Sunday, March 11, 2007

Disquiet Thoughts

I have been reading Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa's brilliant diary The Book of Disquiet. It is really very good. So many disquiet thoughts... and some are amusing too in their own melancholy way like this one...

However, as an ironic spectator of myself, I have never lost my interest in observing life. And now, knowing beforehand that each tentative hope will be crushed, I suffer in the special pleasure of enjoying the disillusion together with the pain, a bittersweetness in which the sweetness predominates, I am a sombre strategist who has lost every battle and now, on the eve of each new engagement, draws up the details of the fatal retreat, savouring the plan as he does so.

That fate of being unable to desire without knowing beforehand that I will not be granted my desire, has pursued me like some malign creature. Whenever I see the figure of a young girl in the street and just for a moment wonder, however idly, how it would be if she were mine, every time just ten paces on from my daydream, that girl meets a man who is obviously her husband or her lover. A romantic would make a tragedy of this, a stranger comedy; I, however, mix the two things, for I am both a romantic and a stranger to myself, and I simply turn the page to enjoy the next irony.

*****

Another very busy Saturday. I was at the MoMA again. I saw Abbas Kiarostami's Through the Olive Trees, the anthology film Tickets, Roberto Rossellini's Voyage to Italy and then met the mysterious Cheshire Cat and then we both went to BAM to see the Japanese film Pigs and Battleships. Tiring yes, but good!

33 comments:

steve m said...

It's not his diary really is it? It's the journal of Bernardo Soares. What edition are you reading; does it have this information?

Alok said...

you are right Steve, I should have qualified it. There is a short introduction in my edition which explains the use of heteronym too. But then again as per the introductory note, Pessoa said that Soares is "me minus reason and affectivity."

KUBLA KHAN said...

It is a privilege to read this book, as i had explained previously.
If you like funeral pyres around sea-shores, this is the book..........
The heteronym is necessary but largely a semantic affair....our concern is words and music....
ciao

Antonia said...

the mysterious cheshire cat. Did he became invisible? :)
like this fluid quality of Pessoa's writing, at the end it is as if one swims in this atmosphere of thought, it embraces one, not suffocatingly, but still. - it does something with one. Syeve is right about the edition, there is so much left that has not been translated and I read a quite abridged version a couple of years ago, now they translated some more stuff.
For some strange reason 'The book of Disquiet' was an obstacle to treasure his other writings. I needed a couple of years to enjoy Alvaro de Campos whom I now probably like much more than Bernado Soares...it is so nice, this game with identities. Someone told me one can really understand this book only when one is in Lisboa, so this is a reason to finally go there and read it on the beach. I wonder, has anyone read his Herodotus book?

Alok said...

kubla: yes, this book is truly unique. i had heard of it before but i picked it up only after reading your blog. now I have to read some of his poetry too.

antonia: my edition is also quite older and the introduction says, is based "on thematic selection" by some Pessoa scholar. what a beautiful (and painful too) portrait of a life of mind!

Alok said...

and yes about cheshire cat, he didn't disappear, we were together till late in the night! as expected he was smiling a lot :)

Szerelem said...

The paragraph you extracted is excellent! I haven't really read much of Pessoa...only a few poems. And I haven't read many Portuguese writers either. Only Jose Saramago who is quite brilliant.

Alok said...

actually the whole book is uniformly brilliant. i just chose a random paragraph which i had just read.

i had bought saramago's blindness when i was in india.. but i never got around to reading it. i have to get it from the library now.

Antonia said...

the mysterious cheshirecat, you have seen him in real, has he shiny fur?
The Blindnessbook is really good. And Kubla has somewhere in his blog the book Saramago wrote on Pessoa,or better, on Ricardo Reis...have to get round to read that too.
I also have such a selective edition, still it is some 300 pages or so and now they made a new really big one...
yes,alok, very fascinating. But I can't read it everyday.

Cheshire Cat said...

Alok, hope you will be able to write about the Kiarostami movies at some point (last weekend's and this one's). I am unable to do that since I'm too powerfully affected by them; I can't gain any sort of distance at all. I did find some interesting thoughts of Kiarostami himself about "Five".

Antonia, I have problems with Pessoa's work in English, he doesn't have a good enough command of the language (If I recall correctly, some of his heteronyms only wrote in English?). Portuguese + translation works better than English in his case; writers like Nabokov and Beckett are the exceptions.

Antonia said...

Cheshire, I cannot judge his english of course since I am not native english myself.but I remember well that he translated some stuff from english, Shakespeare I guess. Otherwise I made good experiences with the translations, too, for instance german and dutch translations both transport the same feeling when one reads him...

Alok said...

cat: oh, I didn't know he wrote in English too. This Book of Disquiet reads very well I think.

I had started writing about his short films of last weekend, will add more and post it sometime.

antonia: yeah it is so strange all those heteronyms. and that saramago book sounds interesting too. i was just reading somewhere one of his jealous heteronyms wrote letters to Pessoa's girlfriend!! it made me laugh out loud :)

jyothsnay said...

poignant to observe a frail sense of humor blended with the gaiety of reflection on the impending, strangely, familiar face of failure and bitterness. Is the protagonist driven by his need to experience the desire in varied a hue? this is typical characteristic of a hardcore romantic ...
Now I know why are u tired on Monday?:)

jyothsnay said...

Is the desire to desire the other person different from the desire to be desirable to the other person?
think n let me know-J

Alok said...

yes they are different things. desire for a person and desire to be desirable to a specific person. it is mostly the second which causes a lot of problems in real life.

KUBLA KHAN said...

Pessoa's oeuvre is not about the command over the language. The book of disquiet is not an exercise in semantics, or flowery metaphors. Anyone who questions Pessoa's language doesnot understand the point. the point is not to be melliflous but to reflect a feeling of disquiet, of unease.The book of disquiet is an anthem of depression, of numb desires, of futile gestures.
The language is sonorous and describes states of mind. It is a study in phenomelogy of the mind, of emotions, of feelings.
Or, I am in the dark.

Antonia said...

you're right of course, kubla, and from teh biographical info that I have about Pessoa I heard he was good at languages, but I cannot judge this of course, because am not a native speaker. Nevertheless one can look at a book from more than one side. Of course it is about states of minds, but to neglect a semantic side would then again do injustice as well to Pessoa whose heteronyms developed different styles, no? When you think of the differences between for example Soares and Alvaro de Campos? I was just thinking, maybe he made that specific heteronym that wrote in english to write extra-bad english, because maybe that heteronym was bad at english. just a speculation, this...

Cheshire Cat said...

I certainly have no issues with The Book of Disquiet - it was written in Portuguese and has been translated wonderfully well by Margaret Jull Costa. I was referring to Pessoa's work in English - I thought one of the heteronyms wrote in English - but it's a long time since I've read them; it might just be a misapprehension.

And, Kubla, to describe "numb desires" and "futile gestures" requires an apprehension of language as well. Even deeper than that required for flowery metaphors, I'd venture.

Antonia, bad poetry is an art too, it cannot be easily simulated. The truly great bad poets, like Julia Moore and Robert Bly, tend to sincerely believe in the value of what they do.

Antonia said...

there was no judgement in my statement about the bad english, it was to read as neutral speculation. Maybe my english was too bad to express it neutrally :)
Ut desint vires tamen est laudanda voluntas. :)
:)
:)
:)
:
)

Alok said...

"truly great bad poets"! Oh God, What a great distinction!! :)

I think what Kubla was pointing to was that the language in Pessoa (At least in book of disquiet) is simple at the surface. It doesn't attract attention to itself. Rather the state of the mind is always at the center of everything.

and saving the googling efforts my latin challenged readers...

"Ut desint vires tamen est laudanda voluntas" means "Although the power is lacking, the will is commendable". Right Antonia? :)

Antonia said...

'truly great bad poets' is wonderful. thats just as good a concept as the stinkeye.
(the google translation is jolly roughly correct -even tho the powers are lacking one nevertheless has to praise the will :))

Alok said...

and its a noble thought and gesture too....

Antonia said...

if you mean the latin sentence? I like it too. so often people try things and don't succeed, they have the intentions, but they mightlack strength or circumstances or wahtever and the advantage of this sentence is that it does not look for the result, rather for the intentions, so there is hope, for the 'failures',too. Very human.

Antonia said...

is it just my deranged view or did you change the header and made it more bold?

Alok said...

Didn't I tell you i had no work yesterday. I was playing around with the template though I remember not saving it...something might have happened. yes it wasn't bold before...

I see, so you have a history of hallucination too :)

reg that latin quote, the tragedy is that it is so easy to fake intentions or to know the real intentions. that's why there is another quote "action speak louder than words" i wonder if it is from latin too.

Antonia said...

poor alok, no work. Now you have to do the radical template change all over again...
sure do have a history in hallucination,in the Netherlands weed is allowed it is legal legal legal (sing)....
well on a superficial level intentions can be faked, but I would assume one also can see people through, especially when there is a discrepancy between the person'snormal intention and the faked or not faked intention in question. The tougher it gets the easier in general one can see faked intentions through...
I don't know about the action-quote.
now i take some action and eat fish.

Antonia said...

alok, are you from the Goa-part of India?
just asking...

Alok said...

No I am not from Goa or from that region. I am from Bihar which is in north eastern part of India. Goa is very popular with the tourist specially with the weed smoking hippie crowd :)

Alok said...

And I have lived in Patna for the most of my life.

the wikipedia says, it is "one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in the world". Hmmm.

Antonia said...

that sounds so interesting,this variety of india. And I was most intrigued by this sentence of thepolitics section from the Bihar article: "Bihar has gained an anti establishment image. The establishment oriented press often projects this as indiscipline and anarchy."
Now if that is not almost as good as Goa?

Alok said...

Haha. that's very funny. I had missed that one. Must be a die-hard Bihari who wrote this article. Actually Bihar is notorious for lawlessness. I don't think it can be called anti-establishment because lawmakers and lawenforcers themselves are the biggest lawbreakers! It is still not as bad but people (specially south indians) are generally afraid to go there :)

yes, it is hard to understand initially but the idea of india is so complex. there are innumerable "indias" in one country, each place with its own culture, history, customs, beliefs, even languages and script!

Antonia said...

haha lawlessness. You've got such an exciting life. Is it reallylike for isntance you have to walk around with a gun or so :) Netherlands is on the contrary pretty dull. Of course there are some dialects but otherwise it is pretty homogenuous. Interestingly it is a country full of contradictions, weed is allowed, people are in genereal thought of as tolerant while it is a very strange sort of tolerance, an arrogant sort, it's not warmth,it is rather we make abusiness deal and as long as each leaves each other in peace each can do what one want.

nico said...

has any of you read Antonio Lobo-Antunes? Many novels, among them his death-trilogy ('Carlos Gardel's death' is one of them). Just beautiful (and highly political) poetic prose. I think Saramago and him have a hate relationship.