London Lectures

Fernando Pessoa: The Poet as Philosopher

Jonardon Ganeri (University of Toronto) presents this talk on Fernando Pessoa whose genius as a philosopher has as yet hardly been recognized at all.

The London Lectures 21-22: Expanding Horizons

Jonardon Ganeri (University of Toronto)

Fernando Pessoa (1888–1935) lived what was in many ways an astonishingly modern, transcultural and translingual life. He was born in Lisbon, the point of departure for Vasco da Gama’s voyage to India as commemorated by Pessoa’s forebear, the poet Luís de Camões. He grew up in Anglophone Durban, acquiring a life-long love for English poetry and language. Returning to Lisbon, from where he would never again leave, he set himself the goal to travel throughout an infinitude of inner landscapes, to be an explorer of inner worlds. He published very little, but left behind a famous trunk containing a treasure-trove of scraps, on which were written some of the greatest literary works of the 20th century, mainly in Portuguese but also substantially in English and French. He is now acknowledged as one of the greatest poets of the 20th century, and he has emerged over the last decade as a forgotten voice in 20th century modernism, taking his rightful place alongside C. P. Cavafy, Franz Kafka, T. S. Eliot, James Joyce, and Jorge Luis Borges.Pessoa was also a serious student of philosophy and himself a very creative philosopher, yet his genius as a philosopher has as yet hardly been recognized at all.