since these are what give meaning to sentences… An honest sentence should always have any number of possible meanings… Verbs!… A friend of mine who committed suicide – every time I have a longish conversation I suicide a friend – was going to dedicate his life to destroying verbs…