Fernando António Nogueira Pessoa is one of the greatest literary figures of Portugal and is posthumously considered his generation’s most extraordinary poet.
Pessoa was a man who created several poet personalities that he called heteronyms, with each one having a unique style. In turn, it allowed him to express himself in various ways. Even though his works are notable thanks to their classic form, they are often surrealistic in terms of synthetic imagery and expression.
Born at the end of the 19th century in Lisbon, Pessoa moved to South Africa and attended school there. He went back to Lisbon later, where he started his career in writing as he contributed poetry to literary magazines during that time.
With his felt hat, glasses, and bowtie, Pessoa became a familiar face in the old dining and café establishment in Martinho da Arcada, found in the northeastern nook of Praça do Comércio in Lisbon. Pessoa was also a regular patron at Café Brasileira, and his statue can be seen there today.
Through the years, numerous writers had an intimate association with a specific city. These include Prague and Kafka, Dublin and Joyce, and Trieste and Svevo. But when it comes to Pessoa, however, he did something that not a lot of leading writers were able to do for their home city. Pessoa penned a guide for the tourists who visit the city.
According to Pessoa, winter is the best time to go to Lisbon, which he fondly referred to as luminous Lisbon. During this season, the light is diffuse and weak, and the sun is slanting.
Most of the streets are also empty, as the rain that gusts in from the Atlantic Ocean has left the pavement sleek with a damp skein that has turned them into a grey mother of pearl.
People who favor leather-soled shoes will discover during their stroll on Lisbon’s seven hills that the streets of the capital of Portugal are actually paved with pale and fine slippery stones.
The name Pessoa means person in Portuguese, but not a lot of people were familiar with him as an individual. He fell in love at age 32 with a girl named Ofélia, then 19 years old, and wrote more than 50 letters to her and numerous love poems about her.
Often very reclusive and resolutely private, Pessoa became an active leader of the Modernist movement in Portugal. He also had a very intense production of prose and poetry in English during this time. However, the epic Mensagem was the only book that he published during his lifetime. It was released in 1934, a year before his death.
The Book of Disquietude was also among Pessoa’s notable works. It was a work of imaginative prose that was set in Lisbon, the capital of Portugal. However, it was only published four decades after Pessoa died.
Continuing to be an enigma to this day, the vision of Pessoa mostly tackled human love and Portuguese destiny, with his work still widely read across the globe in numerous languages.