Fernando Pessoa Biography

(Portuguese Modernist Poet and Author of 'Mensagem' and 'The Book of Disquiet')

Birthday: June 13, 1888 (Gemini)

Born In: Lisbon, Portugal

Fernando António Nogueira Pessoa was a noted literary figure of the 20th century Portugal and is known to be the greatest poet of the Portuguese language. He was a multi-talented literary personality involved with writing, literary criticism, publishing, translating, and practicing astrology and occult all his life. Pessoa was born in Portugal but spent most of his youth in South Africa with his mother and his stepfather. He went to University of Cape Town and fell in love with the English language, the language in which he exhibited a lot of command and fluency. He shifted back to Portugal in 1905 and his literary journey started from there. He translated commercial and literary material for various magazines and started his own publishing house on two different occasions. Pessoa was a unique writer who used to write under heteronyms and had at least 72 heteronyms apart from ‘Fernando Pessoa’. He preferred writing like this as it gave him a chance to write outside his own personality and create something exceptional. He was also interested in practicing spirituality and occultism and was known to be a medium (one who purportedly mediates communication between spirits of the dead and other human beings) and wrote down his experiences as a medium in many of his writings. He also practiced astrology and used to charge for making horoscopes. Most of his work was only published after he died and while he was still alive, he got an opportunity to get only one book published in Portuguese, "Mensagem".
Quick Facts

Also Known As: Fernando António Nogueira Pessoa

Died At Age: 47


father: Joaquim de Seabra Pessoa

mother: Maria Madalena Pinheiro Nogueira

siblings: Jorge Nogueira de Seabra Pessoa

Quotes By Fernando Pessoa Alcoholics

Died on: November 30, 1935

place of death: Lisbon, Portugal

Notable Alumni: University Of Lisbon

Cause of Death: Cirrhosis Of The Liver

City: Lisbon, Portugal

epitaphs: Fui o que não sou

More Facts

education: University Of Lisbon

awards: 1903 - Queen Victoria Prize
1934 - Antero de Quental Award

Childhood & Early Life
Fernando Pessoa was born in Lisbon, Portugal, to Joaquim de Seabra Pessoa and Maria Madalena Pinheiro Nogueira. His father died of tuberculosis when he was only 2 years old and his mother remarried.
Pessoa sailed with his mother to South Africa to join his step father, who was a military officer from Portugal stationed in Durban. He went to St. Joseph Convent School, later shifting to Durban High School in 1899.
He attended the University of Cape Town for higher studies and because he was so fluent in English language by this time, he won the Queen Victoria Memorial Prize for best paper in English.
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In 1904, when Pessoa was merely 16, his first published poem appeared in ‘The Natal Mercury’ under the pseudonym of ‘C. R. Anon’. In the same year his essay ‘Macaulay’ was published in ‘The Durban High School Magazine’.
He returned back to Lisbon in 1905 to study diplomacy. But due to his poor health and unstable political situation in the country, he had to discontinue his studies. He took it as a challenge and self educated himself.
In 1907, he invested money that he received in inheritance by establishing his publishing company ‘Empreza Ibis’ but it got closed down within 3 years. During this time Pessoa got greatly influenced by many writers and poets of the 20th century.
Pessoa took part in "semi-spiritualist sessions" and his interest in spiritualism was aroused in 1914-1915. He got more and more interested in the subject while translating the theosophist books. He used to have experiences as a ‘medium’.
He collaborated with a group of artists and poets in 1915 and started a literary magazine, ‘Orpheu’. The magazine tried to bring modernist literature to Portugal and Pessoa’s work was also published. It got shut down due to funding problems.
In 1915, with his deep interest in astrology, Pessoa formed the heteronym ‘Raphael Baldaya’, an astrologist, and planned to write under his name "System of Astrology" and "Introduction to the Study of Occultism". He also started making horoscopes for money.
From then onwards until 1935, Pessoa continually contributed in many literary compilations in the capacity of a writer, translator and a literary critic. Some of these magazines were: ‘A Aguia’, ‘A Renascenca’, ‘Presenca’, ‘Fama’, etc.
In 1921, he started another publishing house with his friends, ‘Olisipo’. He created it because his collection of English verse ‘The Mad Fiddler’ was refused to get published by British publishers and Pessoa thought of publishing it on his own.
Pessoa created the “semi-heteronym” Bernardo Soares, and wrote fictional journal for a period of 20 years, which became ‘The Book of Disquietude’. He had written thousands of texts under at least 72 heteronyms besides ‘Fernando Pessoa’.
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He called it his "heteronymic" project, in which he wrote outside his own personality. It was the work of a complete individuality made up by him, just as a character in a drama would be like.
Major Works
Most of Pessoa's poems, whether heteronymic or under his own name appeared in literary magazines. He published his first book of English poems, ‘Antino�s (1918)’, ‘Sonnets (1918)’ and ‘English Poems (1921)’. His work only gained readership after his death.
Personal Life & Legacy
Pessoa’s family returned to Lisbon from Pretoria after the death of his stepfather and they lived in fifteen different places around the city, moving from one rented room to another due to their financial troubles, from 1905 to 1921.
He died of cirrhosis in 1935, at the age of forty-seven. Pessoa's remains were moved to the Hieronymites Monastery, in Lisbon, where Vasco da Gama, Lu�s de Cam�es, and Alexandre Herculano are also buried, in 1988.
It is said that this notable Portuguese author could see "magnetic auras" which is similar to radiographic images.
Pessoa designed more than 1,500 astrological charts, of well-known people like William Shakespeare, Lord Byron, Oscar Wilde, Chopin, Robespierre, Napoleon I, Benito Mussolini, Wilhelm II, Leopold II of Belgium, Victor Emmanuel III, Alfonso XIII, or the Kings Sebastian and Charles of Portugal, and Salazar.
Pessoa was a fan of esotericism, occultism, hermetism and alchemy. Along with spiritualism and astrology, he also practiced rosicrucianism, neopaganism and freemasonry, experiences from which he included in his literary work.
He left a lot of unpublished manuscripts and fragments—some 25,000 texts, that are still being edited and translated.

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