Saturday, December 22, 2007


Fernando, who currently whiles away his days in Barcelona, was born towards the end of 1940's in Havana, Cuba. Always know to the world as a bastard, a status which he originally earned (but later learnt to wear with pride) as a result of his untimely and irregular arrival in this world, an arrival which left his father with little option but to abandon his common law wife - who subsequently fell victim to temptation and took her own life - in order to move his new 'family' back to the 'old continent' to accompany and care for his young, but widowed, English lover. Fernando's father - an accomplished classicist in name and fervent traditionalist by nature - settled in Spain under the pull of a profound admiration he felt for the erotic paranoia of the Franco regime.

Indeed Fernando received a stern classical education at the hands of his father, against whom he was always somewhat in rebellion. Meantime he has never really been able to forgive his mother for having drawn him from his native land, from which he fears he will now be in permanent exile.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Bernardo Soares

Bernardo Soares, author of The Book of Disquiet, both lived and worked on the fourth floor of buildings on Lisbon's Rua dos Douradores:

"And if the office on Rua dos Douradores represents life for me, the fourth-floor room where I live, on this same Rua dos Douradores, represents Art for me. Yes, Art, residing on the very same street as Life, but in a different place. Art, which gives me relief from life without relieving me of living, being as monotonous as life itself, only in a different place. Yes, for me the Rua dos Douradores contains, the meaning of everything and the answer to all riddles, except for the riddle of why riddles exist, which can never be answered."

Soares' connection to his city is paradoxical. While he reveals an estrangement from all things around him, he still cannot exist without them. In his concluding statement, number 481, he says:

Nostalgia! I even feel it for the people and things that were nothing to me, because time's fleeing is for me an anguish, and life's mystery is a torture. Faces I habitually see on my habitual streets – if I stop seeing them I become sad. And they were nothing to me, except perhaps the symbol of all life.

Concluding sentence of The Book of Disquiet:

And everything I've done, everything I've felt and everything I've lived will amount merely to one less pass-by on the everyday streets of some city or other.”

Alvaro dos Campos

Born in the city of Taviras, Campos studied naval engineering in Glasgow and travelled widely through the East before settling in Lisbon and founding — alongside Mario de Sá Carneiro and Fernando Pessoa — the avant-garde magazine Orfeu and Portugal Futurista. His 1915 futurist Ultimatum to Europe proclaims the advent of a perfect and mathematical humanity, contingent on the purging of Europe's aesthetic and political ills — among them George Bernard Shaw, "vegetarian of paradox, charlatan of sincerity, cold tumour of Ibsenism." Impressed by the force and ambition of Campos' "Triumphal Ode," Impressed by the force and ambition of Campos' works, Mario de Sa Carneiro, ventured that Campos' poetry would outlast his own. Campos did Pessoa's travelling for him.

Ricardo Reis

A poet of Sad Epicureanism, master of highly wrought, metaphysical and neoclassical odes. Born in Porto and educated by Jesuits. A doctor by profession and monarchist by conviction. Reis sought exile in Brazil after the proclamation of the first Portuguese Republic in 1919. Antonio Tabucchi believes Reis to have died peacefully in exile at the end of 1935. Saramago, however, speculated that Reis died in Lisbon one year later under mysterious circumstances, unwittingly entangled in the revolts which spilled over from the Spanish Civil war in Lisbon. Reis was the nearest that Pessoa could come to being Caeiro.

Reis wrote classically inspired odes. Richard Zenith (Pessoa's English translator) characterizes these poems as advocating “a stoic acceptance of life with its small and fleeting pleasures, its inevitable sorrow, and its lack of any discoverable meaning.” Perhaps what distinguished Reis from Soares is that he kept his overt broodings to his short poems and became obsessed with two women.

Saramago has Reis, on one of his walks about the city of Lisbon, wanders onto the street of Soares' life:

"Ricardo Reis went around the square from the southern side and turned into the Rua dos Douradores. The rain almost over, he could now close his umbrella and look up at the tall, grimy façades. Rows of windows at the same height, some with sills, others with balconies, the monotonous stone slabs extending all along the road until they merge into thin vertical strips which narrow more and more but never entirely disappear."

Until he finds his own apartment, Reis spends most of his months in Lisbon living in the Hotel Bragança at the beginning of the Rua do Alecrim, taken there by a taxi driver immediately after he disembarks from the ship that brought him home after 16 years in Brazil.

Alberto Caeiro

Both Alvaro dos Campos and Ricardo Reis considered Caeiro a master writer. They both confessed that Caeiro's thoughts influenced their work. Alberto was a shepperd who lived outside Lisbon, agnostic who avoided the city and crowds, who lived barefoot in contact with nature and peace. Caeiro was what Pessoa longed to be and could not, he was "the Master.

Think Filonov

Borges and I

The other one, the one called Borges, is the one things happen to. I walk through the streets of Buenos Aires and stop for a moment, perhaps mechanically now, to look at the arch of an entrance hall and the grillwork on the gate; I know of Borges from the mail and see his name on a list of professors or in a biographical dictionary. I like hourglasses, maps, eighteenth-century typography, the taste of coffee and the prose of Stevenson; he shares these preferences, but in a vain way that turns them into the attributes of an actor. It would be an exaggeration to say that ours is a hostile relationship; I live, let myself go on living, so that Borges may contrive his literature, and this literature justifies me. It is no effort for me to confess that he has achieved some valid pages, but those pages cannot save me, perhaps because what is good belongs to no one, not even to him, but rather to the language and to tradition. Besides, I am destined to perish, definitively, and only some instant of myself can survive in him. Little by little, I am giving over everything to him, though I am quite aware of his perverse custom of falsifying and magnifying things.

Spinoza knew that all things long to persist in their being; the stone eternally wants to be a stone and the tiger a tiger. I shall remain in Borges, not in myself (if it is true that I am someone), but I recognize myself less in his books than in many others or in the laborious strumming of a guitar. Years ago I tried to free myself from him and went from the mythologies of the suburbs to the games with time and infinity, but those games belong to Borges now and I shall have to imagine other things. Thus my life is a flight and I lose everything and everything belongs to oblivion, or to him.

I do not know which of us has written this page.

Jorge Luis Borges, Labyrinths

Pessoa III

I am nothing

I shall never be anything

I cannot wish to be anything.

Aside from that, I hold within me

all the dreams of the world.

Today, I’m defeated, as if I’d learned the truth.

Today, I am lucid, as if I were about to die.

Pessoa II

I failed at everything.

Considering that I had no goals,

perhaps everything was nothing.

I dodged the training I was given

by slipping through the window

in the back of the house..

Bernardo Soares Fragment

"Poets are fakers
and their faking is so real
that they even fake the pain,

the pain that they really feel."

Pessoa I

“...Ever since I was a child, I have had the tendency to create a fictitious world around me, to surround myself with friends and acquaintances who never existed. ( I don’t know, of course, if they didn’t really exist or if it is me who doesn’t exist. On such matters, as in all others, one shouldn’t be dogmatic.) Ever since I became aware of the thing that I call self, I can remember with mental precision, the figures, the movements, the character and the history of several fictitious people who were, to me, as visible and mine as those things which we, perhaps abusively, call real life. This tendency, which exists since I realized that I was a self, has always been with me, modifying slightly the kind of music it uses to bewitch me but never altering its manner of bewitching.”

Carta a Casais Monteiro(01-13-1935)

France Releases The Bear

France released a fourth bear in the Pyrenees on Friday as part of a contested program to repopulate the region.

The 4-year-old male, nicknamed Balou and weighing 194 pounds, was captured in Slovenia like the others.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Alberto Caeiro Poetry

There is ample metaphysics

There is ample metaphysics in not thinking at all.

What do I think about the world?
How should I know what I think about the world?
If I were ill I would think about it.

What idea have I about things?
What opinion do I have on causes and effects?
What meditations have I had upon God and the soul
And upon the creation of the World?
I don't know. For me, to think about that is to shut
me eyes.
And not think. It is to draw the curtains
Of my window (but it has no curtains).

The mystery of things? How should I know I know what
mystery is?
The only mystery is there being somebody who might
think about mystery.
A man who stands in the sun and shuts his eyes
Begins not to know what the sun is
And to think many things full of heat.

But he opens his eyes and sees the sun,
And now he cannot think of anything,
Because the light of the sun is worth more than the
Of all the philosophers and all the poets.
The light of the sun does not know what it is doing
And so does stray and is common and good.

Metaphysics? What metaphysics do those trees have?
That of being green and having crowns and branches
And that of giving fruit at their hours, - which is not
what makes us think,
Us, who don't know to be aware of them.
But what better metaphysics than theirs,
Which is not knowing why they live
And not knowing they don't know?

From 'Selected Poems' translated from Fernando Pessoa by J. Griffin

Literature as History

José Saramago's O Ano da Morte de Ricardo Reis
By Chris Rollason

José Saramago followed up Memorial do Convento, his highly successful novel of the eighteenth century published in 1982, with O Ano da Morte de Ricardo Reis (The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis), which appeared in 1984 (Obras de José Saramago, 3 volumes, Porto: Lello e Irmão, 1991, vol. III, pp. 345-745; all translations into English by the present writer). This novel explores a more recent period of Portuguese history, namely the 1930s -- the epoch of the consolidation and entrenchment of the Salazar dictatorship and the 'Estado Novo' regime which lasted from 1926 to 1974. Against a background of nationalist obscurantism in Portugal, civil war next door in Spain and increasingly bellicose fascism in Europe, this novel reconstructs the imaginary identity of Ricardo Reis, one of the pseudonyms, or 'heteronyms', adopted by the poet Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935; Pessoa's poems are signed variously under his own name and those of three fictitious poets invented by himself - Álvaro de Campos, Alberto Caeiro and Ricardo Reis -- while his most important prose work, O Livro do Desassossego (The Book of Disquiet), is credited to another alter ego, Bernardo Soares). Starting out from the 'biographical' indications supplied by Pessoa himself (Ricardo Reis is a doctor who lived for years in Brazil), Saramago imagines the character returning to Portugal in December 1935, and traces his daily life over the nine months up to his death. Reis arrives in Lisbon, rents a hotel room and then an apartment, gets involved with two women, Lídia and Marcenda, is followed by the police, and engages in metaphysical disquisitions with the ghost of the recently-deceased Fernando Pessoa. As in Memorial do Convento, Saramago's technique combines realist and non-realist elements, but this time adding to the brew a strong intertextual and metatextual element: the names Marcenda and Lídia both derive from Pessoa's Odes de Ricardo Reis, and, indeed, Saramago's whole novel is built around the reconstruction of another writer's fictional personage, imagined in dialogue with his creator.
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Daddy Was Away On Business

A German court jailed a woman for 15 years for killing eight of her newborn babies in the worst case of infanticide in the country's criminal history.The court found that Hilschenz, an unemployed dental hygienist with a long history of alcoholism, gave birth to the infants then left them to fend for themselves. Each probably died of hypothermia, the judges found.

The remains of the babies, buried in flowerpots, a fish tank and a baby's plastic bathtub, were found last summer in a shed owned by Hilschenz's parents in a small town near Frankfurt an der Oder.

Brandenburg's interior minister, Joerg Schoenbohm, infuriated easterners when he said the "forced proletarization" of certain regions under East Germany's communist leaders had created a culture of apathy that fostered such crimes.

Hilschenz and her husband divorced last year. She then became pregnant by her new boyfriend and carried the child to term.

The horror of the discovery left Germans baffled about how the almost unbroken chain of pregnancies and deaths over the course of a decade could have gone unnoticed.

Hilschenz is believed to have had sex regularly without contraception with her husband Oliver, who has said he was unaware of the pregnancies or deaths.

Adolfo Casais Monteiro

His 'home page'

Eu Falo das Casas e dos Homens

Eu falo das casas e dos homens,
dos vivos e dos mortos:

do que passa e não volta nunca mais.. .

Não me venham dizer que estava materialmente


ah, não me venham com teorias!

Eu vejo a desolação e a fome,

as angústias sem nome,

os pavores marcados para sempre nas faces trágicas

das vítimas.

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Pavel Filonov

"Filonov's legacy is vast, but very few canvasses of his are accessible to the public. Almost no pictures of his are found in Western museums, and any piece of paper identified as a work of Filonov evokes wild enthusiasm at auctions. While Malevich is considered the trademark of the Russian avant-garde, Filonov is its strategic secret, an Atlantis sunk deep in the Russian Museum in St.Petersburg. Some fragments that have no reasonable explanation nor adequate price get to the surface occasionally."
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See his paintings here.

Lucas and His Classes

Lucas, sus clases de español

(Julio Cortázar)

En la Berlitz donde lo toman medio por lástima el director que es de Astorga le previene nada de argentinismos ni de qué galicados, aquí se enseña castizo, coño, al primer che que le pesque ya puede tomarse el portante. Eso sí usted les enseña a hablar corriente y nada de culteranismos que aquí los franceses lo que vienen a aprender es a no hacer papelones en la frontera y en las fondas. Castizo y práctico, métaselo en el digamos meollo.
Lucas perplejo busca en seguida textos que respondan a tan preclaro criterio, y cuando inaugura su clase frente a una docena de parisienses ávidos de olé y de quisiera una tortilla de seis huevos, les entrega unas hojitas donde ha policopiado un pasaje de un artículo de El País del 17 de septiembre de 1978, fíjese qué moderno, y que a su juicio debe ser la quintaesencia de lo castizo y lo práctico puesto que se trata de toreo y los franceses no piensas más que en precipitarse a las arenas apenas tengan el diploma en el bolsillo, razón por la cual este vocabulario les será sumamente útil a la hora del primer tercio, las banderillas y todo el resto. El texto dice lo siguiente, a saber:
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Lucas, A Prologue

Julio Cortazar at work:

A estas alturas de mi vida, mis inconvenientes con la hidra son ya vox populi. Resulta imposible caminar por la calle con siete cabezas sin que nadie le llame la atención a su esposa distraída por medio de un codazo o ponga su mano sobre la boca en un acto reflejo. Si cargar con la esfera espinosa que es una sola cabeza ya es algo merecedor de otro mundo, imagínense lo quimérico que es tratar de subir escaleras con siete. La policefalia, no hay duda, es algo duro de sobrellevar. Yo la he sufrido desde siempre, pero me han pedido que no diserte sobre ella ni exponga mi vida en este prólogo. No sé por qué accedí a ello. Mi cabeza autócrata no está de acuerdo con este compromiso, y tampoco la jurisperita. A Solei, sin embargo, no le afecta en absoluto esta circulación de ideas. Solei es Solei, y como cabeza no me da molestias, porque mayormente le interesan las palomas de papel crepé, pero mi cabeza jurisperita es severa cuando tiene la razón, y la autócrata, ni se mencione, muchas veces me ha amenazado con tomar el control del grupo cuando no le pido los permisos que exige nuestra coalición de siete.
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Saturday, May 27, 2006


Coming shortly!