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Fernando António Nogueira Pessoa { 13 June 1888 – 30 November 1935 }

A brief, magical, evanescent, mayfly friendship brought this poet to this pinhead in the pin-cushion of the universe.

Fernando Pessoa

‘See life from a distance. Never question it. There’s nothing it can tell you.’

Desde que sinta a brisa fresca no meu cabelo
E ver o sol brilhar forte nas folhas
Não irei pedir por mais.
Que melhor coisa podia o destino dar-me?
Que a passagem sensual da vida em momentos
De ignorância como este?

As long as I feel the full breeze in my hair
And see the sun shining strong on the leaves,
I will not ask for more.
What better thing could destiny give me
Than the sensual passing of life in moments
Of ignorance like this?

Ricardo Reis

Portal Pessoa

The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa

GoogleBook facsimile { via The Blog of Disquiet }

May 28, 2008 Posted by | Fernado Pessoa, general | | Leave a comment

Robert Graves : Juana Inés de la Cruz

Juana Inés de la Cruz

Published in Encounter I, no. 3 (December 1953): 5-13.

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz Project

….the greatest poet the American continent produced in the seventeenth century. She was born November 12, 1651, in San Miguel Nepantla, a village south of Mexico City. She was a Poet Nun, a woman of genius, and a person of intellectual prowess whose ideas and accomplishments were ahead of her time.


Cambridge University site dedicated to her.

Six poems in Spanish, with English translation.

May 25, 2008 Posted by | general | , | Leave a comment

More Naipaul: the art and the Life

A 21 May 2008 Times Literary Supplement article/essay by novelist A. N. Wilson, V.S. Naipaul, Master and Monster, makes me – again- think of Koestler. Is this not a species of pathological narcissism? In the jargon: Narcissistic Personality Disorder. There is also Borderline Personality Disorder, which has a slight overlap with the former syndrome. But maybe Schizoid Personality Disorder fits the bill better, with its elements of narcissism. By the way the last has a table comparing over and covert aspects of SPD.

For some reason the phrase master and monster evokes rather, Master and Commander, from the nautical novels, with the image of the captain having to be in tight charge of the ship in order for things not to fall apart: clear objectives, setting the right course, navigating the difficulties, the rest.

Does it matter if the writer is a complete four letter word? I am on the side which says it does, partly because, once known, a fact about a writer cannot escape the works themselves; psychology pure and simple. It is possible to epoche (accent on the final e but I can’t get hold of the character set right now) the writer from the work, but it is a conscious decision to assess the quality of the writing despite the character and personality of the author.

Stalin was a monster: he had people killed; Lenin was, too, though not many people tend to think that. Naipaul is more what one might call an utter bastard – he is welcome to sue: I ain’t got a su, or a reputation to uphold. A cursory reading (even of the outdated Shub) demonstrates Lenin’s methods pre-power, as a exiled emigre, essentially terroristic and anarchistic. When he ruled he became totally totalitarian eschewing the anarchistic, opportunistic methods he partly used to achieve power, coming down hard bureaucratically on those he suspected : but he was always of a terroristic, psychopathic disposition from the beginning. It might be argued – it always is; he claimed it himself – that he had to be that ruthless to achieve the task he set himself. Lenin, once a hero of the Left, is now less revered as it becomes known what a gangster he was: Stalin is taken to be the gangster, while Lenin the Robespierre. Lenin, while having certain political principles – one questions the psychological roots of his modus in knowledge of the state execution of his elder brother for terrorist activity when Lenin was a young boy – was totally unethical in most of his political life. The image of the London conferences where he removed the best brains of the wider movement to achieve his objectives, shows this. So does the way the movement was financed: mostly by bank robbery inside Russia, not unlike the IRA with robbery and drug dealing in its time, with a bit of ad hoc assassination here and there, home and abroad, thrown in. His left-hand man in the emigre years, whose name now escapes me, was an out and out psychopath.

A great many writers have been equally tough-minded and ruthless — within their paradigm, or milieu — as these political monsters in creating their works and in defending their reputations even if they haven’t stooped to killing to do so: character assassination being of a different category from straight old physical elimination.


In the literature: Othello.

Narcissistic characteristics that either Othello or Iago show include high self-esteem, selfishness, underestimating the abilities of others, greed and envy, lack of empathy, and emotional coldness.


As if by default, this always leads back to Nabokov. In literary monstership terms, how do Naipaul and Nabokov compare? Lolita is said to be autobiographical: the correspondences tight: Nabokov’s relationship with his uncle, who despite abusing him a child, left him his fortune. In the most simplistic psychobabblish terms: Naipaul was just born a bit nasty (he adored his father) while Nabokov (we have to examine what he said did in his life) lost his parents early and was sexually abused so had a perfectly good reason to have a jaundiced view of the world.

May 25, 2008 Posted by | A N Wilson, fiction, general, Lenin, Literature, Nabokov, Novel, Novelist, Stalin, V S Naipaul, writers and works, Writing | | 2 Comments

John Berger’s BBC Programme Ways of Seeing is on YouTube

Mark Thwaite points this out.

Start here and good luck in finding all 12 part:

Ways of Seeing part 1/4

From the wiki: John Berger ( “Is he still alive?”) : Ways of seeing was based on Benjamin’s wiki: The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical reproduction.

Here, for your convenience, Benjamin’s essay translated into English.

The YouTube presentation of the individual Berger clips can end up with a viewing in the wrong order, which is a shame. At first glance, it seems as if there are four clips, but it is actually three sets of four, and it is not easy to see which is which and where they are: they do not pop up one after the other as is usual with YouTube. They really need to do some work on that site: it looks dated and far too basic in feel. Please God can they get rid of the comments, which are often the most inane and ignorant offerings one would ever not wish to imagine: frequently a pedant arguing the toss about some recording, or the type of musical insturment used. Pur-le-e-e-e-se, as they probably say in the Bronx.

May 25, 2008 Posted by | John berger, Walter Benjamin | , | Leave a comment

Joseph O’Neill’s “Netherland”

New York Times Review of Books under title, The Ashes, written by Dwight Garner.

Who could not bee hooked by this and want to read the book?:

O’Neill’s prose glows with what Alfred Kazin called “the marginal suggestiveness which in a great writer always indicates those unspoken reserves, that silent assessment of life, that can be heard below and beyond the slow marshaling of thought.” And O’Neill knows how to deploy the quotidian fripperies of our laptop culture to devastating fictional effect. There’s a moment in “Netherland” involving a father, the son who has been taken from him, and Google Earth that’s among the most moving set pieces I’ve read in a recent novel. The father hovers over his son’s house nightly, “flying on Google’s satellite function,” lingering over his child’s dormer window and blue inflated swimming pool, searching the “depthless” pixels for anything, from thousands of miles away, he can cling to. O’Neill’s novel is full of moments like this: closely observed, emotionally racking, un-self-consciously in touch with how we live now.

If you can’t get the page, register with the NYT.

It’s only a short review but perfectly formed, giving brief author background.

May 18, 2008 Posted by | general | Leave a comment

Proust: The Intermittencies of the Heart

‘Intermittences du Coeur’ is one of the chapters in Marcel Proust’s novel

This Proust post, Intermittencies of the heart, in group reading blog Involuntary memory is linked to in Moleskine Modality and here. Something often referred to so often, it is easier to find here.

May 12, 2008 Posted by | Love, Proust | , , | Leave a comment

Nietzsche {1} resources

While tidying bookmarks, came across this EpistemLinks page on Nietzsche, which looks like a reasonable place to pick up the basics if you can’t be bothered to tackle the source.

For example Frederick Nietzsche: A Snapshot is probably quite enough to fool a dinner party companion into believing you have read the originals.

May 3, 2008 Posted by | Nietzsche | | Leave a comment