What do Ricardo Reis, Alvaro de Campos and Alberto Caeiro have in common?
Everything and nothing at the same time. These three authors, widely different from each other in their name and work, are the same person indeed: Fernando Pessoa.
Fernando Antonio Nogueira Pessoa, better known as Fernando Pessoa, is considered one of the greatest writers in the Portuguese and also universal literature. Harold Bloom has referred to him as the most representative poet of the 20th century.
Throughout his life, Pessoa worked as a correspondent for several commercial firms, businessman, translator, journalist, inventor, publicist – while producing his literary work, which involved many kinds of genres, especially poetry. As a poet, Pessoa had multiple personalities known as heteronyms – object of most studies on his life and work.
Heteronyms are not pseudonyms: heteronyms are like several personalities inhabiting a single poet, while pseudonyms are just several different names for the same personality. Each heteronym has its own biography and its particular style. Pessoa’s heteronyms are like multiple fragmented selves, capable of creating distinct poems.
Alvaro de Campos
Engineer with Portuguese origin and English education, Campos began his trajectory as a decadent, who soon acceded to futurism, migrating after that to nihilism. His writing style is angry and critical, marked by the speed of modern life through a radical language.
Medical Latinist and monarchist, Reis symbolizes the classical Western literature heritage, expressed through the symmetry and harmony of his poems, normally bucolic, full of Epicurean and Stoic elements. The inexorable end of all beings is a constant theme in his classic, clean and orderly work. He also makes use of non-Christian mythology.
Born in Lisbon, Caeiro lived most of his life as a countryman, having concluded only a primary education. Still, he was considered the master among the heteronyms by Fernando Pessoa himself. Caeiro is known as the poet-philosopher. Though his language was aesthetically direct, practical and simple it was at the same time very complex in terms of reflection. His way of viewing life is summed up in this verse: “There’s enough metaphysics in not thinking about anything”.