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The Book of Disquiet (Penguin Classics) Paperback – December 31, 2002
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
“A Modernist touchstone . . . no one has explored alternative selves with Pessoa’s mixture of determination and abandon . . . In a time which celebrates fame, success, stupidity, convenience and noise, here is the perfect antidote, a hymn of praise to obscurity, failure, intelligence, difficulty, and silence.” —The Daily Telegraph
“His prose masterpiece . . . Richard Zenith has done an heroic job in producing the best English-language version we are likely to see for a long time, if ever.” —The Guardian
“The Book of Disquiet was left in a trunk which might never have been opened. The gods must be thanked that it was. I love this strange work of fiction and I love the inventive, hard-drinking, modest man who wrote it in obscurity.” —Independent
“Fascinating, even gripping stuff . . . a strangely addictive pleasure.” —Sunday Times
“Must rank as the supreme assault on authorship in modern European literature . . . readers of Zenith’s edition will find it supersedes all others in its delicacy of style, rigorous scholarship and sympathy for Pessoa’s fractured sensibility . . . the self-revelation of a disoriented and half-disintegrated soul that is all the more compelling because the author himself is an invention . . . Long before postmodernism became an academic industry, Pessoa lived deconstruction.” —New Statesman
“Extraordinary . . . a haunting mosaic of dreams, autobiographical vignettes, shards of literary theory and criticism and maxims.” —The Observer
“Pessoa’s rapid prose, snatched in flight and restlessly suggestive, remains haunting, often startling, like the touch of a vibrating wire, elusive and persistent like the poetry . . . there is nobody like him.” —The New York Review of Books
“This superb edition of The Book of Disquiet is . . . a masterpiece.” —The Daily Telegraph
“I plan to use this book every year in my course at Yale. Thanks for making it available.” —K. David Jackson, Yale University
- Publisher : Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (December 31, 2002)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 544 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0141183047
- ISBN-13 : 978-0141183046
- Item Weight : 13.1 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.02 x 0.96 x 7.72 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #44,738 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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I killed my will by analyzing it. If only I could return to my childhood before analysis, even if it would have to be before I had a will!
I’d like to be in the country to be able to like being in the city. I like being in the city in any case, but I’d like it twice over if I were in the country.
It often happens that I don’t know myself, which is typical of those who know themselves.
Having seen how lucidly and logically certain madmen justify their lunatic ideas to themselves and to others, I can never again be sure of the lucidness of my lucidity.
I have never been able to lose myself in a book; as I’m reading, the commentary of my intellect or imagination has always hindered the narrative flow.
Pride all by itself, unaccompanied by vanity, manifests itself in timid behavior.
There’s no happiness without knowledge. But the knowledge of happiness brings unhappiness, because to know that you’re happy is to realize that you’re experiencing a happy moment and will soon have to leave it behind.
Please excuse me for quoting a blurb. It seems to me exactly right. John Lancaster wrote, “In a time which celebrates fame, success, stupidity, convenience and noise, here is the perfect antidote, a hymn of praise to obscurity, failure, intelligence, difficulty and silence.” If you, too, are spooked or nauseated by a world in which people go around trumpeting their own busyness and importance, reciting what appear to be advertisements for themselves, then this book may well feel like an antidote -- as well as a drastically more honest assessment of life, the way it actually feels, as opposed to how it is supposed to feel.
If I may give advice, I strongly recommend using this book as a “tincture”, just a few pages at a time. I do not believe Pessoa would be offended even if you set it in the bathroom to accompany intestinal disquiets. As Zenith points out in his introduction, reading at random is actually ideal. I read this book over six months and was glad of its company -- but I think, if I’d sat down and tried to read through it in a week, I might have found it insufferable. You could O.D. on ennui. Taken slowly in small doses however, it is brilliant bitter company.
Top reviews from other countries
There is missing text in the recording acknowledged by the narrator, the book itself I believe was not completed by the time the author passed away, what I do not understand is why the narrator sometimes reads that text is missing, and sometimes he doesn’t.
At the end of this audiobook, there is a note about the author and the many choices of names he adopted, including Bernardo Soares.
This book, not without substance, is written in form of a diary, or rather fragments, there are no dates, and is written in first person narration by the author Bernardo Soares, a very solitary man who lives or wants to live outside society, rents 2 rooms and this is his only home where he lives alone and he works as a book keeper in an office.
The subject of religion is complex, at first listen, I found it contradictory at times, yes he is an atheist but it seems to me that sometimes he acknowledges the presence of the Creator.
There are poetic descriptions of the sky and the air and the breeze, all this seems to be overshadowed by the view of a man who appears to be too cynical and beyond depression.
I am an outsider myself, but many times I found myself thinking ‘no, no. no, it’s not so …. Or what is he saying?’
I see beauty in the life he is leading, in the opportunities he might have or create for himself, he is not blind or disabled, only this is and should be cause for celebration, he is free and independent, he has a job that although monotonous, can bring rewards. He is in his own country, not everyone can choose to be in their own country in this life.
In a few words, he does not know, he is not aware of the good fortunes he enjoys.
I have mixed feelings about the book: if I read it 20 years ago, my reaction might have been different, but now …..
For all the people who, by force or choice, find themselves in a situation of social isolation, if this is the right concept here, if they must or will get used to this, they get used to this and they will find a certain freedom, a liberty that is not present when one is in company of other people.
He is not celebrating this, he treats other people with contempt, or anyway this is my understanding.
From my point of view he had a lot to be grateful for: I would like to know where his contempt of others would go, if he were dependent on others because of, for example, some health condition that would impair his independence …. He also had to be grateful he had a job, and he had to be grateful that he was not forced to migrate to another country, where possibly he would have been a fish out of water there, and from where, he might not have been able to come back to his native country.
From the point of view of someone who considers all this, some of the content seems a little pretentious and certainly cynical and willingly sad, irreversibly beyond apathy.
I do not think that this attitude, which could be considered ‘snobbish’, is deliberate, this is one of the many reactions to pain and suffering, it is very easy, for example, for a sighted and able person, to take health for granted, and not see the beauty of independence and freedom.
…. I am reminded of the author’s words when defining this book
Beautiful and useless
Would I recommend this book? no. there are passages which in my opinion, describe what I personally think, would never be able to describe, part of chapter 114 is an example, his description of his dream world is excellent and I understand it completely, but there are other sessions that I would not definitely recommend.
For those familiar with Kierkegaard will recognise the idea of using a false personage to write a piece. In Kierkegaard's case, his numerous alter egos were ways of articulating a subtle and sophisticated truth of our condition. Pessoa, in an imaginary world, read Kierkegaard and went one step further. He invented not just masks (pseudonyms) to write through but gave up authorship to his 'heteronyms', partial personalities who existed with some autonomy and distance from Pessoa himself and had very different views and experiences of life.
Bernando Soares, the eponymous author of The Book of Disquiet, a book-keeper in Lisbon, records his observations of everyday life as if we were walking through an art gallery. He takes a simple gesture, a familiar place and transforms it magically into something more.
It is not a book of desolation (as one reviewer would have it). It is full of delight, mystery and wonder.