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Fernando Pessoa (1888–1935) was a Portuguese poet and writer, most of whose work was published posthumously. He wrote frequently under heteronyms, alter egos with developed personalities, biographies, jobs, habits, attitudes, addresses, etc., who sometimes quoted and interacted with each other and other people.
Quotes: 193 sourced quotes total (includes 1 misattributed, 13 about)
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Everything is absurd.
Não sou nada. Nunca serei nada. Não posso querer ser nada. À parte isso, tenho em mim todos os sonhos do mundo.
O coração, se pudesse pensar, pararia.
O poeta é um fingidor. Finge tão completamente Que chega a fingir que é dor A dor que deveras sente.
A metafísica é uma consequência de estar mal disposto.
Sê plural como o universo!
In order to understand, I destroyed myself.
My homeland is the portuguese language.
Everything is worthwhile if the soul is not small.
Whether or not they exist, we're slaves to the gods.
O amor é que é essencial. O sexo é só um acidente.
Todo o homem que merece ser célebre sabe que não vale a pena sê-lo.
At first I felt dizzy - not with the kind of dizziness that makes the body reel but the kind that's like a dead emptiness in the brain, an instinctive awareness of the void.
Caeiro unterläuft die Unterscheidung zwischen dem Schein und dem, was etwa "Denkerge-danken" hinter ihm ausmachen wollen. Die Dinge, wie er sie sieht, sind als was sie scheinen. Sein Pan-Deismus basiert auf einer Ding-Metaphysik, die in der modernen Dichtung des zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts noch Schule machen sollte.
I'm going to end a life that I thought could contain every kind of greatness but that in fact consisted only of my incapacity to really want to be great. Whenever I arrived at a certainty, I remembered that those with the greatest certainties are lunatics.
All beginnings are involuntary.
Irony is the first hint that consciousness became conscious.
The slope takes you to the windmill, but effort takes you nowhere.
I'm a man for whom the outside world is an inner reality.
Destiny gave me only two things: a few accounting books and the gift of dreaming.
Attention to detail and a perfectionist instinct, far from stimulating action, are character qualities that lead to renunciation. Better to dream than to be.
What, I believe, produces in me the deep feeling, in which I live, of incongruity with others, is that most think with sensitivity, while I feel with thought.
Some sensations are sleeps that take up all the extent of the mind like a fog, don't let us think, don't let us act, don't let us be clearly.
We’ve been devastated by the severest and deadliest drought in history – that of our profound awareness of the futility of all effort and the vanity of all plans.
To have defined and sure opinions, fixed and known instincts, passions and character — all that is the horror of turning our soul into a fact, materialize it and make it external.
[Pessoa] is the modernist's modernist: an inspired amalgam of Lewis Carroll, Aristophanes, Erasmus, Voltaire (& Co., if you will), whose exquisite mixed praises of human and literary folly create a polyphony unlike any other prose music you've ever heard.
Fraternity has subtleties.
Enthusiasm is rude.
Humanitarianism is rude.
To act is to rest.
My curiosity sister of larks.
Art lies because it's social.
Property isn't theft: it's nothing.
Solitude desolates me; company oppresses me.
You breathe better when you're rich.
Liberty is the possibility of isolation.
Every gesture is a revolutionary act.
I don't believe in the landscape.
A essência do universo é a contradição.
Myth is the nothing that is everything.
Strength without agility is a mere mass.
Yes, talking to people makes me sleepy.
To be understood is to prostitute yourself.
Sailing is necessary, living is not necessary.
Wasting time has an esthetics to it.
My head and the universe ache me.
I say it because I don't believe.
When I write, I solemnly visit myself.
Life is a thread that someone entangled.
God wills, man dreams, the work is born.
My joy is as painful as my pain.
I never meant to be but a dreamer.
What is art but the denial of life?
That's not my love; that's just your life.
I don't write in Portuguese. I write myself.
Not pleasure, not glory, not power: freedom, only freedom.
The consciousness of life's unconsciousness is intelligence's oldest tax.
It's been a long time since I've been me.
Nature is the difference between the soul and God.
Action men are the unvoluntary slaves of wise men.
Art consists in making others feel what we feel.
Pessoa is the master of reversals in the literature.
These are Fortunate Islands, These are lands without a place
Oh Portugal, today you are fog... The Hour has come!
Everything was asleep as if the universe was a mistake.
My life is as if you've hit me with it.
What's most worthless about dreams is that everybody has them.
There is no safe standard to tell man from animals.
Who am I to myself? Just a feeling of mine.
Deceiving himself well is the first quality of the statesman.
If you cannot live alone, you were born a slave.
What would happen to the world if we were human?
Clear in thinking, and clear in feeling, and clear in wanting
Who wants to go beyond the Bojador Must go beyond pain.
Having touched Christ's feet is not an excuse for punctuation mistakes.
We are two abysses — a well staring at the sky.
I pass times, I pass silences, formless worlds pass me by.
Blessed are those who never entrust their life to no one.
To narrate is to create, for living is just being lived.
I exempt you of being present in my idea of you.
Here lies, in the small extreme beach, the Captain Of The End.
Oh salty sea, how much of your salt are tears of Portugal!
I come closer to my desk as to a bulwark against life.
I take with me the conscience of defeat as a victory banner.
My dreams are a stupid refuge, like an umbrella against a thunderbolt.
It's in an inland sea that the river of my life ended.
Against destiny I fulfilled my duty . Uselessly? No, for I fulfilled it.
To stagnate in the sun, goldenly, like an obscure lake surrounded by flowers.
For I am the size of what I see not my height's size.
The beauty of a naked body is felt only by the dressed races.
There's no regret more painful than the regret of things that never were.
To write is to forget. Literature is the pleasantest way of ignoring life.
I will necessarily say what it seems to me, given that I'm me.
Direct experience is the evasion, or hiding place of those devoid of imagination.
Knowing not to have illusions is absolutely necessary in order to have dreams.
Without madness what is man more than the healthy beast, corpse adjourned that procreates?
I never go to where's a risk. I'm frightened of dangers down to boredom.
If we knew the truth, we'd see it; all else is system and outskirts.
Faithful to the word given and the idea had. All else is up to God!
The sea is fulfilled, and the Empire fell apart. Lord, Portugal must yet fulfill itself!
The sea with an end can be Greek or Roman: the endless sea is Portuguese.
Changing from the ghosts of faith to the spectres of reason is just changing cells.
We become sphynxes, though fake, up to the point we no longer know who we are.
I believe that saying a thing is to keep its virtues and take away its terror.
As we wash our body so we should wash destiny, change life as we change clothes.
Smell is a strange sight. It evokes sentimental landscapes through a sudden sketching of the subconscious.
Who doesn't feel commands. He who only thinks what is required in order to win, wins.
Given that we cannot know all the elements in a problem, we never can solve it.
I'd like to be in the country so that I'd could like being in the city.
I always live in the present. The future I can't know. The past I no longer have.
Only sterility is noble and dignified. Only killing what never was is elevated and perverse and absurd.
The train slows down, it's the Cais do Sodré. I arrived to Lisbon, but not to a conclusion.
I'm all those things, even though I don't want to, in the confuse depth of my fatal sensibility.
It was just a moment, and I saw myself. Then I no longer could say what I was.
The end is low, like all quantitative ends, personal or not, and it can be attained and verified.
And as well as I dream, I reason if I want, for that's just another kind of dream.
Fernando Pessoa is the most extraordinary poet of Orpheu and the most astonishing poetic phenomenon of this century.
God gave the sea the danger and the abyss, but it was in it that He mirrored the sky.
There are those that even God exploits, and they are prophets and saints in the vacuousness of the world.
A tedium that includes only the anticipation of more tedium; the regret, now, of tomorrow regretting having regretted today.
Thing thrown to a corner, rag fallen on the road, my ignoble being feigns itself in front of life.
Everyone has his vanity, and each one's vanity is his forgetting that there are others with an equal soul.
I reread? I lied! I don't dare to reread. I cannot reread. What's the point, for me, in rereading?
I never cared about whatever tragic event happened in China. It's faraway decoration, even if in blood and plague.
Common man, no matter how hard life is to him, at least has the fortune of not thinking it.
Why is art beautiful? Because it's useless. Why is life ugly? Because it's all ends and purposes and intentions.
To think is to destroy. The very process of thought indicates it for the same thought, as thinking is decomposing.
And let our despite go to those who work and fight and our hate to those who hope and trust.
The world belongs to who doesn't feel. The primary condition to be a practical man is the absence of sensitivity.
It is noble to be shy, illustrious not to know how to act, great not to have a gift for living.
Between me and life is a faint glass. No matter how sharply I see and understand life, I cannot touch it.
I never was but an isolated bon vivant, which is absurd; or a mystic bon vivant, which is an impossible thing.
Yet I have no stylistic nobility. My head aches because my head aches. The universe aches me because my head aches.
Pessoa is the guru and his reader the neophyte to be initiated into the mysteries to which Pessoa holds the key.
Fernando Pessoa is the greatest Portuguese poet since Camões, and one of the most complex and astonishing figures of 20th-century literature.
The Gods sell when they give. Glory is paid for with disgrace. Poor are the happy, for they are Just what passes.
Being a retired major looks like an ideal thing to me. What a pity you couldn't eternally have been just a retired major.
Tedium is the lack of a mithology. To whom has no beliefs, even doubt is impossible, even skepticism has no strength to suspect.
We adore perfection because we can't have it; it would disgust us if we had it. Perfect is inhuman, because human is imperfect.
They bring me faith like a closed package in someone else's plate. They want me to accept it so that I don't open it.
I will be what I want. But I will have to want what I'll be. Success is in having success, not conditions for success.
Being pleased with what they give you is proper of slaves. Asking for more is proper of children. Conquering more is proper of fools.
I search and can't find myself. I belong in chrysanthemum time, sharp in calla lily elongations. God made my soul into an ornamental thing.
Inside the henhouse from where he will be taken to be killed, the cock sings hymns to liberty because he was given two perches.
My God, my God, who am I attending to? How many am I? Who is me? What is this interval between me and me?
All pleasure is a vice, for seeking pleasure is what everybody does in life, and the only dark vice is doing what everybody does.
I'm upset by the happiness of all these men who don't know they're unhappy. [...] Because of that, though, I love them all. Dear vegetables!
Fernando Pessoa is the slave of the intelligence but not of reason. He is an intellectual being, because in him the intelligence governs the senses...
His livid face is a bewildered false green. I notice it, between the chest's hard air, with the fraternity of knowing I will also be so.
We never love someone. We just love the idea we have of someone. It's a concept of ours - summing up, ourselves - that we love.
It's certain that, when hearing from any of those people the story of their sexual marathons, a vague suspicion pervades us, at about the seventh deflowering.
In any spirit that isn't deformed there is the belief in God. In any spirit that is not deformed there isn't the belief in a particular God.
For valuing your own suffering sets on it the gold of a sun of pride. Suffering a lot can originate the illusion of being the Chosen of Pain.
These pages are not my confession; they’re my definition. And I feel, as I begin to write it, that I can write it with some semblance of truth.
I think of life as an inn where I have to stay until the abyss coach arrives. I don't know where it will take me, for I know nothing.
I am not nothing. I will never be nothing. I cannot ever want to be nothing. Apart from that, I have in me all the dreams of the world.
Since I wasn’t able to leave a succession of beautiful lies, I want to leave the smidgen of truth that the falsehood of everything lets us suppose we can tell.
The supreme empire is that of the Emperor who renounces all normal life, that of other men, and in who the care of supremacy doesn't weigh like a load of jewels.
Eloquent, volatile and obsessed with life – and death – [Pessoa is one of the] modernist giants in whose shadow we live and who made our century one of extraordinary richness.
The house clock, place certain there at the bottom of things, strikes the half hour dry and null. All is so much, all is so deep, all is so dark and cold!
Man shouldn't be able to see his own face. That's what's most terrible. Nature gave him the possibility of not seeing it, as well as the incapacity of not seeing his own eyes.
A sort of anteneurosis of what I will be when I will not longer be freezes my body and soul. A kind of remembrance of my future death makes me shudder from the inside.
All problems are unsolvable. The essence of the existence of a problem is that there is no solution. Looking for a fact means there is no fact. To think is not to know how to be.
The perfect man of pagans was the perfection of the man there is; the perfect man of christians, the perfection of the man there isn't; the buddhists' perfect man, the perfection of not existing a man.
I sleep and I unsleep. On the other side of me, beyond where I lie down, the silence of the house touches infinity. I hear time falling, drop by drop, and no falling drop is heard falling.
Fernando Pessoa was the apostle of an antidemocratic and elitist nationalism. A mystical nationalism was perhaps the only element of ideological coherence in his work. He was always marked by the radicality of his ideological and political attitudes.
Fernando Pessoa is the greatest Portuguese poet since Vax de Camoes, of the Renaissance. He established modernism in Portugal and deeply influenced the language. It is said that even Lisbon chambermaids speak differently from their grandparents because of him.
And the supreme glory of all this, my love, is to think that maybe this isn't true, neither may I believe it true. And when lying starts giving us pleasure, let's speak the truth so that we lie to it.
[Pessoa was] Portugal's greatest writer of the twentieth century [though] some critics would even leave off that last qualifying phrase. [He was] one of the most appealing European modernists, equal in command and range to his contemporaries Rilke and Mandelstam.
Civilization consists in giving something an unfitting name, then dream about the result. And indeed the false name and the real dream create a new reality. The object really becomes another, because we turned it into another one. We manufacture realities.
They were two and beautiful and wanted to be something else; love delayed itself to them in the tedium of the future, and regret of what would happen to be was already being the daughter of the love they hadn't had.
I belong to a generation - assuming that this generation includes others besides me - that lost its faith in the gods of the old religions as well as in the gods of modern nonreligions. I reject Jehova as I reject humanity.
The superiority of the dreamer is that dreaming is much more practical than living, and that the dreamer extracts from life a much vaster and varied pleasure than the action man. In better and more direct words, the dreamer is the real action man.
In today's life, the world belongs only to the stupid, the insensitive and the agitated. The right to live and triumph is now conquered almost by the same means by which you conquer internment in an asylum: the inability to think, amorality and hiperexcitation.
Then a overflowing desire comes to me, absurd, of a sort of satanism before Satan, in that one day [...] an escape out of God can be found and the deepest of us stops, I don't know how, to be a part of being or not being.
What is a disease is wishing with an equal intensity what is needed and what is desirable, and suffer for not being perfect as you would suffer for not having bread. The romantic error is this wanting the moon as if there was a way to get it.
There is no happiness without knowledge. But knowledge of happiness is unhappy; for knowing ourselves happy is knowing ourselves passing through happiness, and having to, immediatly at once, leave it behind. To know is to kill, in happiness as in everything. Not to know, though, is not to exist.
'Any road', said Carlyle, 'even this road to Entepfuhl, will take you to the end of the world'. But the Entepfuhl road, if taken in its entirety, and to the end, goes back to Entepfuhl; so Entepfuhl, where we already were, is that very end of the world we were seeking.
If I had written King Lear, I would regret it all my life afterwards. Because that work is so big, that its defects show as huge, its monstrous defects, things even minimal in between some scenes and their possible perfection. It's not the sun with spots; it's a broken greek statue.
There's a tiredness of abstract inteligence, and it's the most horrible of tirednesses. It doesn't weight on you like the tiredness of the body, nor does it worry you like the tiredness of knowledge and emotion. It's a weightiness of the conscience of the world, an inability of the soul to breathe.
If a man can only write well when drunk, I'll tell him: get drunk. And if he tells me that his liver suffers with it, I'll answer: what's your liver? It's a dead thing that lives as long as you live, and the poems you'll write will live without a as long as.
Our problem isn't that we're individualists. It's that our individualism is static rather than dynamic. We value what we think rather than what we do. We forget that we haven't done, or been, what we thought; that the first function of life is action, just as the first property of things is motion.
There's no greater tragedy than an equal intensity, in the same soul or the same man, of the intellectual sentiment and the moral sentiment. For a man to be utterly and absolutely moral, he has to be a bit stupid. For a man to be absolutely intellectual, he has to be a bit immoral.
I have now so many fundamental thoughts, so many really metaphysical things to say, that I suddenly get tired and decide not to write more, not to think more, but allow the fever of saying to make me sleepy, and fondle, with closed eyes, as if to a cat, all that I could have said.
The idea of any social obligation [...] just the idea of it embarasses my thoughts for a day, and sometimes it's since the day before that I worry, and don't sleep well, and the real affair, when it happens, is absolutely insignificant and justifies nothing; and the case repeats itself and I never learn to learn.
To travel? In order to travel it's enough to be. [...] Why travel? In Madrid, in Berlin, in Persia, in China, at the Poles both, where would I be but in myself, and in the sort and kind of my sensations? Life is what we make of it. Travels are travellers. What we see is not what we see but what we are.
Fernando Pessoa is the least known of the masters of twentieth-century poetry. From his heteronymic passion he produced, if that is the word, two of our greatest poets. Alberto Caeiro and Álvaro de Campos, and a third, Ricardo Reis, who isn't bad. Pessoa is the exemplary poet of the self as other, of the poem as testament to unreality, proclamation of nothingness, occasion for expectancy.
Every day things happen in the world that cannot be explained by any law of things we know. Every day they're mentioned and forgotten, and the same mystery that brought them takes them away, transforming their secret into oblivion. Such is the law by which things that can't be explained must be forgotten. The visible world goes on as usual in the broad daylight. Otherness watches us from the shadows.
I sometimes think, with a sad delight, that if one day, in a future I no longer belong to, these sentences, that I write, last with praise, I will at last have the people who understand me, those mine, the true family to be born in and be loved. [...] I will only be understood in effigy, when affection no longer repays the dead the unaffection that was, when living.
… And I, who timidly hate life, fear death with fascination. I fear this nothingness that could be something else, and I fear it as nothing and as something else simultaneously, as if gross horror and non-existence could coincide there, as if my coffin could entrap the eternal breathing of a bodily soul, as if immortality could be tormented by confinement. The idea of hell, which only a satanic soul could have invented seems to me to have derived from this sort of confusion - a mixture of two different fears that contradict and contaminate each other.
Wikiquote: The Book of Disquiet Heteronym: Bernardo Soares, Auxiliary book-keeper in Lisbon and a perfectionist without a real life. He lived in a small apartment in the Rua dos Douradores, and all he had in life was "a few accounting books and the gift of dreaming". One afternoon he was allowed to leave the office earlier to run a personal errand right there in Lisbon; the errand being completed early, he found that given the different hours Lisbon was a strange town he was unfamiliar with, and went back to the office, to the surprise of his colleagues. (Where a portuguese original quote exists, the translation into english was informal.)
Fernando Pessoa is the extreme example of what may be the essentially modern kind of poet: the objective introvert. None has more consistently tried to find his real self with its multiplicity intact and to keep his poems impersonal. He accepted the dividedness of a human self so completely that he did something unique: wrote poetry under four names – his own and three 'heteronyms'. Not pseudonyms: they are imaginary poets with real poems in them. Fernando Pessoa was four poets in one: Alberto Caeiro, Ricardo Reis, Alvaro de Campos and himself; each strongly distinct from the others. One is soon struck by an external difference between their poems...
For the moment being, given that we live in society, the only duty of superior men is to reduce to a minimum their participation in the tribe's life. Not to read newspapers, or read them only to know about whatever unimportant and curious is going on. [...] The supreme honorable state for a superior man is in not knowing who is the Head of State of his country, or if he lives under a monarchy or a republic. All his attitude must be setting his soul so that the passing of things, of events doesn't bother him. If he doesn't do it he will have to take an interest in others in order to take care of himself.