Ethical and Aesthetical Dimensions
Edited By António Marques and João Sàágua
The essays presented here are the outcome of research carried out by members of IFILNOVA (Institute for Philosophy of New University of Lisbon) in 2016.
The IFILNOVA Permanent Seminar seeks to show how values are relevant to humans (both socially and individually). This seminar is the ‘place’ where different research will converge towards a unified viewpoint. This includes the discussion of the following questions: What is the philosophical contribution to current affairs and decisions that depend crucially on values? Can philosophy make a difference, namely by bringing practical reason to bear on these affairs and decision? And how to do it? Which are our scientific ‘allies’ in this enterprise; psychology, communication sciences, even sociology and history?
This volume shows the connection between practical rationality and values and covers the dimensions ethics, aesthetics and politics.
‘I’m beginning to know myself. I don’t exist.’ The Interval of Álvaro de Campos (Bartholomew Ryan)
Começo a conhecer-me. Não existo.
Sou o intervalo entre o que desejo ser e os outros me fizeram,
ou metade desse intervalo, porque também há vida …
Sou isso, enfim …
Apague a luz, feche a porta e deixe de ter barulhos de chinelos no corredor.
Fique eu no quarto só com o grande sossego de mim mesmo.
É um universo barato.1
Introduction: Navigating between Philosophy and Poetry
As both an exercise in navigating between philosophy and poetry and what can be gained from doing so, I analyse Álvaro de Campos’ seven-line poem displayed above. This poem not only highlights Fernando Pessoa’s classic treatment of tedium, masks, the issue of the self and identity, insomnia and the theatre of existence, but also emphasises the concept of the ‘interval’. I argue that the interval here has three interconnected aspects when philosophy and poetry come together: the motifs of ‘between’, the ruin and the creative act – which together locate the nomadic writer. As much a fragment as it is a poem, these lines by Pessoa’s heteronym Campos have no title or date. It was published for the first time by the Ática publishers in Lisbon in 1944, nine years after ← 253 | 254 → Pessoa’s death. The whereabouts today of the original text is unknown. This essay is a part of my ongoing conversation between philosophy and poetry, on the journey by way of response to Alain Badiou’s comment on Pessoa as situated somewhere in between or out of reach of Western philosophy’s comprehension:
If Pessoa represents a singular challenge for philosophy, if his modernity is still ahead of us, remaining in many respects unexplored, it is because his thought-poem inaugurates a path that manages to be neither Platonic nor anti-Platonic. Pessoa poetically defines a site for thinking that is truly subtracted from the unanimous slogan of the overturning of Platonism. To this day, philosophy has yet to comprehend the full extent of his gesture.2
If Pessoa is, as he declared as a young man, a ‘poet animated by philosophy, not a philosopher with poetic faculties’ (Pessoa 1966: 13), then Kierkegaard may be the inverse, as a philosopher who is “a kind of poet”3, and as a dramatic thinker working against philosophy who wrote: ‘Life is like a poet and thus different from the contemplator, who always comes to a finish; the poet wrenches us out into the middle of life’ (Kierkegaard 1993: 73). Perhaps, the conversation between the poet and the philosopher – as one who is in the world and one who reflects on the world – can still lead us on to new intellectual and imaginary landscapes. Campos’ lines encapsulate so much of what we have come to experience and understand when entering the labyrinth of Pessoa’s poetic imagination, in traversing the fundamental philosophical questions such as – what it is to be, what time is, and what it is to see and be seen. ← 254 | 255 → The poem also captures the mystery and welcoming puzzle that still remains in the massive body of work after all the confessions, deceptions and masks created in the endless shedding of the self.
The interval can be called a concept as it is a multifaceted idea that runs through Pessoa’s work that helps articulate key elements in his artistic strategy as well as his psychology, philosophical perspectives, spirituality, and the fractured cosmology that is at play. Thus, it signifies many things, and – as in so much in Pessoa – the unity of its meaning lies in its multiplicity. Agreeing with Richard Zenith, I see Pessoa’s aesthetic and spiritual pursuits as one and the same quest (Pessoa 2016: 14), which is also very much in tune with James Joyce’s ‘eternal affirmation of the spirit of man in literature’ (Joyce 2008: 620). The interval is used so frequently in the Pessoa corpus that we might see it now without surprise, without thinking, and as something even trivial. But it would be unwise to overlook this word as it is a key to the heart of Pessoa’s writing.
In exploring the interval, we could dive into various passages scattered across the Livro de Desassossego, where the word turns up over thirty times, some passages beginning with the title ‘Intervalo Doloroso’ or simply ‘Intervalo’4. There are also poems from Pessoa which explicitly confront the interval in both his Portuguese and English poems – most obviously the poem ‘Intervalo’ (Pessoa 2006a: 385) in Portuguese from 1935, and ‘Meantime’ (Pessoa 1994: 202–203) in English (translated as ‘Intervalo’ by Jorge de Sena) which was his only publication in England in The Athenaeum in 1920, and another English poem called “The King of Gaps” from his magical, pantheistic collection under the title The Mad Fiddler. The interval was also of interest to Pessoa’s closest friend and fellow poet Mário de Sá-Carneiro who is important for the formation of Pessoa’s art, especially in his poem “Inter-Sonho” from 1913. Sá-Carneiro ends the poem with explicit reference to the interval: ‘Pressinto um grande intervalo, / Deliro todas as cores, / Vivo em roxo e morro em som…’5. In this poem we see the obvious connection that the interval has not only to dreams but also to music, and the role that it has ← 255 | 256 → for the structures in music which is important to the interval for literary usage and dreamscapes in Livro de Desassossego.
There are other poems from Campos which incorporate the interval such as ‘Saudação a Walt Whitman’ (‘Não quero intervalos no mundo!’6); an untitled poem with no date where he writes: ‘E é no intervalo que existo’7; and in one of his greatest poems ‘Lisbon Revisited (1926)’: ‘Compreendo a intervalos desconexos; / Escrevo por lapsos de cansaço; / E um tédio que é até do tédio arroja-me à praia.’8 Even earlier in the epic ‘Ode Marítima’, the interval is implicit throughout the poem, beginning with the dramatic opening verses in the image of the gap between the wharf (cais) and the ship (navio) that set the scene and allusions for his epic, imaginative adventure in piracy, homoeroticism and the reckless life of a seafarer. Campos’ seven-line poem appears on the page like a philosophical shipwreck long after his greatest ode has been published in Portugal’s greatest modernist moment and magazine Orpheu.
1. Aspects of the Interval in the Poem
What is the interval? There are five key components and/or words all turning up in different texts of Pessoa that belong to the family of the interval: interlúdio, intervalo, lacuna, entreacto, and English word gap. We can see that the interlúdio derives from ‘inter’ signifying ‘between’ and ‘ludus’ – signifying ‘play’; ‘gap’ comes from gape, which can be a hole in a wall or ledge and which can also signify the yawn; ‘lacuna’ from Latin, which means hole or pit; and the entreacto, as intermission, literally ‘between’ the ‘act’ in the theatre. The interval itself stems from the Latin intervallum – ‘between’ the ‘vallum’ which signifies ‘rampart’ or ‘wall’. There can be three simple definitions of the interval: as the space between two points or two objects; as the space of time between ← 256 | 257 → events, artistic shows, dates or epochs; and even as a temporary messianic interruption found most powerfully in Western thought in Saint Paul’s rhipé [twinkling of the eye], Kierkegaard’s Øieblikket [the moment] and Luther and Heidegger’s Augenblik [moment of vision].9
As mentioned above, I would like to introduce three aspects of the interval in this particular poem. First, the interval includes the standard motif of ‘between’ – as ‘inter’, which points to the space between waking and sleeping (insomnia), between sexualities especially in the case of Campos who is inclined towards both sexes, between physical space made metaphorical – such as the water between a wharf and a ship, and in the space between philosophy and poetry.
Second, the interval contains the motif of the ‘ruin’ – as fragment, disaster, garret, collapse or cracked cosmos. It is that ‘man from Porlock’10 who interrupted one of English literature’s greatest unfinished poems ‘Kubla Khan’. The interval in this poem is that which is not written, what was going to be written. Instead the reader only has the beginning and end of this magical poem, and the middle part – the interval – is now only in our imagination to discover or recover. It is no wonder that Pessoa obsessed over Coleridge’s poem. Like other philosophers and poets, the ruin becomes Campos’ place for spiritual renewal, as a ‘ruin of all space’ (Joyce 2008: 24) to begin again. There is a word coined by Joyce in Finnegans Wake that might well fit Campos which is the paradoxical ‘chaosmos’ (Joyce 1992: 118) – combining chaos and cosmos, encompassing disorder and order, or ‘thisorder’ (Joyce 1992: 540). The literary theorist Kuberski defines chaosmos as such:
a unitary and yet untotalized, a chiasmic concept of the world as a field of mutual and simultaneous interference and convergence, an interanimation of the subjective and objective, an endless realm of chance which nevertheless displays a persistent tendency toward pattern and order. (Kuberski 1994: 3) ← 257 | 258 →
Pessoa comes close to expressing this idea of ruin, cosmos and chaos in a poem in 1934 one year before he dies: ‘No intervalo cresce o mundo / Com sóis e estrelas sem fim’11. Campos is the ‘man in the garret [o da mansarda]’ (Pessoa 2002: 322; 1998: 175) who lives in the symbolic ruin of things, as a man on the margins, the defeated one who keeps going, whose life is a shipwreck but which allows for new beginnings.
The third aspect is the act of creativity. It is in the interval where creative energies can be unleashed. The creative, self-conscious writer thus is locating him or herself in the interval – that space that is vacated, forgotten, or seemingly frivolous. Thus, the writer of the interval can be an ironic nobody writing for no one, acting as the immature child or supplementary writer in the basement or attic. For Whitman, a great inspiration for Campos, the great poets emerge from the intervals and he describes them thus: ‘How they are provided for upon the earth, (appearing at intervals,) / How dear and dreadful they are to the earth’.12
With these three aspects, the interval implies something physical (in insomnia, sexuality, material space), interdisciplinary (between philosophy and poetry), spiritual and cosmic (in the ruin), and elusively aesthetic and creative (as transitional, marginal, ironic and iconoclastic).
2. A Philosophical Reading of the Poem
Let us read the poem. A few years earlier, Campos wrote that it is in the interval that he exists.13 Now he goes one step further. The first line ‘Começo a conhecer-me. Não existo [I’m beginning to know myself. I don’t exist]’ relates to the third aspect from above – in the heightened self-consciousness and an awakening and self-knowledge. It is also a self tired of itself which is brilliantly expressed in a poem later in the ← 258 | 259 → twentieth century by Patrick Kavanagh in ‘The Self-slaved’: ‘Me I will throw away / Me sufficient for the day’ (Kavanagh 2005: 227). Campos’ opening sentence is a sudden spark of self-awareness and a perfect way to start this concise poem full of melody for a poem without much rhyme. We have the modernist figure of the interval declaring himself as not existing. Bernardo Soares asked the questions: ‘… a quem assisto? Quantos sou? Quem é eu? O que é este intervalo que há entre mim e mim?’14 Here Campos tries to tell it straight. As a follower of Caeiro, knowing oneself is to no longer exist. If the ancient Sanskrit epic – The Mahabharata – views the self as one’s opposite, then Campos has come to understand not only this but that the beginning of knowledge is to be nothing. And his reality in knowing is that he does not exist. Then Campos tries to unravel this teasing declaration in the first two sentences with the second and third line: ‘Sou o intervalo entre o que desejo ser e os outros me fizeram / ou metade desse intervalo, porque também há vida … [I’m the gap between what I’d like to be and what others have made me / Or half of this gap, since there’s also life]’. ‘I am’ (Sou) or his being is the interval, but an interval that is between what he desires to be and what others have made him. These ‘others’ leave open for the reader and spectator to see them as Campos’ own creator Pessoa, or in the narrative itself of those who see and meet Campos, or us as the readers of today. In this extreme self-reflection, there is the obvious nod to heteronymity but also to the concept of ‘inter’ itself and the process of creativity. The second part of this sentence in the third line deepens the mystery. He could be half of this interval because there is also life. This is the present and future cosmos, revealing the indifference of the cosmos, the stars or the universe to Campos and man’s plight. He can’t even be all of this interval. Kant’s dark night of cognition grows longer and the stars more distant.
‘Sou isso, enfim …[That’s me. Period].’ This line is the first of four attempts to conclude the opening declaration, but of course (like his much longer, unfinished poems such as Saudação a Walt Whitman and A Passagem das Horas) he cannot and will not conclude so easily – being that interval, the between, the transition. Even the three dots that ← 259 | 260 → follow ‘enfim’ already show the uncertainty of finishing. Pessoa and Campos cannot remain silent; instead the repetition unfolds where he tries to write the same poem again and again. And so in not being able to be silent (and Campos is always talking), he gives the order: ‘Apague a luz, feche a porta e deixe de ter barulhos de chinelos no corridor [Turn off the light, shut the door, and get rid of the slipper noise in the hallway]’. This is a very vivid image of solitude and call for closure. There is the desire for a return to darkness which alludes to points two (the ruin) and three (creation). He is ordering someone to close the door, to finish it for him, to make the closure for him, and to get rid of that irritating noise in the empty hallway. This hallway is the image of a lonely passageway to nowhere, and the noise of the slippers would be enough to drive one mad. Who is he speaking to? And why the order, or is this an order at all? Is he trying to convince himself of something or to motivate himself? Or is it the ghost of Pessoa – Campos’ creator – who speaks? Or is Campos speaking to Pessoa? Or perhaps the order is to everyone he has ever met, and all the sensations that have emerged from these encounters, the ghosts from the past, or perhaps to us the readers. The starry firmament ‘no longer lights the solitary wanderer’s path,’ (Lukács, 1971: 36) and a man in this new world is to be solitary here.
The full stop between lines five and six, between the two orders, reveals the pause, the breath, the silence, and the loneliness and solitude. There is an attempt to end the poem again, which could end here. But he continues, with the order to leave him alone in the room with the vast peace of himself (‘Fique eu no quarto só com o grande sossego de mim mesmo’). In the imperative of the verb ficar, again we may ask to whom is he speaking? To which we, as readers, may answer with another question: ‘Who am I reading?’ The question – ‘To whom am I speaking?’ – has a profound significance for the poet. It is the reflection on the posterity of the word, writing for the dead and for those in the future with the abiding hope that the writing lives on with future readers. With Campos’ declaration of isolation and the ambiguity of whom he is speaking to, the motif of writing for nobody which I will mention again in my conclusion comes to the fore and is linked to the self-appointed ‘man in the garret’. This is the chosen isolation and Campos’ repetitive call and cry for attention as the poet who cannot keep quiet or remain still. The ‘grande sossego de mim mesmo’ could be related to the sudden access he has been given or given himself to the knowledge ← 260 | 261 → that he does not exist. The cosmos, which signified order, is now for the modern mind paradoxically full of chaos indicating the ruin of all things where these lines of Campos reside. And what ‘room’ is he in? The beauty of this line is its openness to prod the reader’s imagination. Each line is an attempt to end and to start, like a warming up to the main part which never comes. Again he is finished, reminding me of Beckett’s last words in his formidable prose trilogy: ‘I can’t go on, I’ll go on’ (Beckett 1994: 418). Beckett, Campos and Pessoa do go on, continuing again – as is the calling of the one from the mansarda, that one from the margins, like Nietzsche’s posthumous writer15 or Kierkegaard’s Extraskriver (Kierkegaard 1983: 7); in sum, the one at the interval.
The last line makes another concise, complete declaration: ‘É um universo barato [It’s a shoddy universe].’ This reveals Campos’s pessimism and realism, but also the ruin and chaosmos of all things. In our modern world and life, anything can now be had, anything can be bought and sold, everything has a price, which devalues the whole universe. And, as Campos told himself and the world a few years previously with the publication of ‘Tabacaria’, he failed in everything.16 And yet precisely in this state of failure and ruin, and even paralysis and petrification, in his chaos of feeling, the affirmation of art emerges in the creation of form in the attempt to express sensations. The sad, confessional poem under scrutiny here also reveals the continuity and repetition in the face of disaster and not even existing. And at the same time, finally, this is Campo’s spiritual renewal, his survival and his conviction – which is never giving up on the creative force.
Conclusion: The Nomadic Life
In conclusion, Campos – as writer of the interval – is always repeating himself, refusing to settle, refusing to be tamed and to be pinned down, and always revealing the crisis of human communication – much as ← 261 | 262 → Kierkegaard and Nietzsche have done for philosophy. He is a nomadic writer17, floating between two worlds, exemplified in this poem: ‘I’m beginning to know myself. I don’t exist.’ It is no coincidence that Saramago later makes Pessoa show up from the grave in his great novel O Ano da Morte de Ricardo Reis to tell Ricardo Reis that he is ‘floating, in other words, in midocean, neither here nor there. Like the rest of the Portuguese [você anda a flutuar no meio do Atlântico, nem lá, nem cá, Como todos os portugueses]’ (Saramago, 1999: 312; 1998: 353). During his own myth-making and propaganda writings for Orpheu, Pessoa wrote a letter in English (which was never sent) describing the Portuguese as having an ‘indefiniteness of soul’ and a ‘temperamental nonregionalism’ (Pessoa 1966: 143).
Campos’ poem brings up the figure of the nomadic writer who claims to be writing for nobody. This is something that Campos has in common with a particular kind of modern European writer of the interval that continues to unleash an uneasy feeling, who creates mask upon mask displacing identities, and whose wanderings are unfolding rather than progressing with purpose.18 Nomadic writers of the interlude such as Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Benjamin, Kleist, Kafka and Beckett are all attempting to write for that ‘nobody’ – as the invisible, disrupting other who may not fit in with the narrative that history would like to write. These are the most compelling and penetrating philosophers and poets ← 262 | 263 → of modernism. They are always at the interval between what has been lost and what may be discovered or rediscovered in a transformed way in the future. Thus, they are inviting the reader to spend more time at the frontiers, which, as the poet well knows, is the key to transformation. Deleuze and Guattari follow the nomad as the writer of the interval disrupting the nomos of appropriation, distribution and production and that which designates the law: ‘A path is always between two points, but the in-between has taken on all the consistency and enjoys both an autonomy and a direction of its own. The life of the nomad is the intermezzo […] The nomad knows how to wait, he has infinite patience. Immobility and speed, catatonia and rush […]’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 380). Thus, Deleuze and Guattari state at the very beginning of their work A Thousand Plateaus that their ‘rhizome’ – which grounds their whole thesis of nomadology – is in the interval: ‘A rhizome has no beginning or end; it is always in the middle, between things, interbeing, intermezzo […] Kleist, Lenz and Büchner have another way of traveling and moving: proceeding from the middle, through the middle, coming and going rather than starting and finishing. […] The middle is by no means an average; on the contrary, it is where things pick up speed’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 25).
I end here with a revealing explanation by Pessoa on what a poem is and on his own aesthetic and spiritual position and journey. The paragraph presents the written word as an activity and the creative mind that is always in flux, elusive and plural, flying by the nets of convention, authority and temporality. Written in English probably in 1916, this paragraph provides more clues to understanding the chaosmos at play and the ever-shifting dissolution and plurality of the self that is evident in the seven-line poem that I chose for this short essay:
I sometimes hold that a poem […] is a person, a living human being, belongs in bodily presence and real fleshly existence to another world, into which our imagination throws him, his aspect to us, as we read him in this world, being no more than the imperfect shadow of that reality of beauty which is divine elsewhere. I hope some Day, after death, I shall meet in their real presences the few children of these I have as yet created and I hope I shall find them beautiful in their dewy immortality. You may perhaps wonder that one who declares himself a pagan should subscribe to these imaginations. I was a pagan, however, two paragraphs above. I am one no longer as I write this. At the end of this letter I hope to be already something else.
I carry into practice as far as I can that spiritual disintegration I preach. If I am ever coherent, it is only as an incoherence from incoherence. […] (Pessoa 1966: 133) ← 263 | 264 →
Badiou, Alain (2005). Handbook of Inaesthetics, translated by Alberto Toscano. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Beckett, Samuel (1994). Molly, Malone Dies, The Unnamable. London: Calder Publications.
Benjamin, Walter (2003). The Origin of German Tragic Drama, translated by John Osbourne, London: Verso.
The Bible (1997). Authorised King James Version with Apocrypha. Oxford: Oxford World’s Classics.
Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari (1987). A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, translated by Brian Massumi, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Joyce, James (1992). Finnegans Wake. London: Penguin Books.
____ (2008). Ulysses. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Heidegger, Martin (1963). Sein und Zeit. Tübingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag.
Kavanagh, Patrick (2005). Collected Poems. London: Penguin Classics.
Kotowicz, Zbigniew (2008). Fernando Pessoa: Voices of a Nomadic Soul. Exeter: Sherman Books.
Kuberski, Philip (1994). Chaosmos: Literature, Science and Theory. New York: State University of New York Press.
Kierkegaard, Søren (1980). The Concept of Anxiety. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
____ (1983). Fear and Trembling, edited and translated by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong. Princeton: Princeton University.
____ (1993). Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits, edited and translated by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Lukács, Georg, The Theory of the Novel (1971). Translated by Anna Bostock. Cambridge Massachusetts: The MIT Press.
Nietzsche, Friedrich (1954). The Antichrist, in The Portable Nietzsche, edited and translated by Walter Kaufmann, London: Penguin Books.
____ (1994). Poemas Inglesas, 4.ª edição. Lisboa: Edições Ática.
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____ (2000). Crítica: Ensaios, Artigos e Entrevistas, edição Fernando Cabral Martins. Lisboa: Assírio & Alvim.
____ (2002). Poesia de Álvaro de Campos, edição Teresa Rita Lopes. Lisboa: Assírio & Alvim.
____ (2005). The Education of the Stoic, edited and translated by Richard Zenith, Cambridge: Exact Change.
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____ (2012). Livro do Desassossego, edição Richard Zenith (10ª edição), Lisboa: Assírio & Alvim.
____ (2015). The Book of Disquiet, edited and translated by Richard Zenith, London: Penguin Classics.
____ (2016). Fernando Pessoa: English Poetry, selected and introduced by Richard Zenith. Lisboa: Assírio & Alvim.
Sá-Carneiro, Mário de (1978). Obras Completas de Mário de Sá-Carneiro II: Poesias, edição João Gaspar Simões. Lisboa: Edições Ática.
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1 Pessoa (2002: 433; 1998: 200). Translation: ‘I’m beginning to know myself. I don’t exist. / I’m the gap between what I’d like to be and what others have made me, / Or half of this gap, since there’s also life … / That’s me. Period. / Turn off the light, shut the door, and get rid of the slipper noise in the hallway. / Leave me alone in my room with the vast peace of myself. / It’s a shoddy universe.’
2 Badiou (2005: 36). I have already published elsewhere in exploring the gap between philosophy and poetry, or philosophers and Pessoa. See, for example: ‘A Voyage in Immanence: Alberto Caeiro as an expression of Spinoza’s Ethics’, in Immanent Expressions: Literature and the Encounter with Immanence, edited by Brynnar Swenson, Amsterdam/New York: Brill (forthcoming 2017); ‘Orpheu e os Filhos de Nietzsche: Caos e Cosmoplitismo’, in Nietzsche e Pessoa: Ensaios, edição B. Ryan, M. Faustino, A. Cardiello), Lisboa: Tinta da China, 2016; and ‘Into the Nothing with Kierkegaard and Pessoa’, in Kierkegaard and the Challenges of Infinitude, edição E. Sousa, J. Miranda Justo, R. Rosfort, Lisboa: Centro de Filosofia da Universidade de Lisboa, 2013.
3 See Louis Mackey’s book: Kierkegaard: A Kind of Poet, Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1971.
4 See especially Pessoa (2012: 76, 98, 113, 196, 199, 227, 286, 347, 373 / 39, 62, 78, 163, 166, 194, 255, 318, 345).
5 Sá-Carneiro (1978: 57) ‘I envision a great interval / I go wild in all the colours / I live in purple and die in sound’ (my translation).
6 Pessoa (2002: 170): ‘I want a world without gaps!’
7 Pessoa (2002: 265): ‘It is in the interval that I exist’ (my translation).
8 Pessoa (2002: 300 / 218): ‘At intermittent intervals I understand; / I write in respites from my weariness; And a boredom bored even of itself casts me ashore.’
9 Kierkegaard (1980: 82–90); The Bible (1997: ii. 221) [I Corinthians 15:52]; Heidegger (1963: 338).
10 ‘A man from Porlock’ is the title of a piece that Pessoa wrote and which was published on the 15th February 1935 in Fradique in Lisbon. It discusses the enigmatic figure who supposedly interrupted the writing of Coleridge’s ‘Kubla Khan’. Pessoa calls this man from Porlock ‘the unknown interrupter’ who showed up and obstructed a communication between the abyss and life’ [esse interruptor incógnito, a estorvar uma comunicação entre o abismo e a vida]. Pessoa (2000: 491; 2005: 54).
11 Pessoa (2006a: 235; 2006b: 329): ‘In that gap is born the universe / With suns and stars past counting.’
12 Whitman (2004: 44). This poem, called ‘Beginners’, was first published in the third edition of Leaves of Grass in 1860.
13 See note 7.
14 Pessoa (2012: 222; 2015: 189): ‘… who am I watching? How many am I? Who is I? What is this gap between me and myself?’
15 Nietzsche (1976: 566): ‘Some are born posthumously.’
16 Pessoa (2002: 320; 1998: 174): ‘Falhei em tudo [I failed in everything].’
17 Zbigniew Kotowicz wrote a monograph on Pessoa presenting him as a nomadic soul. See Kotowicz (2008).
18 I think of Pessoa’s writings as a method that Benjamin describes: ‘Method is a digression. Representation as digression – such is the methodological nature of the treatise. The absence of an uninterrupted purposeful structure is its primary characteristic. Tirelessly the process of thinking makes new beginnings, returning in a roundabout way to its original object. This continual pausing for breath is the mode most proper to the process of contemplation. For by pursuing different levels of meaning in its examination of one single object it receives both the incentive to begin again and the justification for its irregular rhythm. Just as mosaics preserve their majesty despite their fragmentation into capricious particles, so philosophical contemplation is not lacking in momentum. Both are made up of the distinct and the disparate; and nothing could bear more powerful testimony to the transcendent force of the sacred image and the truth itself. The value of fragments of thought is all the greater the less direct their relationship to the underlying idea, and the brilliance of the representation depends as much on this value as the brilliance of the mosaic does on the quality of the glass paste’ (Benjamin, 2003, 28).