The Book of Disquiet
Author:Fernando Pessoa

Tedium, yes, is boredom with the world, the nagging discomfort of living, the weariness of having lived; tedium is indeed the carnal sensation of the endless emptiness of things. But tedium, even more than all that, is a boredom with other worlds, whether real or imaginary; the discomfort of having to keep living, albeit as someone else, in some other way, in some other world; a weariness not only of yesterday and today but also of tomorrow and of eternity, if such exists, or of nothingness, if that’s what eternity is. It’s not only the emptiness of things and living beings that troubles the soul afflicted by tedium, it’s also the emptiness of something besides things and beings – the emptiness of the very soul that feels this vacuum, that feels itself to be this vacuum, and that within this vacuum is nauseated and repelled by its own self.

 

Tedium is the physical sensation of chaos, a chaos that is everything. The bored, the uncomfortable and the weary feel like prisoners in a narrow cell. Those who abhor the narrowness of life itself feel shackled inside a large cell. But those who suffer tedium feel imprisoned in the worthless freedom of an infinite cell. The walls of the narrow cell may collapse and bury those who are bored, uncomfortable or tired. The shackles may fall and allow the man who abhors life’s puniness to escape, or they may cause him pain as he struggles in vain to remove them and, through the feeling of that pain, revive him without his old abhorrence. But the walls of the infinite cell cannot crumble and bury us, because they don’t exist; nor can we be revived by the pain of shackles no one has put on us.

 

This is what I feel before the placid beauty of this eternally dying afternoon. I look at the lofty, clear sky where I see fuzzy, pinkish shapes like the shadows of clouds, an impalpable soft down of a winged and far-away life. I look below me at the river, whose ever-so-slightly shimmering water is of a blue that seems to mirror a deeper sky. I raise my eyes back to the sky, where the coloured fuzziness that shredlessly unravels in the invisible air is now tinged by a frigid shade of dull white, as if something in the higher, more rarefied sphere of things had its own material tedium, an impossibility of being what it is, an imponderable body of anguish and desolation.

 

But what’s in the lofty air besides the lofty air, which is nothing? What’s in the sky besides a colour that’s not its own? What’s in these tatters that aren’t even of clouds (and whose very existence I doubt) besides a few glimmers of materially arriving rays from an already resigned sun? What’s in all this besides myself? Ah, but that, and that alone, is tedium. In all of this – the sky, the earth, the world – there is nothing at all but me!

 

 

 

 

 

382

 

 

I’ve reached the point where tedium is a person, the incarnate fiction of my own company.

 

 

 

 

 

383

 

 

The outer world exists like an actor on stage: it’s there but is something else.

 

 

 

 

 

384

 

 

…and everything is an incurable sickness.

 

The indolence of feeling, the frustration of never knowing how to do anything, the inability to take action.....

 

 

 

 

 

385

 

 

Fog or smoke? Was it rising from the ground or descending from the sky? Impossible to say: it seemed more like a disease of the air than an emanation or something descended. Sometimes it seemed more like an ailment of the eyes than a reality of nature.

 

Whatever it was, the entire landscape was cloaked by a hazy uneasiness made of forgetfulness and attenuation. It was as if the silence of the delinquent sun had taken shape in an imperfect body, or as if a general intuition that something was going to happen had caused the visible world to disguise itself.

 

It was hard to tell if the sky was filled with clouds or fog. It was all a torpid haze that was coloured here and there, a greyness with just a hint of yellow, except where it had dissolved into a false pink or had bluely stagnated, though this blue may have been the sky showing through rather than another blue overlaying it.

 

Nothing was definite, not even the indefinite. That’s why it was only natural to call the fog smoke, since it didn’t seem like fog, or to ask whether it was fog or smoke, it being impossible to determine. Even the air’s temperature contributed to the doubt. It wasn’t hot or cold or in between, but seemed to be composed of elements that had nothing to do with heat. Indeed, the fog that felt cool to the eyes seemed hot to the touch, as if sight and touch were two distinct modes of the same faculty of perception.

 

One couldn’t even find, around the outlines of the trees or the corners of buildings, that blurring of contours and edges caused by true fog when it sets in, nor that slipping into view and out of view caused by real smoke. It was as if each thing projected its own vaguely diurnal shadow, in all directions, without a source of light to explain it as shadow, and without a specific place where it was projected to justify it as something visible.

 

Nor, in fact, was it visible: it was like something about to appear, equally throughout, as if it hesitated to be revealed.

 

And what feeling prevailed? The impossibility of having any feeling, the heart all broken to pieces in the mind, feelings all in a jumble, conscious existence in a stupor, and the heightening of some faculty akin to hearing – but in the soul – in order to apprehend a definitive, useless revelation that’s always on the verge of appearing, like truth, and that always remains, like truth, the twin of what never appears.

 

Even the desire to sleep, remembered by the mind, has withered because mere yawning seems like too much of an effort. Even to stop seeing hurts the eyes. And in the soul’s complete and colourless renunciation, only external, distant sounds constitute what’s left of the impossible world.

 

Ah, another world, other things, another soul with which to feel them, another mind with which to know this soul! Anything, even tedium – anything but this general blurring of the soul and things, this bluish, forlorn indefiniteness of everything!

 

 

 

 

 

386