Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  

The Book of Disquiet

Recommended Posts

Not sure where to put this. This forum doesn't appear to encourage individual book reviews (apparently preferring blogs, but few people will see those in my opinion). 


Anyway, the book of disquiet is quite simply one of the most beautiful things I have ever read. Written in 1935 over many years but not published across Europe until the '80s and '90s.

There's no narrative to speak of, no plot, only a man giving his thoughts on the world and the human condition. It feels like a diary, and many of the chapters do, indeed, have dates, but most don't and even the ones that do aren't chronologically ordered, but rather placed, haphazardly, in any order. You might read several entries from 1932 only to find, many chapters later, that you're reading his thoughts from 1916. Not that it matters, the whole book could be read in any order, in any way, starting at the middle and moving backwards, or picking any random chapter you wanted. It makes no difference at all.

Pessoa writes using the heteronym 'Bernardo Soares', and tells us very little about himself other than where he works, his boss, the errand boy, with a few occasional references to the streets and the weather. More than anything, he concerns himself with the nature of existence, the tedium of life, the mystery of being alive. He writes beautifully, almost poetically, and is always accompanied by a sense of melancholy and, perhaps, even despair. The book reminded me of 'Journey to the end of the night' by Celine in its low opinion of humanity. Yet he also sees the beauty in life, and adores nature and art. He ponders the meaning of things and the emptiness too. It's exquisite.

I wouldn't recommend this book lightly. If you're someone who prefers a narrative, then this might not be your cup of tea. But if, like me, you enjoy books where opinions are given, ideas explored, and thoughts are allowed to spiral into the darkness, then this is a glorious example of that.


The book was published long after he died which, given that he spends a moment towards the end of the book contemplating being rediscovered as a writer by later generations, fills me with joy.


The book is an exhaustive list of wonderfully quotable thoughts such as... 

"I'm almost convinced that I'm never awake. I'm not sure if I'm not in fact dreaming when I live, and living when I dream, or if dreaming and living are for me intersected, intermingled things that together form my conscious self."


"I asked for very little from life, and even this little was denied me. A nearby field, a ray of sunlight, a little bit of calm along with a bit of bread, not to feel oppressed by the knowledge that I exist, not to demand anything from others, and not to have others demand anything from me - this was denied me, like the spare change we might deny a beggar not because we're mean-hearted but because we don't feel like unbuttoning our coat."


"There are ships sailing to many ports, but not a single one goes where life is not painful."


There is so much sadness in the character. And you can just picture him, gazing from his window at night, seeking out a small piece of light.



Edited by Hux

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this