Tuesday, November 29, 2011


13. November 29, 1935

Pessoa's half-sister Henriqueta opens the envelope containing his telegram for her birthday.

She has no idea that Pessoa is as immobilized as she is--in a hospital bed.

And though he is immobilized, Pessoa's writing habits kick in, he reaches for a piece of paper and writes what will be his final written words, and they are in English: "I know not what tomorrow will bring". Words which we might dismiss as a banal bromide, a customary cliche, except that Pessoa is in a hospital in physical crisis.

What I see as peculiar, is that his last written communication would be in English. Tabucchi picks up on this, and in his novel Requiem has Pessoa speak only in English--explained as an idiosyncratic preference.

Perhaps, in fact, it had little to do with idiosyncracy and much more to do with a mechanism of putting fear and anguish at one remove by expressing his uncertainty in his second language--a sort of Brechtian endistancing effect?

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