member of:Observers of the Interdependence of Domestic Objects and Their Influence on Everyday Life

This group has been active for a long time and has already made some remarkable assertions which render life simpler from the practical point of view. For example, I move a pot of green color five centimeters to the right, I push in the thumbtack beside the comb and if Mr. A (another adherent like me) at this moment puts his volume about bee-keeping beside a pattern for cutting out vests, I am sure to meet on the sidewalk of the avenida Madero a woman who intrigues me and whose origin and address I never could have known...
--Remedios Varo

(Slideshow is of Artwork by Remedios Varo)
By believing passionately in something that still does not exist, we create it. The nonexistent is whatever we have not sufficiently desired.
--Franz Kafka

Friday, April 3, 2009

Mere Identity

"All of life’s unpleasant experiences - when we make fools of ourselves, act thoughtlessly, or lapse in our observance of some virtue - should be regarded as mere external accidents which can’t affect the substance of our soul. We should see them as toothaches or calluses of life, as things that bother us but remain outside us (even though they’re ours).

When we achieve this attitude, which in essence is that of the mystics, we’re protected not only from the world but also from ourselves, for we’ve conquered what is foreign in us, contrary and external to us, and therefore our enemy.

Horace said that the just man will remain undaunted, even if the world crumbles all around him. Although the image is absurd, the point is valid. Even if what we pretend to be (because we coexist with others) crumbles around us, we should remain undaunted - not because we’re just, but because we’re ourselves, and to be ourselves means having nothing to do with external things that crumble, even if they crumble right on top of what for them we are.

For superior men, life should be a dream that spurns confrontations."

Fernando Pessoa, writing as Bernardo Soares, in the journal The Book of Disquiet

Fernando Pessoa by João Luiz Roth

"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." (396)

According to the introduction of Richard Zenith's translation of this book, Pessoa "wrote under dozens of names, a practice--or compulsion-- that began in his childhood. He called his most important personas 'heteronyms,' endowing them with their own biographies, physiques, personalities, political views, religious attitudes and literary pursuits. Some of Pessoa's most memorable work in Portuguese was attributed to the three main poetic heteronyms-- Alberto Caeiro, Ricardo Reis and Alvaro de Campos-- and to the 'semi-heteronym' called Bernardo Soares, while his vast output of English poetry and prose was in large part credited to heteronyms Alexander Search and Charles Robert Anon, and his writings in French to the lonely Jean Seul. The many other alter egos included translators, short-story writers, an English literary critic, an astrologer, a philosopher and an unhappy nobleman who committed suicide. There was even a female persona: the hunchbacked and helplessly lovesick Maria Jose." (Zenith)
His first heteronym was Chevalier de Pas, whom he created when he was six, and the one he felt closest to was Bernardo Soares, the author of the above- quoted book.

Monument to Fernando Pessoa in front of cafe "A Brasileira", in Lisboa. Original Photograph by Nol Aders

From his heteronym Ricardo Reis:

Desde que sinta a brisa fresca no meu cabelo
E ver o sol brilhar forte nas folhas
Não irei pedir por mais.
Que melhor coisa podia o destino dar-me?
Que a passagem sensual da vida em momentos
De ignorância como este?
As long as I feel the full breeze in my hair
And see the sun shining strong on the leaves,
I will not ask for more.
What better thing could destiny give me
Than the sensual passing of life in moments
Of ignorance like this?

And from Álvaro de Campos:
Não sou nada.
Nunca serei nada.
Não posso querer ser nada.
À parte isso, tenho em mim todos os sonhos do mundo.
I'm nothing.
I'll always be nothing.
I can't want to be something.
But I have in me all the dreams of the world.

Álvaro de Campos: "The Tobacco Shop" (Tabacaria) (tr. Richard Zenith)

He also wrote some poetry in English, as he grew up in South Africa and was fluent. On the topic:
I am the escaped one

I am the escaped one,
After I was born
They locked me up inside me
But I left.
My soul seeks me,
Through hills and valley,
I hope my soul
Never finds me.

And then back to Bernardo Soares, who is the author of the journal that is The Book of Disquiet:

"Most people are afflicted by an inability to say what they see or think. They say there's nothing more difficult than to define a spiral in words; they claim it's necessary to use the unliterary hand, twirling it in a steadily upwards direction, so that human eyes will perceive the abstract figure immanent in a wire spring and a certain type of staircase. But if we remember that to say is to renew, we will have no trouble defining a spiral: it's a circle that rises without ever closing. I realize that most people would never dare define it this way, for they suppose that defining is to say what others want us to say rather than what's required for the definition. I'll say it more accurately: a spiral is a potential circle that winds round as it rises, without ever completing itself. But no, the definition is still abstract. I'll resort to the concrete, and all will become clear: a spiral is a snake without a snake, vertically wound around nothing.

All literature is an attempt to make life real. As all of us know, even when we don't act on what we know, life is absolutely unreal in its directly real form; the country, the city and our ideas are all absolutely fictitious things, the offspring of our complex sensation of our own selves. Impressions are incommunicable unless we make them literary. Children are particularly literary, for they say what they feel and not what someone has taught them to feel. Once I heard a child, who wished to say that he was on the verge of tears, say not 'I feel like crying,' which is what an adult, i.e. an idiot, would say, but rather, 'I feel like tears.' And this phrase--so literary it would seem affected in a well-known poet, if he could ever invent it--decisively refers to the warm presence of tears about to burst from eyelids that feel the liquid bitterness. "I feel like tears'! That small child aptly defined his spiral.

To say! To know how to say! To know how to exist via the written voice and the intellectual image! This is all that matters in life; the rest is men and women, imagined loves and factitious vanities, the wiles of our digestion and forgetfulness, people squirming-- like worms when a rock is lifted-- under the huge abstract boulder of the meaningless blue sky."

--117 The Book of Disquiet, Fernando Pessoa

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