“I write down what I feel in order to lower the fever of feeling.” –Fernando Pessoa as Bernardo Soares
Fernando Pessoa was a writer who worked as a translator in Lisbon, Portugal in the turn of the 20th Century. He was never published. He was never known as a writer during his lifetime. After his death however, a trunk full of his work was found, all disorganized, and authored by the various characters that he had invented. Most of it was published, the most complete anthology of work culminating into a book called The Book of Disquiet. It’s a collection of reflections and short essays he wrote as his alter ego, Bernardo Soares.
Fernando lived and worked on the same street, and passed the same storefronts and characters every single day. He always went to the same coffee shop to work, the same cafe to have his dinner and rarely ventured out from the confines of his simple life. But while he constantly laments about the monotony of his life, he finds endless comfort in his dreams. He wishes that he could move to a far off island and live in a foreign land. Yet constantly reminds himself how much he would miss everything about his life were he to leave and move elsewhere. It’s the mundane, steady rhythm of his days that allow him to appreciate the particulars, the things that would surely be lost in a more adventurous, exciting life.
“May I always be blessed with the monotony, the dull sameness of identical days, my indistinguishable todays and yesterdays, so that I may enjoy with an open heart the fly that distracts me, drifting randomly past my eyes, the gust of laughter that wafts volubly up from the street somewhere down below, the sense of vast freedom when the office closes for the night, and the infinite rest of my days off.”
—The Book of Disquiet
Even while he claimed this contentedness, you can tell how much he had to fight for it. It’s not easy to be grateful the same things, the same life that you have every day. I believe that he was able to stave off the darkness of bored desolation through writing. And he realizes this himself. He didn’t write to be known, nor did he expect to. He didn’t do it for money or to gain popularity. He wrote because he had no choice. Because the only way to settle down his conflicting inner feelings and insecurities was to let them loose on the page and free them from inside his head. Once they were out, he could calm down, organize them and begin to reconcile all of his inner contradictions.
Fernando, who died in 1935 of alcoholism, has shown me to relax and accept my personal insecurities and fears, and to stop using my circumstances as excuses that are preventing me from doing what I love. He has shown me the value of putting into words my own existential dilemmas so that I may begin resolving them, or at least giving them a legitimate place in my mind. I need to write to quiet the discontented screams inside my head.
I write for these reasons, and I dedicate it all to Fernando. If only I could have communicated to him that he would inspire this person, 100 years after his death, to become a writer like him. I imagine he would be deliriously happy.
Thank you, Fernando.