Notes from The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa

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KOReader/Exported Kindle Meaning
Lighten/Normal Yellow Quotables, concepts, and general ideas.
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The Book of Disquiet

Fernando Pessoa

Preface [1917?]

Page 15 @ 09 May 2022 10:10 PM

For Vicente Guedes, being self-aware was an art and a morality; dreaming was a religion.

1 [1913?]

Page 15 @ 09 May 2022 10:12 PM

My body sets my soul shivering with cold, not the cold that exists in space, but the cold of me being that space …

Page 15 @ 09 May 2022 10:23 PM

All pleasure is a vice because seeking pleasure is what everyone does in life, and the worst vice of all is to do what everyone else does.

2 [1913?]

Page 16 @ 09 May 2022 11:20 PM

Thus we will remain forever like the figure of a man in a stained-glass window opposite the figure of a woman in another stained-glass window … Between us, shadows whose footsteps echo coldly — humanity passing by … Between us will pass murmured prayers, secrets … Occasionally, the air will fill with incense. At other times, to left or right, a figure like a statue will sprinkle us with prayers … And there we will stay, always in the same windows, all color when the sun shines through and all dark lines when night falls … The centuries will not touch our glassy silence. Outside, civilizations will come and go, revolutions will break out, parties will whirl past, meek, everyday people will rush by … And we, my unreal love, will be frozen in the same pointless pose, the same false existence, and the same […], until one day, after centuries of empires, the Church will, at last, crumble and everything will end …

8 [1913?]

Page 20 @ 10 May 2022 02:19 PM

Sometimes inside me, I cast an impartial eye over those absurd, delicious things that I cannot see because they are apparently illogical — bridges that begin nowhere and go nowhere, streets with no beginning and no end, upside-down landscapes — the absurd, the illogical, the contradictory, everything that detaches and distances us from the real and from its misshapen retinue of practical thoughts and human feelings and desires for useful, effective action. The absurd saves us, despite the tedium, from that state of soul that begins with the sweet fury of dreaming.
And somehow I find a strange, mysterious way of envisioning those absurdities — I don’t know how else to explain it, but I see things of which visibility cannot even conceive.

9 [1913?]

Page 20 @ 10 May 2022 04:17 PM

Let us absurdify life from east to west.

16 [1913?]

Page 22 @ 10 May 2022 11:13 PM

How often it pains me not to be the captain of that ship, the driver of that train! To be some other banal individual whose life, because not mine, fills me with delicious longing and a poetic sense of otherness!

17 [1913?]

Page 22 @ 10 May 2022 11:16 PM

During those hours when the landscape forms a halo around Life, and dream is simply a matter of dreaming oneself, I created, O my love, in the silence of my disquiet, this strange book like a series of arches opening up at the end of some abandoned avenue.

Genesis story of this book.

Page 23 @ 10 May 2022 11:18 PM

And I am offering you this book because I know it to be both beautiful and useless. It teaches nothing, preaches nothing, arouses no emotion. It is a stream that runs into an abyss of ashes that the wind scatters and which neither fertilize nor harm — I put my whole soul into its making, but I wasn’t thinking of that at the time, only of my own sad self and of you, who are no one.

22 [1913?]

Page 26 @ 10 May 2022 11:30 PM

To kill our dream is to kill ourselves. It is like mutilating our soul. The dream is what is most truly, impenetrably, ineradicably ours.

23 [1913?]

Page 27 @ 10 May 2022 11:31 PM

For me, possession is an absurd lake — very large, very dark and rather shallow. It only seems deep because it’s full of filth and lies.

26 [1913?]

Page 28 @ 12 May 2022 02:00 AM

Did I set off? I could not swear to you that I did. I found myself elsewhere, I saw other ports, passed through cities other than that one, although neither one nor the other were cities at all. Nor can I swear that it was I who set off rather than the landscape, that I visited other lands rather than them visiting me. Not knowing what life is, I do not even know whether I am the one living it or if my life is living me (if we allow that empty word “live” to mean whatever it wants to), and I should not really swear to anything at all.

27 [1913?]

Page 29 @ 12 May 2022 02:06 AM

To organize our life so that it is a mystery to others, so that those who know us best only unknow us from closer to. That is how I shaped my life, almost unintentionally, but I put so much instinctive art into it that I became, even for myself, a not entirely clear-cut individual.

28 [1913?]

Page 30 @ 13 May 2022 05:25 AM

Each one of us is a whole society, an entire God’s people; it is as well then at least to bring a certain elegance and distinction to life in our part of town, to make sure that the celebrations held by our senses show good taste and reserve, and sober pomp and courtesy in the banquets of our thoughts. Let other souls build their poor, shabby dwellings around us, but let us clearly mark where ours begin and end, and make sure that from the façades of our houses to the inner sanctums of our timidities, everything is noble and serene, elegantly and discreetly sculpted.

29 [1913?]

Page 30 @ 13 May 2022 05:26 AM

Life gets in the way of being able to express life. If I were to experience a great love, I would never be able to describe it.

30 [after 10 May 1913]

Page 31 @ 13 May 2022 05:30 AM

Because you do not love what I say with the ears with which I hear myself saying it. If I hear myself speaking out loud, the ears with which I hear myself speaking out loud do not listen to me in the same way as the inner ear with which I dare to think those words. And if, when listening to myself, I frequently have to ask myself what I mean, how little others will understand me!

32 [c. 15 May 1913]

Page 32 @ 13 May 2022 10:39 PM

Blessed with absurdity are the artists who burned a very beautiful work, or those who, although they could have made something beautiful, deliberately made it imperfect, or those great poets of Silence who, realizing that they could create something utterly perfect, chose never to dare. (Although if it had been imperfect, that would have been another matter.)

Page 32 @ 13 May 2022 10:40 PM

Why is art beautiful? Because it is useless. Why is life ugly? Because it is all aims and purposes and intentions.

35 [1913?]

Page 34 @ 14 May 2022 05:59 PM

Let us, with an amused, incredulous smile on our lips, listen to God telling us that we exist. Let us watch Time painting the world and finding the resulting picture not only false but hollow.

36 [August 1913]

Page 38 @ 14 May 2022 06:23 PM

Ah, the flowers that I saw there! Flowers that sight translated into names, when I knew them, and whose perfume my soul picked, not from the flowers themselves, but from the melody of their names … Flowers whose names were, when repeated in sequence, whole orchestras of sonorous perfumes … Trees whose voluptuous green cast shade and cool over their names … Fruits whose name was a biting into the very soul of their flesh … Shadows that were relics of happy once-upon-a-times … Clearings, clear clearings, that were the most candid of smiles from the landscape that lay yawning near by … O multicolored hours! Flower-instants, tree-minutes, O time stagnating in space, time lying dead in space and covered in flowers and the perfume of flowers and the perfume of the names of flowers! …
A mad dream in that alien silence!

Page 38 @ 14 May 2022 06:25 PM

When we suddenly found ourselves before the stagnating lakes, we felt a desire to weep … There, the landscape had its eyes filled with tears, unmoving eyes, full of the innumerable tedium of being … Yes, full of the tedium of being, of having to be something, real or illusory — and that tedium had its homeland and its voice in the silence and exile of those lakes … And even though, all unknowing, we were still walking, it seemed that we were lingering by the shores of those lakes, because so much of us lingered and lived there, symbolized and absorbed …

37 [1913?]

Page 39 @ 14 May 2022 06:27 PM

How unnecessary it all is! Us and the world and the mystery of both.

39 [1913]

Page 40 @ 14 May 2022 06:29 PM

Become an absurd sphinx in the eyes of others. Shut yourself up in your ivory tower, but without slamming the door, for your ivory tower is you.

40 [1913?]

Page 40 @ 14 May 2022 06:30 PM

Nothing penetrates, neither atoms nor souls. That is why nothing can possess anything else. From the truth to a handkerchief, nothing is possessable. (Property is not theft: it is nothing.)

41 [1913?]

Page 40 @ 14 May 2022 06:30 PM

First, take care to respect nothing and to believe in nothing. When faced by those things you do not respect, your attitude must be that of someone willing to respect something; your feelings of distaste when confronted by what you do not love should resemble a painful desire to love; of your scorn for life retain only the idea that it should be good to live and to love life. Thus you will be laying the foundations for your dreams.

43 [1913?]

Page 42 @ 14 May 2022 06:35 PM

Drunk on errors, I momentarily find myself erroneously alive.

44 [1913?]

Page 42 @ 14 May 2022 06:36 PM

A child knows that the doll is not real, and yet he or she treats it as real, even weeping disconsolately when it breaks. The art of the child is that of making things unreal. Blessèd is that mischievous stage in life, when love is negated by the absence of sex, when reality is negated by play, treating as real things that are not.

Page 42 @ 14 May 2022 06:38 PM

A child gives no more value to gold than to glass. And is gold really worth so much more? The child finds the passions, rages and fears that he sees on adult faces vaguely absurd. And is it not true that all our fears, loathings and loves are entirely absurd and vain?

Page 42 @ 14 May 2022 06:39 PM

Is God merely perhaps a big child? Does not the entire universe seem like a game, a prank played by a naughty child? So unreal …
I tossed this idea up into the air for you, but seeing it from afar, I suddenly see how horrifying it is! (What if it’s true?)

46 [1913?]

Page 44 @ 14 May 2022 06:47 PM

Not entirely … We should never invade the feelings others pretend they are feeling. Such feelings are always far too personal … Believe me, it really hurts me to be sharing these personal confidences with you, for, while they are all false, they do represent genuine scraps of my poor soul … Deep down, you know, the saddest part of us is the least real part, and our greatest tragedies occur in our own idea of ourselves.

Page 44 @ 14 May 2022 06:51 PM

— Have you ever read a grammar book?
— Never. I always felt a deep aversion for knowing how one should say things. The only thing I liked in grammar books were the exceptions and the pleonasms. The truly modern view is to avoid rules and speak only nonsense. Isn’t that what they say?
— Indeed. The worst thing about grammar books (have you noticed the delicious impossibility of us talking about this?), the very worst thing, is the verbs. They are the words that give meaning to sentences … An honest sentence should always have several meanings. Verbs! A friend of mine, who committed suicide — every time I have a longer than usual conversation, a friend commits suicide — had decided to spend his entire life destroying verbs …

Page 45 @ 14 May 2022 06:53 PM

The two creatures sitting at the table drinking tea certainly never had this conversation, but they were so impeccably turned out, so well dressed, that it seemed a shame that they didn’t. That’s why I wrote this so that they’d be able to have had such a conversation … Their attitudes, their slightest gesture, their childish looks and smiles, at those points in any conversation that open up spaces in one’s sense of existence, clearly said what I am faithfully pretending they said … When they each doubtless got married and went their separate ways — for they were far too similar to marry each other — were they ever to read these pages, I’m sure they would recognize what they never said and would be grateful to me for having interpreted so accurately not just what they really are, but what they never wanted to be and never knew they were …

54 [1914?]

Page 48 @ 14 May 2022 07:02 PM

I sometimes create inside myself a philosopher who carefully sets out his philosophies for me, while, at the window of his house, I, a pageboy, flirt with his daughter, whose soul I love.

Page 51 @ 14 May 2022 07:11 PM

It’s incredible how this depersonalizes the spirit, how it reduces it to ashes, and, I admit, it’s difficult then not to succumb to the general lassitude that afflicts one’s whole being. But what a triumph!
This is the only possible asceticism. It involves no faith, nor even a God.
I am God.

60 [1914?]

Page 54 @ 15 May 2022 01:43 PM

Some metaphors are more real than the people you see walking down the street. Some images one finds in books are more vividly alive than many men and women. Some literary phrases have an absolutely human individuality.

62 [1914?]

Page 56 @ 18 May 2022 03:35 AM

The truly wise man is the man who lets external events trouble him as little as possible. To do this, he needs to armor himself by surrounding himself with realities that are closer to him than those events, and through which the events reach him, changed so as to accord with those realities.

If so, every social media addict is very wise.

66 [1914?]

Page 60 @ 20 May 2022 08:28 PM

Why do I write, then? Because, as a preacher of renunciation, I have not yet learned to practice what I preach. I have not yet learned to give up this leaning towards prose and poetry. I have to write as if I were doing a penance. And the worst penance is knowing that what I write is completely futile, failed and feeble.

67 [1914?]

Page 60 @ 20 May 2022 08:30 PM

Confronted by other people’s misfortunes, I do not experience pain but a feeling of aesthetic discomfort and a furtive irritation. This has nothing to do with kindness, it is simply because when someone is made to feel ridiculous, they appear ridiculous not only to me but to others too, and that is what irritates me; it hurts me that any animal of the human species should laugh at someone else’s expense when they have no right to do so. I don’t care if others laugh at me, because I’m protected by an efficient armor of scorn.

68 [1914?]

Page 61 @ 20 May 2022 08:32 PM

No one has the necessary divinity to write a work of art large enough to be great, and precise and perfect enough to be sublime, and no one has the good fortune to have achieved this. What does not flow freely from us is the result of the uneven ground of our own imperfect self.

Page 61 @ 20 May 2022 08:40 PM

You, who hear me and barely listen, you don’t understand what a tragedy this is! To lose father and mother, to achieve neither glory nor happiness, to have neither a friend nor a lover — all those things are bearable. What cannot be borne is to dream a thing of beauty, but lack the skill to endow it with actions or words. The awareness that a work is perfect, the satisfaction of a work achieved — sweet is it to sleep beneath the shade of that tree, on a quiet summer’s day …

He's speaking to me.

70 [1914?]

Page 62 @ 20 May 2022 08:47 PM

I contain certain spiritual qualities appropriate in a bohemian, the kind of bohemian who allows life to pass by like something which, at some point, slips from his fingers or in whom even the merest gesture of reaching out to grasp life simply drops asleep at the mere thought of trying. However, I did not have the external compensation of the bohemian spirit — the easy idleness of instantly abandoned emotions. I was never more than an isolated bohemian, which is absurd, or a mystical bohemian, which is impossible.

76 [1914?]

Page 66 @ 21 May 2022 01:18 PM

Ah, tall, twilight mountains, almost-narrow moonlit streets, if only I enjoyed your lack of awareness of the […] your spiritual vision of the material world, with no inner life, devoid of sensibility, with no room for feelings or thoughts or disquiet! Trees, never anything more than trees, with your green leaves so pleasant to the eyes, you are so indifferent to my cares and griefs, so consoling to my anguish because you lack eyes to see it or a soul to look through those eyes, to misunderstand and mock! Stones on the road, decapitated trees, the mere anonymous soil of the earth, your insensitivity to my soul is like a sisterly caress, a balm … Beneath the sun or beneath the moon of the Earth, my mother, so tenderly maternal, because you cannot criticize me, as my own human mother can, because you do not have a soul with which unwittingly to analyze me, nor can you shoot me rapid glances that provoke thoughts about me you would not confess even to yourself. Vast sea, my clamorous childhood companion, you bring me peace and cradle me because you have no human voice and will not one day whisper into other human ears of my weaknesses and imperfections. Vast sky, blue sky, so close to the mystery of the angels […] you do not look at me with envious eyes, and when you pin the sun on your breast, you do not do so to attract me nor […] nor don a mask of stars in order to make fun of me … Immense peace of nature, so maternal in your utter ignorance of me; distant quiet of atoms and systems, so fraternal in your utter inability ever to know me … I would like to pray to your vastness and your calm, as an expression of my gratitude for having you and being able to love without suspicion or doubt; I would Iike to give ears to your not-hearing, eyes to your sublime blindness, and to be seen and heard by you through those imagined eyes and ears, glad to be present at your Nothingness, attentive to what is distant, as if to a definitive death, clinging to no hopes of any other life beyond a God, beyond the possibility of growing into a voluptuous nothing and taking on the spiritual color of all matter.

83 [1915?]

Page 71 @ 21 May 2022 02:04 PM

Why are there not islands for those who feel uncomfortable here, ancient avenues for the lonely to dream in and that others cannot find?

Exactly my question.

87 [1915?]

Page 74 @ 21 May 2022 02:16 PM

Only business letters are addressed to someone. All other letters should, at least in the case of the superior man, be written only for himself.

91 [1915?]

Page 76 @ 21 May 2022 02:40 PM

My life is a continual fever, a never-quenched thirst. I find real life as oppressive as a very hot day. There’s something rather humiliating about that.

92 [1915?]

Page 76 @ 21 May 2022 02:41 PM

Man should not be able to see his own face. Nothing is more terrible than that. Nature gave him the gift of being unable either to see his face or to look into his own eyes.
He could only see his own face in the waters of rivers and lakes. Even the posture he had to adopt to do so was symbolic. He had to bend down, to lower himself, in order to commit the ignominy of seeing his own face.
The creator of the mirror poisoned the human soul.

111 [1915?]

Page 85 @ 22 May 2022 01:54 AM

Sometimes, on elegant evenings of the Imagination, in my dialogues with myself, in weary twilight colloquies in imagined salons, during those intervals in the conversation when I am left alone with an interlocutor more me than the others, I wonder why our scientific age has not extended its urge to understand to the artificial. And one of the questions over which I linger most languorously is why, along with the usual psychology of human and subhuman beings, there is not also a psychology — as there should be — of those artificial figures and creatures who exist only in rugs or paintings. Anyone who limits himself to the organic, and does not accept the idea of statues and tapestries having a soul, must have a very dim notion of reality. Where there is form there is a soul.

123 [1916?]

Page 91 @ 24 May 2022 12:31 AM

The longing to understand, which, in so many noble souls, takes the place of action, belongs to the sphere of sensibility. Replacing energy with intelligence, breaking the link between will and emotion, stripping of self-interest every manifestation of material life, that, if one can achieve it, is worth more than life, so difficult to possess completely and so sad if possessed only partially.

125 [1916?]

Page 93 @ 24 May 2022 12:44 AM

For any mind of a scientific bent, seeing more in something than is actually there is, in fact, to see less. What you add in substance, you take away in spirit.

128 [1916?]

Page 96 @ 24 May 2022 12:55 AM

We live in death, because we exist today only because we are dead to yesterday. We wait for death, because we can only believe in tomorrow in the knowledge that today will die. We live in Death when we dream, because to dream is to deny life. We die in death even while we live, because to live is to deny eternity! Death guides us, death seeks us out, death accompanies us. All we have is Death, all we want is Death, Death is all we want to want.

136 [1917]

Page 100 @ 24 May 2022 01:18 AM

In modern life the world belongs to the stupid, the insensitive and the disturbed. The right to live and triumph is today earned with the same qualifications one requires to be interned in a madhouse: amorality, hypomania and an incapacity for thought.

144 [1917?]

Page 103 @ 25 May 2022 07:43 PM

The pagan idea of the perfect man was the perfection of the man who exists; the Christian idea of the perfect man is the perfection of the man who does not exist; the Buddhist idea of the perfect man is the perfection of no man at all.

147 [1918?]

Page 105 @ 26 May 2022 12:32 PM

Art is a science …
It suffers rhythmically.

152 [1918?]

Page 106 @ 26 May 2022 03:21 PM

Each one of us is two, and whenever two people meet, get close or join forces, it’s rare for those four to agree. If the dreamer in each man of action frequently falls out with his own personal man of action, he’s sure to fall out with the other person’s dreamer and man of action.

Page 107 @ 26 May 2022 04:20 PM

Love requires us to be both identical and different, which isn’t possible in logic, still less in life. Love wants to possess, to make its own something that must remain outside in order for it to be able to distinguish between the something it has made its own and its own self. To love is to surrender oneself. The greater the surrender, the greater the love. However, to surrender completely is to surrender one’s consciousness to the other person. The greatest love, therefore, is death or oblivion or renunciation — all loves are the abomination of love.

156 [1919?]

Page 109 @ 26 May 2022 04:52 PM

I sometimes think with sad pleasure that if, one day in a future to which I will not belong, these sentences I write should meet with praise, I will at last have found people who “understand” me, my own people, a real family to be born into and to be loved by. But far from being born into that family, I will have been long dead by then. I will be understood only in effigy, and then affection can no longer compensate the dead person for the lack of love he felt when alive.

157 [c. 12 Jan 1920]

Page 110 @ 26 May 2022 04:54 PM

Composed of living cells and in a state of permanent dissolution, we are made of death.

158 [1920?]

Page 110 @ 26 May 2022 04:58 PM

Everything that lives, lives because it changes; it changes because everything passes; and because everything passes, it dies. Everything that lives perpetually becomes something else, constantly denying and eluding life.
Life, then, is an interval, a nexus, a link, but a link between what happened and what will happen, a dead interval between Death and Death.
… intelligence, a fiction composed solely of surface and error.


163 [29 Mar 1930]

Page 124 @ 27 May 2022 12:19 AM

To someone like myself, and to the few like me who live without knowing they live, what remains except renunciation as a way of life and contemplation as destiny? Ignorant of the meaning of a religious life and unable to discover it through reason, unable to have faith in the abstract concept of man and not even knowing what to do with it, all that remains for us as a justification for having a soul is the aesthetic contemplation of life. And so, insensitive to the solemnity of the world, indifferent to the divine and despising humankind, we give ourselves vainly over to a purposeless sensationism crossed with a refined form of epicureanism suited to our cerebral nerves.

172 [1929?]

Page 129 @ 27 May 2022 11:05 AM

Fraternity is a very subtle thing.
Some govern the world, others are the world. Between an American millionaire, a Caesar or Napoleon, or Lenin and the Socialist boss of a village there is no qualitative difference, only quantitative. Below them come us, the amorphous ones, the unruly dramatist William Shakespeare, the schoolteacher John Milton, that vagabond Dante Alighieri, the boy who ran an errand for me yesterday, the barber who always tells me stories, and the waiter who, simply because I drank only half my bottle of wine, proffered the fraternal hope that I would feel better tomorrow.

184 [1929?]

Page 135 @ 28 May 2022 11:49 PM

With an enormous effort I rise from my seat only to find that I still seem to be carrying it around with me, only now it’s even heavier because it’s become the seat of my own subjectivity.

190 [1929?]

Page 138 @ 29 May 2022 12:03 AM

The search for the truth — whether the subjective truth of one’s own convictions, the objective truth of reality or the social truth of money or power — always brings with it, if the searcher in question deserves the prize, the ultimate knowledge that the truth does not exist. Life’s biggest lottery prize goes only to those who happened to buy tickets.
The value of art is that it takes us away from here.

191 [1929?]

Page 139 @ 29 May 2022 12:05 AM

I prefer to fail having known the beauty of flowers than to triumph in a wilderness, for triumph is the blindness of the soul left alone with its own worthlessness.

194 [1929?]

Page 141 @ 31 May 2022 12:19 AM

There was always a clear relation between that humanitarian impulse and the amount of brandy consumed, and many grand gestures suffered from that one glass too many or from the pleonasm of thirst.

Page 141 @ 31 May 2022 12:20 AM

The most extraordinary thing about all those people was their utter meaninglessness. Some wrote for important newspapers and yet still managed not to exist; others held public posts recorded in the professional registers and yet managed to do nothing in life; others were celebrated poets, but the same ashen dust smeared their foolish faces with gray, as if in a tomb of embalmed corpses, with, as in life, their hands behind their backs.

217 [1929?]

Page 155 @ 04 June 2022 12:17 AM

I envy — although I’m not sure if envy is the right word — those people about whom one could write a biography, or who could write their autobiography. Through these deliberately unconnected impressions I am the indifferent narrator of my autobiography without events, of my history without a life. These are my Confessions and if I say nothing in them it’s because I have nothing to say.

218 [1929?]

Page 156 @ 04 June 2022 12:41 AM

All around me is the abstract, naked universe, composed of nothing but the negation of night. I am split between tiredness and restlessness and reach a point where I physically touch a metaphysical knowledge of the mystery of things. Sometimes my soul softens and then the formless details of everyday life float up to the surface of my consciousness and I draw up a balance sheet on the back of my insomnia. At other times I wake within the half-sleep in which I lie stagnating, and vague images in random poetic colors let their silent spectacle slide by my inattentive mind. My eyes are not quite closed. My weak sight is fringed with distant light from the street lamps still lit below, in the abandoned regions of the street.

Page 156 @ 04 June 2022 12:49 AM

I pass through time, through silences, as formless worlds pass through me.

219 [1929?]

Page 157 @ 04 June 2022 12:54 AM

We are all of us the slaves of external circumstance: even at a table in some backstreet café, a sunny day can open up before us visions of wide fields; a shadow over the countryside can cause us to shrink inside ourselves, seeking uneasy shelter in the doorless house that is our self; and, even in the midst of daytime things, the arrival of darkness can open out, like a slowly spreading fan, a deep awareness of our need for rest.

221 [21 Feb 1930]

Page 159 @ 04 June 2022 02:08 AM

To know nothing about oneself is to live. To know a little about oneself is to think. To know oneself precipitately, as I did in that moment of pure enlightenment, is suddenly to grasp Leibniz’s notion of the dominant monad, the magic password to the soul. A sudden light scorches and consumes everything. It strips us naked even of our selves.

238 [21 Apr 1930]

Page 170 @ 05 June 2022 01:22 AM

What a lot of nonsense just to satisfy myself! What cynical insights into purely hypothetical emotions! All this mixing up of soul and feelings, of my thoughts with the air and the river, just to say that life wounds my sense of smell and my consciousness, just because I do not have the wit to use the simple, all-embracing words of the Book of Job: “My soul is weary of my life!”

239 [23 Apr 1930]

Page 171 @ 05 June 2022 01:24 AM

Everything we love or lose — things, people, meanings — brushes our skin and thus reaches our soul, and, in God’s eyes, that is no more or less than the breeze that brought me nothing except the imagined relief, the propitious moment, and the ability to lose everything splendidly.

240 [25 Apr 1930]

Page 172 @ 05 June 2022 01:27 AM

Suddenly, I am alone in the world. I see all this while looking down from a mental rooftop. I am alone in the world. To see is to be distant. To see clearly is to stop. To analyze is to be foreign. People pass without even touching me. I have only air around me. I feel so isolated that I’m aware of the distance between me and my suit. I’m a child carrying a flickering candle and crossing, in my nightshirt, the big, deserted house. Living shadows surround me — only shadows, the daughters of dead things and the light accompanying me. They surround me here too in the sun, but they are people. And yet they are shadows too, shadows …

243 [c. 4/1930]

Page 174 @ 07 June 2022 01:32 AM

The burden of feeling! The burden of having to feel!

246 [6 May 1930]

Page 174 @ 07 June 2022 01:38 AM

They bring me faith wrapped up like a parcel and borne on someone else’s tray. They want me to accept it, but not open it. They bring me science, like a knife on a plate, with which I will cut the pages of a book of blank pages. They bring me doubt, like dust inside a box; but why do they bring me the box if all it contains is dust?

250 [12 June 1930]

Page 177 @ 07 June 2022 01:52 PM

There are times when everything wearies us, even those things that would normally bring us rest. Obviously what wearies us does so because it’s tiring; what is restful tires us because the thought of having to obtain it is tiring. Behind all anguish and pain lie certain debilities of the soul; the only people who remain unaware of these are, I believe, those who shrink from human anguish and pain and tactfully conceal from themselves their own tedium. Since in this way they armor themselves against the world, it is not surprising that at some stage in their self-consciousness they feel suddenly crushed by the whole weight of that armor, and life is revealed to them as an anguish in reverse, an absent pain.

253 [27 June 1930]

Page 178 @ 07 June 2022 01:58 PM

Life for us is whatever we imagine it to be. To the peasant with his one field, that field is everything, it is an empire. To Caesar with his vast empire which still feels cramped, that empire is a field. The poor man has an empire; the great man only a field. The truth is that we possess nothing but our own sensations; it is on them, then, and not on what they perceive, that we must base the reality of our life.

257 [c. 24 July 1930]

Page 181 @ 07 June 2022 02:08 PM

I write with a strange sense of grief, I make use of a certain intellectual asphyxia, which comes to me from the perfection of the evening. This exquisitely blue sky fading into pale pink on a soft, steady breeze fills my consciousness of myself with an urge to scream. I am, after all, writing in order to flee and flee again. I avoid ideals. I forget precise expressions, and they come to me in the physical act of writing, as if the pen itself were producing them.
From what I thought, from what I felt, there survives obscurely a futile desire to weep.

258 [25 July 1930]

Page 181 @ 07 June 2022 02:09 PM

Relations between one soul and another, expressed through such uncertain, divergent things as words exchanged and gestures made, are of a strange complexity. The very way in which we come to know each other is a form of unknowing. When two people say “I love you” (or perhaps think or reciprocate the feeling), each one means by that something different, a different life, even, perhaps, a different color and aroma in the abstract sum of impressions that constitute the activity of the soul.

260 [27 July 1930]

Page 182 @ 07 June 2022 03:53 PM

All literature consists of an effort to make life real. As everyone knows, even when they act as if they did not, in its physical reality, life is absolutely unreal; fields, cities, ideas are all totally fictitious, the children of our complex experience of ourselves. All impressions are incommunicable unless we make literature of them.

Page 182 @ 07 June 2022 03:54 PM

To say things! To know how to say things! To know how to exist through the written voice and the intellectual image! That’s what life is about: the rest is just men and women, imagined loves and fictitious vanities, excuses born of poor digestion and forgetting, people squirming beneath the great abstract boulder of a meaningless blue sky, the way insects do when you lift a stone.

261 [10 Dec 1930]

Page 183 @ 07 June 2022 03:56 PM

Thus days and days pass; how much of my life, were I to add up those days, I couldn’t say. Sometimes I think that when I finally slough off these stagnant clothes, I may not stand as naked as I imagine and some intangible vestments may still clothe the eternal absence of my true soul; it occurs to me that to think, feel or want may also be stagnant forms of a more personal way of thinking, of feelings more intimately mine, of a will lost somewhere in the labyrinth of who I really am.

274 [1930?]

Page 190 @ 07 June 2022 11:55 PM

We generally give to our ideas about the unknown the color of our notions about what we do know: if we call death a sleep it’s because it has the appearance of sleep; if we call death a new life, it’s because it seems different from life. We build our beliefs and hopes out of these small misunderstandings with reality and live off husks of bread that we call cakes, the way poor children play at being happy.

Page 190 @ 07 June 2022 11:56 PM

Civilization consists in giving an inappropriate name to something and then dreaming what results from that. And in fact the false name and the true dream do create a new reality. The object really does become other, because we have made it so. We manufacture realities. We use the raw materials we always used, but the form lent it by art effectively prevents it from remaining the same.

283 [1930?]

Page 194 @ 08 June 2022 12:54 AM

To be is to be free.

296 [1930?]

Page 201 @ 11 June 2022 07:07 PM

To move is to live, to express oneself is to endure.

301 [1930?]

Page 204 @ 11 June 2022 08:06 PM

There is an erudition of knowledge, which is what we usually mean by “erudition,” and there is an erudition of understanding, which is what we call “culture.” But there is also an erudition of sensibility.

Page 204 @ 11 June 2022 08:09 PM

Condillac begins his famous book with the words: “However high we climb and however low we fall we never escape our own feelings.” We can never disembark from ourselves. We can never become another person, except by making ourselves other through the sensitive application of our imaginations to our selves.

Page 204 @ 11 June 2022 08:11 PM

Renunciation is freedom. Not wanting is power.

Page 205 @ 11 June 2022 08:16 PM

What hands will I reach out to what universe? The universe is not mine: it is me.

305 [2 Feb 1931]

Page 208 @ 12 June 2022 11:02 AM

I always felt that virtue lay in getting what lay beyond one’s reach, in living where you were not, in being more alive when dead than when alive, in achieving, in short, something difficult, something absurd, in overleaping — like an obstacle — the obstinate reality of the world.

313 [1 July 1931]

Page 214 @ 13 June 2022 01:39 AM

No one likes us when we’ve slept badly. The sleep we missed carried off with it whatever it was that made us human. There is, it seems, a latent irritation in us, in the empty air that surrounds us. Ultimately, it is we who are in dispute with ourselves, it is within ourselves that diplomacy in the secret war breaks down.

315 [22 Aug 1931]

Page 215 @ 14 June 2022 01:01 AM

So great is my tedium, so overwhelming the horror of being alive, that I cannot imagine what could possibly serve as a palliative, an antidote, a balm, a source of oblivion. The idea of sleeping horrifies me too. As does the idea of dying. Leaving or staying are the same impossible thing. Hoping and doubting are equally cold and gray. I am a shelf full of empty bottles.
And yet, if I allow my vulgar eyes to receive the dying greeting of the bright day’s end, what a longing I feel to be no one else but me! What a grand funeral for hope in the still-golden silence of the lifeless skies, what a cortège of vacuums and voids parades past the reddish blues growing paler on the vast plains of empty white space!

317 [3 Sep 1931]

Page 225 @ 18 June 2022 11:01 PM

The most painful feelings, the most piercing emotions, are also the most absurd ones — the longing for impossible things precisely because they are impossible, the nostalgia for what never was, the desire for what might have been, one’s bitterness that one is not someone else, or one’s dissatisfaction with the very existence of the world. All these half-tones of the soul’s consciousness create a raw landscape within us, a sun eternally setting on what we are. Our sense of ourselves then becomes a deserted field at nightfall, with sad reeds flanking a boatless river, bright in the darkness growing between the distant shores.

329 [c. 21 Oct 1931]

Page 235 @ 22 June 2022 08:02 PM

If a man writes well only when he is drunk, I would tell him: Drink. And if he were to tell me that his liver suffers as a consequence, I would say: And what is your liver? It is a dead thing that lives only while you live, whereas there is no “while” about the poems you write.

134 [1917?]

Page 236 @ 15 January 2022 03:35 AM

I belong to a generation that inherited a disbelief in the Christian faith and that created within itself a disbelief in all other faiths. Our forefathers still felt an impulse to believe, which they transferred from Christianity to other forms of illusion. Some were enthusiasts for social equality, others were simply in love with beauty, others put their faith in science and its benefits, whilst others, even more Christian than ever, went off to East and West in search of other religions with which they could fill their consciousness of merely living, which seemed hollow otherwise.

We lost all this and were orphaned at birth of all these consolations. Every civilization cleaves to the intimate contours of the religion that represents it: to go after other religions is to lose that first religion and ultimately to lose them all.

We lost both our religion and the others too.

Each of us was left abandoned to ourselves, amidst the desolation of merely knowing we were alive. A boat would seem to be an object whose one purpose is to travel, but its real purpose is not to travel but to reach harbor. We found ourselves on the high seas, with no idea which port we should be aiming for. Thus we represent a painful version of the argonauts’ bold motto: the journey is what matters, not life.

Bereft of illusions, we live on dreams, which are the illusions of those who cannot have illusions. Living off ourselves alone, we diminish ourselves, because the complete man is one who is unaware of himself. Without faith, we have no hope and without hope we do not really have a life. With no idea of the future, we can have no real idea of today, because, for the man of action, today is only a prologue to the future. The fighting spirit was stillborn in us, because we were born with no enthusiasm for the fight.

Some of us stagnated in the foolish conquest of the everyday, contemptible, vulgar beings scrabbling for our daily bread and wanting to get it without working for it, without feeling the effort involved, without the nobility of achievement.

Others, of better stock, abstained from public life, wanting and desiring nothing, and trying to carry to the calvary of oblivion the cross of simply existing. A vain endeavor in men whose consciousness, unlike that of the original carrier of the Cross, lacks any spark of the divine.

Others, busily engaged outside their soul, gave themselves over to the cult of confusion and noise, thinking they were alive because they could be heard, thinking they loved when they merely stumbled against love’s outer walls. Life hurt us because we knew we were alive; death held no terror for us because we had lost all normal notion of death.

But others, the People of the End, the spiritual boundary of the Dead Hour, did not even have the courage to give it all up and seek asylum in themselves. They lived in negation, discontent and desolation. But we lived it all inside ourselves, making not even a single gesture, shut up for as long as we lived within the four walls of our room and within the four walls of our inability to act.

333 [29 Nov 1931]

Page 237 @ 23 June 2022 11:09 PM

Everything we do or say, everything we think or feel, wears the same mask and the same fancy dress. However many layers of clothing we take off, we are never left naked, for nakedness is a phenomenon of the soul and has nothing to do with taking off one’s clothes. Thus, dressed in body and soul, with our multiple outfits clinging to us as sleek as feathers, we live out the brief time the gods give us to enjoy ourselves happily or unhappily (or ignorant of quite what our feelings are), like children playing earnest games.
Someone, freer or more accursed than the rest of us, suddenly sees (though even he sees it only rarely) that everything we are is what we are not, that we deceive ourselves about what is certain and are wrong about what we judge to be right. And this individual, who, for one brief moment, sees the universe naked, creates a philosophy or dreams a religion, and the philosophy is listened to and the religion resonates, and those who believe in the philosophy wear it like an invisible garment, and those who believe in the religion put it on like a mask which they then forget they are wearing.

334 [November 1931]

Page 238 @ 23 June 2022 11:21 PM

have never forgotten that phrase of the biologist, Haeckel, whom I read in the infancy of my intelligence, at that age when one reads scientific publications and arguments against religion. The phrase goes more or less like this: the superior man (a Kant or a Goethe, I think he says) is farther removed from the common man than the common man is from the monkey. I’ve never forgotten the phrase because it’s true. Between myself, of little significance amongst the ranks of thinkers, and a peasant in Loures there is a greater distance than between that peasant and, I won’t say a monkey, but a cat or a dog. None of us, from the cat up, actually leads the life imposed on us or the fate given to us; we all derive from equally obscure origins, we are all shadows of gestures made by someone else, effects made flesh, consequences with feelings. But between me and the peasant there is a qualitative difference, deriving from the existence in me of abstract thought and disinterested emotion; whereas between him and the cat, at the level of the spirit, there is only a difference of degree.

Page 238 @ 23 June 2022 11:22 PM

What distinguishes the superior man from the inferior man and from the latter’s animal brothers is the simple quality of irony. Irony is the first indication that consciousness has become conscious, and it passes through two stages: the stage reached by Socrates when he said “I only know that I know nothing,” and the stage reached by Sanches,xii when he said “I do not even know that I know nothing.” The first stage is that point at which we dogmatically doubt ourselves and it’s a point that every superior man will reach. The second stage is the point at which we doubt both ourselves and our doubt, and, in the brief yet long curve of time during which we, as humans, have watched the sun rise and the night fall over the varied surface of the earth, that is a stage very few men have reached.

Page 239 @ 23 June 2022 11:24 PM

I get up from the chair where, leaning distractedly on the table, I’ve been amusing myself setting down these rough and ready impressions. I get up, I make my body get up, and go over to the window, high above the rooftops, from where I can see the city settling to sleep in the slow beginnings of silence. The big, bright white moon sadly points out the ragged line of the terraced roofs and its icy light seems to illuminate all the mystery of the world. It seems to reveal everything and that everything is just shadows intermingled with dim light, false intervals, erratically absurd, the incoherent mutterings of the visible world. The absence of any breeze only seems to increase the mystery. I’m sick of abstract thoughts. I will never write a single page that will reveal myself or anything else. The lightest of clouds hovers vaguely above the moon as if it were the moon’s hiding place. Like these rooftops, I know nothing. Like all of nature, I have failed.

335 [1 Dec 1931]

Page 239 @ 23 June 2022 11:25 PM

Art consists in making others feel what we feel, in freeing them from themselves, by offering them our own personality as a liberation. What I feel, in the actual substance in which I feel it, is totally incommunicable; and the more profoundly I feel something, the more incommunicable it becomes. In order for me to be able to transmit what I feel to someone else, I have to translate my feelings into his language, that is, to say those things as if they were what I feel, and for him, reading them, to feel exactly what I felt. And since that other person is, in terms of art, not this or that person, but everyone, that is, the person common to all people, what I have to do in the end is to convert my feelings into a typical human feeling, even if that perverts the true nature of what I felt.

You know my struggle mate.

Page 240 @ 23 June 2022 11:29 PM

Art lies because it is a social thing. And there are only two great forms of art — one is addressed to our deep soul, the other to our attentive soul. The first is poetry, the second the novel. The structure of the former is in itself a lie; and the very intention of the latter is a lie. One sets out to give us the truth by means of metered lines, which go against the inherent nature of speech; the other sets out to give us the truth through a reality that we know very well never existed.

337 [1 Dec 1931]

Page 242 @ 24 June 2022 03:13 PM

I’m always thinking, always feeling, but my thoughts lack all reason, my emotions all feeling. I’m falling through a trapdoor, through infinite, infinitous space, in a directionless, empty fall. My soul is a black maelstrom, a great madness spinning around a vacuum, the swirling of a vast ocean around a hole in the void, and in the waters, more like whirlwinds than waters, float images of all I ever saw or heard in the world: houses, faces, books, crates, snatches of music and fragments of voices, all caught up in a sinister, bottomless whirlpool.
And I, I myself, am the center that exists only because the geometry of the abyss demands it; I am the nothing around which all this spins, I exist so that it can spin, I am a center that exists only because every circle has one. I, I myself, am the well in which the walls have fallen away to leave only viscous slime. I am the center of everything surrounded by the great nothing.

343 [1931?]

Page 246 @ 24 June 2022 03:28 PM

And if the office in the Rua dos Douradores represents Life for me, the fourth-floor room I live in on that same street represents Art. Yes, Art, living on the same street as Life but in a different room; Art, which offers relief from life without actually relieving one of living, and which is as monotonous as life itself, but in a different way. Yes, for me Rua dos Douradores embraces the meaning of all things, the resolution of all mysteries, except the existence of mysteries themselves, which is something beyond resolution.

345 [1931?]

Page 248 @ 24 June 2022 10:59 PM

Unfortunately, the suffering of the intellect is less painful than that of the emotions, and that of the emotions, again unfortunately, less than that of the body. I say “unfortunately” because human dignity would naturally demand the opposite. No anguished sense of the mystery of life hurts like love or jealousy or longing, chokes you the way intense physical fear can or transforms you like anger or ambition. But neither can any of the pains that lacerate the soul ever be as real a pain as that of toothache, or colic or (I imagine) childbirth …

349 [1931?]

Page 249 @ 24 June 2022 11:07 PM

As far as I can see, plagues, storms and wars are all products of the same blind force, which sometimes operates through unconscious microbes, sometimes through unconscious lightning bolts and floods, sometimes through unconscious men. I see no difference between an earthquake and a massacre, except in the way that murdering someone with a knife and murdering someone with a dagger can be considered different. The monster immanent in all things is as likely to deploy — to its own advantage or disadvantage, the monster doesn’t seem to care which — a boulder falling from on high as a heart suddenly filling up with jealousy or greed. The boulder falls and kills a man; the greed or jealousy puts a weapon in someone’s hand, and the hand kills a man. That is how the world is, a dungheap of instinctive impulses, that somehow glitters in the shafts of sunlight, pale gold and dark gold.

360 [1931?]

Page 255 @ 26 June 2022 03:32 PM

Some days are like whole philosophies in themselves that suggest to us new interpretations of life, marginal notes full of the acutest criticism in the book of our universal destiny.

361 [1931?]

Page 256 @ 26 June 2022 03:33 PM

Which of us, turning to look back down the road along which there is no return, could say that we had walked that road as we should have?

382 [2 May 1932]

Page 269 @ 27 June 2022 11:11 PM

Doubtless the tragedy out of which life was created occurred along the paths of the park. There were two of them and they were beautiful and they wanted to be something else; love waited for them far off in the tedious future and the nostalgia for what would be arrived as the child of the love they had never felt. Thus, beneath the moonlight in the nearby woods — for the light trickled through the trees — they would walk hand in hand, feeling no desires or hopes, across the desert of abandoned paths. They were just like children, precisely because they weren’t. From path to path, silhouetted like paper cut-outs among the trees, they strolled that no man’s land of a stage. And so, ever closer and more separate, they disappeared beyond the fountains, and the noise of the gentle rain — which has almost stopped — is now the noise of the fountains they moved towards. I am the love that was their love and that’s why I can hear them in this sleepless night and why I’m capable of living unhappily.

394 [28 Sep 1932]

Page 276 @ 27 June 2022 11:42 PM

Yes, tedium is boredom with the world, the malaise of living, the weariness of having lived; in truth, tedium is the feeling in one’s flesh of the endless emptiness of things. But, more than that, tedium is a boredom with other worlds, whether they exist or not; the malaise of living, even if one were someone else, with a different life, in another world; a weariness not just with yesterday or today but with tomorrow too, with all eternity (if it exists) and with nothingness (if that is what eternity is). It isn’t just the emptiness of things and beings that hurts the soul when it is immersed in tedium, it’s the emptiness of something else too, the emptiness of the soul experiencing that emptiness and feeling itself to be empty, the emptiness that provokes a sense of self-disgust and repudiation.

On 'tedium'.

399 [30 Dec 1932]

Page 280 @ 28 June 2022 12:28 AM

Each of us is more than one person, many people, a proliferation of our one self. That’s why the same person who scorns his surroundings is different from the person who is gladdened or made to suffer by them. In the vast colony of our being there are many different kinds of people, all thinking and feeling differently. Today, as I note down these few impressions in a legitimate break brought about by a shortage of work, I am the person carefully transcribing them, the person who is pleased not to have to work just now, the person who looks at the sky even though he can’t actually see it from here, the person who is thinking all this, and the person feeling physically at ease and noticing that his hands are still slightly cold. And, like a diverse but compact multitude, this whole world of mine, composed as it is of different people, projects but a single shadow, that of this calm figure writing on Borges’s high desk, where I have come to find the blotter he borrowed from me.

404 [1932?]

Page 282 @ 28 June 2022 01:02 AM

Leaning over the balcony, enjoying the day, looking out at the diverse shapes of the whole city, just one thought fills my soul — the deep-seated will to die, to finish, no more to see light falling on a city, not to think or feel, to leave behind me, like discarded wrapping paper, the course of the sun and all its days, and to peel off the involuntary effort of being, just as one would discard one’s heavy clothing at the foot of the great bed.

আমি শুধু অকপটে মরতে চেয়েছি।

408 [1932?]

Page 283 @ 28 June 2022 01:11 AM

I wonder how many people have contemplated as it deserves to be contemplated a deserted street with people in it. Even putting it that way makes it seem as if I were trying to say something else, which in fact I am. A deserted street is not one along which no one walks, but a street along which people walk as if it were deserted. It isn’t a difficult concept to grasp once one has seen it; after all, to someone whose experience of the equine is restricted to mules, a zebra must seem inconceivable.

414 [5 Apr 1933]

Page 287 @ 28 June 2022 01:44 AM

It isn’t true that life is painful, or that it’s painful to think about life. What is true is that our pain is only as serious and important as we pretend it to be. If we lived naturally, it would pass as quickly as it came, it would fade as quickly as it bloomed. Everything is nothing, and our pain is no exception.

Kinda echoing Buddha.

418 [19 Sep 1933]

Page 289 @ 28 June 2022 01:55 AM

Tedium is not a sickness brought on by the boredom of having nothing to do, but the worse sickness of feeling that nothing is worth doing. And thus, the more one has to do the worse the tedium.

429 [29 June 1934]

Page 295 @ 28 June 2022 01:53 PM

To receive from the mystic state only the undemanding pleasures of that state; to be the ecstatic devotee of no god, the uninitiated mystic or epopt: to spend one’s days meditating on a paradise in which one does not believe — all those things please the soul, if the soul knows what it is not to know.

Page 295 @ 28 June 2022 01:55 PM

So what if I know that, come rain or shine, body or soul, I too will pass? It doesn’t matter a jot, apart from the hope that everything is nothing and, therefore, that nothing is everything.

430 [c. 29 June 1934]

Page 295 @ 28 June 2022 01:55 PM

Not to be, but to think, that is the true throne. Not to want, but to desire, that is the crown. Whatever we renounce we preserve intact in our dreams, eternally bathed in the sun that does not exist or the moon that will never exist.

432 [c. 26 July 1934]

Page 296 @ 28 June 2022 01:57 PM

The miracle is a sign of God’s laziness or, rather, the laziness we attribute to Him by inventing the miracle.

438 [1934?]

Page 299 @ 28 June 2022 02:06 PM

To be born free is Man’s greatest quality; it is what makes the humble hermit superior to kings, superior even to the gods, who are sufficient unto themselves only by virtue of their power but not by virtue of their disdain for it.

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