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This review is taken from PN Review 185, Volume 35 Number 3, January - February 2009.

NOTHING SIMPLER ALBERTO CAEIRO, The Complete Poems /Poesia Completo, translated and edited by Michael Lee Rattigan (rufus books) £16

This is the voice of Alberto Caeiro, to all intents and purposes in propria persona:

If, after my death, they want to write my biography,
There's nothing simpler.
There are only two dates - that of my birth and of my death.
Between one and the other all the days are mine.


Ricardo Reis gives the two dates that matter (1889-1915); Alvaro de Campos offers some sense of the days in between spent in 'Ribatejo, a rural area outside of Lisbon. The notes and appendix to The Book of Disquiet (2001; the Richard Zenith translation) say that 'Alberto Caeiro da Silva was born in Lisbon on 16 April 1889', that he 'lived most of his life with an old aunt in the country', and that he died of tuberculosis. But you would never get this far without discovering that all these dates and figures (except the Richard Zenith whose name looks so very unlikely you might just possibly have paused to wonder) are imaginary, and attributable ultimately to the poet Fernando Pessoa. Pessoa the man, for the record, was born in Durban on 13 June 1888. He lived in Lisbon from 1905, hardly ever left the city thereafter, and died there on 30 November 1935. Nothing so 'Romantic' or 'Bohemian' as tuberculosis hastened his end, but cirrhosis of the liver and other complications caused by a different kind of consumption: alcohol. We are in the world, an ...


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