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Fernando Pessoa's critical and editorial fortune in English: a selective chronological overview.

ABSTRACT. This essay aims to provide a historical, chronologically presented overview of Pessoa's fortune in the English language, both in translation and criticism. It is difficult to explain why the critical and editorial fortune of Fernando Pessoa in English-speaking countries has been so slow and intermittent, when in so many European and South-American countries he was quickly recognized as one of the major creative writers of the twentieth century. Owing to the absence of translations Pessoa was for many years a 'best-kept secret' in British and American literary circles. Since the publication in 1991 of the first of the English language translations of The Book of Disquiet his editorial and critical fortune has been rising steadily, especially in the United States.

Keywords. Fernando Pessoa, reception, criticism, translations, editions

RESUMO. Este ensaio pretende dar uma visao cronologica da fortuna critica e editorial de Fernando Pessoa em paises de lingua inglesa. E dificil explicar por que razao, no Reino Unido e nos Estados Unidos da America, o seu reconhecimento como um dos maiores criadores literarios do seculo vinte foi tao lento e intermitente, ao contrario do que aconteceu na generalidade dos paises europeus ou sul-americanos. Devido a escassez de traducoes, Pessoa foi durante muitos anos um 'best-kept secret' em circulos literarios britanicos e norte-americanos. Desde a publicacao, em 1991, das primeiras traducoes do Livro do Desassossego, a sua fortuna critica e editorial tem vindo a crescer, especialmente nos Estados Unidos.

PALAVRAS CHAVE. Fernando Pessoa, recepcao, critica, traducoes, edicoes


Pessoa first mentions his poems in English in a note probably written in 1912: 'Make a careful choice of English poems and see to what extent they can be published in England or the United States' (see Pessoa, Poemas Ingleses, Volume V, Tomo III of Edicao Critica de Fernando Pessoa, Serie Maior, ed. by Joao Dionisio, Lisbon: Imprensa Nacional--Casa da Moeda, 1999, p. 11). Being bilingual, he always considered himself a poet in the English tradition, even as he was earning a place in Portuguese literary history, and the desire to be published in England never left him. It is therefore difficult to explain why his critical and editorial fortune in English-speaking countries has been so slow and intermittent when in so many European countries he has been quickly recognized as a major literary creator of the twentieth century. To the French, Spanish, Italians and Germans, Fernando Pessoa has long been a household name. But even today, in the United Kingdom or the United States (where he has been for many years a 'best-kept secret' in literary circles), there is no edition of his poetry comparable to the French 2074-page volume in La Pleiade (Pessoa, Euvres poetiques completes, ed. by Patrick Quillier, Paris: Gallimard--Bibliotheque de la Pleiade, 2001) or to the dozens of different editions that continue to appear in Spanish, Italian and German.

This essay aims to give a historical sample of Pessoa's fortune in the English language, both in translation and criticism. My Pessoana database has 235 records of articles and essays on Fernando Pessoa in English, of which only a minimal part is quoted in this paper.

Prologue (1918-1919)

The first critical appraisals of Pessoa's poetry were the generally positive anonymous reviews that appeared, in 1918 and 1919, in the British newspapers to which he sent copies of Antinous and 35 Sonnets, namely The Scotsman, The Graphic, The Glasgow Herald, The Times Literary Supplement and The Athenaeum. The TLS praised the sonnets' 'ultra-Shakespearianisms, and their Tudor tricks of repetition, involution and antithesis', while the critic of the Glasgow Herald was the most positive, writing that both volumes revealed 'a poet of great boldness and imaginative power', and were 'the work of a strong poetical intelligence'.

On 20 January 1920, Pessoa published 'Meantime', a poem from The Mad Fiddler, in the Athenaeum (the collection had been refused by Constable & Company). During the next eighteen years there was no trace of Pessoa in English.

The Pioneers (1938-1970)

Pessoa died in 1935. His first poem in English translation was published three years later (November 1938), in the Portuguese journal presenca ('O ceu, azul de luz quieta' / 'The sky is blue with quiet light'). Its translator was Charles David Ley, a member of the British Institute in Lisbon, who also published, in Portuguese, A Inglaterra e os Escritores Portugueses (Lisbon: Seara Nova, 1939), in which he considers the influence of Tennyson, Shelley, Alice Meynell and Whitman on Pessoa's poetry. And in reviewing the first volume of Pessoa's poetry published posthumously by Atica, Ley wrote in the Anglo-Portuguese News that 'There is little doubt that this publication is the great literary event of the year' (APN 168, 5 November 1942, p. 6).

Five years of silence followed. In 1947, Leonard S. Downes published two translations from Mensagem ('Mare Nostrum' and 'Epitaph for Bartholomeu Dias') in his Portuguese Poems and Translations (Lisbon: Author's edition, 1947). In the same year, Pessoa crossed the North Atlantic for the first time, introduced to American readers in the Columbia Dictionary of Modern European Literature. Ernesto Guerra De Cal wrote in his entry that Pessoa 'is the master of intellectual lucidity in the realm of emotion, but beneath the apparent coldness of lyric cerebralism, which at times appears to be a clever game, one detects a sentimental energy that impels the poet toward direct communication, toward the liberation of verbal expression and at times toward irrational intuition' (ed. by Horatio Smith, New York: Columbia University Press, 1947, p. 622).

The first edition of The Oxford Book of Portuguese Verse, published by Oxford University Press in 1925, had not included Pessoa or any other modernists. Its second edition of 1952 was edited by B. B. Vidigal, who chose 1946 as the cut-off date because that year had seen the publication of the fourth volume of Pessoa's poetry by Atica, which he acknowledged as a literary event with far-reaching effects. Vidigal included eight poems (in the original Portuguese): three by Pessoa-himself, two from Mensagem, one by Alvaro de Campos, one by Alberto Caeiro and an ode by Ricardo Reis.

An eight-year silence followed Pessoa's brief American appearance, until Edouard Roditi published the first critical essay on Pessoa in English, in the United States. His pioneering study, 'The Several Names of Fernando Pessoa', appeared in the prestigious Chicago journal Poetry. Concerning Pessoa's poetry in English, Roditi commented that 'He was one of the hermits of our language, a kind of Trappist of English poetry who wrote an idiom that he often read or imagined but rarely spoke or heard'. He described Pessoa-himself 'as a late Romantic or a Symbolist rather than a Modern [...] [that] tended, after 1910, to be increasingly interested in occultism and, in this respect, was a precursor of the early Surrealists' ('The Several Names of Fernando Pessoa', Poetry, 87, 1955, pp. 40-41), and made interesting comparisons between Reis and Horace, Goethe, Nietzsche and Alexander Pope; Caeiro and Whitman, William Carlos Williams, Carl Sandburg and Valery-Larbaud; and Campos and Kafka, Whitman, Baudelaire, Marinetti and Apollinaire. An extended version of his essay, titled 'Fernando Pessoa, Outsider Among English Poets', appeared in the Spring 1963 number of The Literary Review, together with samples of Pessoa's poetry in English: ten of the 35 Sonnets, an excerpt from Epithalamium and three of the Inscriptions. Roditi here argued that, had Pessoa 'continued to express himself in English after 1926, he might well have become one of the more outstanding English poets of our age' ('Fernando Pessoa, Outsider Among English Poets', The Literary Review, 6: 3, 1963, pp. 380-81).

In 1957, the South African poet Roy Campbell, who, like Pessoa, attended Durban High School, included in his book Portugal four pages devoted to 'that amazing poet Fernando Pessoa' (London: Max Reinhardt, 1957, p. 156), with translations of three poems by Pessoa-himself and an excerpt of Campos's 'Maritime Ode'. In the 1950s Campbell had started a book on Pessoa which was unfinished when he died in a car crash in Portugal; the manuscript was finally published in 1994 by George Monteiro, Emeritus Professor at Brown University, in Portuguese Studies ('Fernando Pessoa: An Unfinished Manuscript by Roy Campbell', Portuguese Studies, 10, 1994, pp. 132-54). Another Durban High School 'old boy', Hubert D. Jennings, revealed new information about Pessoa's life in South Africa in his book The D. H. S. Story 1866-1966 (Durban: Davis & Platt Ltd, 1966), and a fellow South African, Robert M. Parker, wrote about Pessoa (together with MArio de SA-Carneiro and Jose Regio) in a 1960 chapbook entitled Three Twentieth-Century Portuguese Poets (Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press, 1960), and offered his own translations of three poems by Pessoa-himself, two by Caeiro, two by Campos and two by Reis.

In 1961 Fernando Pessoa entered the Encyclopaedia Britannica. In 1963 English translations of Pessoa by Joseph Luke Agneta and Jean R. Longland were published in Lisbon, in Americo da Costa Ramalho's essay 'Fernando Pessoa, Portugal's Greatest Modern Poet', in Portuguese Essays, a book commissioned by the Secretariado Nacional da Informacao for foreign use (Lisbon: National Secretariat for Information, 1963). Seven years later, Jean Longland would publish further translations of Pessoa in Poet Lore ('Translations: Fernando Pessoa', Poet Lore, 66, October 1970, pp. 280-92.)

In 1965 Thomas Merton, the American Trappist monk, writer and poet, translated twelve poems from The Keeper of Sheep (Kentucky: Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani, 1965), working from the Spanish versions by Octavio Paz and from the original Portuguese published in Brazil by Maria Aliete Galhoz (Pessoa, Obra Poetica, ed. by Maria Aliete Galhoz, Rio de Janeiro: Aguilar, 1960). Merton's translations were later reprinted by the New York journal ND, accompanied by a short note in which he stressed that 'the interest of the poetic (or anti-poetic) experience of Alberto Caeiro lies in its Zen-like immediacy [...] Pessoa--Caeiro may be numbered among those Western writers who have expressed something akin to the Zen way of seeing' ('Twelve Poems', ND: New Directions in Prose and Poetry, 19, 1966, p. 299).

The second and third English essays on Pessoa were published in 1966, one in Brazil and the other in the United States. In 'Mount Abiegnos and the Masks: A Study of Occult Imagery in W. B. Yeats and Fernando Pessoa' the American novelist and art critic Sol Biderman studied the two poets' common interests in the arcane sciences and their use of similar hermetic imagery (Alfa, 10, 1966, pp. 37-56). Meanwhile, William H. Roberts of Vanderbilt University published 'The Figure of King Sebastian in Fernando Pessoa' (Hispanic Review, 34, 1966, pp. 307-16).

1967 marks the first incursion of the American poet and translator Edwin Honig into the universe of Pessoa; he was to become one of his greatest champions in the US. Honig's translation of 'Sing with no reason to sing' featured in a New York bilingual journal (Artes Hispanicas: Hispanic Arts, 1, 1967, pp. 28-29).

In 'Homage to Fernando Pessoa', the South African writer Charles Eglington published four poems in Contrast: 'Horizon', 'Bartholomew Diaz', 'Fever' and 'Lourenco Marques'. He argued that these 'are not translations, nor are they "after Pessoa". But their prima anima is to be found in the Mensagem poems and more particularly in a number of phrases, images and concepts which are central to them' (Contrast: South African Quarterly, 16, 1967, p. 99). This was perhaps the first ever example of hypertextual treatment of Pessoa's poetry.

1968 saw the publication of Fernando Pessoa: By Weight of Reason (comprising six poems by Caeiro, two from Mensagem, and two by Pessoa-himself), the first in a series of five chapbooks devoted to Pessoa, translated by J. R. Green (Isle of Skye: Aquila Publishing Co., 1968). In 1969 the German-born critic Michael Hamburger included the essay 'Multiple Personalities' in his The Truth of Poetry: Tensions in Modern Poetry from Baudelaire to the 1960s, in which he explored the use of masks, particularly in the works of Wallace Stevens, Rainer Maria Rilke, Gottfried Benn, Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot and Fernando Pessoa. Hamburger suggested that the heteronyms were 'Pessoa's way of coping with the conflicts and tensions common to the poets of his time [and] were assumed out of the conviction that "poetry is more true than the poet"', adding that in Campos's 'Tabacaria', Pessoa 'anticipates not only existentialism but the nouveau roman and playwrights like Ionesco, by an identification of the poet with the tobacconist that effects a total break with Romantic--Symbolist conceptions of the poet' (London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson; New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1969, pp. 139 and 145). He also offered his own translation of Pessoa's emblematic 'Autopsicografia'.

In The Penguin Companion to Literature A. R. Milburn wrote, in his entry on Pessoa, that his poems 'have caused his countrymen to acclaim him as their greatest poet since Camoes' (The Penguin Companion to Literature, vol. II: European, ed. by A. K. Thorlby, London: Penguin, 1969, p. 608)--a cliche that would be incessantly repeated in subsequent criticism in English. As late as 2001, in his review of The Selected Prose of Fernando Pessoa, Michael Dirda writes that Pessoa 'is generally regarded as Portugal's greatest writer of the 20th century. Some critics would even leave off that last qualifying prepositional phrase' (Washington Post Book World, 22 July 2001, p. 15.) But in A Reader's Guide to Contemporary Literature, Pessoa is described by R. Clive Willis as the 'Portuguese poet who is increasingly recognized as one of the outstanding literary figures of the twentieth century' (A Reader's Guide to Contemporary Literature, ed. by Kenneth Richardson, London / New York: Newness Books, 1969, pp. 486-87).

Despite the best efforts of the Pessoan pioneers, in 1970 Pessoa was hardly a household name in English-speaking countries, and knowledge of his work was lagging behind the rest of Europe. A lack of translations was the major cause of this state of affairs: only 63 of his texts (in verse or prose) had appeared in English, in contrast to 257 texts in Italian, 250 in French, 187 in Spanish and 116 in German.


1971 ushered in a new Pessoan era in the United Kingdom and the United States, seeing the publication of no fewer than four anthologies of translations. In the US, Edwin Honig, having published in issue 23 of New Directions in Prose and Poetry the first complete translation of Campos's 'Maritime Ode', printed 38 poems by Pessoa-himself and the three heteronyms, three prose texts, and ten of the 35 Sonnets in his bilingual Selected Poems by Fernando Pessoa (Chicago: Swallow Press, 1971). In the UK, Carcanet brought out Fernando Pessoa, a substantial collection of 87 poems edited by Jonathan Griffin, appropriately and attractively presented in four slim volumes: Pessoa-himself and each of the three main heteronyms (Oxford: Carcanet Press, 1971); F. E. G. Quintanilha edited the bilingual Fernando Pessoa: Sixty Portuguese Poems (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1971); and Peter Rickard, Emeritus Professor at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, produced for The Edinburgh Bilingual Library the 70-poem anthology Fernando Pessoa: Selected Poems (Edinburgh: University Press / University of Texas Press, 1971). In a single year, 255 translations of Pessoa were published in English--a remarkable number compared to the 63 texts translated during the previous 33 years. All four books were accompanied by Introductions which were illuminating essays in themselves, Rickard's 56-page introduction being arguable the most comprehensive. In its conclusion, while conceding that 'not all Pessoa's poetry is of the highest quality', Rickard argued that 'Above all, Pessoa has the merit of questioning our assumptions, of delving deeper into the things we take for granted, of making us think along new lines, and of presenting things to us in a different and startlingly unconventional way [...] Who has ranged so widely, so originally, so multifariously and at the same time so agonizingly and so poignantly over so many aspects of the mystery of existence and man's quest for identity?' (pp. 55-56).

George Monteiro reviewed Honig's anthology in the Courier-Journal & Times of Louisville, Kentucky under the title 'Fernando Pessoa: Portuguese Poet Has Many Selves', thus initiating a long Pessoan career, with over 70 essays and reviews (mostly in World Literature Today), two books of translations and two full-length critical books (Courier-Journal & Times, 9 April 1972, p. 5). The Rickard and Honig anthologies were reviewed by Michael Wood in the New York Review of Books, under the title 'Mod and Great'. Wood's review is a long essay on Pessoa, 'unmistakably one of this century's major poets'. For him, reading Pessoa for the first time 'is like discovering Svevo or Borges. Not knowing about him is like not knowing about Nerval or Apollinaire' (New York Review of Books, 19: 4, 21 August 1972). Gregory Rabassa also reviewed both in Parnassus, stressing that 'The important thing is that Fernando Pessoa is now in the English domain [...] now we have Pessoa with us from here on, and beyond the importance of the poetry itself is the revelation in it of what poetry is and where it comes from' (Parnassus, 1/2, 1973, p. 138).

In The Great Beast: The Life and Magick of Aleister Crowley, John Symonds relates Aleister Crowley's encounter with Fernando Pessoa in Lisbon in 1930, including the 'Mouth of Hell' hoax set up by Crowley with Pessoa's invaluable assistance (Herts: Granada Publishing, 1971).

When dealing with things Pessoan, one should always expect the unexpected. The reader of Marxism and Form: Twentieth Century Dialectical Theories of Literature, by the American literary critic and Marxist political theorist Frederic Jameson, should therefore not be surprised to encounter within it a reference to Pessoa: 'the premium placed on epistemology as a theme and on the irony of reality and appearance in a relativistic universe, an irony of which Pirandello is the dramatist, Conrad and Freud the novelists and Fernando Pessoa, perhaps, the poet laureate' (2nd edn, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1974, pp. 357-58).

The editorial and critical impetus created by the 1971 translations by Honig, Griffin, Quintanilha and Rickard did not endure. In 1972 only 20 new translations of Pessoa and his heteronyms, by Griffin, were published in London, in Modern Poetry in Translation, with guest editor Helder Macedo (in Modern Poetry in Translation, 13/14, 1972). In 1973 and 1974, only Jean Longland produced new translations (of Pessoa-himself and Campos), including fragments of Campos's 'Salutation to Walt Whitman', appropriately published in Calamus, the Walt Whitman Quarterly International. But 1973 also saw the first American PhD dissertation on Fernando Pessoa, by Ronald Waine Sousa: 'Fernando Pessoa's Mensagem and Its Place in the Literature of National Regeneration', and Pessoa's entry into the Guide to Modern World Literature in which Martin Seymour-Smith wrote that he had produced 'one of the most remarkable bodies of work of the century' and showed 'as great an awareness of the problems facing the twentieth-century poet as anyone of his time'. Seymour-Smith further argued that Pessoa's heteronymic experience 'was not only a "personal" venture: it was "deconstructionist" before deconstructionism was invented' (in Guide to Modern World Literature, ed. by Martin Seymour-Smith, 3rd edn, London: Papermac, 1986, pp. 1029-30). He also included Pessoa in the 1976 Who's Who in Twentieth Century Literature, arguing that 'Pessoa is one of the dozen or so greatest poets of this century [...] Pessoa's self-knowledge was strangely profound, the intellectual plan behind his poetry is as remarkably lucid and uneccentric as that of any in the twentieth century. There is no adequate study in English' (in Who's Who in Twentieth Century Literature, ed. by Martin Seymour-Smith, New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1976, p. 279).

Eight years went by before Pessoa was published in Penguin Books, in their Penguin Modern European Poets series: Fernando Pessoa: Selected Poems, edited and translated by Jonathan Griffin (London: Penguin, 1974). Its second, 1982 edition, was extended to include a total of 133 poems.

During 1975 and 1976, J. C. R. Green's Aquila Publishing Co., in Skye, continued its insular Pessoan production with the publication of four small volumes modelled on Griffin's first anthology. In the US, Another Republic: 17 European and Southern American Writers included four poems (three by Campos and one by Caeiro) translated by Griffin and Honig (New York: Ecco Press, 1976), and Ronald W. Sousa published two translations of Pessoa-himself in Texas Quarterly (19: 3, 1976, pp. 146-49).


On 7-8 October 1977, a landmark Pessoan event took place: the 'International Symposium on Fernando Pessoa', organized by the Center for Portuguese and Brazilian Studies of Brown University, in Providence (George Monteiro, Nelson H. Vieira and Onesimo T. Almeida). This brought together international scholars, for the first time, to discuss Pessoa for two full days. The symposium's proceedings were published in 1982 by GAvea-Brown, edited by George Monteiro under the title of Jorge de Sena's paper 'The Man Who Never Was', with essays by Gilbert R. Cavaco, Joanna Courteau, Catarina T. F. Edinger, Francisco Cota Fagundes, Jose Martins Garcia, Honig, Carolina Matos, Monteiro, Sena, Joao Gaspar Simoes, Ronald W. Sousa and Hellmut Wohl (Providence, RI: Gavea-Brown, 1982). Sena's essay became an indispensable reference work.

Another major step towards the universal recognition of Pessoa took place in 1977, when Gabriel Josipovici penned his The Lessons of Modernism and Other Essays, in which he did not hesitate to declare: 'When I think of what is most radical in the literature of the past hundred years, of what embodies most clearly the essential spirit of modernism, I think of five grey-suited gentlemen: Constantin Cavafy, Franz Kafka, T. S. Eliot, Fernando Pessoa, Jorge Luis Borges [...] they are the true revolutionaries of our era [...] Pessoa's greatest poems take their place beside the bachelor machines of Duchamp and the twittering machine of Klee. It is poetry such as no one else has written, and it is clearly our poetry [...] even now, in the last quarter of the century' (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1977, pp. 26 and 48). Josipovici included his own translations of seven orthonymic and heteronymic poems. Only one further translation was published in 1977, Marilyn Scarantino Jones's 'Autopsicografia' (in Luzo-Brazilian Review, 2, 1977, p. 259).

Pessoa reappeared in England in 1979 in Griffin's 'Toward Explaining Heteronymy', and eight of his prose pieces were also included in The Poet's Work: 29 Masters of 20th Century Poetry on the Origins and Practice of Their Art, edited by Reginald Gibbons (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1979). Leland Guyer's PhD dissertation, Spatial Imagery of Enclosure in the Poetry of Fernando Pessoa (University of California, Santa Barbara) was also published in 1979 (Ann Arbor, MI: University Microfilms International, 1979), and in the New Lugano Review, John Wain published his long poem 'Thinking About Mr. Person' (reprinted the following year in a separate volume by Chimera Press, England, with etchings by Bartolomeu dos Santos): 'Mr. Person did not need to look for England: / he carried a little of her inside himself. / He wrote some poems in English. / He often had English thoughts' (in New Lugano Review, 2, 1979, pp. 73-77).

1980 was not a good year for Pessoa in English, but in 1981 Makers of Modern Culture, edited by Justin Wintle, included an entry on him by Peter Rickard (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1981).

In 1982, five new translations appeared in American periodicals, by Edwin Honig, Erskin Lane and Ronald W. Sousa. In An Introduction to Fifty Modern Poets, John Pilling studied the creme de la creme of modern poetry, from Charles Baudelaire to Joseph Brodsky. He concluded his essay on Pessoa by arguing that 'there is a discursive strain in him which is painfully evident in his early sonnets in English (where he sounds like a lame contemporary of Shakespeare) and which survives into his later and most mature writing' (London: Pan Books, 1982, p. 180). The same year, Jonathan Griffin published a selection from Faust--a work George Steiner considers the poet's 'leviathan philosophic drama', though neglected by English translators--in 'Notes for a Dramatic Poem on Faust' (in Comparative Criticism: A Yearbook IV, ed. by E. S. Shaffer, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982, pp. 281-320).

There were no new translations of Pessoa in 1983 or 1984, but The Fontana Dictionary of Modern Thinkers, a new reference book edited by Allan Bullock and R. B. Woodings, described Pessoa as one of the outstanding European poets of the twentieth century (London: Fontana, 1983). In 1984, David Haberly published an entry on Pessoa in Great Foreign Language Writers, edited by James Vinson and Daniel Kirkpatrick; 'one of the most complex and astonishing figures of 20th-century literature', Pessoa produced 'a document, unique to literature if not to psychoanalysis' (New York: St Martin's Press, 1984, p. 433).

In 1983, two important essays were published, one in the UK and the other in the USA: Robert Howes's 'Fernando Pessoa, Poet, Publisher and Translator', which reveals that Pessoa presented his English poems, with his compliments, to five libraries in Britain (in The British Library Journal, 9: 2, 1983, pp. 161-70); and Ricardo da Silveira Lobo Sternberg's 'O Marinheiro and the Ontological Question in Pessoa', the first study in English of Pessoa's 'static drama' (in Bulletin of Hispanic Studies, 60: 2, 1983, pp. 121-28).

In the same year (31 March-2 April 1983), Alexandrino E. Severino organized a major Pessoa conference at Vanderbilt University, Nashville: II Congresso Internacional de Estudos Pessoanos. Its proceedings were published by the Centro de Estudos Pessoanos, and included papers by Sol Biderman, Susan M. Brown, Linda S. Chang, Joanna Courteau, David T. Haberly, Russell G. Hamilton, Lorie Ishimatsu, Hubert D. Jennings, George Monteiro, Enrique Nogueras Valdivieso, William H. Roberts, Jaime H. da Silva, Ronald W. Sousa and Erdmute Wenzel White (Actas do II Congresso Internacional de Estudos Pessoanos, no ed., Porto: Centro de Estudos Pessoanos, 1985).

1985 marked the fiftieth anniversary of Pessoa's death. In the United Kingdom, the major commemorative event was the exhibition A Galaxy of Poets at St Pancras Library, London (Shaw Theatre); the accompanying book, Fernando Pessoa: A Galaxy of Poets, which I edited and introduced, reprinted English translations of twelve of Pessoa's poems (London: Borough of Camden, 1985). In February 1985 the exhibition also went to Nottingham University, the first British university to host a conference on Pessoa. In South Africa, Durban honoured Pessoa with three days of festivities, the highlight being the unveiling of a statue by the Portuguese sculptor Irene Vilar, which appropriately caused a stir due to its modern conception; the celebrations enjoyed extensive coverage in the South African media. In America, Edwin Honig described his methods of translating Pessoa in The Poet's Other Voice: Conversations on Literary Translation (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1985). The Anglo-Indian poet Andrew Harvey published a sequence of 39 poems influenced by Pessoa, No Diamonds, No Hat, No Honey centred on the relationship of one 'Fernando' with a woman named 'Lydia' (Lidia is the addressee of many of Reis's odes) (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1985).

1986 was another excellent year for Pessoa in English. In South Africa, Hubert D. Jennings published Fernando Pessoa in Durban which, beyond including 61 poems in translation, brought new light to the Pessoa's early life: 'he took to the English language with avidity and immersed himself in its literature, and certain English manners and habits--the humour and sense of the absurd among them--remained with him all his life' (Durban: Durban Corporation, 1986, p. 96). In London, a bilingual anthology of 25 poems translated by James Greene and Clara de Azevedo Mafra that was awarded the British Comparative Literature Association's Translation Prize (Pessoa, The Surprise of Being, ed. and trans. by James Greene and Clara de Azevedo Mafra, London: Angel Books, 1986). In New York, Edwin Honig and Susan Brown published the first complete English version of Caeiro's The Keeper of Sheep (New York: Sheep Meadow Press, 1986) and the substantial collection Poems of Fernando Pessoa, containing 129 poems, including the first complete English translation of Mensagem and 13 excerpts from the Livro do Desassossego (New York: Ecco Press, 1986). The New York journal Translation brought out six new translations by George Monteiro, bringing the total number of translated poems published in 1986 to 221 ('Six Poems by Fernando Pessoa: "A Cross? On the Door of the Tobacco Shop?" "The God Pan Did Not Die," "Today I Read Nearly Two Pages," "Tripe, Porto Style," "An Instantly Venerable Sonnet" and "Self-Analysis," ', Translation, 17, Fall 1986, pp. 225-30).

The two volumes by Honig and Brown were favourably reviewed in The New Republic where, under the title 'Quadrophenia', John Hollander argued that 'If Fernando Pessoa had never existed, Jorge Luis Borges might have had to invent him' (The New Republic, 7 September 1987, p. 33). In The New York Times Book Review David Rosenthal stated that 'after the thin gruel of much recent North American verse, we would need something robust, of the kind we get in Pessoa's Salutation to Walt Whitman' ('Unpredictable Passions', The New York Times Book Review, 13 December 1987, p. 32).


1988 was the year of Pessoa's centenary. The main event of the celebrations was the IV Congresso Internacional de Estudos Pessoanos, organized in two sections: the Brazilian Section in Sao Paulo, on 27-30 April, and the North American Section in New Orleans, at Tulane University, on 17-19 November. The papers of the North American Section were published in 2000 by the Fundacao Eng. Antonio de Almeida in Porto and included essays by Catarina T. F. Edinger, Edwin Honig, K. David Jackson, Jose Guilherme Merquior, George Monteiro, Stephen Reckert, Leonor Scliar-Cabral, Alexandrino E. Severino and myself (Actas do IV Congresso Internacional de Estudos Pessoanos, n. ed., Porto: Fundacao Eng. Antonio de Almeida, 2000).

Three full-length volumes of translations appeared in 1988, all of them in the US. Edwin Honig's Always Astonished: Selected Prose by Fernando Pessoa contains the first published English version of The Anarchist Banker, 22 texts from Soares's Livro do Desassossego, and 32 prose texts by Pessoa-himself, Reis and Campos (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1988). Reviewing it in The Village Voice Katherine Dieckmann argued that 'Clearly, with his pervasive questioning of the authority of language, meaning and selfhood, Pessoa is working from what can only be called a post-modern position' (The Village Voice, May 1992, p. 24). George Monteiro published the bilingual volume Fernando Pessoa: Self-Analysis and Thirty Other Poems (Lisbon: Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, 1988) and ten poems in Fernando Pessoa: A Tribute. 10 Poems Translated on the Occasion of the 100th Anniversary of His Birth, a lavish limited edition designed and illustrated by Walter Feldman (Providence, RI: Ziggurat Press, 1988).

The Cambridge poetry review Numbers devoted a large section of its Spring 1988 number to Pessoa, publishing sixteen poems translated by Clive Wilmer, Peter Rickard, Peter Robinson and Christine Tweddle, and eight texts and aphorisms from the Livro do Desassossego, translated by Peter Rickard. It also published Michael Schmidt's unabridged translation of Octavio Paz's seminal essay 'Unknown to Himself' (see Numbers, 3: 1, 1988, pp. 14-20 and 26-57). The centenary year also saw a reprint, in England, of Jonathan Griffin's anthology for Penguin. It was reviewed in the TLS by Gabriel Josipovici, who described Pessoa as 'the most reticent of writers who died in obscurity, but whose place in the modern pantheon seems assured' and called for urgent full-scale bilingual editions of his works (TLS, 9-15 December 1988).

Another contribution to the centenary was the publication of the collaborative Three Persons on One: A Centenary Tribute to Fernando Pessoa, edited and with an introduction by Bernard McGuirk. It features essays by Eugenio Lisboa, Michael Freeman, Bernard McGuirk and John Wainwright, and includes translations of five poems (Nottingham: University of Nottingham Monographs in the Humanities, 1988).

In 1988 Lawrence Ferlinghetti dedicated his novel Love in the Days of Rage to Fernando Pessoa, 'whose Anarchist Banker prefigured mine'. (The novel tells the story of Julien Mendes, a Jewish banker of Portuguese origin involved in the May '68 events in Paris.) (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1988). Also in 1988, Volume 27 of Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism, edited by Dennis Poupard, included a useful overview of criticism on Pessoa from 1961 to 1982, with extensive quotations from published essays (Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1988).

After a poor 1989, 1990 saw the publication of Anne Terlinden's PhD dissertation Fernando Pessoa: The Bilingual Portuguese Poet. A Critical Study of the 'Mad Fiddler', the first full-length study of the book that Pessoa unsuccessfully tried to publish in England (Brussels: Facultes Universitaires Saint-Louis, 1990).


In 1991 there was an editorial phenomenon: four different English versions of The Book of Disquiet(ude) were published in Britain and in United States. The three British versions of the Book were edited and translated by Margaret Jull Costa (London: Serpent's Tail, 1991), Iain Watson (London: Quartet Books, 1991), and Richard Zenith (Manchester: Carcanet, 1991) respectively; and in New York by Alfred MacAdam (New York: Pantheon, 1991). Reviewing the latter's reprint in 1998, Philip Landon wrote in The Review of Contemporary Fiction: 'It is now one of the undisputed classics of twentieth-century literature' ('Fernando Pessoa. The Book of Disquiet', The Review of Contemporary Fiction, 22 June 1999). To Murrough O'Brien, writing of the second edition of Jull Costa's in The Independent on Sunday, it 'batters you, pierces you, awakens and numbs you. I thought at first that it resembled those medieval devotional tracts which are meditated upon rather than read, but, magnificently, the author also invites you to argue. This is a work which trains you in how to read it' ('The Book of Disquiet, by Fernando Pessoa', The Independent on Sunday, 13 October 2002). Bernardo Soares's book (whose first edition in the original Portuguese had been published in 1982) was included in World Literature Today as one of the 40 most influential works in world literature between 1927 and 1987. It can safely be said that it was through The Book of Disquiet that many English-speaking readers, whether in the United Kingdom or in the US, 'discovered' Pessoa (as indeed happened in other countries). The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis, a novel by Nobel-prize-winner Jose Saramago, whose English translation by Giovanni Pontiero was published in 1991 (San Diego: Harvest Books, 1991), was also instrumental in the discovery of Pessoa. In the opinion of George Steiner, 'nothing more perceptive has been written about Pessoa and his contrary shades' ('Books', New Yorker, 8 January 1996, p. 80). In the TLS, novelist William Boyd chose The Book of Disquiet as one of the 'International Books of The Year' (TLS, 6 December 1991).

Zenith's first version (The Book of Disquietude) was followed five years later by a second revised edition in paperback. In 2000 he published a new, substantially extended version, which was reprinted in 2002 by Penguin Books in their series Penguin Classics, under the title The Book of Disquiet (London: Allen Lane / The Penguin Press, 2000; and London: Penguin Classics, 2002); it was awarded the Calouste Gulbenkian Translation Prize and met with ecstatic reviews: 'Imagine a fusion of Coleridge's notebooks and marginalia, of Valery's philosophic diary and Robert Musil's voluminous journal. Yet even such a hybrid does not correspond to the singularity of Pessoa's chronicle' (George Steiner, Observer, 3 June 2001); 'What we have in The Book of Disquiet is one of the oddest fish in literature's net. Largely unpublished in its author's lifetime, it has become one of the defining texts of the modern world, precisely because of its protean nature [...] It is an impossible work of the kind that Borges might have imagined' (Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian, 9 June 2001); 'The Book of Disquiet should do a good deal to hasten Pessoa's promotion to the rank of Kafka not least because it demonstrates how much the Portuguese author had in common with the Czech. Glum and monotonous as it may sound, The Book of Disquiet is fascinating, even gripping stuff, and firmly establishes Pessoa as one of the great mandarins of depression, defeat and cold-aristocratic disdain' (Kevin Jackson, The Sunday Times, 19 August 2001, p. 38).

In 1991, Suzette Macedo published her English version of The Anarchist Banker (in Portuguese Studies, 7, 1991, pp. 109-32). In New York, Translation devoted a number to Portuguese literature, edited by Richard Zenith. It included translations by George Ritchie (The Mariner: A "static drama" in one act), Edwin Honig and Susan Brown (four poems from Caeiro's The Keeper of Sheep), Keith Bosley (one poem) and Zenith (eight fragments from Livro do Desassossego and one poem) (see Translation, 25, 1991).

The Menard Press and King's College published in 1992 a complete English version of Mensagem by Jonathan Griffin, with an introduction by Helder Macedo (London: Menard Press, 1992). The same year, the word 'Heteronym' was included by J. A. Cudden in his Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory (Penguin Books), credited as Pessoa's creation. In 1994, A Glass of Green Tea--With Honig, a volume in honour of Edwin Honig, contained essays on Pessoa by Susan Brown, George Monteiro, Maria Irene Ramalho de Sousa Santos, Dennis Silk and Roger E. Stoddard (Providence, RI: Alephoe, 1994).

That year Harold Bloom published his provocative book The Western Canon: The Books and School of Ages, where he included Fernando Pessoa among the 26 best western writers of all time (New York / San Diego / London: Harcourt, 1994). As George Monteiro remarked, Bloom's praise for Pessoa was of course most welcome, but his classification of him (together with Jorge Luis Borges and Pablo Neruda) as a 'Hispanic-Portuguese Whitman' was questionable, since the 'the Whitmanian aspect of Pessoa, important as it is, remains, after all, only one avenue into what is one of the most remarkable poetic canons in the history of Western poetry' (see The Presence of Pessoa: English, American and Southern African Literary Responses, Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1998, p. 15). Reviewing Bloom's book in Time Magazine, a journalist named Paul Gray made the literary blunder of the year when he described the 'Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa' as the 'obligatory academic obscurity' ('Hurrah for Dead White Males!', Time Magazine, 10 October 1994, p. 51). By 1994 Pessoa had already entered American literary discourse, and his international reputation was definitively established.

Also in 1994, Campos's poem 'In the terrible night, natural substance of all nights', translated by Griffin, was included in the volume 99 Poems in Translation, an anthology edited by Harold Pinter, Anthony Astbury and Geoffrey Godbert (London: Faber and Faber, 1994). Among all the praise, however, a solitary voice of dissent was heard: that of Allen Ginsberg, who published in his Cosmopolitan Greetings: Poems 1986-1992 the violent diatribe 'Salutations to Fernando Pessoa' (New York: Harper Collins, 1994).


A significant editorial event was the publication by Carcanet, in 1995, of A Centenary Pessoa, offering representative excerpts from Pessoa's poetry and prose together with criticism, profiles, photographs, documents and two imaginary posthumous interviews. It included 90 poems by Pessoa-himself, Caeiro, Reis and Campos, selected and translated by Keith Bosley; an anthology of 25 prose texts by Pessoa-himself (including letters) and Campos, selected and translated by Bernard McGuirk and Maria Manuel Lisboa; and 'The Book of Disquietude. A Sampler' (39 fragments) selected by P. J. Kavanagh and translated by Richard Zenith. It also featured essays by Octavio Paz, Antonio Tabucchi, Jose Blanco, Eugenio Lisboa, and L. C. Taylor, and soon became an indispensable reference work on Pessoa (Manchester: Carcanet, 1995). Amanda Hopkinson commented in her review: 'although Pessoa has existed on the fringes of European culture rather as Portugal has hung on the maritime periphery, suddenly there is a Pessoa revival with all the pretensions of discovery' (New Statesman & Society, 11 August 1995). A revised edition was published in the same year, and a paperback edition followed in 1997.

Also in 1995, an innovative cross-cultural 'Pessoan adventure' took place at Clink Street Studios in London: the exhibition Pretext: Heteronyms, organized by Juliet Steyn, who invited 21 established artists to create work using their own heteronyms. Following Pessoa's example, but now in the visual arts, 21 new personalities emerged with the newly acquired names.

Pessoa was represented, via an excerpt of 'Maritime Ode' translated by Edwin Honig and Susan M. Brown, in Poems for the Millennium: The University of California Book of Modern & Post-Modern Poetry, edited by Jerome Rothenberg and Pierre Joris (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995). In 1996 Zbigniew Kotowicz published Fernando Pessoa: Voices of a Nomadic Soul with a foreword by Luis de Sousa Rebelo (London: Menard Press, 1996).

In 1998 Richard Zenith published Fernando Pessoa & Co. (New York: Grove Press, 1998), consisting largely of poems previously unpublished in English translation: 36 by Caeiro, 35 by Reis, 34 by Campos and 50 by Pessoa-himself (including seven from Mensagem), and a 36-page introductory essay on Pessoa's life and writings. It earned Zenith the PEN Award for Poetry in Translation and constituted, until the publication in 2006 of his anthology A Little Larger Than the Entire Universe, the most generous offering of Pessoa in English. Reviewing it in The Times Literary Supplement, Jonathan Keates wrote of the introduction: 'Until now the best introduction to Pessoa has been Octavio Paz's preface to his own Spanish translations, published in 1962. Zenith's essay, presenting this new selection, bids fair to rival Paz in the trenchancy with which he detaches the components of what we might call the Pessoan performance' (Times Literary Supplement, 18 December 1998, p. 25).

By the end of 1998, the comparative situation of Pessoa's poetry and prose translations in different languages had substantially changed from that of eighteen years before: there were 1591 texts available in Spanish, 1353 in French, 864 in Italian, 632 in English and 504 in German.

In 1998 Monteiro published The Presence of Pessoa: English, American and Southern African Literary Responses (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1998), a series of essays considering some of the English-language poets who have put Pessoa to their own uses: Roy Campbell, Edouard Roditi, Thomas Merton, Edwin Honig, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, Joyce Carol Oates, Charles Eglington, Michael Hamburger, John Wain, Andrew Harvey, Dennis Silk, Armand Schwerner and Ntozake Shange. In the opening essay ('Works and Days') Monteiro gives a comprehensive overview of Pessoa's critical fortune in English since 1938. Two years later, in 2000, Monteiro published Fernando Pessoa and Nineteenth-Century Anglo-American Literature, in which he studies the influence of British and American writers such as William Wordsworth, Thomas Gray, John Keats, Lord Byron, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Robert Browning, John Ruskin, Alice Meynell and Caroline Norton on Pessoa's poetry. Both volumes are informed by the 'simple principle as recognized by Pessoa that writers influence other writers and that, by implication, the specific consequences of such influence are worth study [...] Inquiry of this nature is especially rewarding in the case of Pessoa and nineteenth-century literature written in English, for Pessoa was both bilingual and bicultural' (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2000, p. 2).

In 1998, Daniel Boorstin, writing about 'The Literature of Bewilderment' in his The Seekers: The Story of Man's Continuing Quest to Understand the World, argued that Fernando Pessoa 'saw the special challenge of his time describing in The Book of Disquiet the "moral landscape" on which a new literature would flourish and reach across Western culture. This spirit of disquietude [...] attracted a galaxy of writers [...] [which] included some of the most influential writers of the mid-century--Camus, Ionesco, Pinter and Beckett' (New York: Random House, 1998, p. 228). Darlene J. Sadlier published An Introduction to Fernando Pessoa: Modernism and the Paradoxes of Authorship in which she offers a historical context for Pessoa's oeuvre, grounding his poetry in Portuguese culture and the major political and artistic concerns of his time. Sadlier argues that the heteronyms anticipate the postmodern deconstruction of the idea of authorship (Gainsville: University Press of Florida, 1998).

Pessoa's Alberto Caeiro, edited by Victor Mendes (issue 3 of Portuguese Literary and Cultural Studies, published in 1999 by University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth) was another landmark in Pessoa criticism in the US. For the first time a full volume (493 pages) was dedicated to the heteronym Caeiro, including essays by Mendes, Jackson, Ken Krabbenhoft, Antonio Ladeira, George Monteiro, Darlene Sadlier and Richard Zenith; I supplied a bibliography in Portuguese and a list of English translations of Caeiro's poetry. The volume also carried the first English translation, by Zenith, of the complete text of Campos's 'Notes for the Memory of My Master Caeiro' (Portuguese Literary and Cultural Studies, 3, 1999).


An excerpt of Campos's 'Triumphal Ode', translated by Keith Bosley, was Pessoa's contribution to the anthology Scanning the Century: The Penguin Book of the Twentieth Century in Poetry (London: Penguin Books, 2000). In the Who's Who in 20th Century World Poetry, Mark Wilhardt describes Pessoa as 'one of the most acclaimed Modernists everywhere' (Oxford: Routledge, 2001). James A. Winders, in his European Culture Since 1848: From Modern to Postmodern and Beyond, wrote that 'modern poets have certainly done much to undermine the large role, developed by Romantics, of the authorial self or subject, but no one has gone as far in this regard as Pessoa. He dislodged the poetic persona by multiplying it' (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2001, p. 123).

In 2001, the anthology The Selected Prose of Fernando Pessoa (edited and translated by Richard Zenith) included major pieces like The Anarchist Banker, The Mariner, Campos's 'Ultimatum' and 'Notes for the Memory of My Master Caeiro', 34 excerpts from The Book of Disquiet and a selection of sixteen love letters to Ophelia Queiroz--a total of 106 texts (New York: Grove Press, 2001). Reviewing the book, Michael Dirda wrote in the Washington Post Book World that Pessoa 'is certainly one of the most appealing European modernists, equal in command and range to his contemporaries Rilke and Mandelstam' ('The Selected Prose of Fernando Pessoa', Washington Post Book World, 22 July 2001, p. 15).

An unusual bilingual translation of Alberto Caeiro's The Keeper of Sheep was published in Toronto, under the title Sheep's Vigil by a Fervent Person. Its author, award-winning poet Eirin Moure, explained that, because it altered tones and vocabularies, her work was a 'trans-e-lation' or 'transcreation': if Caeiro's sheep were his thoughts, and his thoughts, as he claimed, were all sensations, her sheep were stray cats in twenty-first-century Toronto (Toronto: Anansi, 2001).

In 2002, Bloom published Genius: A Mosaic of One Hundred Exemplary Creative Minds (New York: Warner Books, 2002), in which he included Pessoa among the 100-strong 'majestic group' of 'poet--prophets', together with Walt Whitman, Hart Crane, Federico Garcia Lorca and Luis Cernuda. In 2002, the Center for Portuguese Studies and Culture, University of Massachusetts (Dartmouth) published Chaos and Splendor & Other Essays by the essayist and philosopher Eduardo Lourenco, the foremost living Portuguese expert on Pessoa. Translated into English by Robert Myers and Anthony Abiragi, it includes the seminal essays 'Walt Whitman and Pessoa', 'Two Princes of Melancholy: Fernando Pessoa and Ludwig of Bavaria' and 'Nietzsche and Pessoa' (Dartmouth: Center for Portuguese Studies and Culture, University of Massachusetts, 2002).

George Monteiro places Pessoa in the 2003 Dictionary of Literary Biography edited by Monica Rector and Fred M. Clark (Detroit: Gale Cengage, 2003). Robert Howes, in his entry on Pessoa in Who's Who in Gay and Lesbian History (edited by Robert Adrich) argues that 'There is no direct evidence that Pessoa was homosexual, but the fact that he never married (despite a tentative courtship when he was in his thirties), his friendship with a number of openly gay writers and the evidence of his own work point in this direction' (London / New York: Routledge, 2003, p. 342).

In 2003, Philip Krummrich published A Critical, Dual-Language Edition of 'Quadras ao Gosto Popular / Quatrains in the Popular Style' by Portuguese Writer Fernando Pessoa (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2003).

Irene Ramalho Santos published in 2003 Atlantic Poets: Fernando Pessoa's Turn in Anglo-American Modernism (New Hampshire: University Press of New England, 2003), with a foreword by Bloom, in which she places Pessoa in a transatlantic literary context, arguing that not only can Anglo-American modernist poets such as Whitman, Dickinson, Eliot, Pound, Stevens and especially Hart Crane shed light on Pessoa's work, but that Pessoa's poetry offers reciprocal insights into their own writings.

2004 saw the publication in Ireland of the bilingual anthology Fernando Pessoa: Selected Poems, in Poetry Europe Series 20, translated by David Butler, who remarks in his Introduction that 'Pessoa's astonishing post-modernity finds its most accomplished voice in Alvaro de Campos' (Dublin: Dedalus Press, 2004, p. 6). In 2005, Mark Strand, the editor of 100 Great Poems of the Twentieth Century (New York / London: W. W. Norton & Company, 2005) included Campos's 'The Tobacco Shop', in Richard Zenith's translation, in his anthology of poems reflecting the changes in literary history of the past century.

Zenith published in 2005 the first English translation of The Education of the Stoic: The Only Manuscript of the Baron of Teive (Cambridge: Exact Change, 2005), with a preface by Francoise Laye and an afterword by Antonio Tabucchi. And in 2006, he edited and translated A Little Larger Than The Entire Universe: Selected Poems (London: Penguin Books, 2006), the most copious anthology of Pessoa's poetry in English ever produced, containing a total of 285 poems, many of them published for the first time in English.

In 2007 Shearsman Books started a Pessoa Edition; so far, three volumes have emerged: Message / Mensagem (a bilingual reprint of Griffin's translation, with an Introduction by Helder Macedo); Selected English Poems; and The Collected Poems of Alberto Caeiro (translated by Chris Daniels) (Exeter: Shearsman Books, 2007).

Also in 2007 Anna M. Klobucka and Mark Sabine edited and published Embodying Pessoa: Corporeality, Gender, Sexuality (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007) a volume of essays by Dana Stevens, Alessandra M. Pires, Blake Strawbridge, Fernando Arenas, George Monteiro, Mark Sabine, M. Irene Ramalho Santos, Kathryn Bishop-Sanchez, Anna M. Klobucka, Fernando Cabral Martins, Richard Zenith and Francesca Billiani. The book argues for the centrality of the body and the physical in Pessoa's heteronymic project, and analyses various aspects of sexuality in his writings.


At the end of 2007, there was a total of more than 1200 poems and prose pieces by Pessoa published in English, either translated from the original Portuguese or in the original English.

Many poems have several different translated versions. Here is a sample of the most often translated pieces:
Pessoa-Himself 'Autopsicografia' 20
 'Isto' 12
 'Ela canta, pobre ceifeira' 9
Alberto Caeiro 'O Guardador de Rebanhos IX' 10
 'O Guardador de Rebanhos XIV' 9
 'O Guardador de Rebanhos XIII' 8
Alvaro de Campos 'Tabacaria' 13
 'Dobrada a moda do Porto' 7
 'Ode Triunfal' 6
Ricardo Reis 'Para ser grande, se inteiro. Nada' 7
 'As rosas amo dos jardins de Adonis' 6
 'Ja sobre a fronte va se me acinzenta' 5
Mensagem 'Mar portugues' 11
 'D. Sebastiao, Rei de Portugal' 8
 'O Mostrengo' 8

A surprising statistic is that Campos's 'Ode Maritima' which Roy Campbell famously called 'the loudest poem ever written', has only been translated twice (see Campbell, Portugal, p. 156).


Kevin Jackson wrote in his Invisible Forms: A Guide to Literary Curiosities: 'Despite enjoying the applause of such a high-megaton claque (Roman Jakobson, Roy Campbell, Thomas Merton, William Boyd, Anthony Burgess, Cyril Connolly, Gabriel Josipovici, P. J. Kavanagh, Harold Bloom and George Steiner), despite dozens of translations since the early 1970s, despite the fact that a good part of the work Pessoa published in his own lifetime was actually written in English, he remains stubbornly obscure in Britain and North America' (London: Picador, 1999, p. 43). Nine years after these pessimistic lines were written it seems that the situation has undergone a radical change. Contemporary authors like Paul Auster, Francis Blessington and William Carpenter cite him in their books. Susan Sontag described Pessoa as 'the incomparable early 20th century Portuguese poet and prose writer' ('The Truth of Fiction evokes our Common Humanity', Los Angeles Times, 25 April 2004). Translations of Pessoa in book form now enjoy a wide circulation, ever since large publishing houses such as Grove Press and Penguin started printing and selling them in the United Kingdom and the United States. Of course many prestigious smaller presses have been publishing Pessoa in translation in both countries to critical acclaim and have a faithful clientele, and university presses continue to play an important role in Pessoan affairs. Criticism in English continues to flourish in learned journals and reviews, ever more sophisticated and specialized. Finally, there is abundant evidence that for English-speaking writers Pessoa is no longer just an unknown foreign name. An Internet search of English and American books published in 2007, available online, reveals that Pessoa's words have found their way, more or less surreptitiously, into the most unlikely volumes: biographies like Alexander Theroux's Laura Warholic; or, The Sexual Intellectual (Seattle, WA: Fantagraphics, 2007), or Julie Phillips' The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon (New York: St Martin's Press, 2006); archaeological works like The Archaeology and Art of Ancient Egypt by Zahi Hawwas and Janet Richards (Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 2007); religious books like Beverley Lanzetta's Emerging Heart: Global Spirituality and the Sacred (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2007) or Marcella Althaus-Reid's Another Possible World (Reclaiming Liberation Theology) (Norwich: SCM-Canterbury Press, 2007); sociological studies such as Kenneth F. Kiple's A Moveable Feast: Ten Millennia of Food Globalization (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007); works about witchcraft, like Ellen Dugan's Natural Witchery, Intuitive, Personal & Practical Magick (Woodbury: Llewellyn Publications, 2007)--and so on.

And what of Pessoa penetrating so-called 'popular culture'? I have two favourite examples: Mocha, a Canadian book of coffee and chocolate recipes, by Michael Turback and Leo Gong (Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press, 2007), and Chicken Soup for the Chocolate Lover's Soul: Indulging in our Sweetest Moments, part of one of America's most popular 'motivational' book series selling by the million (Chicken Soup for the Soul), by Mark Victor Hansen, Patricia Lorenz and Jack Canfield (Deerfield Beach, FL: HCI--The Life Issues Publisher, 2007). Both books make good use of one of Campos's famous lines--can you guess which one?--'nao ha mais metafisica no mundo senao chocolates'; in Zenith's translation 'There's no metaphysics on earth like chocolates'.

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Author:Blanco, Jose
Publication:Portuguese Studies
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 22, 2008
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