At his death, which occurred in 1935, due to hepatic colic, the Portuguese poet, philosopher and astrologer Fernando Pessoa had only one published book and some collaborations in literary magazines. However, among his things he left a trunk full of turbulent writings that today credit him as one of the most outstanding authors of universal poetry of the 20th century.
Taciturn, solitary and even pessimistic, Pessoa attracted attention for the creation of just over 130 heteronyms, which populated his pages, both with verses, prose and literary criticism, resulting in a work full of mystery and great diversity of styles and ways of thinking. Of them, Alberto Caeiro, Ricardo Reis and Álvaro de Campos are the best known.
But what is a heteronym? It is not a simple pseudonym, with which authors can hide their own identity like a mask, but rather, literary identities in themselves, which function with a certain autonomy in the manifestation of an artistic work independent of that of its author. author, who in this case, since he was a child, felt like he was surrounded by characters.
And how did the unfolding of this poet begin? He himself says, in a letter, that it was in March 1914, when “a kind of ecstasy” caused him to write more than 30 poems in a row, which he would title “The Guardian of Herds,” an act that was followed by the emergence in his interior of the personality of Alberto Caeiro, who would become the teacher of Fernando Pessoa himself, along with the other heteronyms of Ricardo Reis and Álvaro de Campos.
Octavio Paz, who came to translate this complex character, tried to investigate the reasons why Pessoa had created these heteronyms, contradicting two of the most common hypotheses, not because they were false but because they were incomplete. One of them, the same one that Pessoa argued from psychology: “I am probably a hysteric-neurasthenic and this explains, well or badly, the organic origin of heteronyms.” And the other: the taste and knowledge of the “occultism” of the Portuguese poet.
“All this—like his loneliness, his discreet alcoholism and so many other things—gives us insight into his character, but it doesn’t explain his poems to us, which is the only thing that really matters to us,” the author of “Piedra de Sol” would say. .
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Recently the Economic Culture Fund reprinted the book “Pessoa multiple. Anthology”, whose editing, translation and notes were carried out by Jerónimo Pizarro and Nicolás Barbosa. It is the first anthology that brings together in a single volume, part of what was his entire poetic production, written in Portuguese, French and English.
However, due to the great extension of the archive that Pessoa left, which includes more than 30 thousand documents, until now it is impossible for there to be a publication that can contain them all, also because several of them are incomplete or require a greater number of investigations.