For Our Time of Disquiet

download.jpgLooking for a feel-good read? Something with strong characters you’ll want to identify with? A story that has you rapidly turning the pages to find out what comes next? I’m sure there are many titles out there that will easily smooth-out your anxieties in this time of corona virus and the triumph of science over voodoo politics, but don’t look to Fernando Pessoa for it.

The Book of Disquiet by the Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa is aptly named: it is a book and it is chock-a-block with anxiousness, discomposure, and agita. It also gives the reader something to think about on almost every pages. However, even though it might be considered a novel, it certainly is an example of a novel which, with only a few instances, has no plot, no characters, no background, and no dialogue.

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XFX: High Camp and Fairy Tales

Let’s consider an author that is not included in many “must read” lists:  Ronald Firbank (1886-1926)

[From the cover material on the New Directions volume titled Five Novels by Ronald Firbank.]

“A person who dislikes Ronald Firbank,” quipped W. H. Auden, “may, for all I know, possess some admirable quality, but I do not wish ever to see him again.” Edmund Wilson pronounced him “one of the finest writers of his period.”

Firbank lived a life of exquisite, if lonely, leisure. He composed all his novels on postcards in his countless hotel rooms, always lavish with flowers. His moves were impulsive—”Tomorrow I go to Haytil They say the President is a Perfect Dear!” ran on telegram to a surprised friend. At a dinner party given in his honor, the pathologically shy author refused to consume anything more than a single pea.

His no less eccentric creations, Parvula de Panzoust and her guest Eulalia Thoroughfare of Valmouth, dine of “salmis of cockscombs saignant with Béchamel sauce.” In The Artificial Princess, a queen with a passion for motoring roars about her real for hours with her crown on. The Flower Beneath the Foot, Prancing Nigger, and Concerning the Eccentricities of Cardinal Pirelli are also included in the volume [with an introduction by Osbert Sitwell].

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