A Man of Many and Curious Parts

By King, Francis | The Spectator, June 30, 2001 | Go to article overview

A Man of Many and Curious Parts


King, Francis, The Spectator


Many of his compatriots would claim that Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935) was, with the exception of Camoens, the greatest of Portuguese poets. If, as he certainly deserved, he had won the Nobel Prize for Literature, whom would the Swedish jury have summoned to Stockholm? Would it have been Alexander Search, who produced some 200 poems in English? Alberto Caeiro, billed as `Nature's poet', who lived with an old aunt in the country? The classicist and physician Ricardo Reis? Alvaro de Campos, cosmopolitan and bisexual smoker of opium and drinker of absinthe?

These were only the most prolific of the 75 and more 'heteronyms' through whom Pessoa found utterance. Each had both his own history and his own immediately identifiable style. Far more justifiably than Whitman, Pessoa could claim, 'I am large, I contain multitudes.'

Pessoa's life story has many parallels with that of his contemporary Cavafy. Both men spent their early years in an Anglophone environment, Cavafy in England and Pessoa in South Africa. Both, their families having slithered down the financial ladder, worked in humdrum jobs and lived with relatives or in shabby rented accommodation. Cavafy was a homosexual, and Pessoa, whom many believe to have died a virgin, was probably one. In adulthood, Cavafy rarely left Alexandria, just as Pessoa rarely left Lisbon. It was only after death that each received full recognition of his genius.

When hepatitis, the result of heavy drinking, killed Pessoa, he left behind him a large trunk stuffed, as the editor and translator Richard Zenith describes it in his brilliant introduction, with poetry, prose, plays, philosophy, criticism, translations, linguistic theory, political writings, horoscopes and assorted other texts, variously typed, hand-written or illegibly scrawled in Portuguese, English and French.

Such a legacy inevitably delighted scholars, as they set about scrabbling among its contents, much as, after a reclusive millionaire's death, his heirs set about ransacking the crowded attics of his mansion. Almost three-quarters of a century after Pessoa's death, the scholars are still at work.

Into his trunk Pessoa deposited, at random over a period of many years, the materials for what Zenith views as not a book but its subversion and negation `the ingredients for a book whose recipe is to keep shifting'. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

A Man of Many and Curious Parts
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.