Monday, November 28, 2011


11. I turn 67 today, Pessoa taken to hospital at 47 in 1935

Something that is definitely odd about this entry is that I was writing it in my dreams last night, and in my dreams I had Pessoa entering the wrong hospital, the São José (possibly because it is not far from the pension, and the street of the same name is the extension of the Rua das Portas de Santo Antão, the street of my most-frequented restaurants), instead of the São Luis.

Two friends and his faithful doctor arranged for Pessoa to be hospitalized, but first he insisted on having the barber of the block come and give him a shave before being placed on the stretcher, and on the way to the hospital he prevailed on his friends to stop at the telegraph office and send a telegram with good wishes to his half-sister, Henriqueta, laid up in Estoril with a broken leg, as her birthday was the next day.

It is unclear to me, as I sit ruminating over a toasted sandwich of scrambled eggs, bacon and mushrooms in the Rossio, if Pessoa's medical crisis was due to kidney failure (which his frequently inaccurate English translator, Iain Watson, claims) or hepatic cirrhosis, as Pessoa was a devoted fan of an aguardiente called Macieira.

It may be the case that in my dream of sending Pessoa off to the wrong hospital, I could have saved his life? Not likely, and in any event by now he would have died of that disease of skepticism and disenchantment that we call "old age", as I am already 20 years older than he was then, and I was not born during the gasping fin de siecle gaeity of the 19th century, but smack in the middle of the frazzle and fray of World War II.

Pessoa wrote, as his "demi-heteronym" Bernardo Soares, in The Book of Disquiet (I prefer the term "unease" to that of "disquiet"):

"Civilization consists in giving something a name which is unsuitable, and then dreaming about the result. And the name, which is false, and the dream, which is true, really create a new reality". (p. 12)

Rather than being surrounded by the fog and rain which dominate the atmosphere of The Book of Disquiet, the day here is luminous--sunny and cold like it apparently was on that morning 76 years ago when Pessoa executed what we call in Spanish the "detalle", which is much more sensitive than the English word "detail", of having his friends send birthday greetings to Henriqueta, who confessed much later, when she was 81, that if there was anything she regretted in her life it was not having recognized her brothers genius, his greatness.

Pessoa, Fernando. The Book of Disquiet. Quartet Books, London. 1991.

No comments: