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Fernando Pessoa PDF Print E-mail

Fernando Pessoa (1888 - 1935) was born in Lisbon and is regarded today as the greatest Portuguese poet since Camoens. Pessoa died in 1935 leaving only one book of poems published in Portuguese under his own name. He wrote under a number of pseudonyms in several different styles: as Alvaro de Campos, Alberto Caeiro and Ricardo Reis.

At the age of seven, Pessoa accompanied his mother to Durban where her second husband, Commander Joao Miguel Rosa had been posted as Portuguese Consul. Fernando Pessoa went to the West Street Convent School where he first learnt to read and speak English. In 1899 he was enrolled at Durban High School and three years later, after spending a year in Portugal and Azores, enrolled at Durban's Commercial School. The English essay he wrote for his entrance examination to the University of Good Hope won him the Queen Victoria Prize. After successfully completing the Intermediate Bachelor of Arts degree at Cape Town University in 1905, he returned to Portugal, never to return to South Africa.

In 1987 a commemorative statue of Pessoa, funded by the Antonio de Almeida Foundation, was erected on the corner of Pine and Gardiner Streets in Durban. The statue was defaced in 2015 following the heated debate surrounding Apartheid and Colonial era symbols that was prompted by the "Rhodes Must Fall" campaign.

(Adapted from John Torres Fernando Pessoa - the Man with Four Faces)

Selected Work

Amongst the poems written while he was still a schoolboy in Durban, is the following sonnet, denouncing Joseph Chamberlain for being the cause of the Anglo-Boer War.

Durban poet Douglas Livingstone commented on this poem: ' ...the poet, a self-confessed imperialist all his life, a staunch Anglophile drunk on the older English poets of the school curriculum, was reacting angrily to the Empire's war on a 'farmer race', in the middle of chauvinistic, stridently pro-British Durban. Here was Albion at its most perfidious, and poem's sentiments surprisingly accord with uncommon liberal convictions obtaining in England but relatively unknown - and certainly not fashionable - in English-speaking Natal at the time. '(In fact, the editor [of the Natal Mercury] who saw the poem decided against its publication.)'

Joseph Chamberlain

Their blood on thy head, whom the Afric waste
Saw struggling, puppets with unwilful hand,
Brother and brother: their bought souls shall brand
Thine own with horrors. Be thy name erased

From the full mouths of men: nor be there traced
To thee one glory of thy parent land:
But 'fore us, as 'fore God, e'er do thou stand
In that thy deed forevermore disgraced.

Where lie the sons and husbands, where those dear
That thy curst craft hath lost? Their drops of blood
One by one fallen, and many a cadenced tear,

With triple justice weighted trebly dread,
Shall each, rolled onward in a burning flood,
Crush thy dark soul. Their blood be on thy head!



1986. Hubert Jennings. Fernando Pessoa in Durban. Durban: Durban Corporation.


1918. Antinous.  Lisbon: Monteiro and Co.
1918. Sonnets.  Lisbon:  Monteiro and Co.
1921. English Poems.  Lisbon:  Olisipo.
1933. Mensagem (The Message).  Lisbon:  Parceria António Pereira 
1942. Poesias de Fernando Pessoa.  Lisbon:  Atica.

1942. Poesias de Alvaro de Campos.  Lisbon:  Atica.
1946. Odes de Ricardo Reis.  Lisbon:  Atica.
1952. Poemas dramaticos.  Lisbon: Atica.
1956. Poemas ineditas: 1919-1930.  Lisbon: Atica.
1974. Selected Poems. (Translated by Jonathan Griffin). London:  Penguin Books.
1986. O manuscrito de O Guardador de Rebanhos de Alberto Caeiro (The Maunscript of The Keeper of Sheep by Alberto Caeiro).  Lisbon: Dom Quixote.
1986. Poems of Fernando Pessoa.  New York:  Ecco Press.
1998. Fernando Pessoa & Co.: Selected Poems (edited by Richard Zenith). New York:  Grove Press.


1978. Cartos de amor de Fernando Pessoa.  Lagos:  Zefiro. 
1982. Livro do dessassogego por Bernardo Soares (The Book of Disquiet for Bernardo Soares).  Lisbon:  Atica.
1988. Always Astonished: Selected Prose.  San Francisco:  City Lights Books.