The OF Blog: Fernando Pessoa on scenery

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Fernando Pessoa on scenery

Amiel says that scenery is a mood, but his statement is merely the weak boutade of a weak dreamer. As soon as scenery is scenery it stops being a mood. To objectify is to create, and no one says that a finished poem is the state of thinking about finishing it. Seeing may well be dreaming, but if we all it seeing instead of dreaming, i's because we make a distinction between dreaming and seeing.

In any case, of what use are these speculations on verbal psychology? Independently of me, the grass grows, it rains on the grass that grows, and the sun gilds all the grass that grew or is going to grow; the mountains arose long, long ago, and the wind howls in the same way Homer heard it - even if he didn't exist. It might be more precise to say that a mood is a scenery; the statement would have the advantage of not containing the lie entailed in a theory, even if the only truth it does contain is that of a metaphor.

These random ideas were dictated to me by the grand panorama of the city, which I saw in the universal light of the sun form the top of São Pedro de Alcântara. Every time I contemplate a panorama like that, I forget the five feet seven and one hundred and twenty-four pounds that I am physically, I have a hugely metaphysical smile for those who dream that dreams are dreams, and I love the truth of things absolutely external with the noble virtue of my understanding.


I have no faith in scenery. That's right. I don't say it because I believe in Amiel's "scenery is a mood," one of the felicitous verbal moments of that most insufferable interiorizer. I say it because I don't believe it.

- Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

Been reading bits and pieces of Pessoa's posthumous prose work recently. His observations, which rarely go more than a single page, are full of comments such as this that give me reasons to pause and to think about matters. While I suppose I could make some connections to the occasional discussions regarding that amped-up scenery called "worldbuilding," I won't. What I'll do is let this piece create its own images within those who read this, in hopes that perhaps they'll be willing to read this outstanding early 20th century Portuguese poet and writer.


Anonymous said...

Pessoa is wonderful, isn´t he? The original title of this book is a rare jewel in estrangement even for us, Portuguese speakers: "O Livro do Desassossego". He didn´t create this last word, but it is never used in Portuguese (at least not in Brazilian Portuguese, which is quite different from the form spoken in Portugal, even though we understand each other fairly well).

Lsrry said...

That last word reminds me of dissociation, which might be an even better descriptor for what I've read so far (had to take a break the past couple of days due to work draining me to the point of sleeping within 3 hours of arriving at home). But I shall continue, since Pessoa is indeed amazing.

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