A Reader's Guide to Fifty Modern European Poets

By John Pilling | Go to book overview
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Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935)

Born in Lisbon, the son of a theatre critic who died whilst he was still a child. Educated in Durban, South Africa, where his stepfather was Portuguese Consul, first at a convent school, then at a grammar school. After a distinguished school career, during which poetry (especially English poetry) became his abiding interest, he briefly attended Lisbon University. Spent the rest of his life as a translator for various commercial companies in Lisbon. Wrote a considerable amount of programmatic criticism in ephemeral literary journals, and mixed with avant-garde and broadly Futurist elements in the Portuguese capital. Gained official recognition as a poet only in the last year of his life, when he published his first volume of poetry in Portuguese; it won him a prize instituted by the Secretariat of National Propaganda. Posthumously famous for the 'heteronymic' figures he developed from 1903 onwards, of which there are no less than nineteen in the prose and poetry he left among his papers, though only three are of paramount importance. Preferred casual employment because it left him time to concentrate on his literary and philosophical interests. Formed close relationships only with the immediate members of his family, with the exception of a typist whom he courted unsuccessfully in 1920. Drank excessively in later life in the bars of his native city, which he hardly ever left, and died there of cirrhosis of the liver at the age of forty-seven. Already regarded as the greatest Portuguese poet since Camoẽs, and likely to grow in stature as more of his voluminous writing becomes more generally available.

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A Reader's Guide to Fifty Modern European Poets
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