Fernando António Nogueira Pessoa was born in Lisbon, Portugal, on June 13, 1888. After the early death of his father, Joaoquim de Seabra Pessoa, in 1893, and the subsequent remarriage of his mother, Maria Madalena Pinheiro Nogueira, to Commandante João Miguel Rosa, the newly appointed Portuguese consul to Durban, South Africa, Pessoa and his mother left Portugal for South Africa in December of 1894. Here, Pessoa received his education in English. From 1894 until August of 1905, when he returned to Lisbon to attend the university there, Pessoa was developing the skills which were later to have such an important effect upon his career: his bilingual abilities in Portuguese and English and his interest in business and international commerce, which led to a lifelong career as a commercial translator in Lisbon. This position gave Pessoa the flexibility of movement and the leisure necessary to participate in his literary activities, which consisted of the founding and editing of numerous literary journals whose purpose, it became increasingly clear, was to further the development of an indigenous, innovative, modern Portuguese literature.
This developing literary nationalism is evident in the change from Pessoa’s early poetry, written in English between 1905 and 1909, to the appearance in that year of his first verse in Portuguese. That early work in Portuguese is clearly reflected in Mensagem, much of which was written long before its publication...
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