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Conversation with Fernando Pessoa

Magazine Art + Culture | 03 Mar 2016



A slender figure appears at the entrance. “Someone is going to come through the door… You can feel the air smiling…” but, actually, it’s me who is smiling, because I recognise in this arched profile, in this dark-hued clothing, in this head covered with a dented hat, Fernando Pessoa himself. And I smile because it wasn’t easy to set up this conversation with the author – shy and reserved, Fernando Pessoa had few friends and rarely spoke to strangers. Maybe he considers me an acquaintance, given that I’ve leafed through his books so many times, sharing absurd hours, inverted landscapes, endless, impossible dreams with him.


Perhaps, now that he is dead, he’s made his way all along the alchemical path and has confirmed that “There is no death”. I don’t know, but what I do know is that we are now face to face, in his final bedroom, him perched on the windowsill from which he can watch the world, me on the edge of the bed, waiting until words are exchanged, silences are intersected or interpreted.
On an impulse he tells me: – And if I were to ask: “Don’t say a thing!/Nothing, not even the truth!/There is so much softness/In saying nothing at all”?
I look into those myopic eyes, distorted through the glass of his round spectacles. He stares back at me, searching for my reaction. I manage to babble:
– If you said these verses to me I would realise that you are quoting one of your poems …
His thin lips etch a smile, half-hidden behind his diminutive, American-style moustache. I decide to make use of this moment of harmony and question:
– I would like to ask you, given that this conversation is going to be published in the first issue of ROOF Magazine, the subject matter of which is The Brave Portuguese World, what is it that you consider to be Portuguese?
Clearing his throat a little and, gesticulating, he says:
– “The Portuguese people is, essentially, cosmopolitan. Never has a true Portuguese been Portuguese: he has always been everything. […] It’s clear that the Portuguese, with his tendency for being everything, would necessarily have to be nothing in every way possible”. – And he sits there, watching me, waiting for my response.
Before I have a chance to reply, a sheep appears, a lost one surely, because this urban bedroom is no place to tend livestock. A resounding voice rings out:
– “I’ve never tended flocks”. Why did they use a sheep as a cue for my entrance?
We watch it, amazed by its presence. Pessoa-as-himself asks:
– Why did you come this far, Master?
Alberto Caeiro replies:
– I just came to explain that “If after I die, they want to write my life story,/Nothing could be simpler/It has just two dates – that of my birth and that of my death./Between one and the other, every day is mine”.
Boldly, I manage to utter:
– Hello Master. It looks like you’re going to have to add another date to your life story – this one, of our conversation.
Caeiro turns towards me, his blue eyes, wide from having seen so much, staring at me, and retorts: – But the days are still mine, and time is this instant in which I talk to you, but I don’t want to think, “to think is to not understand, it is to have a malady of the eyes”.

 Featured in ROOF 1

Thanks to Casa Fernando Pessoa

Text: Paula Monteiro
Photos: Miguel Costa

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