The Book of Disquiet
Author:Fernando Pessoa

= Why did he commit suicide?


– Wait, I still don’t know… He wanted to discover and develop a method for surreptitiously not completing sentences. He used to say that he was searching for the microbe of meaning… He committed suicide – yes, of course – because one day he realized what a tremendous responsibility he’d assumed… The enormity of the problem made him go nuts… A revolver and…


= No, that’s preposterous… Don’t you see that it could never be a revolver? A man like that never shoots himself in the head… You understand very little about the friends you’ve never had… That’s a serious defect, you know… My best girlfriend, a ravishing young man I invented…


– Do you get along?


= As best we can… But this girl, you can’t imagine.....


The two figures sitting at the table set for tea surely didn’t have this conversation. But they were so well groomed and dressed that it seemed a pity for them not to talk this way… That’s why I wrote this conversation for them to have had… Their gestures, mannerisms, playful glances and smiles – those short interludes in the conversation when we stop feeling our own existence – clearly expressed what I faithfully pretend to be reporting… After they go their separate ways, each marrying someone else (since they think too much alike to marry each other), if one day they happen to look at these pages, I think they will recognize what they never said and will be grateful to me for so accurately interpreting not only what they really are but also what they never wished to be nor ever knew they were…


If they read me, may they believe that this was what they really said. In the words that they apparently heard from each other there were so many things missing, such as the fragrance in the air, the tea’s aroma, the meaning of the corsage of which she wore on her chest… Although never stated, these things formed part of the conversation… All these things were there, and so my task isn’t really to write literature but history. I reconstruct, completing what’s missing, and this will serve as my excuse to them for having eavesdropped on what they didn’t say and wouldn’t have wanted to say.*












I speak in earnest and with sadness. This is not a matter for joy, because the joys of dreaming are contradictory and gloomy, and must be enjoyed in a special, mysterious way.


Sometimes I inwardly, objectively observe delightful and absurd things which I can’t even imagine seeing, for they’re illogical to our eyesight – bridges that connect nothing to nothing, roads without beginning or end, upside-down landscapes..... – the absurd, the illogical, the contradictory, everything that detaches and removes us from reality and its vast entourage of practical thoughts, human feelings, and all notions of useful and profitable action. Absurdity prevents the state of spirit in which dreaming is a sweet fury from ever becoming too tedious.


And I have a peculiar, mysterious way of envisioning these absurdities. In some way I can’t explain, I’m able to see these things that are inconceivable for any kind of human vision.












Let’s absurdify life, from east to west.









Life is an experimental journey that we make involuntarily. It is a journey of the mind through matter, and since it is the mind that journeys, that is where we live. And so there are contemplative souls who have lived more intensely, more widely and more turbulently than those who live externally. The end result is what counts. What was felt is what was lived. A dream can tire us out as much as physical labour. We never live as hard as when we’ve thought a great deal.


The man in the corner of the dance-hall dances with all the dancers. He sees everything, and because he sees everything, he lives everything. Since everything is ultimately our own sensation, to have actual contact with a body counts for no more than seeing it or just remembering it. I dance, therefore, when I see someone dance. I second the English poet* who, lying in the grass and watching three mowers in the distance, said: ‘A fourth man is mowing, and that fourth am I.’


All of this, told the way I feel it, has to do with the great weariness that came over me today, suddenly and for no apparent reason. I’m not only weary, but embittered; and the bitterness is also a mystery. I feel so anguished I’m on the verge of tears – not the kind that are wept but the kind that stay inside: tears caused by a sickness of the soul, not by a sensible pain.


How much I’ve lived without having lived! How much I’ve thought without having thought! I’m exhausted from worlds of static violence, from adventures I’ve experienced without moving a muscle. I’m surfeited with what I’ve never had and never will, jaded by gods that so far don’t exist. I bear the wounds of all the battles I avoided. My muscles are sore from all the effort I have never even thought of making.


Dull, silent, futile… The lofty sky is of a flawed, dead summer. I look at it as if it weren’t there. I sleep what I think, I’m lying down as I walk. I suffer without feeling anything. My enormous nostalgia is for nothing, is nothing, like the lofty sky that I don’t see, and that I’m staring at impersonally.