"My soul is a hidden orchestra; I know not what instruments, what fiddle strings and harps, drums and tambourines I sound and clash inside myself. All I hear is the symphony."
Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet
"I am the shipwreck of my own wanderings."
"I wasn’t meant for reality, but life came and found me."
"It’s so hard to describe what I feel when I feel I really exist and my soul is a real entity that I don’t know what human words could define it. I don’t know if I have a fever, as I feel I do, or if I’ve stopped having the fever of sleeping through life. Yes, I repeat, I’m like a traveller who suddenly finds himself in a strange town, without knowing how he got there, which makes me think of those people who lose their memory and for a long time are not themselves but someone else. I was someone else for a long time - since birth and consciousness - and suddenly I’ve woken up in the middle of a bridge, leaning over the river and knowing that I exist more solidly than the person I was up till now. But the city is unknown to me, the streets are new, and the trouble has no cure. And so, leaning over the bridge, I wait for the truth to go away and let me return to being fictitious and non-existent, intelligent and natural."
My ideal would be to live everything through novels and to use real life for resting up - to read my emotions and to live my disdain of them. For someone with a keen and sensitive imagination, the adventures of a fictional protagonist are genuine emotion enough, and more, since they are experienced by us as well as the protagonist. No greater romantic adventure exists than to have loved Lady Macbeth with true and directly felt love. After a love like that, what can one do but take a rest, not loving anyone in the real world?
"The feelings that hurt most, the emotions that sting most, are those that are absurd; the longing for impossible things, precisely because they are impossible; nostalgia for what never was; the desire for what could have been; regret over not being someone else; dissatisfaction with the world’s existence. All these half-tones of the soul’s consciousness create in us a painful landscape, an eternal sunset of what we are."
"To kill our dream life would be to kill ourselves, to mutilate our soul. Dreaming is the one thing we have that’s really ours, invulnerably and inalterably ours."
"I’m beginning to know myself. I don’t exist. I’m the space between what I’d like to be and what others made of me. Just let me be at ease and all by myself in my room."
"My humble attempt to say at least who I am, to record like a machine of nerves the slightest impressions of my subjective and ultra-sensitive life - this was all emptied like a bucket that got knocked over, and it poured across the ground like the water of everything. I fashioned myself out of false colours, and the result is an attic made out to be an empire. My heart, out of which I spun the great events of prose I lived, seems to me today - in these pages written long ago and reread now with a different soul - like a water pump on a homestead, instinctively installed and pressed into service. I shipwrecked on an unstormy sea where my feet could have touched bottom."
"My soul is a hidden orchestra; I know not what instruments, what fiddlestrings and harps, drums and tamboura I sound and clash inside myself. All I hear is the symphony."
"One of my constant preoccupations is to understand how other people can exist, how there can be souls that aren’t mine, consciousness that have nothing to do with my own, which - because it’s a consciousness - seems to me like the only one. I accept that the man standing before me, who speaks with words like mine and gesticulates as I do or could do, is in some sense my fellow creature. But so are figures from illustrations that fill my imagination, the characters I meet in novels, and the dramatic personae that move on stage through the actors who represent them.
No one, I suppose, genuinely admits the real existence of another person. We may concede that the person is alive and that he thinks and feels as we do, but there will always be an unnamed element of difference, a materialized inequality. There are figures from the past and living images from books that are more real to us than the incarnate indifferences that talk to us over shop counters, or happen to glance at us in the trams, or brush against us in the dead happenstance of the streets. Most people are no more for us than scenery, generally the invisible scenery of a street we know by heart."
“It arrived, wrapped in brown paper. A Penguin Classics edition. The book stunned me with its beauty. Rabih was correct, of course: it was one of the great books of our times. I had not read anything quite like it before. It was like opening Joyce’s back door and finding another genius there in the garden. The Book of Disquiet. To try to describe it would be to diminish it.”
— Colum McCann, on Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet in The Millions
"I’d woken up early, & I took a long time getting ready to exist."
"That is why the contemplative person, without ever leaving his village, will nevertheless have the whole universe at his disposal. There’s infinity in a cell or a desert. One can sleep cosmically against a rock."