To travel! To change countries!
To be forever someone else,
With a soul that has no roots,
Living only off what it sees!
It was only many years after his death that Portugal’s Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935) came to be recognized as one of Europe’s greatest modern poets and prose writers. Born in Lisbon, he spent nine years of his childhood in South Africa and then returned to his native city, where he lived an outwardly quiet and modest life. But his inward, creative life was volcanic, giving rise to a vast and largely fragmentary output that includes poetry, fiction, dramatic works, writings on sociology, economics and religion, political commentary, astrological charts and esoteric speculations. His most stunning prose work is The Book of Disquiet, a semifictional diary published for the first time in 1982. Although Pessoa published a number of his finest poems — such as “The Tobacco Shop,” “Autopsychography” and “Portuguese Sea” — in magazines and in a book titled Message (1934), many others came to light posthumously, as family members and researchers sifted through the poet’s generous legacy to the world: a trunk containing thousands of unpublished manuscripts.
Forever Someone Else offers an ample selection of the poetry written by Pessoa under his own name and in the names of the personas he called “heteronyms”: Alberto Caeiro, Ricardo Reis and Álvaro de Campos. Unusual not only for writing under different names but also for adopting dissimilar points of view and radically diverse literary styles, Fernando Pessoa, of all poets from all ages, was like no one else.
Richard Zenith, born in Washington DC, is a longtime resident of Lisbon, where he works as a writer, translator and researcher. He is responsible for many editions of Fernando Pessoa’s works in Portugal, including the Livro do Desassossego (Assírio & Alvim, 1998; 10th ed. 2012). His translations of Pessoa’s poetry and prose have won prizes in the United States and Great Britain.
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