Portuguese American Journal

Book: ‘Pessoa: A Biography’ by Richard Zenith – Editor’s Note

Like Richard Ellmann’s James Joyce, Richard Zenith’s Pessoa immortalizes the life of one of the twentieth century’s greatest writers.

Eighty-five years after his wrenching death in a cramped Lisbon apartment, where he left more than 25,000 manuscript sheets in a wooden trunk, Fernando Pessoa (1888–1935) remains one of the most enigmatic and underappreciated poets of the twentieth century. Celebrated for writing in dozens of different poetic voices, known as heteronyms, Pessoa has finally found his definitive biographer in renowned translator Richard Zenith.

Setting the story of Pessoa’s life against the nationalistic currents of early twentieth-century European history, Zenith charts the depths of Pessoa’s explosive imagination and literary genius. Much as José Saramago brought one of Pessoa’s heteronyms to life in The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis, Zenith traces the backstories of virtually all of Pessoa’s imagined personalities, demonstrating how they were projections, spin-offs, or metamorphoses of Pessoa himself. Nothing less than a literary masterpiece, Zenith’s monumental work confirms the power of Pessoa’s words to speak prophetically to the disconnectedness of modern life.

About the Author

Richard Zenith is an acclaimed translator and literary critic. His translations include Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet and Fernando Pessoa and Co.: Selected Poems, which won the PEN Award for Poetry in Translation. The recipient of Portugal’s Pessoa Prize, Zenith lives in Lisbon, Portugal.

Book Details

Title: Pessoa: A Biography

Author: Richard Zenith

Publisher: Liveright

Date of Publication: July 13, 2021

Language: English

Hardcover: 1088 pp


Book Reviews (updated):

Fernando Pessoa: Office Worker, Occultist, Galaxy of Writers – NYT
‘Pessoa’ Is the Definitive and Sublime Life of a Genius  – NYT
Pessoa: An Experimental Life review – a portrait with bags of personality – Guardian
‘Pessoa’ is the definitive story of a genius and his many alternate selves – Houston Chronicle
I haven’t been I: The real Fernando Pessoa – London Review of Books
Pessoa by Richard Zenith — one man, many lives – Financial Times
Living in Fernando Pessoa’s world – New Statesman 
The Impossible Life of Fernando Pessoa – TRN
Plural Like the Universe – City Journal


Follow Us

facebook twitter


You may also like