Interiority and Exteriority in Parallel: Fernando Pessoa’s Realm of Boredom

by Christian Parreno

14 [118]

I’ve come to the realization that I’m always thinking and listening to two things at once. I expect everyone does that a little. Some impressions are so vague that only when we remember them afterwards we are aware of them at all. I think these impressions form a part (the internal part, perhaps) of this double attention we all pay to things. In my case the two realities I attend to have equal weight. In that lies my originality. In that, perhaps, lie both my tragedy and the comedy of my tragedy.

   I write carefully, bent over the book in which I measure out in balance sheets the futile history of an obscure company and, at the same time and with equal attention, my thoughts follow the route of an imaginary ship through oriental landscapes that have never existed. The two things are equally clear, equally visible to me: the ruled page on which I meticulously write the lines of the epic commercial poem that is Vasques & Co. and the deck where, a little to one side of the lines made by the tarred spaces between the planks, I watch intently the rows of deckchairs and the stretched-out legs of people relaxing on the voyage.

   (If I were knocked down by a child’s bicycle, that bicycle would become part of my story.)

   The smoking room protrudes on to the deck, preventing me from seeing anything more than their legs.

   I reach for the inkwell with my pen and from the door of the smoking room – […] right where I feel myself to be standing – emerges the figure of the stranger. He turns his back on me and goes over to the others. He walks slowly and I can deduce nothing from his back […]. I begin another entry in the accounts book. I try to see where I went wrong. Marques’s accounts should be debited not credited (I imagine him: plump, amiable, full of jokes and, in an instant, the ship has vanished).

Pessoa, Fernando (1991) The Book of Disquiet. London: Serpent’s Tail. 12-3

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