At the beginning of The Book of Disquiet, Bernardo Soares writes: “In these random impressions, and with no desire to be other than random, I indifferently narrate my factless autobiography, my lifeless history. These are my Confessions, and if in them I say nothing, it’s because I have nothing to say.”
Written a century ago, these words illustrate a great distance from the traditional way of writing an autobiography. They confront, however, the same paradox, which is how can any of our lives, constituted by different and unrelated events, be structured as a linear story looking for a meaning, usually justificatory and self-indulgent? If understanding who we are today depends on the relationship established between present and past, we are forced to rely on an unchanging proper name, on a sequence of selected events, and the subsequent reworking of those events by the different subject who we are now.
This characteristic process of autobiographical works has led many to consider the fuzzy boundaries between fiction and reality, the demand for sincerity from the reader (the so-called autobiographical pact), the use of narrative strategies, and the understanding of autobiography as the textual presence of an implicit narrator without a clear relation to the empirical writer. However, Fernando Pessoa, and his heteronymous narrator Bernardo Soares, give us the novelty of a deep intimate text and the testimony of a life full of experiences without reference to events, dates, or personalities that may refute or corroborate his descriptions.