By Fernando Pessoa, from a selection of posthumously discovered prose pieces published, for the first time in English, in the October 2009 issue of Poetry Magazine. By the time of his death in 1935, Pessoa had written and published in the guise of seventy-two different pseudonymous personae, for whom he invented detailed biographies. They included, for instance, philosopher-cum-sociologist António Mora and Álvaro de Campos, a seafaring, bisexual, naval engineer who wrote Whitmanesque poetry. Translated from the Portuguese by Richard Zenith.
In its essence life is monotonous. Happiness therefore depends on a reasonably thorough adaptation to life’s monotony.
Unhealthy, illogical souls laugh—uneasily, deep down—at bourgeois happiness, at the monotonous life of the bourgeois man who obeys a daily routine . . . , and at his wife who spends her time keeping the house tidy, is consumed by the minutiae of caring for the children, and talks about neighbors and acquaintances. That’s what happiness is, however. It seems, at first glance, that new things are what give pleasure to the mind; but there aren’t many new things, and each one is new only once. Our sensibility, furthermore, is limited, and it doesn’t vibrate indefinitely.
To resign oneself to monotony is to experience everything as forever new. The bourgeois’s vision of life is the scientific vision, since everything is indeed always new, and before this day this day never existed.
He, of course, would say none of this. Were he capable of saying it, he wouldn’t be capable of being happy. My observations only make him smile; and it’s his smile that brings me, in all their detail, the considerations I’m writing down, for future generations to ponder.