I would like to live different lives in distant lands. I would like to die another person beneath unknown flags. I would like to be acclaimed emperor in another time (a time better simply because it is not today), that appears to me in shimmering colours, among unknown sphinxes. I want anything that makes the person I am seem ridiculous just because it does make what I am seem ridiculous. I want, I want…But there is always the sun when the sun shines and the night when night falls. There’s always grief when grief afflicts us and dreams when dreams cradle us. There is always what there is and never what there should be, not because it’s better or worse, but because it’s other. There’s always… (46 )
This is an ideal book for bedtime reading, particularly if you’re of a melancholy disposition, like the narrator with his sad, exalted heart. As John Lanchester says, It’s the perfect antidote in a time that celebrates fame, success, stupidity, convenience and noise. Fernando Pessoa’s narrator, “the sphinx of the stationery cupboard”, a lowly accounts clerk, spends his time daydreaming, remembering, questioning, imagining, wondering about the lives of others in sad, funny reveries:
As a man of ideals, perhaps my greatest aspiration really does not go beyond occupying this chair at this table in this café (49)
This apparently passive man is profoundly engaged with life. It’s a delight to travel with him far and wide from the seat behind the accounts desk, or the chair in that eternal café.