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Fernando Pessoa

Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935), the Portuguese poet, fiction writer, literary critic, and

translator, is one of the most significant literary figures of the 20th century. By the time of his passing, at the age of 47, Pessoa had created nearly 140 fictional alter egos or heteronyms as he later called them and for whom he is now celebrated—writing poetry and prose under such names as Karl P. Effield, Charles Robert Anon, Alexander Search, Jean Seul de Méluret, Vicente Guedes, Frederick Wyatt, and more. Alberto Caeiro was the central heteronym of the poetic coterie; the other two major heteronyms were Ricardo Reis and Álvaro de Campos, and Pessoa himself considered Caeiro to be their literary Master.

The Mariner (A Static Drama in One Scene)

A room that is doubtless in an ancient castle and that appears to be round. At its center, on a bier, a coffin holding a maiden in white. Four candles at the corners. On the right, almost directly facing whomever imagines the room, a single window, tall and narrow, through which can be seen, between two distant mountains, a small patch of ocean.


Álvaro de Campos is a heteronym created by Portugal’s greatest modernist writer Fernando Pessoa. According to Pessoa, Campos was born in Tavira (Algarve) in 1890 and studied mechanical engineering in Glasgow (Scotland) though never managed to complete his degree. Orphaned at an early age, he embarked to the East in his early 20s where he became an opium addict, much like the Portuguese symbolist poet Camilo Pessanha (1867-1926). Back in Portugal, on a visit in the Ribatejo province, Campos met Alberto Caeiro—the literary master of Pessoa’s fictitious coterie. A dandy and flaneur, Álvaro de Campos read Blake, Whitman, and Nietzsche, among others. In his own day he was celebrated and slandered for his vociferous poetry imbued with Whitmanian free verse rhythms, his praise of the rise of technology and polemical views on the industrial civilization—also attested in manifestos, interviews and essays. Some of his most notable works such as the “Ode Marítima” [Maritime Ode], “Ultimatum,” and “Tabacaria” [Tobacconist’s Shop] were published during Pessoa’s lifetime. Fernando Pessoa didn’t end Campos’s life, so that this heteronym would survive his author who died in 1935.


The Brooklyn Rail

SEPT 2023

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