The Book of Disquiet
Author:Fernando Pessoa

 

After the last rains left the sky for earth, making the sky clear and the earth a damp mirror, the brilliant clarity of life that returned with the blue on high and that rejoiced in the freshness of the water here below left its own sky in our souls, a freshness in our hearts.

 

Whether we like it or not we’re servants of the hour and its colours and shapes, we’re subjects of the sky and earth. Even those who delve only in themselves, disdaining what surrounds them, delve by different paths when it rains and when it’s clear. Obscure transmutations, perhaps felt only in the depths of abstract feelings, occur because it rains or stops raining. They’re felt without our feeling them because the weather we didn’t feel made itself felt.

 

Each of us is several, is many, is a profusion of selves. So that the self who disdains his surroundings is not the same as the self who suffers or takes joy in them. In the vast colony of our being there are many species of people who think and feel in different ways. At this very moment, jotting down these impressions during a break that’s excusable because today there’s not much work, I’m the one who is attentively writing them, I’m the one who is glad not to have to be working right now, I’m the one seeing the sky outside, invisible from in here, I’m the one thinking about all of this, I’m the one feeling my body satisfied and my hands still a bit cold. And my entire world of all these souls who don’t know each other casts, like a motley but compact multitude, a single shadow – the calm, bookkeeping body with which I lean over Borges’s tall desk, where I’ve come to get the blotter that he borrowed from me.

 

 

 

 

 

397

 

 

Falling between the buildings, in alternating patches of light and shadow (or of brighter and less bright light), the morning dawns over the city. It seems to come not from the sun but from the city itself, as if the sunlight emanated from the walls and rooftops – not from them physically, but because they happen to be there.

 

To see and feel it makes me feel a great hope, but I realize that hope is literary. Morning, spring, hope – they’re linked in music by the same melodic intention; they’re linked in the soul by the same memory of an identical intention. No: if I observe myself as I observe the city, I realize that all I can hope is for the day to end, like all days. Reason also sees the dawn. Whatever hope I placed in the day wasn’t mine; it was of those who just live the passing hour and whose outer way of understanding I happened, for a moment, to embody.

 

Hope? What do I have to hope for? The day doesn’t promise me more than the day, and I know it has a certain duration and an end. The light heartens but does not improve me, for I’ll walk away as the same man – just a few hours older, a feeling or two happier, a thought or two sadder. When something is born, we can feel it as a birth or we can think about it having to die. Now, under the full light of the sun, the city landscape is like an open field of buildings – natural, vast and harmonious. But while seeing all this, can I forget that I exist? My consciousness of the city is, at its core, my consciousness of myself.

 

I suddenly remember when I was a child and saw, as today I cannot see, dawn breaking over the city. Back then it didn’t break for me but for life, because back then I (not being conscious) was life. I saw dawn break and felt happy; today I see dawn break, feel happy, and become sad. The child is still there but has fallen silent. I see the way I saw, but from behind my eyes I see myself seeing, and that is enough to darken the sun, to make the green of the trees old, and to wilt the flowers before they open. Yes, I once belonged here; but today, before each landscape, no matter how fresh, I stand as a foreigner, a guest and pilgrim before it, an outsider of what I see and hear, old to myself.

 

I’ve seen everything, even what I’ve never seen nor will ever see. Even the memory of future landscapes flows in my blood, and my anxiety over what I’ll have to see again is already monotonous to me.

 

And leaning on the windowsill to enjoy the day, gazing at the variegated mass of the whole city, just one thought fills my soul: that I profoundly wish to die, to cease, to see no more light shining on this city or any city, to think no more, to feel no more, to leave behind the march of time and the sun like a piece of wrapping paper, to remove like a heavy suit – next to the big bed – the involuntary effort of being.

 

 

 

 

 

398

 

 

I’m intuitively certain that for people like me no material circumstance can be propitious, no situation have a favourable outcome. If I already had good reasons for withdrawing from life, this is yet another one. Those courses of events that make success inevitable in an ordinary man have an unexpected, adverse effect in my case.

 

This observation sometimes causes me a painful impression of divine hostility. It seems that only by some conscious manipulation of events, to make them work against me, could the series of disasters that define my life have happened.

 

The result of all this is that I never make much of an effort. Let luck come my way, if it will. I know all too well that my greatest effort won’t achieve what it would in other people. That’s why I give myself up to luck, without expecting anything from it. What should I expect?

 

My stoicism is an organic necessity; I need to shield myself against life. Since stoicism is after all just a stringent form of Epicureanism, I try to get some amusement out of my misfortune. I don’t know to what extent I achieve this. I don’t know to what extent I achieve anything. I don’t know to what extent anything can be achieved…