Fernando Pessoa - Adult Life in Lisbon

Adult Life in Lisbon

Once again I see you – Lisbon, the Tagus, and all –
Useless passerby of you and of me,
Stranger in this place as in every other,
Accidental in life as in the soul,
Phantom wandering the halls of memory,
To the squealing of rats and the squeaking of boards,
In the doomed castle where life must be lived...
Fernando Pessoa, from "Lisbon Revisited" (1926),
ed. and tr. by Edwin Honig and Susan M. Brown.

While his family remained in South Africa, Pessoa returned to Lisbon in 1905 to study diplomacy. After a period of illness, and two years of poor results, a student strike against the dictatorship of Prime Minister João Franco put an end to his studies. Pessoa became a self student, a devoted reader who spent a lot of time at the library. In August, 1907, he started working at R.G. Dun & Company, an American mercantile information agency (currently D&B, Dun & Bradstreet). His grandmother died in September and left him a small inheritance, which he spent on setting up his own publishing house, the «Empreza Ibis». The venture was not a success and closed down in 1910, but the name ibis, the sacred bird of Ancient Egypt and inventor of the alphabet in Greek mythology, would remain an important symbolic reference for him.

Upon his return to Lisbon, Pessoa began to complement his British education with Portuguese culture, as an autodidact. Pre-revolutionary atmosphere surrounding the assassination of King Carlos I and Crown Prince Luis Filipe, in 1908, and patriotic environment resulting from the successful republican revolution, in 1910, certainly exerted a relevant influence in the formation of the writer. His stepuncle Henrique dos Santos Rosa, a retired general and poet, introduced the young Pessoa to Portuguese poetry, notably the romantics and symbolists of 19th century. In 1912, Fernando Pessoa entered the literary world with a critical essay, published in the cultural journal A Águia, which triggered one of the most important literary debates in the Portuguese intellectual world of 20th century: the polemic regarding a super-Camões. In 1915 a group of artists and poets, including Fernando Pessoa, Mário de Sá-Carneiro and Almada Negreiros, created the literary magazine Orpheu, which introduced modernist literature to Portugal. Only two issues were published (Jan-Feb-Mar and Apr-May-Jun, 1915), the third failed to appear due to funding difficulties. Lost for many years, this issue was finally recovered and published in 1984. Among other writers and poets, Orpheu published Pessoa, orthonym, and the modernist heteronym, Álvaro de Campos.

Pessoa also founded the literary review Athena (1924–25), which published the heteronym Ricardo Reis. Along with his activity as free-lance commercial translator, Fernando Pessoa undertook intense activity as a writer and literary critic, contributing to journals and magazines such as A Águia (1912–13), A Renascença (1914), Orpheu (1915), Exílio (1916), Centauro (1916), Portugal Futurista (1917), Ressurreição (1920), Contemporânea (1922–26), Athena (1924–25), Presença (1927–34) and Sudoeste (1935). He also published as a political analyst and literary critic in journals and newspapers such as Teatro (1913), O Jornal (1915), Acção (1919–20), Diário de Lisboa (1924–35), Sol (1926), Revista de Comércio e Contabilidade (1926) and Fama (1932–33).

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