Año 3 No. 3 y 4 Febrero - Junio de 2009

Fernando Pessoa: His Heteronyms

Live is not necessary, what it´s necessary is to create. F. P.

Yobany Serna Castro (1) baniego@hotmail.com

ISSN papel: 1909-6704
ISSN virtual: 2500-610X

Fernando Pessoa was a writer that made possible, through his work, to produce different altered feelings in one. These feelings motivate us to want know his work completely and without hesitation. Pessoa was a poet whose life was, in words of Angel Crespo, plural. Lisboa Inhabitant, Fernando Pessoa had a discreet life, centered in the trade, journalism, and mainly in the literature. During the day Pessoa worked as foreign correspondent in commercial houses. He lived as a translator (in accordance with Pessoa, this aspect of his life made part of his profession, contrary to poetic work that he understood like a vocation). During nights, and as if he was a spokesman, Pessoa wrote the poetry of some different characters for their voice, their style and their forms peculiar of being. These characters are known as heteronyms, endowed with different characteristics and with lives fully differentiated among each other. Ricardo Reis, the first heteronym that Pessoa created, is a professional physician, monarchist, educated in a Jesuit school and heir of a classic and Latinist formation. Ricardo Reis was a writer whose conception of the life is properly minimalist; he is somebody who accepts the relativity of the all things naturally. This heteronym is physically the most similar to Fernando Pessoa: he is brown-skinned and short; his physical appearance is that of a Portuguese Jew. Contrary to Alberto Caeiro, another Pessoa’s heteronym for whom the things have to be felt as they are, Ricardo Reis believes that the things have to be felt not only as they are, but also in a way in which they are integrated to a certain ideal measure and classical rules.

Alberto Caeiro, master who determined the others heteronyms, was born in Lisboa, in April of 1889, but he lived almost all his life in an old Portuguese province, the Ribatejo. There Caeiro met Álvaro de Campos. Alberto Caeiro died precociously in 1915 because of tuberculosis. He is known as a professed apologist of the things’ simplicity, serenity and spotlessness. He was also a thinker who rejected doctrines and philosophies. The next heteronym is Álvaro de Campos, an engineer born in Tavira in 1890. He carried out his studies in Scotland and Glasgow. After traveling to the East, Campos came back to Portugal where he met Caeiro, and began at the same time to study the theory of the futurism (appertaining to the poetic speech). Campos took to the domain of his poetry the energy and the strength that he found in the world, in the civilization.

Pessoa came back to Portugal after living in Durban and acquiring an English formation. There he set up a small typography with the money that he inherited from his grandmother. Unfortunately this business was ruined soon. This fact determined him to work in the translation of commercial correspondence, a job that carried out during all his life. In November 29 of 1935 Pessoa was hospitalized with the diagnostic of hepatic colic. The following day, due to complications associated to cirrhosis, caused by the excessive consumption of alcohol, he died in the hospital.

Fernando Pessoa dedicated his life to the literary creation, through which he transmitted the Portuguese language. Besides, as it is expressed for his heteronym Bernardo Soares, his homeland was not another than this language itself. Pessoa, who lived in the house of his spirit, decided to work a lot of in behalf of the progress of the civilization and the expansion of the human conscience. The form as Pessoa worked with the subjectivity and the heteronym allows us to say that his creations of images are mysterious and enigmatic.

In the same way, it is easy to see in Pessoa somebody whose relationship with his heteronyms seemed to go further of the literature. For instance, many times Pessoa interposed Álvaro de Campos between him and Ofelia (her lover). It was also Campos who made her realize that Fernando Pessoa felt uncomfortable with her. Pessoa sometimes communicated to Ofelia that he was not the person who visited her, rather than Álvaro de Campos. Naturally Ofelia replied to Pessoa that he was the one she loved, no his heteronym. However, with the irony proper of Campos, Pessoa insinuated that his heteronym also loved her.

Álvaro de Campos was also the character that had to excuse Pessoa before Jose Maria dos Reis Pereira, because, according to Campos, Pessoa was not able to attend the appointment agreed by them. Although is evident that Pessoa thought he was Campos in these circumstances, the curiosity of these two cases is the way as the writer achieves to confuse characters; he himself mixes among them. Pessoa wanted to talk us with a tone that we would suppose different to him, but that indeed belongs to other face of his psychology: his heteronyms.


1 Licenciado en Filosofía y Letras de la Universidad de Caldas.