Academic journal article Romance Notes

"Saudade" and "Soledad": Fernando Pessoa and Antonio Machado on Nostalgia and Loneliness

Academic journal article Romance Notes

"Saudade" and "Soledad": Fernando Pessoa and Antonio Machado on Nostalgia and Loneliness

Article excerpt

THE brief essay, "Suggested Bases for a Comparative Study of Pessoa and Antonio Machado" by Antonio Carreno is one of the first to call on critics to explore similarities and differences between Pessoa's poetry and that of other modernist Hispanic poets. According to Carreno a solid basis for a comparative study between Machado and Pessoa exists because the contemporary writers both invent others or different personas, are influenced by the same philosophical teachings, and possibly even suffer from similar neurotic tendencies. In his book La dialectica de la identidad en la poesia contemporanea, Carreno follows his own advice and spearheads this comparative work in an extensive analysis of the problem of representation of self in a number of Hispanic modernist authors. He juxtaposes a chapter exploring the concept of otherness in Machado with one that reads some of the better-known writings of Pessoa's heteronyms. The objective is to illustrate what Carreno calls the complex rhetoric of masks that Machado, Pessoa, and others employ (24). Georges Guntert also puts the Portuguese and Spanish poets together in an essay where he explores the figure of the "poeta filosofo" in the work of Pessoa, Machado, and Unamuno. In this study Guntert focuses on how the multiple meanings of "sueno," and the writers' understanding of the consciousness of thinking and feeling, all shape not only the representation of these imaginary personalities, but also the relation between the authors and their invented others ("Heteronimos" 20).

As Guntert himself admits in another essay on heteronomy as a problem of poetics, Pessoa's heteronyms and Machado's apocryphal writers "son dos fenomenos que aparecen independientemente uno de otro" ("La heteronimia" 158). Despite the differences in the nature of their creative projects, Guntert still compares what he claims is their shared "crisis de identidad" (160). Antonio Apolinario Lourenco is the only scholar to date to dedicate a full-length study relating these writers' treatment of self. His thesis in Identidade e alteridade em Fernando Pessoa e Antonio Machado is twofold. On the one hand Lourenco wants to show that, despite their points in common, Machado's and Pessoa's creative projects are not only different from each other but they also vary in their distinctiveness from the general tendency of the period to explore the workings of subjectivity: "os apocrifos de Antonio Machado e os heteronimos de Fernando Pessoa sao realizacoes particulares e diferenciadas desse espirito epocal" (8). On the other hand he sets out on a comparative study of Machado's Juan de Mairena and Pessoa's Alvaro de Campos to uncover parallels between their aesthetic and ideological proposals. All these comparative readings have tended to concentrate on questions of self, identity, and the role of the modernist poet, by predominantly evaluating in conjunction the genesis of Pessoa's heteronyms and the origin of Machado's apocryphal philosophers. My essay, while building on this body of critical work, has a very different focal point.

During a recent visit to Indiana University at Bloomington, Geoffrey Ribbans was asked whether he thought there were any connections between Machado's "soledades" and the Portuguese literary movement "saudosismo." He answered by asking whether "soledad" might not be a kind of "saudade" or vice-versa. Inspired by this possibility, I would like take a closer look at a brief selection of Pessoa's and Machado's writings and explore the representation of loneliness, longing, and nostalgia in their poetic framework. I want to ask and begin to answer Geoffrey Ribbans's question. In other words, does "saudade" compare to "soledad" in Pessoa's and Machado's poetics, and if so, how?

A number of the critics that juxtapose Pessoa and Machado tend to highlight similarities between the authors' residential circumstances in order to explain that they both led lonely lives. Pablo del Barco writes, "los dos escritores vivieron en pensiones, que es una praxis de vivir sin vivir lo material y acentuar el vitalismo de lo espiritual. …

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