Jan 16, 2012 8:44 AM
We suspect that there are really only two reactions possible for any of you who pick up this book: you'll either be exasperated or mesmerized. Put us down for mesmerized.
The Book of Disquiet ($12) is a collection of fragments written and compiled under that title by Portuguese author Fernando Pessoa, as the private notebooks of an imaginary man named Bernardo Soares. (Although Pessoa died in 1935, the book wasn't edited and published in its native language until 1982, and didn't get a proper English edition until 2002.) Soares doesn't really qualify as a protagonist; endlessly reflective and alone, he makes his daily trek between apartment, office, restaurant, and apartment again.
Sound like anyone you know?
What makes him so engaging is clarity with which he records his transitory moods, his flights of imagination, and the everyday views of Lisbon. If this is your kind of book, it'll make you recall and understand emotions that you never had a language to discuss before, like someone gently taking your shoulders and turning you so you're looking in exactly the right direction. If it isn't, Soares will get on your nerves - but he will get on your nerves the way a real person might get on your nerves, and that itself is one hell of an accomplishment.