Fernando Pessoa

Everything is worthwhile
if the soul is not small.

Fernando Pessoa (18881935) was a Portuguese poet and writer, most of whose work was published posthumously. He wrote frequently under heteronyms, alter egos with developed personalities, biographies, jobs, habits, attitudes, addresses, etc., who sometimes quoted and interacted with each other and other people.

See also:
The Book of Disquiet



Contradiction is the essence of the universe.
I am nothing.
I shall never be anything.
I cannot even wish to be anything.
Apart from this, I have within me all the dreams of the world.
  • A essência do universo é a contradição.
    • Contradiction is the essence of the universe.
    • "A Nova Poesia Portuguesa no Seu Aspecto Psicológico", published in A Águia, Porto, September 1912.
  • Todo o homem que merece ser célebre sabe que não vale a pena sê-lo.
    • Every man who deserves to be famous knows it is not worth the trouble.
    • A Celebridade (1915)
  • Não tenho ambições nem desejos
    Ser poeta não é uma ambição minha
    É a minha maneira de estar sozinho.
    • I have no ambitions nor desires.
      To be a poet is not my ambition,
      It's simply my way of being alone.
    • Alberto Caeiro (heteronym), O Guardador de Rebanhos ("The Keeper of Herds", tr. Richard Zenith) in Athena, January 1925.
  • Não sou nada.
    Nunca serei nada.
    Não posso querer ser nada.
    À parte isso, tenho em mim todos os sonhos do mundo.
    • I am nothing.
      I shall never be anything.
      I cannot even wish to be anything.
      Apart from this, I have within me all the dreams of the world.
    • Álvaro de Campos (heteronym), Tabacaria ("The Tobacconist's" or "The Tobacco Shop"), January 15, 1928.
    • Variant translation:
      I am nothing.
      Never shall be anything.
      Cannot will to be anything.
      This apart, I have in me all the dreams of the world.
  • A metafísica é uma consequência de estar mal disposto.
    • Metaphysics is a consequence of being indisposed.
    • Tabacaria (1928)
The poet is a pretender.
He pretends so completely,
that he even pretends that it is pain
the pain he really feels.
  • O poeta é um fingidor.
    Finge tão completamente
    Que chega a fingir que é dor
    A dor que deveras sente.
    • The poet is a pretender.
      He pretends so completely,
      that he even pretends that it is pain
      the pain he really feels.
    • "Autopsicografia", in Presença, No. 36 (November 1932)
      • Richard Zenith's translation:
        • The poet is a faker
          Who's so good at his act
          He even fakes the pain
          Of pain he feels in fact.
  • O amor é que é essencial.
    O sexo é só um acidente.
    • It's love that is inescapable.
      Sex is the merest accident.
    • Poem (5 April 1935), reported in Poesias inéditas (1930-1935), p. 192.
    • Variant translation:
      Love is essential. Sex, a mere accident.
  • Sê plural como o universo!
    • Be plural, like the universe!
    • Páginas Íntimas e de Auto Interpretação (published posthumously, 1966).
  • O coração, se pudesse pensar, pararia.
    • Could it think, the heart would stop beating.
    • The Book of Disquietude ["Livro do Desassossego"], by Bernardo Soares (Pessoa's semi-heteronym), translated by Richard Zenith (1996), p. 7.


Mensagem, first edition, 1934

Introduction: "Message" ("Mensagem") is Pessoa's the best known book. It is a small book, with 44 poems describing the Portuguese coat of arms symbolically, and the only published (1934) in his life, excepting for two self-published books of poems in English under the youth pseudonym of Alexander Search. It glorifies the symbolic value of Discoverers, pities Portugal's sorry state and exhorts to a new, spiritual revolution, within the ideas of Sebastianism and the Fifth Empire. To the portuguese, the best known poem is Mar Português (Portuguese Sea). The complete work is easily found on the Web. The present portuguese text was taken from Assírio & Alvim BAI (2007), which agrees with other editions using contemporary spelling.

  • The Gods sell when they give.
    Glory is paid for with disgrace.
    Poor are the happy, for they are
    Just what passes.
    • Original: Os Deuses vendem quando dão.
      Compra-se a glória com desgraça.
      Ai dos felizes, porque são
      Só o que passa!
    • Poem "O das quinas", first couples.
  • Myth is the nothing that is everything.
    • Original: O mito é o nada que é tudo.
    • Poem "Ulisses", verse 1
  • All beginnings are involuntary.
  • Against destiny I fulfilled my duty .
    Uselessly? No, for I fulfilled it.
    • Original: Cumpri contra o Destino o meu dever.
      Inutilmente? Não, porque o cumpri.
    • Poem "D. Duarte", verses 5-6
  • Clear in thinking, and clear in feeling,
    and clear in wanting
    • Original: Claro em pensar, e claro no sentir,
      e claro no querer
    • Poem "D. Pedro", verses 1-2
  • Faithful to the word given and the idea had.
    All else is up to God!
    • Original: Fiel à palavra dada e à ideia tida.
      Tudo o mais é com Deus!
    • Poem "D. Pedro", verses 11-12
God wills, man dreams, the work is born.
  • Without madness what is man
    more than the healthy beast,
    corpse adjourned that procreates?
    • Original: Sem a loucura que é o homem
      Mais que a besta sadia,
      Cadáver adiado que procria?
    • Poem "D. Sebastião", verses 8-10
  • God wills, man dreams, the work is born.
    • Original: Deus quer, o homem sonha, a obra nasce.
    • Poem "O Infante", verse 1.
  • The sea is fulfilled, and the Empire fell apart.
    Lord, Portugal must yet fulfill itself!
    • Original: Cumpriu-se o Mar, e o Império se desfez.
      Senhor, falta cumprir-se Portugal!
    • Poem "O Infante", verses 11-12
  • The sea with an end can be Greek or Roman:
    the endless sea is Portuguese.
    • Original: O mar com fim será grego ou romano:
      O mar sem fim é português.
    • Poem "Padrão", Versos 11-12
  • The bogey-beast that lives at the end of the sea
    In the pitch dark night rose up in the air;
    Around the galleon it flew three times,
    Three times it flew a-squeaking,
    And said: "Who has dared to enter
    My dens which I do not disclose,
    My black roofs of the end of the world?"
    And the helmsman said, a-trembling:
    "King Don Joao the Second!"

    "Here at the helm I am more than myself:
    I am a People who wants the sea that is yours;
    And more than the monster, that my soul does fear
    And dwells in the dark of the end of the world,
    Commands the will, that binds me to the helm,
    Of King Don Joao the Second!"

Oh salty sea, how much of your salt
are tears of Portugal!
  • Here lies, on the small farthest beach, the Captain of the End.
    • Original: Jaz aqui, na pequena praia extrema,
      o Capitão do Fim.
    • Poem "Bartolomeu Dias", verses 1-2
  • Oh salty sea, how much of your salt
    are tears of Portugal!
    • Original: Ó mar salgado, quanto do teu sal
      São lágrimas de Portugal!
    • Poem "Mar Português", Verses 1-2
  • Everything is worthwhile
    if the soul is not small.
    • Original: Tudo vale a pena
      Se a alma não é pequena.
    • Poem "Mar Português", Verses 7-.
  • Who wants to go beyond the Bojador
    Must go beyond pain.
    • Original: Quem quer passar além do Bojador
      Tem que passar além da dor.
    • Poem "Mar Português", Verses 9-10
  • God gave the sea the danger and the abyss,
    but it was in it that He mirrored the sky.
    • Original: Deus ao mar o perigo e o abismo deu,
      Mas nele é que espelhou o céu.
    • Poem "Mar Português", Verses 11-12
  • Pity him who lives at home
    Happy with his life,
    Without a dream, a flexing of wings,
    To make him relinquish
    Even the warmest ember of his hearth!

    Pity him who is happy!
    He lives because life lasts.
    Nothing within him whispers
    More than the primeval law:
    That life leads to the grave.

    • Original: Triste de quem vive em casa,
      Contente com o seu lar,
      Sem que um sonho, no erguer de asa,
      Faça até mais rubra a brasa
      Da lareira a abandonar!

      Triste de quem é feliz!
      Vive porque a vida dura.
      Nada na alma lhe diz
      Mais que a lição da raiz-
      Ter por vida a sepultura.

    • Poem "O Quinto Império", lines 1–10
  • These are Fortunate Islands,
    These are lands without a place
    • Original: São ilhas afortunadas,
      São terras sem ter lugar
    • Poem "As Ilhas Afortunadas", verses 11-12
  • Oh Portugal, today you are fog...
    The Hour has come!
    • Original: Ó Portugal, hoje és nevoeiro...
      É a Hora!
    • Poem "Nevoeiro", verse 13-14

The Book of DisquietEdit

Civilization consists in giving something an unfitting name, then dream about the result. And indeed the false name and the real dream create a new reality. The object really becomes another, because we turned it into another one. We manufacture realities.
Main article: The Book of Disquiet

Heteronym: Bernardo Soares, Auxiliary book-keeper in Lisbon and a perfectionist without a real life. He lived in a small apartment in the Rua dos Douradores, and all he had in life was "a few accounting books and the gift of dreaming". One afternoon he was allowed to leave the office earlier to run a personal errand right there in Lisbon; the errand being completed early, he found that given the different hours Lisbon was a strange town he was unfamiliar with, and went back to the office, to the surprise of his colleagues. (Where a portuguese original quote exists, the translation into english was informal.)

  • He looked about thirty, thin, rather above average height, exaggeratedly bent over when seated but less so when he stood up, dressed with a certain negligence, which was not entirely negligence. On his pale, uninteresting face an air of suffering did not stir interest, although it was difficult to define what kind of suffering that air — it seemed to suggest several kinds: privation, anguish, and a suffering born from the indifference of having suffered a great deal.
    • Introduction, tr. by Alfred Mac Adam
  • Walking on these streets, until the night falls, my life feels to me like the life they have. By day they’re full of meaningless activity; by night, they’re full of meaningless lack of it. By day I am nothing, and by night I am I. There is no difference between me and these streets, save they being streets and I a soul, which perhaps is irrelevant when we consider the essence of things.
    • "A Factless Autobiography", number 3, tr. by Richard Zenith
  • Whether or not they exist, we're slaves to the gods.
    • A Factless Autobiography, number 21, (Trans. Richard Zenith, Penguin Classics edition)
  • … And I, who timidly hate life, fear death with fascination. I fear this nothingness that could be something else, and I fear it as nothing and as something else simultaneously, as if gross horror and non-existence could coincide there, as if my coffin could entrap the eternal breathing of a bodily soul, as if immortality could be tormented by confinement. The idea of hell, which only a satanic soul could have invented seems to me to have derived from this sort of confusion - a mixture of two different fears that contradict and contaminate each other.
    • Ibid., number 168
  • I think of life as an inn where I have to stay until the abyss coach arrives. I don't know where it will take me, for I know nothing.
    • Original: Considero a vida uma estalagem onde tenho que me demorar até que chegue a diligência do abismo. Não sei onde ela me levará, porque não sei nada.
    • A Factless Autobiography, Richard Zenith Edition, Lisbon, 2006, p. 40
  • Every day things happen in the world that cannot be explained by any law of things we know. Every day they're mentioned and forgotten, and the same mystery that brought them takes them away, transforming their secret into oblivion. Such is the law by which things that can't be explained must be forgotten. The visible world goes on as usual in the broad daylight. Otherness watches us from the shadows.
    • A Factless Autobiography, number 424, Trans. Richard Zenith, Penguin Classics edition
  • Having touched Christ's feet is not an excuse for punctuation mistakes.
    • Original: O ter tocado os pés de Cristo não é desculpa para defeitos de pontuação.
    • A Factless Autobiography, Richard Zenith Edition, Lisbon, 2006, p 229
  • Strength without agility is a mere mass.
    • Original: A força sem a destreza é uma simples massa.
    • Ibid.
  • There are those that even God exploits, and they are prophets and saints in the vacuousness of the world.
    • Original: Há os que Deus mesmo explora, e são profetas e santos na vacuidade do mundo.
    • Ibid., p. 45
  • I come closer to my desk as to a bulwark against life.
    • Original: Achego-me à minha secretária como a um baluarte contra a vida.
    • Ibid.
  • We are two abysses — a well staring at the sky.
    • Original: Somos dois abismos — um poço fitando o céu.
    • Ibid., p. 48
  • A tedium that includes only the anticipation of more tedium; the regret, now, of tomorrow regretting having regretted today.
    • Original: Um tédio que inclui a antecipação só de mais tédio; a pena, já, de amanhã ter pena de ter tido pena hoje.
    • Ibid., p. 50
  • The train slows down, it's the Cais do Sodré. I arrived to Lisbon, but not to a conclusion.
    • Original: O comboio abranda, é o Cais do Sodré. Cheguei a Lisboa, mas não a uma conclusão.
    • Ibid.
  • We become sphynxes, though fake, up to the point we no longer know who we are.
    • Original: Tornamo-nos esfinges, ainda que falsas, até chegarmos ao ponto de não sabermos quem somos.
    • Ibid., p. 52
  • Fraternity has subtleties.
    • Original: A fraternidade tem subtilezas.
    • Ibid., p. 53
  • I believe that saying a thing is to keep its virtues and take away its terror.
    • Original: Creio que dizer uma coisa é conservar-lhe a virtude e tirar-lhe o terror.
    • Ibid., p. 55
  • I have now so many fundamental thoughts, so many really metaphysical things to say, that I suddenly get tired and decide not to write more, not to think more, but allow the fever of saying to make me sleepy, and fondle, with closed eyes, as if to a cat, all that I could have said.
    • Original: Tenho neste momento tantos pensamentos fundamentais, tantas coisas verdadeiramente metafísicas para dizer, que me canso de repente, e decido não escrever mais, não pensar mais, mas deixar que a febre de dizer me dê sono, e eu faça festas, como a um gato, a tudo quanto poderia ter dito.
    • Ibid., p. 56
  • I'm all those things, even though I don't want to, in the confuse depth of my fatal sensibility.
    • Original: Sou todas essa coisas, embora o não queira, no fundo confuso da minha sensibilidade fatal.
    • Ibid., p. 58
  • I sleep and I unsleep. On the other side of me, beyond where I lie down, the silence of the house touches infinity. I hear time falling, drop by drop, and no falling drop is heard falling.
    • Original: Durmo e desdurmo.
      Do outro lado de mim, lá para trás de onde jazo, o silêncio da casa toca no infinito. Oiço cair o tempo, gota a gota, e nenhuma gota que cai se ouve cair.
    • Ibid., p. 59
  • The house clock, place certain there at the bottom of things, strikes the half hour dry and null. All is so much, all is so deep, all is so dark and cold!
    • Original: O relógio da casa, lugar certo lá ao fundo das coisas, soa a meia hora seca e nula. Tudo é tanto, tudo é tão fundo, tudo é tão negro e frio!
    • Ibid., p. 60
  • I pass times, I pass silences, formless worlds pass me by.
    • Original: Paso tempos, passo silêncios, mudos sem forma passam por mim.
    • Ibid., p. 60
  • Everything was asleep as if the universe was a mistake.
    • Original: Dormia tudo como se o universo fosse um erro.
    • Ibid., p. 60
  • Not pleasure, not glory, not power: freedom, only freedom.
    • Original: Não o prazer, não a glória, não o poder: a liberdade, unicamente a liberdade.
    • Ibid., p. 62
  • Changing from the ghosts of faith to the spectres of reason is just changing cells.
    • Original: Passar dos fantasmas da fé para os espectros da razão é somente ser mudado de cela.
    • Ibid.
  • Thing thrown to a corner, rag fallen on the road, my ignoble being feigns itself in front of life.
    • Original: Coisa arrojada a um canto, trapo caído na estrada, meu ser ignóbil ante a vida finge-se.
    • Ibid., p. 64
  • It was just a moment, and I saw myself. Then I no longer could say what I was.
    • Original: Foi só um momento, e vi-me. Depois já não sei sequer dizer o que fui.
    • Ibid., p. 66
  • As we wash our body so we should wash destiny, change life as we change clothes.
    • Original: Assim como lavamos o corpo devíamos lavar o destino, mudar de vida como mudamos de roupa.
    • Ibid., p. 68
  • There's a tiredness of abstract inteligence, and it's the most horrible of tirednesses. It doesn't weight on you like the tiredness of the body, nor does it worry you like the tiredness of knowledge and emotion. It's a weightiness of the conscience of the world, an inability of the soul to breathe.
    • Original: Há um cansaço da inteligência abstracta, e é o mais horroroso dos cansaços. Não pesa como o cansaço do corpo, nem inquieta como o cansaço do conhecimento e da emoção. É um peso da consciência do mundo, um não poder respirar da alma.
    • Ibid., p. 69
  • Then a overflowing desire comes to me, absurd, of a sort of satanism before Satan, in that one day [...] an escape out of God can be found and the deepest of us stops, I don't know how, to be a part of being or not being.
    • Original: E então vem-me o desejo transbordante, absurdo, de uma espécie de satanismo que precedeu Satã, de que um dia [...] se encontre uma fuga para fora de Deus e o mais profundo de nós deixe, não sei como, de fazer parte do ser ou do não ser.
    • Os Grandes Trechos, s/n. Translated from the Portuguese Richard Zenith Edition, Lisbon, 2006
  • To stagnate in the sun, goldenly, like an obscure lake surrounded by flowers.
    • On a strictly intellectual life.
    • Original: Estagnar ao sol, douradamente, como um lago obscuro rodeado de flores.
    • A Factless Autobiography, Richard Zenith Edition, Lisbon, 2006, p. 70
  • For I am the size of what I see
    not my height's size.
    • Original: Porque eu sou do tamanho do que vejo
      e não do tamanho da minha altura.
    • Attributed to the Caeiro alter ego, in A Factless Autobiography, Richard Zenith Edition, Lisbon, 2006, p. 71
  • In order to understand, I destroyed myself.
    • Original: Para compreender, destruí-me.
    • A Factless Autobiography, Richard Zenith Edition, Lisbon, 2006, p. 73
  • Solitude desolates me; company oppresses me.
    • Original: A solidão desola-me; a companhia oprime-me.
    • Ibid.
  • Yes, talking to people makes me sleepy.
    • Original: Sim, falar com gente dá-me vontade de dormir.
    • Ibid.
  • The idea of any social obligation [...] just the idea of it embarasses my thoughts for a day, and sometimes it's since the day before that I worry, and don't sleep well, and the real affair, when it happens, is absolutely insignificant and justifies nothing; and the case repeats itself and I never learn to learn.
    • Original: A ideia de uma obrigação social qualquer [...] só essa ideia me estorva os pensamentos de um dia, e às vezes é desde a mesma véspera que me preocupo, e durmo mal, e o caso real, quando se dá, é absolutamente insignificante, não justifica nada; e o caso repete-se e eu não aprendo a aprender.
    • Ibid.
  • The beauty of a naked body is felt only by the dressed races.
    • Original: A beleza de um corpo nu só o sentem as raças vestidas.
    • Ibid., p. 75
  • What is a disease is wishing with an equal intensity what is needed and what is desirable, and suffer for not being perfect as you would suffer for not having bread. The romantic error is this wanting the moon as if there was a way to get it.
    • Original: O que é doença é desejar com igual intensidade o que é preciso e o que ´desejável, e sofrer por não ser perfeito como se se sofresse por não ter pão. O mal romântico é este: é querer a lua como se houvesse maneira de a obter.
    • Ibid., p. 77
  • I take with me the conscience of defeat as a victory banner.
    • Original: Levo comigo a consciência da derrota como um pendão de vitória.
    • Ibid., p. 79
  • It is noble to be shy, illustrious not to know how to act, great not to have a gift for living.
    • Original: É nobre ser tímido, ilustre não saber agir, grande não ter jeito para viver.
    • Ibid., p. 86
  • Blessed are those who never entrust their life to no one.
    • Original: Benditos os que não confiam a vida a ninguém.
    • Ibid.
  • Everyone has his vanity, and each one's vanity is his forgetting that there are others with an equal soul.
    • Original: Cada um tem a sua vaidade, e a vaidade de cada um é o seu esquecimento de que há outros com alma igual.
    • Ibid., p. 88
  • I reread? I lied! I don't dare to reread. I cannot reread. What's the point, for me, in rereading?
    • Original: Releio? Menti! Não ouso reler. Não posso reler. De que me serve reler?
    • Ibid.
  • Civilization consists in giving something an unfitting name, then dream about the result. And indeed the false name and the real dream create a new reality. The object really becomes another, because we turned it into another one. We manufacture realities.
    • Original: A civilização consiste em dar a qualquer coisa um nome que lhe não compete, e depois sonhar sobre o resultado. E realmente o nome falso e o sonho verdadeiro criam uma nova realidade. O objecto torna-se realmente outro, porque o tornámos outro. Manufacturamos realidades.
    • Ibid., p. 89
  • The consciousness of life's unconsciousness is intelligence's oldest tax.
    • Original: A consciência da insonsciência da vida é o mais antigo imposto à inteligência.
    • Ibid., p. 91
  • A sort of anteneurosis of what I will be when I will not longer be freezes my body and soul. A kind of remembrance of my future death makes me shudder from the inside.
    • Original: Uma espécie de anteneurose do que serei quando já não for gela-me o corpo e alma. Uma como que lembrança da minha morte futura arrepia-me dentro.
    • Ibid., p. 91
  • What, I believe, produces in me the deep feeling, in which I live, of incongruity with others, is that most think with sensitivity, while I feel with thought.
    • Original: Aquilo que, creio, produz em mim o sentimento profundo, em que vivo, de inconguência com os outros, é que a maioria pensa com a sensibilidade, e eu sinto com o pensamento.
    • Ibid., p. 93
  • You breathe better when you're rich.
    • Original: Respira-se melhor quando se é rico.
    • Ibid., p. 95
  • I never go to where's a risk. I'm frightened of dangers down to boredom.
    • Original: Nunca vou para onde há risco. tenho medo a tédio dos perigos.
    • Ibid., p. 96
  • Some sensations are sleeps that take up all the extent of the mind like a fog, don't let us think, don't let us act, don't let us be clearly.
    • Original: Há sensações que são sonos, que ocupam como uma névoa toda a extensão do espírito, que não deixam pensar, que não deixam agir, que não deixam claramente ser.
    • Ibid., p. 98
  • My joy is as painful as my pain.
    • Original: A minha alegria é tão dolorosa como a minha dor.
    • Ibid., p. 100
  • Between me and life is a faint glass. No matter how sharply I see and understand life, I cannot touch it.
    • Original: Entre mim e a vida há um vidro ténue. por mais nitidamente que eu veja e compreenda a vida, eu não lhe posso tocar.
    • Ibid., p. 100
  • My dreams are a stupid refuge, like an umbrella against a thunderbolt.
    • Original: Os meus sonhos são um refúgio estúpido, como um guarda-chuva contra um raio.
    • Ibid., p. 101
  • My life is as if you've hit me with it.
    • Original: A minha vida é como se me batessem com ela.
    • Ibid., p. 101
  • If we knew the truth, we'd see it; all else is system and outskirts.
    • Original: Se conhecêssemos a verdade, vê-la-íamos; tudo o mais é sistema e arrabaldes.
    • Ibid., p. 106
  • They bring me faith like a closed package in someone else's plate. They want me to accept it so that I don't open it.
    • Original: Trazem-me a fé como um embrulho fechado numa salva alheia. Querem que o aceite para que não o abra.
    • Ibid.
  • The superiority of the dreamer is that dreaming is much more practical than living, and that the dreamer extracts from life a much vaster and varied pleasure than the action man. In better and more direct words, the dreamer is the real action man.
    • Original: A superioridade do sonhador consiste em que sonhar é muito mais prático que viver, e em que o sonhador extrai da vida um prazer muito mais vasto e muito mais variado do que o homem de acção. Em melhores e mais directas palavras, o sonhador é que é o homem de acção.
    • Ibid., p. 110
  • I never meant to be but a dreamer.
    • Original: Nunca pretendi ser senão um sonhador.
    • Ibid.
  • There's no regret more painful than the regret of things that never were.
    • Original: Ah, não há saudades mais dolorosas do que as das coisas que nunca foram!
    • Ibid., p. 111
  • I always live in the present. The future I can't know. The past I no longer have.
    • Original: Vivo sempre no presente. O futuro, não o conheço. O passado, já o não tenho.
    • Ibid., p. 118
  • The supreme empire is that of the Emperor who renounces all normal life, that of other men, and in who the care of supremacy doesn't weigh like a load of jewels.
    • Original: O império supremo é o do Imperador que abdica de toda a vida normal, dos outros homens, em quem o cuidado da supremacia não pesa como um fardo de jóias.
    • Ibid., p. 121
  • I will be what I want. But I will have to want what I'll be. Success is in having success, not conditions for success.
    • Original: Serei o que quiser. Mas tenho que querer o que for. O êxito está em ter êxito, e não em ter condições de êxito.
    • Ibid., p. 122
  • To act is to rest.
    • Original: Agir é repousar.
    • Ibid., p. 122
  • All problems are unsolvable. The essence of the existence of a problem is that there is no solution. Looking for a fact means there is no fact. To think is not to know how to be.
    • Original: Todos os problemas são insolúveis. A essência de haver um problema é não haver solução. Procurar um facto significa não haver um facto. Pensar é não saber existir.
    • Ibid., p. 123
  • His livid face is a bewildered false green. I notice it, between the chest's hard air, with the fraternity of knowing I will also be so.
    • Original: A sua cara lívida está de um verde falso e desnorteado. Noto-o, entre o ar difícil do peito, com a fraternidade de saber que também estarei assim.
    • Ibid., p. 124
  • We never love someone. We just love the idea we have of someone. It's a concept of ours - summing up, ourselves - that we love.
    • Original: Nunca amamos niguém. Amamos, tão-somente, a ideia que fazemos de alguém. É a um conceito nosso — em suma, é a nós mesmos — que amamos.
    • Ibid., p. 125
  • To write is to forget. Literature is the pleasantest way of ignoring life.
    • Original: Escrever é esquecer. A literatura é a maneira mais agradável de ignorar a vida.
    • Ibid., p. 128
  • Being pleased with what they give you is proper of slaves. Asking for more is proper of children. Conquering more is proper of fools.
    • Original: Contentar-se com o que lhe dão é próprio dos escravos. Pedir masi é próprio das crianças. Conquistar mais é próprio dos loucos [porque toda a conquista é [X]]
    • Ibid., p. 133
    • Note: [X]: text missing in the manuscript.
  • To be understood is to prostitute yourself.
    • Original: Ser compreendido é prostituir-se.
    • Ibid., p. 136
  • I search and can't find myself. I belong in chrysanthemum time, sharp in calla lily elongations. God made my soul into an ornamental thing.
    • Original: Busco-me e não me encontro. Pertenço a horas crisântemos, nítidas em alongamentos de jarros. Deus fez da minha alma uma coisa decorativa.
    • Ibid., p. 140
  • 'Any road', said Carlyle, 'even this road to Entepfuhl, will take you to the end of the world'. But the Entepfuhl road, if taken in its entirety, and to the end, goes back to Entepfuhl; so Entepfuhl, where we already were, is that very end of the world we were seeking.
    • Original: "Qualquer estrada", disse Carlyle, "até esta estrada de Entepfuhl, te leva até ao fim do mundo". Mas a estrada de Entepfuhl, se for seguida toda, e até ao fim, volta a Entepfuhl; de modo que o Entepfuhl, onde já estávamo, é aquele mesmo fim do mundo que íamos buscar.
    • Ibid., p. 142
  • It's been a long time since I've been me.
    • Original: Há muito tempo que não sou eu.
    • Ibid., p. 143
  • Inside the henhouse from where he will be taken to be killed, the cock sings hymns to liberty because he was given two perches.
    • Original: Dentro da capoeira de onde irá a matar, o galo canta hinos à liberdade porque lhe deram dois poleiros.
    • Ibid., p. 144
  • What's most worthless about dreams is that everybody has them.
    • Original: O que há de mais reles nos sonhos é que todos os têm.
    • Ibid., p. 145
  • The end is low, like all quantitative ends, personal or not, and it can be attained and verified.
    • Original: O fim é baixo, comotodos os fins quantitativos, pessoais ou não, e é atingível e verificável.
    • Ibid., p. 149
  • The perfect man of pagans was the perfection of the man there is; the perfect man of christians, the perfection of the man there isn't; the buddhists' perfect man, the perfection of not existing a man.
    • Original: O homem perfeito do pagão era a perfeição do homem que há; o homem perfeito do cristão a perfeição do homem que não há; o homem perfeito do budista a perfeição de não haver homem.
    • Ibid., p. 150
  • Nature is the difference between the soul and God.
    • Original: A natureza é a diferença entre a alma e Deus.
    • Ibid., p. 150
  • There is no safe standard to tell man from animals.
    • Original: Não há critério seguro para distinguir o homem dos animais.
    • Ibid., p. 150
  • Irony is the first hint that consciousness became conscious.
    • Original: A ironia é o primeiro indício de que a consciência se tornou consciente.
    • Ibid., p. 151
  • Who am I to myself? Just a feeling of mine.
    • Original: Quem sou eu para mim? Só uma sensação minha.
    • Ibid., p. 156
  • I will necessarily say what it seems to me, given that I'm me.
    • Original: Hei-de por força dizer o que me parece, visto que sou eu.
    • Ibid., p. 162
  • Direct experience is the evasion, or hiding place of those devoid of imagination.
    • Original: A experiência directa é o subterfúgio, ou o esconderijo, daqueles que são desprovidos de imaginação.
    • Ibid., p. 163
  • Action men are the unvoluntary slaves of wise men.
    • Ibid.
  • To narrate is to create, for living is just being lived.
    • Original: Narrar é criar, pois viver é apenas ser vivido.
    • Ibid.
  • I never cared about whatever tragic event happened in China. It's faraway decoration, even if in blood and plague.
    • Original: Nunca me pesou o que de trágico se passasse na China. É decoração longínqua, ainda que a sangue e peste.
    • Ibid., p. 164
  • The slope takes you to the windmill, but effort takes you nowhere.
    • Original: A ladeira leva ao moinho, mas o esforço não leva a nada.
    • Ibid., p. 171
  • Destiny gave me only two things: a few accounting books and the gift of dreaming.
    • Original: Duas coisas só me deu o Destino: uns livros de contabilidade e o dom de sonhar.
    • Ibid.
  • In today's life, the world belongs only to the stupid, the insensitive and the agitated. The right to live and triumph is now conquered almost by the same means by which you conquer internment in an asylum: the inability to think, amorality and hiperexcitation.
    • Original: Na vida de hoje, o mundo só pertence aos estúpidos, aos insensíveis e aos agitados. O direito a viver e a triunfar conquista-se hoje quase pelos mesmos processos por que se conquista o internamento num manicómio: a incapacidade de pensar, a amoralidade e a hiperexcitação.
    • Ibid., p. 173
  • What is art but the denial of life?
    • Original: Que é a arte senão a negação da vida?
    • Ibid., p. 174
  • Common man, no matter how hard life is to him, at least has the fortune of not thinking it.
    • Original: O homem vulgar, por mais dura que lhe seja a vida, tem ao menos a felicidade de a não pensar.
    • Ibid., p. 181
  • To think is to destroy. The very process of thought indicates it for the same thought, as thinking is decomposing.
    • Original: Pensar é destruir. O próprio processo do pensamento o indica para o mesmo pensamento, porque pensar é decompor.
    • Ibid.
  • I sometimes think, with a sad delight, that if one day, in a future I no longer belong to, these sentences, that I write, last with praise, I will at last have the people who understand me, those mine, the true family to be born in and be loved. [...] I will only be understood in effigy, when affection no longer repays the dead the unaffection that was, when living.
    • Original: Penso as vezes, com um deleite triste, que se um dia, num futuro a que eu já não pertença, estas frases, que escrevo, durarem com louvor, eu terei enfim a gente que me "compreenda", os meus, a família verdadeiro para nela nascer e ser amado. [...] Serei compreendido só em efígie, quando a afeição já não compense a quem morreu a só desafeição que houve, quando vivo.
    • Ibid., p. 182
  • Enthusiasm is rude.
    • Original: O entusiasmo é uma grosseria.
    • Ibid., p. 200
  • My God, my God, who am I attending to? How many am I? Who is me? What is this interval between me and me?
    • Original: Meu Deus, meu Deus, a quem assisto? Quantos sou? Quem é eu? O que é este intervalo que há entre mim e mim?
    • Ibid., p. 201
  • Being a retired major looks like an ideal thing to me. What a pity you couldn't eternally have been just a retired major.
    • Original: Ser major reformado parece-me uma coisa ideal. É pena não se poder ter sido eternamente apenas major reformado.
    • Ibid., p. 218
  • My curiosity sister of larks.
    • Original: A minha curiosidade irmã das cotovias
    • Ibid., p. 219
  • If a man can only write well when drunk, I'll tell him: get drunk. And if he tells me that his liver suffers with it, I'll answer: what's your liver? It's a dead thing that lives as long as you live, and the poems you'll write will live without a as long as.
    • Original: Se um homem escreve bem só quando está bêbado dir-lhe-ei: embebede-se- E se ele me disser que o seu fígado sofre com isso, respondo: o que é o seu fígado? É uma coisa morta que vive enquanto você vive, e os poemas que escrever vivem sem enquanto.
    • English note by the hand of the poet in the same paper sheet: Your poems are of interest to mankind; your liver isn't. Drink till you write well and feel sick. Bless your poems and be damned to you.
    • Ibid., p. 229
My homeland is the portuguese language.
  • My homeland is the portuguese language.
    • Original: Minha Pátria é a língua portuguesa.
    • Ibid., p. 230
      • Translation variants:
      • My motherland is the Portuguese language.
      • My nation is the Portuguese language.
      • My country is the Portuguese language.
      • My home is the Portuguese language.
  • Art consists in making others feel what we feel.
    • Original: A arte consiste em fazer os outros sentir o que nós sentimos.
    • Ibid., p. 231
  • Art lies because it's social.
    • Original: A arte mente porque é social
    • Ibid., p. 232
  • Tedium is the lack of a mithology. To whom has no beliefs, even doubt is impossible, even skepticism has no strength to suspect.
    • Original: O tédio é a falta de uma mitologia. A quem não tem crenças, até a dúvida é impossível, até o cepticismo não tem força para desconfiar.
    • Ibid.
  • Smell is a strange sight. It evokes sentimental landscapes through a sudden sketching of the subconscious.
    • Original: O olfacto é uma vista estranha. Evoca paisagens sentimentais por um desenhar súbito do subconsciente.
    • Ibid., p. 238
  • Deceiving himself well is the first quality of the statesman.
    • Original: Saber iludir-se bem é a primeira qualidade do estadista.
    • Ibid., p. 241
  • It's certain that, when hearing from any of those people the story of their sexual marathons, a vague suspicion pervades us, at about the seventh deflowering.
    • Original: É certo que, ao ouvir contar a qualquer destes indivíduos as suas maratonas sexuais, uma vaga suspeita nos invade, pela altura do sétimo desfloramento.
    • Ibid., p. 243
  • Liberty is the possibility of isolation.
    • Original: A liberdade é a possibilidade do isolamento.
    • Ibid., p. 246
  • If you cannot live alone, you were born a slave.
    • Original: Se te é impossível viver só, nasceste escravo.
    • Ibid.
  • And let our despite go to those who work and fight and our hate to those who hope and trust.
    • Original: E seja o nosso desprezo para os que trabalham e lutam e o nosso ódio para os que esperam e confiam.
    • Ibid., p. 248
  • We adore perfection because we can't have it; it would disgust us if we had it. Perfect is inhuman, because human is imperfect.
    • Original: Adoramos a perfeição, porque não a podemos ter; repugná-la-íamos, se a tivéssemos. O perfeito é o desumano, porque o humano é imperfeito.
    • Ibid., p. 249
  • If I had written King Lear, I would regret it all my life afterwards. Because that work is so big, that its defects show as huge, its monstrous defects, things even minimal in between some scenes and their possible perfection. It's not the sun with spots; it's a broken greek statue.
    • Original: Se eu tivesse escrito o Rei Lear, levaria com remorsos toda a minha vida de depois. Porque essa obra é tão grande, que enormes avultam os seus defeitos, os seus monstruosos defeitos, as coisas até mínimas que estão entre certas cenas e a perfeição possível delas. Não é o sol com manchas; é uma estátua grega partida.
    • Ibid., p. 250
  • For valuing your own suffering sets on it the gold of a sun of pride. Suffering a lot can originate the illusion of being the Chosen of Pain.
    • Original: Porque dar valor ao próprio sofrimento põe-lhe o ouro de um sol do orgulho. Sofrer muito pode dar a ilusão de ser o Eleito da Dor.
    • Ibid., p. 253
  • Everything is absurd.
    • Original: Tudo é absurdo.
    • Ibid., p. 255
  • The world belongs to who doesn't feel. The primary condition to be a practical man is the absence of sensitivity.
    • Original: O mundo é de quem não sente. A condição essencial para se ser um homem prático é a ausência de sensibilidade.
    • Ibid., p. 258
  • What would happen to the world if we were human?
    • Original: Que seria do mundo se fôssemos humanos?
    • Ibid., p. 259
  • Who doesn't feel commands. He who only thinks what is required in order to win, wins.
    • Original: Manda quem não sente. Vence quem pensa só o que precisa para vencer.
    • Ibid., p. 260
  • Sailing is necessary, living is not necessary.
    • Original: Navegar é preciso, viver não é preciso.
    • Ibid., pp. 133, 262
    • Note: This has been attributed to Pessoa. Indeed, it is from Plutarch's "Parallel Lives", about Pompeus, when demanding that soldiers board the ships, when they were afraid of dying at sea.
  • All pleasure is a vice, for seeking pleasure is what everybody does in life, and the only dark vice is doing what everybody does.
    • Original: Todo o prazer é um vício, porque buscar o prazer é o que todos fazem na vida, e o único vício negro é fazer o que toda a gente faz.
    • Ibid., p. 265
  • I'm upset by the happiness of all these men who don't know they're unhappy. [...] Because of that, though, I love them all. Dear vegetables!
    • Original: Irrita-me a felicidade de todos estes homens que não sabem que são infelizes.[...] Por isto, contudo, amo-os a todos. Meus queridos vegetais!
    • Ibid., p. 266
  • For the moment being, given that we live in society, the only duty of superior men is to reduce to a minimum their participation in the tribe's life. Not to read newspapers, or read them only to know about whatever unimportant and curious is going on.
    [...] The supreme honorable state for a superior man is in not knowing who is the Head of State of his country, or if he lives under a monarchy or a republic.
    All his attitude must be setting his soul so that the passing of things, of events doesn't bother him. If he doesn't do it he will have to take an interest in others in order to take care of himself.
    • Original: Por enquanto, visto que vivemos em sociedade, o único dver dos superiores é reduzirem ao mínimo a sua participação na vida da tribo. Não ler jornais, ou lê-los só para saber o que de pouco importante ou curioso se passa.
      [...] O supremo estado honroso para um homem superior é não saber quem é o chefe de Estado do seu país, ou se vive sob monarquia ou sob república.
      Toda a sua atitude deve ser colocar-se a alma de modo que a passagem das coisas, dos acontecimentos não o incomode. Se o não fizer terá que se interessar pelos outros, para cuidar de si próprio.
    • Ibid., p. 267
  • Wasting time has an esthetics to it.
    • Original: Perder tempo comporta uma estética
    • Ibid.
  • I never was but an isolated bon vivant, which is absurd; or a mystic bon vivant, which is an impossible thing.
    • Original: Nunca fui mais que um boémio isolado, o que é um absurdo; ou um boémio místico, o que é uma coisa impossível.
    • Ibid., p. 271
    • Note: a possible play on Tertullian's: "credo quia absurdum" (I believe because it's absurd), "credo quia impossibilis est" (I believe because it's impossible).
    • Note: Richard Zenith translates boémio as bohemian, not bon vivant.
  • It's in an inland sea that the river of my life ended.
    • Original: Foi num mar interior que o rio da minha vida findou.
    • Ibid.
  • Every gesture is a revolutionary act.
    • Original: Todo o gesto é um acto revolucionário.
    • Ibid., p. 274
  • Knowing not to have illusions is absolutely necessary in order to have dreams.
    • Original: Saber não ter ilusões é absolutamente necessário para se poder ter sonhos.
    • Ibid., p. 276
  • Why is art beautiful? Because it's useless. Why is life ugly? Because it's all ends and purposes and intentions.
    • Original: Porque é bela a arte? Porque é inútil. Porque é feia a vida? Porque é toda fins e propósitos e intenções.
    • Ibid., p. 279
  • And the supreme glory of all this, my love, is to think that maybe this isn't true, neither may I believe it true.

    And when lying starts giving us pleasure, let's speak the truth so that we lie to it.

    • Original: E a suprema glória disto tudo, meu amor, é pensar que talvez isto não seja verdade, nem eu o creia verdadeiro.

      E quando a mentira comece a dar-nos prazer, falemos a verdade para lhe mentirmos.

    • Ibid., p. 280
  • My head and the universe ache me.
    • Original: Doem-me a cabeça e o universo.
    • Ibid.
  • Yet I have no stylistic nobility. My head aches because my head aches. The universe aches me because my head aches.
    • Original: Eu, porém, não tenho nobreza estilística. Dói-me a cabeça porque me dói a cabeça. Dói-me o universo porque me dói a cabeça.
    • Ibid.
  • Given that we cannot know all the elements in a problem, we never can solve it.
    • Original: Como nunca podemos conhecer todos os elementos de uma questão, nunca a podemos resolver.
    • Ibid., p. 282
  • I don't believe in the landscape.
    • Original: Não acredito na paisagem.
    • Ibid., p. 286
  • I say it because I don't believe.
    • Original: Digo-o porque não acredito.
    • Ibid.
  • When I write, I solemnly visit myself.
    • Original: Quando escrevo, visito-me solenemente.
    • Ibid., p. 287
  • Life is a thread that someone entangled.
    • Original: A vida é um novelo que alguém emaranhou.
    • Ibid.
  • They were two and beautiful and wanted to be something else; love delayed itself to them in the tedium of the future, and regret of what would happen to be was already being the daughter of the love they hadn't had.
    • Original: Eram dois e belos e desejavam ser outra coisa; o amor tardava-lhes no tédio do futuro, e a saudade do que haveria de ser vinha já sendo filha do amor que não tinham tido.
    • Ibid., p. 288
  • Only sterility is noble and dignified. Only killing what never was is elevated and perverse and absurd.
    • Original: Só a esterilidade é nobre e digna. Só o matar o que nunca foi é alto e perverso e absurdo.
    • Ibid., p. 289
  • I exempt you of being present in my idea of you.
    • Original: Dispenso-a de comparecer na minha ideia de si.
    • Ibid., p. 290
  • That's not my love; that's just your life.
    • Original: Isso não é o meu amor; é apenas a sua vida.
    • Ibid.
  • And as well as I dream, I reason if I want, for that's just another kind of dream.
    • Original: E assim como sonho, raciocino se quiser, porque isso é apenas uma outra espécia de sonho.
    • Ibid., p. 320
  • There is no happiness without knowledge. But knowledge of happiness is unhappy; for knowing ourselves happy is knowing ourselves passing through happiness, and having to, immediatly at once, leave it behind. To know is to kill, in happiness as in everything. Not to know, though, is not to exist.
    • Original: Não há felicidade senão com conhecimento. Mas o conhecimento da felicidade é infeliz; porque conhecer-se feliz é conhecer-se passando pela felicidade, e tendo, logo já, que deixá-la atrás. Saber é matar, na felicidade como em tudo. Não saber, porém, é não existir.
    • Ibid., p. 328
  • I don't write in Portuguese. I write myself.
    • Original: Eu não escrevo em português. Escrevo eu mesmo.
    • Ibid., p. 353
  • To travel? In order to travel it's enough to be. [...] Why travel? In Madrid, in Berlin, in Persia, in China, at the Poles both, where would I be but in myself, and in the sort and kind of my sensations?

    Life is what we make of it. Travels are travellers. What we see is not what we see but what we are.

    • Original: Viajar? Para viajar basta existir. [...] Para quê viajar? Em Madrid, em Berlim, na Pérsia, na China, nos Pólos ambos, onde estaria eu senão em mim mesmo, e no tipo e género das minhas sensações?

      A vida é o que fazemos dela. As viagens são os viajantes. O que vemos não é o que vemos, senão o que somos.

    • Ibid., p. 360
  • I'd like to be in the country so that I'd could like being in the city.
    • Original: Gostava de estar no campo para poder gostar de estar na cidade.
    • Ibid., p. 367
  • Man shouldn't be able to see his own face. That's what's most terrible. Nature gave him the possibility of not seeing it, as well as the incapacity of not seeing his own eyes.
    • Original: O homem não deve poder ver a sua própria cara. Isso é o que há de mais terrível. A Natureza deu-lhe o dom de não a poder ver, assim como a de não poder fitar os seus próprios olhos.
    • Ibid., p. 371
  • In any spirit that isn't deformed there is the belief in God. In any spirit that is not deformed there isn't the belief in a particular God.
    • Original: Em qualquer espírito, que não seja disforme, existe a crença em Deus. Em qualquer espírito, que não seja disforme, não existe crença em um Deus definido.
    • Ibid., p. 375
  • I'm a man for whom the outside world is an inner reality.
    • Original: Sou um homem para quem o mundo exterior é uma realidade interior.
    • Ibid., p. 376
  • Humanitarianism is rude.
    • Original: O humanitarismo é uma grosseria.
    • Ibid.
  • Property isn't theft: it's nothing.
    • Original: A propriedade não é roubo: não é nada.
    • Ibid.
  • To have defined and sure opinions, fixed and known instincts, passions and character — all that is the horror of turning our soul into a fact, materialize it and make it external.
    • Original: Ter opiniões definidas e certas, instintos, paixões e carácter fixo e conhecido — tudo isto monta ao horror de tornar a nossa alma num facto, de a materializar e tornar exterior.
    • Ibid., p. 413<ǃ--Assírio & Alvim, 2008-->
    • As quoted in Os Grandes Trechos, Richard Zenith Edition, Lisbon, 2006, p. 413

The Education of the StoicEdit

The only text left by heteronym The Baron of Teive (or Álvaro Coelho de Athayde), this work is left behind after the Baron's suicide and the burning of all his other writings. All quotations provided in English as translated by Richard Zenith.

  • We’ve been devastated by the severest and deadliest drought in history – that of our profound awareness of the futility of all effort and the vanity of all plans.
    • The Education of the Stoic: The Only Manuscript of the Baron of Teive, Exact Change, Cambridge, 2005, p. 5
  • Since I wasn’t able to leave a succession of beautiful lies, I want to leave the smidgen of truth that the falsehood of everything lets us suppose we can tell.
    • Ibid., p. 6
  • These pages are not my confession; they’re my definition. And I feel, as I begin to write it, that I can write it with some semblance of truth.
    • Ibid.
  • There's no greater tragedy than an equal intensity, in the same soul or the same man, of the intellectual sentiment and the moral sentiment. For a man to be utterly and absolutely moral, he has to be a bit stupid. For a man to be absolutely intellectual, he has to be a bit immoral.
    • Ibid., p. 9
  • I'm going to end a life that I thought could contain every kind of greatness but that in fact consisted only of my incapacity to really want to be great. Whenever I arrived at a certainty, I remembered that those with the greatest certainties are lunatics.
    • Ibid., p. 13
  • Attention to detail and a perfectionist instinct, far from stimulating action, are character qualities that lead to renunciation. Better to dream than to be.
    • Ibid.
  • I belong to a generation - assuming that this generation includes others besides me - that lost its faith in the gods of the old religions as well as in the gods of modern nonreligions. I reject Jehova as I reject humanity.
    • Ibid., p. 14
  • At first I felt dizzy - not with the kind of dizziness that makes the body reel but the kind that's like a dead emptiness in the brain, an instinctive awareness of the void.
    • Ibid., p. 14-15
  • Our problem isn't that we're individualists. It's that our individualism is static rather than dynamic. We value what we think rather than what we do. We forget that we haven't done, or been, what we thought; that the first function of life is action, just as the first property of things is motion.
    • Ibid., p. 18.


  • I am not nothing.
    I will never be nothing.
    I cannot ever want to be nothing.
    Apart from that, I have in me all the dreams of the world.
    • Mistranslation of "The Tobacconist's" (quoted above), given in Webster's New World Dictionary of Quotations (2005), p. 649

Quotes about PessoaEdit

Contemporary portrait by João L. Roth
  • Fernando Pessoa is the slave of the intelligence but not of reason. He is an intellectual being, because in him the intelligence governs the senses...
    • Ronald W. Sousa, in The rediscoverers, major writers in the Portuguese literature of national regeneration (1981), p. 137
  • Pessoa is the guru and his reader the neophyte to be initiated into the mysteries to which Pessoa holds the key.
    • Ronald W. Sousa, The rediscoverers (1981), p. 144
  • Fernando Pessoa is the extreme example of what may be the essentially modern kind of poet: the objective introvert. None has more consistently tried to find his real self with its multiplicity intact and to keep his poems impersonal. He accepted the dividedness of a human self so completely that he did something unique: wrote poetry under four names – his own and three 'heteronyms'. Not pseudonyms: they are imaginary poets with real poems in them. Fernando Pessoa was four poets in one: Alberto Caeiro, Ricardo Reis, Alvaro de Campos and himself; each strongly distinct from the others. One is soon struck by an external difference between their poems...
    • Jonathan Griffin, as quoted in José Blanco Fernando Pessoa, a galaxy of poets (1985), p. 41
  • Fernando Pessoa is the most extraordinary poet of Orpheu and the most astonishing poetic phenomenon of this century.
    • Alex Preminger, Terry V. F. Brogan, The New Princeton encyclopedia of poetry and poetics (1993), p. 971
  • Fernando Pessoa is the greatest Portuguese poet since Camões, and one of the most complex and astonishing figures of 20th-century literature.
    • Lesley Henderson, Sarah M. Hall, Reference guide to world literature, Vol. 2 (1995), p. 928
  • Fernando Pessoa was the apostle of an antidemocratic and elitist nationalism. A mystical nationalism was perhaps the only element of ideological coherence in his work. He was always marked by the radicality of his ideological and political attitudes.
    • Jacob Leib Talmon, Zeev Sternhell, Aḳademyah ha-leʼumit ha-Yiśreʼelit le-madaʻim, The intellectual revolt against liberal democracy (1996), p. 354
  • Eloquent, volatile and obsessed with life – and death – [Pessoa is one of the] modernist giants in whose shadow we live and who made our century one of extraordinary richness.
    • New York Times, as quoted in A centenary Pessoa (1997), edited by Eugénio Lisboa and L. C. Taylor, p. 301
  • Fernando Pessoa is the least known of the masters of twentieth-century poetry. From his heteronymic passion he produced, if that is the word, two of our greatest poets. Alberto Caeiro and Álvaro de Campos, and a third, Ricardo Reis, who isn't bad. Pessoa is the exemplary poet of the self as other, of the poem as testament to unreality, proclamation of nothingness, occasion for expectancy.
    • Mark Strand, as quoted in George Monteiro The Presence of Pessoa (1998), p. 16
  • [Pessoa was] Portugal's greatest writer of the twentieth century [though] some critics would even leave off that last qualifying phrase. [He was] one of the most appealing European modernists, equal in command and range to his contemporaries Rilke and Mandelstam.
    • The Washington Post Book World, as quoted in The Selected Prose of Fernando Pessoa (2002), edited by Richard Zenith, p. 344
  • [Pessoa] is the modernist's modernist: an inspired amalgam of Lewis Carroll, Aristophanes, Erasmus, Voltaire (& Co., if you will), whose exquisite mixed praises of human and literary folly create a polyphony unlike any other prose music you've ever heard.
    • The Washington Times, as quoted in The Selected Prose of Fernando Pessoa (2002), edited by Richard Zenith, p. 344
  • Caeiro unterläuft die Unterscheidung zwischen dem Schein und dem, was etwa "Denkerge-danken" hinter ihm ausmachen wollen. Die Dinge, wie er sie sieht, sind als was sie scheinen. Sein Pan-Deismus basiert auf einer Ding-Metaphysik, die in der modernen Dichtung des zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts noch Schule machen sollte.
    • Caeiro interposes the distinction between the light and what "philosopher thoughts" want to constitute behind him. The things, as he sees them, are as they seem. His pandeism is based on a metaphysical thing, which should still become a school of thought under the modern seal of the twentieth century.
    • Von Martin Lüdke, in Ein moderner Hüter der Dinge; Die Entdeckung des großen Portugiesen geht weiter: Fernando Pessoa hat in der Poesie Alberto Caeiros seinen Meister gesehen, ("A modern guardian of things; The discovery of the great Portuguese continues: Fernando Pessoa saw its master in the poetry of Alberto Caeiros"), Frankfurter Rundschau, August 18 2004.
  • Pessoa is the master of reversals in the literature.
    • Corrado Federici, Leslie Anne Boldt-Irons, Ernesto Virgulti, Images and Imagery (2005), p. 220
  • Fernando Pessoa is the greatest Portuguese poet since Vax de Camoes, of the Renaissance. He established modernism in Portugal and deeply influenced the language. It is said that even Lisbon chambermaids speak differently from their grandparents because of him.
    • Christopher Carey, in Trials from Classical Athens (2012), p. 1048

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