“Pessoa, whose name means ‘person’ in Portuguese, had three alter egos who wrote in styles completely different from his own. In fact Pessoa wrote under dozens of names, but Alberto Caeiro, Ricardo Reis and Álvaro de Campos were – their creator claimed – full-fledged individuals who wrote things that he himself would never or could never write. He dubbed them ‘heteronyms’ rather than pseudonyms, since they were not false names but “other names”, belonging to distinct literary personalities. Not only were their styles different; they thought differently, they had different religious and political views, different aesthetic sensibilities, different social temperaments. And each produced a large body of poetry. Álvaro de Campos and Ricardo Reis also signed dozens of pages of prose.“
Just a curiosity: between 72 (so far) Chevalier de Pas was the first known heteronym at the early age of six years old.
Fernando Pessoa’s geniality is too big to fill in only one poet.
He gives voice to every single part of his being. Every one of us has several different voices inside, You could even call them souls, but just a few can actually hear them. We pushed our voices to some drawer far back in our mind and stopped hearing them a long time ago. One of the many disadvantages of growing up.
Most of us though still keep around two to three voices. None is true or false, good or evil. That only happens in fairy tales. Our voices have all a mind of their own. They can be in peace or in conflict, subjective or objective, depending more or less on the mood or the path chosen that day. But normally we usually keep our voices to ourselves letting our personal thoughts and conflicts stay, well… personal.
Pessoa went further. He didn’t lose any voice on the way and more than that, he showed them all to the outer world. He materialized them through the writing.
Pessoa is one of a kind and when I’m reading him, it doesn’t mean I’m reading him. I might be reading Ricardo Reis and his odes, the impulsive Alberto Caeiro, Alvaro Campos or his semi-heteronym Bernardo Soares.
Even Fernando Pessoa is not Fernando Pessoa himself. The real poet is diffused in all of his heteronyms.
I myself like to read this or that one depending on my mood although I do have an ode of Ricardo Reis that I since ages still see as a maxim to follow.
“To be great, be whole: don’t exaggerate
Or leave out any part of you.
Be complete in each thing. Put all you are
Into the least of your acts.
So too in each lake, with its lofty life,
The whole moon shines.”
If you knew Pessoa you would know how incredible difficult it is to write about him in just a few sentences. For he’s not one but a bunch. His writings aren’t one style, but a bunch. His life is not only one, but a bunch. A bunch of poets, writers and philosophers in one person. How cool is that?!
Pessoa’s complexity goes beyond everything that people know from the world of books. Like so many artists, he was also only really discovered post mortem, had by the time of his death only one book published. And still today there are innumerous transcripts yet to be edited and discovered by avid readers.
Fernando Pessoa will however never be truly discovered for his geniality goes far beyond our own comprehension. And there lies the beauty of Pessoa. Who wants to know someone completely anyway? If so, whatever new is there to learn?