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  • Published: 2 November 2021
  • ISBN: 9780241534137
  • Imprint: Allen Lane
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 1088
  • RRP: $85.00

Pessoa

An Experimental Life




A monumental biography of one of the twentieth century's greatest and most enigmatic writers

For many thousands of readers Fernando Pessoa's The Book of Disquiet is almost a way of life. Ironic, haunting and melancholy, this completely unclassifiable work is the masterpiece of one of the twentieth century's most enigmatic writers.

Richard Zenith's Pessoa at last allows us to understand this extraordinary figure. Some eighty-five years after his premature death in Lisbon, where he left over 25,000 manuscript sheets in a wooden trunk, Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935) can now be celebrated as one of the great modern poets. Setting the story of his life against the nationalistic currents of European history, Zenith charts the heights of Pessoa's explosive imagination and literary genius.

Much of Pessoa's charm and strangeness came from his writing under a variety of names that he used not only to conceal his identity but also to write in wildly varied styles with different imagined personalities. Zenithtraces the back stories of virtually all of these invented others, called 'heteronyms', demonstrating how they were projections, spin-offs or metamorphoses of Pessoa himself.

Zenith's monumental work confirms the power of Pessoa's words to speak prophetically to the disconnectedness of modern life. It is also a wonderful book about Lisbon, the city which Pessoa reinvented and through which his different selves wandered.

  • Published: 2 November 2021
  • ISBN: 9780241534137
  • Imprint: Allen Lane
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 1088
  • RRP: $85.00

Praise for Pessoa

A gloriously labyrinthine biography ... Zenith's dynamic prose, deep erudition, and incisive readings of Pessoa's poetry make for a meticulous portrait of one artist's brilliant and bewildering inner world.

Publishers Weekly

Pessoa is a triumph of scholarship and verve that one cannot easily put down.

Antonio Damasio, author of DESCARTES' ERROR

Finally! A brilliant biography that places Pessoa where he should have always belonged, with Joyce, Proust, and Musil - true giants, none of whom were Nobel laureates.

André Aciman, author of CALL ME BY YOUR NAME

Richard Zenith is his genius biographer who has given [Pessoa] fresh life. No one on earth knows more about Pessoa. With its historical sweep and novelistic execution, this biography will never be bested.

William Giraldi, author of AMERICAN AUDACITY

When you consider the fantastically vivid details of Fernando Pessoa's curious life contained in this biography, and the energetic and elegant quality of the writing, you might wonder if this book is actually a just discovered autobiography, written by one of Pessoa's heteronyms, 'Richard Zenith.' No one, it seems, could know so much or relate it so marvelously unless they had lived inside Pessoa's head. Zenith's Pessoa is magnificent.

Forrest Gander, author of BE WITH

A completely superb and magisterial life of Fernando Pessoa. Finally, this extraordinary poet gets the great biography he deserves. Unsurpassable.

William Boyd

Mammoth, definitive and sublime. Zenith has written the only kind of biography truly permissible, an account of a life that plucks at the very borders and burdens of the notion of a self.

New York Times

Monumental ... Zenith brought to the task a depth of scholarship gained through more than 30 years of publishing, translating and promoting his subject's work; Pessoa, who had few intimates in life, is lucky to have found this posthumous friend ... Pessoa really did build an entire city. It was a city that needed a guide. Thanks to Zenith, it has one at last.

Benjamin Moser, New York Times

Even now, Fernando Pessoa remains one of the lesser-known of the truly great writers of the 20th century. This immense, magnificent biography is going to change that... here is a revelation: a modern master to rank alongside Joyce, Kafka, Beckett, say. Such a revolutionary literary discovery seems unlikely to be on offer again. It's that good.

David Sexton, Sunday Times

Erudite, sensitive and entertaining, this multi-faceted portrait pays its giant homage to a man who wasn't there.

Boyd Tonkin, Financial Times

A portrait with bags of personality ... Richard Zenith's massive biography of the Portuguese writer who constructed numerous identities captures his tragicomic oddity.

Peter Conrad, Observer

A truly comprehensive representation of any one person is almost impossible. That very impossibility is largely what makes Richard Zenith's biography of the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa so remarkable.

Alberto Manguel, Literary Review

A masterpiece of literary biography ... a tour de force of cultural history. Zenith's achievement is extraordinary. By illuminating this elusive figure Zenith has produced a work in some ways as astonishing as those of Pessoa himself.

John Gray, New Statesman

Ingenious ... with flashes of charm and wit.

Stuart Kelly, The Spectator

Monumental ... To do justice to the magnitude and complexities of Pessoa Zenith, a translator and literary critic, spent more than a decade collating material. The result is a tour de force.

Cláudia Pazos Alonso, Times Literary Supplement

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