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Fernando Pessoa


Fernando António Nogueira Pessoa, born on June 13, 1888, Lisbon, Porto, and died on November 30, 1935, Lisbon, was one of the greatest Portuguese poets, whose modernist work gave Portuguese literature a European significance. At the age of seven, Pessoa lived in Durban, where his stepfather was Portuguese consul. He became a fluent English reader and writer. Hoping to become a great poet in that language, Pessoa wrote the first verses in English.


Fame came to Pessoa posthumously, when his extraordinarily creative poems attracted attention in Portugal and Brazil in the 1940s. His work is notable for the innovation of what Pessoa called heteronyms, or alternative personas. Instead of alter egos, alternative identities that serve as counterparts or defenses for an author's own ideas, Pessoa's heteronyms were presented as distinct authors, each of whom differed from the others in terms of poetic style, aesthetics, philosophy, personality. and even genre and language, as Pessoa wrote in Portuguese, English and French.


Not only poems were published under their names, but also critiques of the poetry of some of the others, essays on the state of Portuguese literature and philosophical writings. Although he also published poems under his own name, Pessoa employed more than 70 heteronyms, some of which were only discovered at the beginning of the 21st century. Four particular heteronyms stand out. Three were "masters" of modern poetics and participated in a lively dialogue through publications in critical magazines about each other's work: Alberto Caeiro, whose poems celebrate nature's creative process; Álvaro de Campos, whose work is similar in both style and substance to the work of the American poet Walt Whitman; and Ricardo Reis, a Greek and Roman classicist preoccupied with fate.


Another heteronym, Bernardo Soares, was the renowned author of Livro do Desassossego, a work in the form of a diary of poetic fragments that Pessoa worked on in the last two decades of his life and that remained unfinished with his death. They were first published together in 1982 and attracted worldwide attention; a complete English translation appeared in 2001


The Deep Self and Other Selves

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