|Birth Day:||June 13, 1888|
|Death Date:||Nov 30, 1935 (age 47)|
|Birth Place:||Lisbon, Portugal|
As per our current Database, Fernando Pessoa died on Nov 30, 1935 (age 47).
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His father died of tuberculosis when Pessoa was five years old. Pessoa and his mother subsequently relocated to South Africa.
Pessoa was born in Lisbon on 13 June 1888. When Pessoa was five, his father, Joaquim de Seabra Pessôa, died of tuberculosis and on 2 January of the following year, his younger brother Jorge, aged one, also died.
After the second marriage of his mother, Maria Magdalena Pinheiro Nogueira, a proxy wedding to João Miguel dos Santos Rosa, Fernando sailed with his mother for South Africa in early 1896 to join his stepfather, a military officer appointed Portuguese consul in Durban, capital of the former British Colony of Natal. In a letter dated 8 February 1918, Pessoa wrote:
The young Pessoa received his early education at St. Joseph Convent School, a Roman Catholic grammar school run by Irish and French nuns. He moved to the Durban High School in April 1899, becoming fluent in English and developing an appreciation for English literature. During the Matriculation Examination, held at the time by the University of the Cape of Good Hope (forerunner of the University of Cape Town), in November 1903, he was awarded the recently created Queen Victoria Memorial Prize for best paper in English. While preparing to enter university, he also attended the Durban Commercial High School during one year, taking night classes.
While his family remained in South Africa, Pessoa returned to Lisbon in 1905 to study diplomacy. After a period of illness, and two years of poor results, a student strike against the dictatorship of Prime Minister João Franco put an end to his formal studies. Pessoa became an autodidact, a devoted reader who spent a lot of time at the library. In August 1907, he started working as a practitioner at R.G. Dun & Company, an American mercantile information agency (currently D&B, Dun & Bradstreet). His grandmother died in September and left him a small inheritance, which he spent on setting up his own publishing house, the "Empreza Ibis". The venture was not successful and closed down in 1910, but the name ibis, the sacred bird of Ancient Egypt and inventor of the alphabet in Greek mythology, would remain an important symbolic reference for him.
In his early years, Pessoa was influenced by major English classic poets such as Shakespeare, Milton and Pope, or romantics like Shelley, Byron, Keats, Wordsworth, Coleridge and Tennyson. After his return to Lisbon in 1905, Pessoa was influenced by French symbolists and decadentists as Charles Baudelaire, Maurice Rollinat, Stéphane Mallarmé; mainly by Portuguese poets as Antero de Quental, Gomes Leal, Cesário Verde, António Nobre, Camilo Pessanha or Teixeira de Pascoaes. Later on, he was also influenced by modernists as W. B. Yeats, James Joyce, Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot, among many other writers.
Pessoa returned to his uncompleted formal studies, complementing his British education with self-directed study of Portuguese culture. The pre-revolutionary atmosphere surrounding the assassination of King Charles I and Crown Prince Luís Filipe in 1908, and the patriotic outburst resulting from the successful republican revolution in 1910, influenced the development of the budding writer; as did his step-uncle, Henrique dos Santos Rosa, a poet and retired soldier, who introduced the young Pessoa to Portuguese poetry, notably the romantics and symbolists of the 19th century. In 1912, Fernando Pessoa entered the literary world with a critical essay, published in the cultural journal A Águia, which triggered one of the most important literary debates in the Portuguese intellectual world of the 20th century: the polemic regarding a super-Camões. In 1915 a group of artists and poets, including Fernando Pessoa, Mário de Sá-Carneiro and Almada Negreiros, created the literary magazine Orpheu, which introduced modernist literature to Portugal. Only two issues were published (Jan–Feb–Mar and Apr–May–Jun 1915), the third failed to appear due to funding difficulties. Lost for many years, this issue was finally recovered and published in 1984. Among other writers and poets, Orpheu published Pessoa, orthonym, and the modernist heteronym, Álvaro de Campos.
Pessoa's earliest heteronym, at the age of six, was Chevalier de Pas. Other childhood heteronyms included Dr. Pancrácio and David Merrick, followed by Charles Robert Anon, an English young man that became Pessoa's alter ego. In 1905/7, when Pessoa was a student at the University of Lisbon, Alexander Search took the place of Anon. The main reason for this was that, although Search is English, he was born in Lisbon as his author. But Search represents a transition heteronym that Pessoa used while searching to adapt to the Portuguese cultural reality. After the republican revolution, in 1910, and consequent patriotic atmosphere, Pessoa created another alter ego, Álvaro de Campos, supposedly a Portuguese naval engineer, born in Tavira and graduated in Glasgow. Translator Richard Zenith notes that Pessoa eventually established at least seventy-two heteronyms. According to Pessoa himself, there were three main heteronyms: Alberto Caeiro, Álvaro de Campos and Ricardo Reis. The heteronyms possess distinct biographies, temperaments, philosophies, appearances, writing styles and even signatures.
In 1912, Fernando Pessoa wrote a set of essays (later collected as The New Portuguese Poetry) for the cultural journal A Águia (The Eagle), founded in Oporto, in December 1910, and run by the republican association Renascença Portuguesa. In the first years of the Portuguese Republic, this cultural association was started by republican intellectuals led by the writer and poet Teixeira de Pascoaes, philosopher Leonardo Coimbra and historian Jaime Cortesão, aiming for the renewal of Portuguese culture through the aesthetic movement called Saudosismo. Pessoa contributed to the journal A Águia with a series of papers: 'The new Portuguese Poetry Sociologically Considered' (nr. 4), 'Relapsing...' (nr. 5) and 'The Psychological Aspect of the new Portuguese Poetry' (nrs. 9,11 and 12). These writings were strongly encomiastic to saudosist literature, namely the poetry of Teixeira de Pascoaes and Mário Beirão. The articles disclose Pessoa as a connoisseur of modern European literature and an expert of recent literary trends. On the other hand, he does not care much for a methodology of analysis or problems in the history of ideas. He states his confidence that Portugal would soon produce a great poet – a super-Camões – pledged to make an important contribution for European culture, and indeed, for humanity.
Ten years after his arrival, he sailed for Lisbon via the Suez Canal on board the "Herzog", leaving Durban for good at the age of seventeen. This journey inspired the poems "Opiário" (dedicated to his friend, the poet and writer Mário de Sá-Carneiro) published in March 1915, in Orpheu nr.1 and "Ode Marítima" (dedicated to the futurist painter Santa-Rita) published in June 1915, in Orpheu nr.2 by his heteronym Álvaro de Campos.
Pessoa also developed a strong interest in astrology, becoming a competent astrologer. He has elaborated hundreds of horoscope, including well-known people like William Shakespeare, Lord Byron, Oscar Wilde, Chopin, Robespierre, Napoleon I, Benito Mussolini, Wilhelm II, Leopold II of Belgium, Victor Emmanuel III, Alfonso XIII, or the Kings Sebastian and Charles of Portugal, and Salazar. In 1915, he created the heteronym Raphael Baldaya, an astrologer who planned to write "System of Astrology" and "Introduction to the Study of Occultism". Pessoa established the pricing of his astrological services from 500 to 5,000 réis and made horoscopes of relatives, friends, customers, also of himself and astonishingly of the heteronyms and journals as Orpheu.
In 1912–14, while living with his aunt "Anica" and cousins, Pessoa took part in "semi-spiritualist sessions" that were carried out at home, but he was considered a "delaying element" by the other members of the sessions. Pessoa's interest in spiritualism was truly awakened in the second half of 1915, while translating theosophist books. This was further deepened in the end of March 1916, when he suddenly started having experiences where he believed he became a medium, having experimented with automatic writing. On June 24, 1916, Pessoa wrote an impressive letter to his aunt and godmother, then living in Switzerland with her daughter and son in law, in which he describes this "mystery case" that surprised him.
During World War I, Pessoa wrote to a number of British publishers, namely Constable & Co. Ltd. (currently Constable & Robinson), in order to print his collection of English verse The Mad Fiddler (unpublished during his lifetime), but it was refused. However, in 1920, the prestigious literary journal Athenaeum included one of those poems. Since the British publication failed, in 1918 Pessoa published in Lisbon two slim volumes of English verse: Antinous and 35 Sonnets, received by the British literary press without enthusiasm. Along with some friends, he founded another publishing house – Olisipo – which published in 1921 a further two English poetry volumes: English Poems I–II and English Poems III by Fernando Pessoa. In his publishing house, Pessoa issued also some books by his friends: A Invenção do Dia Claro (The invention of the clear day) by José de Almada Negreiros, Canções (Songs) by António Botto, and Sodoma Divinizada (Deified Sodom) by Raul Leal (Henoch). Olisipo closed down in 1923, following the scandal known as "Literatura de Sodoma" (Literature of Sodom), which Pessoa started with his paper "António Botto e o Ideal Estético em Portugal" (António Botto and the aesthetical ideal in Portugal), published in the journal Contemporanea.
In 1925, Pessoa wrote in English a guidebook to Lisbon but it remained unpublished until 1992.
Politically, Pessoa described himself as "a British-style conservative, that is to say, liberal within conservatism and absolutely anti-reactionary," and adhered closely to the Spencerian individualism of his upbringing. He described his brand of nationalism as "mystic, cosmopolitan, liberal, and anti-Catholic." He was an outspoken elitist and aligned himself against communism, socialism, fascism and Catholicism. He initially rallied to the First Portuguese Republic but the ensuing instability caused him to reluctantly support the military coups of 1917 and 1926 as a means of restoring order and preparing the transition to a new constitutional normality. He wrote a pamphlet in 1928 supportive of the military dictatorship but after the establishment of the New State, in 1933, Pessoa became disenchanted with the regime and wrote critically of Salazar and fascism in general, maintaining a hostile stance towards its corporatist program, illiberalism, and censorship. In the beginning of 1935, Pessoa was banned by the Salazar regime, after he wrote in defense of Freemasonry. The regime also suppressed two articles Pessoa wrote in which he condemned Mussolini's invasion of Abyssinia and fascism as a threat to human liberty everywhere.
As a mysticist, Pessoa was an enthusiast of esotericism, occultism, hermetism, numerology and alchemy. Along with spiritualism and astrology, he also paid attention to neopaganism, theosophy, rosicrucianism and freemasonry, which strongly influenced his literary work. He has declared himself a Pagan, in the sense of an "intellectual mystic of the sad race of the Neoplatonists from Alexandria" and a believer in "the Gods, their agency and their real and materially superior existence". His interest in occultism led Pessoa to correspond with Aleister Crowley and later helped him to elaborate a fake suicide, when Crowley visited Portugal in 1930. Pessoa translated Crowley's poem "Hymn To Pan" into Portuguese, and the catalogue of Pessoa's library shows that he possessed Crowley's books Magick in Theory and Practice and Confessions. Pessoa also wrote on Crowley's doctrine of Thelema in several fragments, including Moral.
Pessoa adopted the detached perspective of the flâneur Bernardo Soares, another of his heteronyms. This character was supposedly an accountant, working for Vasques, the boss of an office located in Douradores Street. Soares also supposedly lived in the same downtown street, a world that Pessoa knew quite well due to his long career as freelance correspondence translator. Indeed, from 1907 until his death in 1935, Pessoa worked in twenty-one firms located in Lisbon's downtown, sometimes in two or three of them simultaneously. In The Book of Disquiet, Bernardo Soares describes some of those typical places and its "atmosphere". In his daydream soliloquy he also wrote about Lisbon in the first half of the 20th century. Soares describes crowds in the streets, buildings, shops, traffic, river Tagus, the weather, and even its author, Fernando Pessoa:
On 29 November 1935, Pessoa was taken to the Hospital de São Luís, suffering from abdominal pain and a high fever; there he wrote, in English, his last words: "I know not what tomorrow will bring." He died the next day, 30 November 1935, around 8 pm, aged 47. His cause of death is commonly given as cirrhosis of the liver, due to alcoholism, though this is disputed: others attribute his death to pancreatitis (again from alcoholism), or other ailments.
In his lifetime, he published four books in English and one alone in Portuguese: Mensagem (Message). However, he left a lifetime of unpublished, unfinished or just sketchy work in a domed, wooden trunk (25,574 manuscript and typed pages which have been housed in the Portuguese National Library since 1988). The heavy burden of editing this huge work is still in progress. In 1985 (fifty years after his death), Pessoa's remains were moved to the Hieronymites Monastery, in Lisbon, where Vasco da Gama, Luís de Camões, and Alexandre Herculano are also buried. Pessoa's portrait was on the 100-escudo banknote.
Currently, Fernando Pessoa is 134 years, 7 months and 15 days old. Fernando Pessoa will celebrate 135th birthday on a Tuesday 13th of June 2023.
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