The Book of Disquiet

The Book of Disquiet (Livro do Desassossego: Composto por Bernardo Soares, ajudante de guarda-livros na cidade de Lisboa) is a work by the Portuguese author Fernando Pessoa (1888–1935). Published posthumously, The Book of Disquiet is a fragmentary lifetime project, left unedited by the author, who introduced it as a "factless autobiography." The publication was credited to Bernardo Soares, one of the author's alternate writing names, which he called semi-heteronyms, and had a preface attributed to Fernando Pessoa, another alternate writing name or orthonym.

The Book of Disquiet
LdoD 1ed.jpg
First edition
AuthorFernando Pessoa
Original titleLivro do Desassossego
Publication date


In Lisbon there are a few restaurants or eating houses located above decent-looking taverns, places with the heavy, domestic look of restaurants in towns far from any rail line. These second-story eateries, usually empty except on Sundays, frequently contain curious types whose faces are not interesting but who constitute a series of digressions from life.

— Fernando Pessoa, from The Book of Disquiet, trans. Alfred MacAdam.

Much studied by "Pessoan" critics, who have different interpretations regarding the book's proper organization, The Book of Disquiet was first published in Portuguese in 1982, 47 years after Pessoa's death (the author died at age 47 in 1935). The book has seen publication in Spanish (1984), German (1985), Italian (1986), French (1988), English (1991), and Dutch (1990 (selection) and 1998 (full)). The Book in 1991 had four English editions by different translators: Richard Zenith (editor and translator), Iain Watson, Alfred MacAdam and Margaret Jull Costa. The Book is a bestseller, especially in German (16 editions, from different translators and publishers).

The book was listed on the Norwegian Book Clubs list of the 100 best works of fiction of all time, based on the responses of 100 authors from 54 countries.[1]


Teresa Sobral Cunha considers there to be two versions of The Book of Disquiet. According to Cunha, who edited the first version with Jacinto do Prado Coelho and Maria Aliete Galhoz in 1982, there are two authors of the book: Vicente Guedes in a first phase (in the 1910s and 20s), and the aforementioned Bernardo Soares (late 1920s and 30s).

Fernando Pessoa drinking a glass of wine in a Lisbon tavern in 1929.

However, António Quadros considers the first phase of the book to belongs to Pessoa himself. The second phase, more personal and diary-like, is the one credited to Bernardo Soares.

Richard Zenith, editor of a new Portuguese edition in 1998, took the option of presenting a single volume, as in his English translation of 1991. In his introduction, he writes that "if Bernardo Soares does not measure up to the full Pessoa, neither are his diary writings the sum total of Disquietude, to which he was after all a johnny-come-lately. The Book of Disquietude was various books (yet ultimately one book), with various authors (yet ultimately one author), and even the word disquietude changes meaning as time passes."[2]

George Steiner on The Book Of Disquiet:

"The fragmentary, the incomplete is of the essence of Pessoa's spirit. The very kaleidoscope of voices within him, the breadth of his culture, the catholicity of his ironic sympathies – wonderfully echoed in Saramago's great novel about Ricardo Reis – inhibited the monumentalities, the self-satisfaction of completion. Hence the vast torso of Pessoa's Faust on which he laboured much of his life. Hence the fragmentary condition of The Book of Disquiet, which contains material that predates 1913 and which Pessoa left open-ended at his death. As Adorno famously said, the finished work is, in our times and climate of anguish, a lie.

"It was to Bernardo Soares that Pessoa ascribed his Book of Disquiet, first made available in English in a briefer version by Richard Zenith in 1991. The translation is at once penetrating and delicately observant of Pessoa's astute melancholy. What is this Livro do Desassossego? Neither 'commonplace book', nor 'sketchbook', nor 'florilegium' will do. Imagine a fusion of Coleridge's notebooks and marginalia, of Valéry's philosophic diary and of Robert Musil's voluminous journal. Yet even such a hybrid does not correspond to the singularity of Pessoa's chronicle. Nor do we know what parts thereof, if any, he ever intended for publication in some revised format."[3]


  • The Book of Disquietude, tr. Richard Zenith, Carcanet Press, 1991, 323 p. ISBN 0-14-118304-7
  • The Book of Disquiet, tr. Iain Watson, Quartet Books, 1991. ISBN 0-7043-0153-9
  • The Book of Disquiet, tr. Alfred Mac Adam, New York NY: Pantheon Books, 1991. ISBN 0-679-40234-9
  • The Book of Disquiet, tr. Margaret Jull Costa, London, New York: Serpent's Tail, 1991, ISBN 1-85242-204-1
  • The Book of Disquiet, tr. Richard Zenith, Penguin Classics, 2002. ISBN 978-0-14-118304-6
  • The Book of Disquiet: The Complete Edition, tr. Margaret Jull Costa, New Directions, 2017. ISBN 978-0811226936
  • Le Livre de l'Intranquillité de Bernardo Soares. Adapté par Antonio Tabucchi, sous la direction de Robert Bréchon e Eduardo Prado Coelho, introduction de Eduardo Louranço, traduction de Françoise Laye. Paris: Christian Bourgois Editeur, 1988. ISBN 2-267-00544-1
  • Das Buch der Unruhe des Hilfsbuchhalters Bernardo Soares, aus dem Portugiesischen übersetzt und mit einem Nachwort versehen von Georg Rudolf Lind. Zürich: Ammann, 1985. ISBN 3-250-10025-0
  • Livro do Desassossego por Bernardo Soares, 2 vol., prefácio e organização de Jacinto do Prado Coelho, recolha e transcrição dos textos de Maria Aliete Galhoz e Teresa Sobral Cunha, Lisboa: Ática, 1982. ISBN 972-617-069-9
  • Livro do Desassossego: Composto por Bernardo Soares, ajudante de guarda-livros na cidade de Lisboa, edição e introdução de Richard Zenith, Lisboa: Assírio & Alvim, 1998, 534 p. ISBN 972-37-0476-5


  1. ^ Driscoll, Molly (2012-06-12). "The 100 best books of all time". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 2012-10-20.
  2. ^ PESSOA, Fernando, The Book of Disquietude, tr. Richard Zenith, Carcanet Press, 1991, p. xi.
  3. ^ George Steiner, "A Man of Many Parts," The Observer, Sunday, 3 June 2001.

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