“Monotonizing existence, so that it won’t be monotonous. Making daily life anodyne, so that the littlest thing will amuse.” —Bernardo Soares (Fernando Pessoa), The Book of Disquiet, translated by Richard Zenith, section 171
Senhor Soares goes on to explain that in his job as assistant bookkeeper in the city of Lisbon, when he finds himself “between two ledger entries,” he has visions of escaping, visiting the grand promenades of impossible parks, meeting resplendent kings, and traveling over non-existent landscapes. He doesn’t mind his monotonous job, so long as he has the occasional moment to indulge in his daydreams. And the value for him in these daydreams is that they are not real. If they were real, they would not belong to him. They would belong to others as public resources, and not reside in his own private realm. And what is more, if they were real, then what would he have left to dream? Far better, he thinks, “to have Vasques my boss than the kings of my dreams.” It’s more than that he doesn’t mind his monotonous job. On the contrary: the more monotonous his existence, the better his dreams.
What a coincidence! There must be some serendipity at play here, too.
Thanks so much for your piece about Pessoa. It just so happens that a good friend and I have met about every month for the last year to read, analyze and interpret (but mostly just to enjoy ) the writings and expecially the poems by Fernando Pessoa.
He almost turned into an obsession, I guess, but a healthy one I hope.
And here you are being inspired by him almost a hundred years after he wrote his “Book Of Disquiet”.
As you write, and as he himself says, “I am to a large extent the prose I write. I unfold myself in sentences and passages. I surrender to punctuation…”.
“I have become a character in a novel, a read life. What I feel against my will, I feel in order to write that I have felt it”.
But he didn’t just live a monotonous life in order to enjoy daydreaming.
Let me quote from a letter to his (only) friend Mário de Sá-Carneiro:
“Then one day, when I had given up – it was March 8, 1914 – I went to the chest of drawers with a stack of papers in my hand and began to write standing up, as I always do when it is possible for me.
I wrote about 30 poems in rap, in a kind of ecstasy, the nature of which I could not define. It was the triumph of my life and I will never experience a day like this. It began with a title O guardador de rebanhos (The Shepherd).
And then a person appeared inside me, whom I immediately called Alberto Caeiro. Forgive me this absurd expression: my master appeared within me. That was the immediate feeling I had.
And it so happened that, as soon as the 30 or so poems were written, on another piece of paper I also without pause wrote Chuva obliqua (Indirect Rain) by Fernando Pessoa. Immediately and from end to end…
That’s e day and a life lived to the fullest. By the way the poem Chuva obliqua (Indirect Rain) is a wild, delirious, crazy collage of images, metaphors and hallucinations. Brilliant work.
Again, thanks for your piece. I got all excited.
All the best – I enjoy your writing – and our previous discussions about Peter Sloterdijk. I have a Facebook group about him here https://www.facebook.com/groups/1256685881412739
Thank you for the comment, Orla! I am not surprised that you also are fond of Pessoa. I am currently reading Zenith’s lengthy biography of him – such a fascinating, inventive, and strange man!