I. I see life as a roadside inn where I have to stay until the coach from the abyss pulls up. I don’t know where it will take me, because I don’t know anything. I could see this inn as a prison, for I’m compelled to wait in it; I could see it as a social centre, for its here that I meet others. But I’m neither impatient nor common. I leave who will to stay shut up in their rooms, sprawled out on beds where they sleeplessly wait, and I leave who will chat in the parlors, from where their songs and voices conveniently drift out here to me. I’m sitting at the door, feasting my eyes and ears on the colors and sounds of the landscape, and I softly sing– for myself a lone– wispy songs I compose while waiting.
Night will fall on us all and the coach will pull up. I enjoy the breeze I’m given and the soul I was given to enjoy it with, and I no longer question or seek. If what I write in the book of travelers can, when read by others at some future date, also entertain them on their journey, then fine. If they don’t read it, or are not entertained, that’s fine too.
II. Walking on these streets, until the night falls, my life feels to me like the life they have. By day they’re full of meaningless activity; by night they’re full of a meaningless lack of it. By day I am nothing, and by night I am I. There is no difference between me and these streets, save they being streets and I a soul, which perhaps is irrelevant when we consider the essence of things. There is an equal, abstract destiny for men and for things; both have an equally indifferent designation in the algebra of the world’s mystery.
But there’s something else…In these languid and empty hours, a sadness felt by my entire being rises from my soul to my mind– a bitter awareness that everything is a sensation of mine and at the same time something external, something not in my power to change. Ah, how often my own dreams have raised up before me as things, not to replace reality but to declare themselves its equals, in so far as I scorn them and they exist apart from me, like the tram now turning the corner at the end of the street, or like the voice of an evening crier, crying I don’t know what but with a sound that stands out– an Arabian chant like the sudden patter of a fountain – against the monotony of twilight!
III. Over the furrows in the grass, like remembrances of what was to come, the treading to the last lost men sounded ever so lightly, their dragging steps opening nothings in the restless greenery. Those who would come were bound to be old, and only the young would never arrive. The drums rumbled on the roadside, and the bugles hung uselessly from exhausted arms that would have dropped them if they still had strength enough to drop something.
But when the illusion was over, the dead clamor sounded yet again, and the dogs could be seen nervously hesitating on the tree-lined paths. It was all absurd, like mourning the dead, and princesses from other people’s dreams strolled about freely and indefinitely.
Let’s act like sphinxes, however falsely, until we reach the point of no longer knowing who we are. For we are, in fact, false sphinxes, with no idea of what we are in reality. The only way to be in agreement with life is to disagree with ourselves. Absurdity is divine.
Let’s develop theories, patiently and honestly thinking them out, in order to promptly act against them– acting and justifying out actions with new theories that condemn them. Let’s cut a path in life and then go immediately against that path. Let’s adopt all the poses and gestures of something we aren’t and don’t wish to be, and don’t even wish to be taken for being.
Let’s buy books so as not to read them; let’s go to concerts without caring to hear the music or to see who’s there; let’s take long walks because we’re sick of walking; and let’s spend whole days in the country, just because it bores us.
Read By H. Horovitz
Pessoa, Fernandro. Book of Disquiet. Translated by Richard Zenith. New York: Penguin Books, 2003.