The Book of Disquiet
Author:Fernando Pessoa

In the day’s limpid perfection, the sun-filled air nevertheless stagnates. It’s not the present pressure of the future storm, not a malaise in our involuntary bodies, not a vague haziness in the truly blue sky. It’s the torpor that the thought of not working makes us feel, a feather tickling our dozing face. It’s sultry but it’s summer. The countryside appeals even to those who don’t like it.

 

If I were someone else, this would no doubt be a happy day for me, because I’d feel it without thinking about it. I would look forward to finishing my normal day’s work – which to me is monotonously abnormal day after day – and then take the tram to Benfica* with some friends. We would eat dinner right as the sun was setting, in one of the garden restaurants. Our happiness in that moment would be part of the landscape, and recognized as such by all who saw us.

 

But since I am me, I merely take a little pleasure in the little that it is to imagine myself as that someone else. Yes, soon he-I, under a tree or bower, will eat twice what I can eat, drink twice what I dare drink, and laugh twice what I can conceive of laughing. Soon he, now I. Yes, for a moment I was someone else: in someone else I saw and lived this human and humble joy of existing as an animal in shirtsleeves. Great day that made me dream all this! The sky is sublimely blue, like my fleeting dream of being a hale and hearty sales representative on a sort of holiday when the day’s work is over.

 

 

 

 

 

375

 

 

The countryside is always where we aren’t. There, and there alone, do real trees and real shade exist.

 

Life is the hesitation between an exclamation and a question. Doubt is resolved by a period.

 

Miracles are God’s laziness – or rather, the laziness we ascribe to God when we invent miracles.

 

The Gods are the incarnation of what we can never be.

 

The weariness of all hypotheses…

 

 

 

 

 

376

 

 

The slight inebriation of a mild fever, with its soft and penetrating discomfort that’s cold in our aching bones and warm in our eyes, under our throbbing temples – I adore that discomfort like a slave his beloved oppressor. It puts me in that state of feeble, quivering passivity in which I glimpse visions, turn corners of ideas and get lost among sudden and unexpected feelings.

 

Thinking, feeling and wanting become a single confused thing. Beliefs, sensations, imagined things and real things get all mixed up, like the contents of various drawers overturned on to the floor.

 

 

 

 

 

377

 

 

There’s a kind of sad happiness in the feeling of convalescence, especially if the sickness that preceded it affected the nerves.* There’s an autumn in our emotions and thoughts, or rather, a beginning of spring that except for the absence of falling leaves seems, in the air and in the sky, like autumn.

 

Our fatigue is pleasant, and the pleasantness hurts just a little. We feel a bit removed from life, though still in it, as if on the balcony of life’s house. We become pensive without actually thinking; we feel without any definable emotion. Our will grows calm, for we have no need of it.

 

That’s when certain memories, certain hopes and certain vague desires slowly climb the slope of consciousness, like indistinct wayfarers seen from the top of a mountain. Memories of futile things: hopes whose non-fulfilment didn’t particularly matter; desires that weren’t violent in nature or in their manifestation, that weren’t ever able to want really to be.

 

When the day is in keeping with these sensations – today, for example, which is rather cloudy even though it’s summer, with a slight wind that feels almost chilly for not being warm –, then the particular mood in which we think, feel and live these impressions is accentuated. Not that the memories, hopes and desires we’ve had become any clearer. But we feel them more, and their indefinite sum total weighs a little, absurdly, on the heart.

 

In this moment I feel strangely far away. I’m on the balcony of life, yes, but not exactly of this life. I’m above life, looking down on it. It lies before me, descending in a varied landscape of dips and terraces towards the smoke from the white houses of the villages in the valley. If I close my eyes, I keep seeing, because I’m not really seeing. If I open them I see no more, because I wasn’t really seeing in the first place. I’m nothing but a vague nostalgia, not for the past nor for the future but for the present – anonymous, unending and unintelligible.

 

 

 

 

 

378

 

 

The classifiers of things, by which I mean those scientists whose science is merely to classify, generally don’t realize that what’s classifiable is infinite and thus cannot be classified. But what really astounds me is that they don’t realize there are things hidden in the cracks of knowledge – things of the soul and of consciousness – that can also be classified.

 

Perhaps because I think too much or dream too much, or perhaps for some other reason, I don’t distinguish between the reality that exists and the world of dreams, which is the reality that doesn’t exist. And so in my ruminations about the sky and the earth, I insert things that aren’t lit up by the sun or trod on by feet – fluid wonders of my imagination.

 

I gild myself with sunsets I invent, but what I invent is alive in my invention. I rejoice in imaginary breezes, but the imaginary lives while it’s being imagined. I have a soul, according to various hypotheses, and each of these hypotheses has its own soul, which it gives to me.

 

The only problem is that of reality, as insoluble as it is alive. What do I know about the difference between a tree and a dream? I can touch the tree; I know that I have the dream. What is all this really?

 

What is all this? It’s that I, alone in the deserted office, can imaginatively live without abstaining from my intelligence. My thinking isn’t interrupted by the vacant desks and the shipping division that’s empty except for brown paper and balls of string. I’m not at my stool but leaning back in Moreira’s comfortable armchair, enjoying a premature promotion. Perhaps it’s the influence of my surroundings that has anointed me with distraction. These dog days make me tired; I sleep without sleeping, for lack of energy. And that’s why I think this way.

 

 

 

 

 

379

 

 

DOLOROUS INTERLUDE