(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

The Book of Disquiet (also translated as The Book of Disquietude) has a format somewhat like a journal or diary and is also a collection of vignettes and reflections. Begun in 1912, Pessoa made entries for it throughout his life, especially in his later years. He described it as a collection of fragments. Although originally written under his own name, he eventually attributed the book to Bernardo Soares, whom he considered a “semi-heteronym,” even a mutilation of himself, who is described as an assistant bookkeeper in the city of Lisbon, a minor, anonymous clerical bureaucrat. Some critics attribute earlier parts of the work to another heteronym, Vicente Guedes.

What has impressed most readers of the book is its serene, succinct insights, as scintillating as they can be paradoxical. Though The Book of Disquiet is a work in prose, it is of a singularly poetic nature. The dominant theme or spirit of the work is introspection and self-reflection. This steady pursuit of self-inquiry gives the work a serenity that often belies its tortuous insights. Pessoa speculates that a heart would stop if it could think. Solitary reflection results in anguished isolation. Interested in everything but attached to nothing, he describes himself as a bisected individual, Siamese twins that are separated. The intensity of self-analysis leads him to conclude that his true dimension should not be measured in physical height but the size of his imagination.

The work also...

(The entire section is 615 words.)