I like Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935). I typed some sections of The Book of Disquiet.
My life: a tragedy booed off the stage by the gods, never getting beyond the first act.
Friends: not one. Just a few acquaintances who imagine they feel something for me and who might be sorry if a train ran over me and the funeral was on a rainy day.
The logical reward of my detachment from life is the incapacity I've created in others to feel anything for me. There's an aureole of indifference, an icy halo, that surrounds me and repels others. I still haven't succeeded in not suffering from my solitude. It's hard to achieve that distinction of spirit whereby isolation becomes a repose without anguish.
[...]It takes a certain intellectual courage for a man to frankly recognize that he's nothing more than a human tatter, an abortion that survived, a madman not mad enough to be committed; and once he recognizes this, it takes even more moral courage to devise a way of adapting to his destiny, to accept without protest and without resignation, without any gesture or hint of a gesture, the organic curse imposed on him by Nature. To want not to suffer from this is to want too much, for it's beyond human capacity to accept what's obviously bad as if it were something good; and if we accept it as the bad thing it is, then we can't help but suffer.
[...]I've never seen suicide as a solution, because my hatred of life is due to my love of life. It took me a long time to be convinced of this unfortunate mistake in how I live with myself. Convinced of it, I felt frustrated, which is what I always feel when I convince myself of something, since for me each new conviction means another lost illusion.
[...]When one of my Japanese teacups is broken, I imagine that the real cause was not the careless hand of a maid but the anxieties of the figures inhabiting the curves of that porcelain. Their grim decision to commit suicide doesn't shock me: they used the maid as one of us might use a gun.
[...]My life is so sad, and I don't even think of weeping over it; my days are so false, and I don't even dream of trying to change them.
[...]There are inner sufferings so subtle and so diffuse that we can't tell whether they belong to the body or the soul, whether they're an anxiety that comes from our feeling that life is futile or an indisposition originating in some organic abyss such as the stomach, liver or brain. How often my normal self-awareness becomes turbid with the stirred dregs of an anguished staganation! How often it hurts me to exist, with a nausea so indefinite I'm not sure if it's tedium or a warning that I'm about to vomit!
[...]Tedium is not the disease of being bored because there's nothing to do, but the more serious disease of feeling that there's nothing worth doing. This means that the more there is to do, the more tedium one will feel.
[...]In one of those spells of sleepless somnolence when we intelligently amuse ourselves without the intelligence, I reread some of the pages that together will form my book of random impressions. And they give off, like a familiar smell, an arid impression of monotony. Even while saying that I'm always different, I feel that I've always said the same thing; that I resemble myself more than I'd like to admit; that, when the books are balanced, I've had neither the joy of winning or the emotion of losing. I'm the absence of a balance of myself, the lack of a natural equilibrium, and this weakens and distresses me.
[...]Everything, all that I've written, is grey. My life, even my mental life, has been like a drizzly day in which everything is non-occurrence and haziness, empty privilege and forgotten purpose. I agonize in tattered silks. In the light and in tedium I see but don't know myself.
[...]My humble attempt to say at least who I am, to record like a machine of nerves the slightest impressions of my subjective and ultra-sensitive life - this was all emptied like a bucket that got knocked over, and it poured across the ground like the water of everything. I fashioned myself out of false colors, and the result is an attic made out to be an empire. My heart, out of which I spun the great events of prose I lived, seems to me today - in these pages written long ago and reread now with a different soul - like a water pump on a homestead, instinctively installed and pressed into service. I shipwrecked on an unstormy sea where my feet could have touched bottom.
[...]Even writing has lost its appeal. To express emotions in words and to produce well-wrought sentences has become so banal it's like eating or drinking, something I do with greater or lesser interest but always with a certain detachment, and without real enthusiasm or billiance.
[...]Once we're able to see this world as an illusion and a phantasm, then we can see everything that happens to us as a dream, as something that pretended to exist while we were sleeping. And we will become subtly and profoundly indifferent towards all of life's setbacks and calamities. Those who die turned a corner, which is why we've stopped seeing them; those who suffer pass before us like a nightmare, if we feel, or like an unpleasant daydream, if we think. And even our own suffering won't be more than this nothingness.
[...]Revolutionary or reformer - the error is the same. Unable to dominate and reform his own attitude towards life, which is everything, or his own being, which is almost everything, he flees, devoting himself to modifying others and the outside world. Every revolutionary and reformer is a fugitive. To fight for change is to be incapable of changing oneself. To reform is to be beyond repair.
A sensitive and honest-minded man, if he's concerned about evil and injustice in the world, will naturally begin his campaign against them by eliminating them at their nearest source: his own person. This task will take his entire life.
[...]I don't distinguish in any fundamental way between a man and a tree, and I naturally prefer whichever is more decorative, whichever interests my thinking eyes. If the tree is more interesting to me than the man, I'm sorrier to see the tree felled than to see the man die. There are departing sunsets that grieve me more than the deaths of children.
[...]If I carefully consider the life men lead, I find nothing to distinguish it from the life of animals. Both man and animal are hurled unconsciously through things and the world; both have their leisure moments; both complete the same organic cycle day after day; both think nothing beyond what they think, nor live beyond what they live. A cat wallows in the sun and goes to sleep. Man wallows in life, with all of its complexities, and goes to sleep. Neither one escapes the fatal law of being what he is. Neither one tries to shake off the weight of being.
[...]These considerations, which occur to me frequently, prompt an admiration in me for a kind of person that by nature I abhor. I mean the mystics and ascetics - the recluses of all Tibets, the Simeon Stylites of all columns. These men, albeit by absurd means, do indeed try to escape the animal law. These men, althought they act madly, do indeed reject the law of life by which others wallow in the sun and for death without thinking about it. They really seek, even if on top of a column; they yearn, even if in an unlit cell; they long for what they don't know, even if in the suffering and martyrdom they're condemned to.
[...]On the face of it, the monotony of ordinary lives is horrifying. In this simple restaurant where I'm eating lunch, I look at the figure of the cook behind the counter and at the old waiter, near my table, who serves me and who I believe has been a waiter here for thirty years. What kind of lives do these men lead? For forty years that figure of a man has spent most of every day in a kitchen; he doesn't get much time off; he sleeps relatively little; he occasionally goes to his home town, returning without hesitation or regret; he slowly saves his slowly earned money, which he has no plans to spend; he would get ill if he had to retire for good from his kitchen to the piece of land he bought in Galicia; he has been in Lisbon for forty years and has never yet gone to the Rotunda or to a theatre, and just once to the curcus at the Coliseum, whose clowns still inhabit his life's inner vestiges. He married - I don't know how or why - and has four sons and a daughter, and his smile, as he leans over the counter in my direction, expresses a termendous, solumn, satisfied happiness. And he's not pretending, nor would he have reason to pretend. If he feels happy, it's because he really is.
And what of the old waiter who serves me and who has just set before me what must be the millionth coffee he's set on a customer's table? He has the same life as the cook, the only difference being the fifteen or twenty feet between the dining area and the kitchen, where they carry out their respective functions. As for the rest, the waiter has only two sons, goes more often to galicia, has seen more of Lisbon than the book, knows Oporto, where he spent four years, and is equally happy.
It shocks me to consider the panorama of these lives, but before I can feel horror, pity and indignation on their account, it occurs to me that those who feel no horror or pity or indignation are the very ones who would have every right to - namely, the people who live these lives. It's the central error of the literary imagination: to suppose that others are like us and must feel as we do.
[...]What's given, in fact, always depends on the person or thing it's given to. A minor incident in the street brings the cook to the door and entertains him more than I would be entertained by contemplating the most original idea, by reading the greatest book, or by having the most gratifying of useless dreams. If life is basically monotony, he has escaped it more than I. And he escapes it more easily than I. The truth isn't with him or with me, because it isn't with anyone, but happiness does belong to him.