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Summary Article: Pessoa, Fernando
from The Columbia Encyclopedia

(Fernando António Nogueira Pessoa)(pĕs'wä), 1888–1935, Portuguese poet, b. Lisbon. He moved to Durban, South Africa, as a child, becoming bilingual (Portuguese, English); in 1905 he returned to Portugal and studied at the Univ. of Lisbon for a year. He also wrote in French. He subsequently worked as a translator and wrote for avant-garde literary magazines. Reflecting the influence of both the classical tradition and French symbolism, his poetry moves from saudosismo, or nostalgia for a mythic past, to an increasing concern with consciousness and sensation. He is famous for having written under 73 different names, developing what he called “heteronyms,” or alternative personalities. Five of these (his own, Alberto Caeiro, Ricardo Reis, Álvaro de Campos, and Bernardo Soares) are particularly well known. Each persona has his own putative biography, physical characteristics, relationship to the others, philosophy, poetic voice, and outlook, and in part reflects Pessoa's disbelief in the idea of an integrated personality. Among Pessoa's collections, which include poems in English, are Sonnets (1918), English Poems (1922), and Mensagem (1934). His greatest work is generally considered to be Livro do desassossego (1982, tr. The Book of Disquiet, 1991; complete ed. 2013, tr. 2017), an incomplete fictional poetic diary composed over the years by Bernardo Soares. 1991; later ed. 2013, tr. 2017). The notebooks, papers, envelopes, and other scraps comprising the work were found after his death; it is now considered by many the greatest masterpiece of Portuguese modernist literature.

  • See selected poems tr. by J. Griffin, E. Honig, and P. Rickard (each 1971), and.
  • by J. Greene and C. de Azevedo Mafra (1986);.
  • selected prose tr. by E. Honig (1971) and A. MacAdam (1991);.
  • A Centenary Pessoa (1995), anthology ed. by E. Lisboa; L. C. Taylor;.
  • collections of critical essays ed. by G. Monteiro (1982) and B. McGuirk (1988);.
  • Sadlier, D. J. , An Introduction to Fernando Pessoa (1998, repr. 2009).
The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2018

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