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I was in my local bookstore the other day when I stumbled onto two copies of Fernando Pessoa's Book of Disquiet. I knew I was going to buy a copy but wasn't sure which to pick: This isn't a matter of a couple of additional pages, the Penguin edition had a shit-ton more chapters to it.

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I see that the Penguin classic version of — The Book of Q&A

Has anyone else run into a similar situation with other books? The Book of Disquiet is absolutely incredible, and Pessoa is considered along with Neruda to be the best poet of the twentieth century in any language. The obviously answer would be the Penguin one as long as it's the one by Richard Zenith. The thing about The Book of Disquiet is that it does not really exist on it's own.

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It began as a diary Pessoa was keeping on scrap papers for the thoughts he did not want to address either in person, or in his poetry, but moved on in successive stages to become first the diary of a character he created, Bernardo Soares, a non-fiction guide that Soares was writing about the city of Lisbon, a novel called The Stamp-Collector about the nature of true love, and ultimately, Pessoa's attempts to "Dream in prose".

Zenith started his project by actually publishing his own version of the original Portuguese scraps, making clear a lot of passages that nobody else has made sense of.


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The Penguin Edition is the obvious choice, simply because Zenith made certain to publish every scrap that he found in the box rather than making sense or flow of it so it may be simply a lot more difficult to read all the way through. The other translations, as the Publisher's Weekly article says, aren't all awful, nor entirely dishonest.

In fact, Zenith himself has expressed some liking for the MacAdam version for it's ability to render what is a difficult Portuguese into quite clear English. I haven't read it, and I know from the Saramago translations she is very talented, but simply for the reason of completion, Zenith is obviously better. As always, you are packed with information. This has been on my reading list for a while, but one minor or not so minor factoid I always seem to ignore with foreign language books is that they usually have so many translations to choose from. Whenever I find a book too difficult or as if I'm not getting everything out of it, I read up on the publication history.

For some reason I really, really like publication histories. And Pessoa in general is a doozie. I don't know if you were part of that conversation, but he's the last member of the 26 "of the Roll" from Harold Bloom's Western Canon. That was the worst and most obscure jokes I've made in a long time. I don't think I got in on that one, no. I did hear from some source that it was sort of a "book of secrets" but I'm sure that I'm paraphrasing that rather badly.

Anyway, I read a few differing things about it that interested me at different intervals.

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By the way, can I get off topic here for a moment here and ask you about a few other translation recommendations? I do really like that description either way. It may be one of my primary ways of reading these days. I know I trash them from time to time which has more to do with other people trying to homogenize another countries' literature , but this was their first shot at long term-translation and I think they did really well. It's really energetic, and the language really bounces. Be sure to get a copy with good notes the trade paperback version removed them for some bizarre reason and it would certainly help to read Geothe's play Faust first.

Sitting at his desk, Bernardo Soares imagined himself free forever of Rua dos Douradores, of his boss Vasques, of Moreira the book-keeper, of all the other employees, the errand boy, the post boy, even the cat. But if he left them all tomorrow and discarded the suit of clothes he wears, what else would he do? Because he would have to do something.

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Future editors, as obsessed as they are with completionism, included more than the author intended sometimes depending on the version. Richard Zenith includes not only fragments Fernando Pessoa didn't want in, but also author notes, and letters to friends concerning the book. A better way to compare the sizes of different versions would be with word counts. Kind of alarming, right?

Maia it's a trunk full of papers he left at his death. So the 'translator' is also the 'editor'. They're not pages, numbered, but little scraps of paper. So it's going to vary a lot, depending on the editors' decisions.