Tuesday, May 25, 2010

book review - The Book of Disquiet - Fernando Pessoa

"Everything in me is a tendency to be about something else; an impatience of the soul with itself, as if with an importunate child; a disquiet that is always growing, always the same."

At the start of this book it felt as if someone was describing how I felt about my job and sharing my dreams of escape. It felt as if the thoughts of Bernardo Soares echoed my own. But as the book went on it perhaps suffers from being a compiled after the author's death because it keeps going with no definable end simply halting when the material does.

That though is the solitary criticism of a book that manages to tap into human frustrations and emotions that feels as fresh as when they were first written 80 odd years ago. The thoughts that Soares shares are about dreams, work, love and God can make you laugh, think and ponder on the universality of life.

Set in Lisbon with most entries in the diary dated around the early 1930s the character Bernado Soares dreams of leaving his job as a clerk and turn his back on his boss Vasques, the office boy and his other colleagues. But he knows that even if he left them tomorrow what he moved into would end up being the same. As a result he moves from thinking about specific escape from his job to thinking about how it would be possible to escape from the conformity of life. Break free of that and wherever he goes would be different.

But of course that is an incredibly difficult task and even he accepts that as he starts to ponder why people believe in God, choose marriage and relationships and continue to work in the way they do whether or not there ever could be an alternative.

Because of the style of the book, which is in the form of entries from a diary dated and then where possible grouped thematically, this is perhaps not something you read in one sitting. It is a book that is perhaps more powerful being dipped into. So many thoughts are packed into one space that it is difficult to absorb it all.

For anyone who has ever thought that were alone in despairing about their job and the way life is then this is an ideal read. It shows not only that you are not alone but it's been that way for a long time. There is a great deal of comfort to be taken from that.


CultureThemes said...

Sounds like a compelling book, but a bit deep.

BookRambler said...

An evenly balanced review, thanks Simon - sounds like a book that might provoke a sense of disquiet and stir things up, which isn't always a bad thing
How does it compare to Alain de Boton's The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work> or is it completely different in tone and content?

Andy said...

This book has been on my radar for a while and after your review it will be one that I'll have to pick up.

Anonymous said...

is it the translation simon ,been told the translation by Richard Zenith is better ,stu

Simon Quicke said...

have to admit bookrambler that the pleasures and Sorrows of work is on my bedside table started but not finished so can't really judge.

Would say though that this book starts with work but widens far beyond that so might be different.

Simon Quicke said...

Thanks Mar and Andy for your kind comments really pleasing to have your input

Simon Quicke said...

Thanks for the advice stu. Really liked the overall feel so might well invest in another translation