Letter to Mário de Sá-Carneiro :: Fernando Pessoa


I’m writing to you today out of sentimental necessity — I have an anguished, painful need to speak to you. It’s easy to see that I have nothing to tell you. Just this: that I find myself today at the bottom of a bottomless depression. The absurdity of the sentence speaks for me.

I’m having one of those days in which I never had a future. There is only a present, fixed and surrounded by a wall of anguish. The other bank of the river, because it is the other bank, is never the bank we are standing on: that is the intimate reason for all my suffering. There are ships sailing to many ports, but not a single one goes where life is not painful; nor is there any port of call where it is possible to forget. All of this happened a long time ago, but my sadness began even before then.

On days of the soul like today, I feel, with all the awareness in my body, that I am a sad child abused by life. I was abandoned in a corner where I could hear other children playing. I feel in my hands the broken toy I was given out of malicious irony. Today, March 14, at 9:10 P.M., my life knows just how much all that is worth.

In the garden I can just make out through the silent windows of my cell, someone has thrown all the swings over the branches they hang from; they’re tangled up, high and out of reach; the result is even the idea I have in my imagination of myself running away cannot have swings to play with.

And that is, more or less, but without style, the state of my soul at this time. Like the woman who waits in “The Sailor,” my eyes burn from having thought about weeping. Life pains me bit by bit, in sips, through interstices. All this is printed in very small type in a book whose binding is already coming apart.

If I weren’t writing to you, I would have to swear to you that this letter is sincere and that the hysterically linked things in it spring spontaneously from what I feel. But you must sense that this unstageable tragedy is of a rigorous reality — full of the here and now — and taking place in my soul just like the green on the leaves.

It was for that reason the Prince did not rule. This sentence is entirely absurd. But in this moment I feel it’s the absurd sentences that really make me want to cry.

If I don’t mail this letter today, it may be that when I reread it tomorrow, I’ll make a typescript of it, so I can insert sentences and expressions from it into The Book of Disquiet. But that would not deprive it of any of the sincerity with which I’m writing it, nor the dolorous inevitability with which I feel it.

This is the latest news. So is our being at war with Germany, but even before that, pain made me suffer. From the other side of Life, all this must seem like the caption for some caricature.

This is not exactly madness, but madness must bestow a relaxation on the person who suffers it, the astute pleasure of the soul’s bounces, not very different from these.

What color can feeling be?

Thousands of hugs from yours truly, always truly yours,

Fernando Pessoa


P.S. I wrote this letter in one rush. Rereading it, I see that I will definitely copy it over tomorrow before sending it to you. I have rarely written out my state of mind — with all its sentimental and intellectual attitudes, with all its essential hysterico-neurasthenia, all those interstices and corners in its self-awareness that are so characteristic of it — so completely…

You think I’m right, don’t you?


Mário de Sá-Carneiro, a major Portuguese avant-garde poet who collaborated with Fernando Pessoa on numerous occasions, committed suicide in Paris in 1916, at the age of twenty-six. [editor's note]

4 thoughts on “Letter to Mário de Sá-Carneiro :: Fernando Pessoa

  1. Pingback: Mari de Sa-Carneiroya məktub – Taedium Vitae

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