The Book of Disquiet
Author:Fernando Pessoa


I’m tired of the street, but no, I’m not tired of it – the street is all of life. There’s the tavern opposite, which I can see if I look over my right shoulder, and there are the piled-up crates, which I can see by looking over my left shoulder; and in the middle, which I can only see if I turn around completely, there’s the steady sound of the shoemaker’s hammer, at the entrance to the offices of the Africa Company. I don’t know what’s on the upper floors. On the third floor there’s a rooming house which is said to be immoral, but so it is with everything, life.


Tired of the street? Only thinking makes me tired. When I look at the street, or feel it, then I don’t think: I do my work with great inner repose, ensconced in my corner, bookkeepingly nobody. I have no soul, nobody here does – it’s all just work in this large office. Where millionaires live the good life, always in some foreign country or other, there is likewise work, and likewise no soul. And all that will remain is one or another poet. If only a phrase of mine could remain, just one thing I’ve written that would make people say ‘Well done!’, like the numbers I register, copying them in the book of my entire life.


I think that I shall always be an assistant bookkeeper in a fabric warehouse. I hope, with absolute sincerity, never to be promoted to head bookkeeper.









For a long time – I’m not sure if for days or for months – I haven’t recorded any impressions; I don’t think, therefore I don’t exist. I’ve forgotten who I am. I’m unable to write because I’m unable to be. Through an oblique slumber, I’ve been someone else. To realize I don’t remember myself means that I’ve woken up.


I fainted for a spell, cut off from my life. I return to myself without remembering what I’ve been, and the memory of what I used to be suffers from having been interrupted. I have a confused impression of a mysterious interlude; part of my memory is vainly struggling to find the other part. I can’t pull myself together. If I’ve lived during this time, I forgot to be aware of it.


It’s not that this first day that really feels like autumn – the first uncomfortably cool one to dress the dead summer with less light – gives me, through a kind of distracted clarity, a sensation of dead purpose and false desire. It’s not that in this interlude of lost things there’s a pale trace of useless memory. It’s more painful than that. It’s a tedium of trying to remember what can’t be recalled, an anguish over what my consciousness has lost among reeds and seaweed, on the seashore of who knows what.


I know that the clear, still day has a veritable sky whose blue is less vivid than a deep blue. I know that the sun, slightly less golden than it was, bathes the walls and windows with its humid glimmers. I know that, although there is no wind, nor a breeze to recall and negate it, a wakeful coolness dozes in the hazy city. I know all this, without thinking or wanting to, and I’m sleepy only because I remember to be sleepy, nostalgic only because I’m disquieted.


I remotely and futilely convalesce from the sickness I never had. Wide awake, I prepare myself for what I don’t dare. What sleepiness kept me from sleeping? What endearment refused to speak to me? How good to be someone else taking in a deep, cold breath of vigorous spring! How good – much better than life – to be able at least to imagine it, while in the distance, in the image I remember, the blue-green reeds bow along the riverside where there’s not a hint of wind!


How often, remembering who I wasn’t, I think of myself young and forget all the rest! The landscapes that existed but that I never saw were different then, and the landscapes that didn’t exist but that I did see were new to me. Why do I care? I ended up in interstices, led on by chance, and now, as the sun itself seems to radiate coolness, the dark reeds by the river sleep coldly in the sunset that I see but do not have.









No one has yet defined tedium in a language comprehensible to those who have never experienced it. What some people call tedium is merely boredom; others use the term to mean a nagging discomfort; still others consider tedium to be weariness. But while tedium includes weariness, discomfort and boredom, it doesn’t resemble them any more than water resembles the hydrogen and oxygen of which it is composed.


If some have a limited and incomplete notion of tedium, a few people give it a meaning that in a certain way transcends it – as when they use the word to signify intellectual and visceral dissatisfaction with the world’s diversity and uncertainty. What makes us yawn, which we call boredom, what makes us fidget and is known as discomfort, and what makes us practically immobile, namely weariness – none of these things is tedium; but neither is tedium the profound sense of life’s emptiness that causes frustrated ambition to surface, disappointed longings to rise up, and the seed to be planted in the soul of the future mystic or saint.