Saturday, October 21, 2006

Pranksters at the Boca do Inferno

Aleister Crowley and Fernando Pessoa playing chess in Lisbon (according to Cláudia Costa they played either at A Brasileira or Martinho da Arcadia, both still in business).
I finished with a collection of Fernando Pessoa's selected poems yesterday and started with his Book of Disquiet today. The book, the author's main work, was written between 1912-1935 CE. Only one of Pessoa's books were published during his lifetime, the rest of his books from his massive corpus of writings posthumously. Book of Disquiet was among these posthumous publications, becoming published for the first time as late as in 1982 CE. I think it is somehow appropriate that Pessoa's main work has such an unusual history - reflecting the poet's unusual life and interests.
When it comes to Pessoa's life, readers of my blog might be especially interested to learn that the author was a keen student of the occult (although he was rather quiet about it) and that he corresponded and met with Aleister Crowley. The two authors initially got in touch with each other as Pessoa sent Crowley a correction on an erroneous astrological detail containted in Crowley's Confessions. After that Crowley and Pessoa corresponded, exchanged writings and finally met in Lisboa in September, 1930 CE.
After the Great Beast's scarlet woman of the time left him without a notice there, the two writers came up with a grand prankster idea. Gary Lachman has written a good summary about that:
Crowley then enlisted Pessoa's aid in faking a suicide. Leaving a forlorn lover's note at the Boca do Inferno (Mouth of Hell) - a treacherous rock formation on the coast west of Lisbon - Crowley implied that he had taken his own life by leaping into the sea. Pessoa explained to the Lisbon papers the meaning of the various magical signs and symbols that adorned Crowley's suicide note, and added the fact that he had actually seen Crowley's ghost the following day. Crowley had in fact left Portugal via Spain, and enjoyed the reports of his death in the newspapers; he finally appeared weeks later at an exhibition of his paintings in Berlin. Given Pessoa's frail ego, it was more than likely a blessing that his association with the Beast was brief.

Boca do Inferno, Lisboa.

When you pick up Fernando Pessoa's great writings the next time you might find this background to his thoughts fascinating. It is something that is usually not told about the author who is often considered as the greatest Portuguese author of all times.

Some related links:

Crowley and Pessoa at

Karl Germer's letter to Pessoa

The magical world of Fernando Pessoa at Nhtposition

Pessoa at Literary Kicks


Blogger Proserpiynne said...

These two gentlemen must have had great fun with that prank, it was absolutely brilliant!
I wonder who won this chess game by the way?
Pessoa is really important in my life, he was an absolute genius he had such intensity and greatness within him; his works are just fabulous.
This is a great entry Tapio, beautifully written, and fascinating as usual.
"To feel today what one felt yesterday isn't to feel - it's to remember today what was felt yesterday, to be today's living corpse of what yesterday was lived and lost." Fernando Pessoa

7:13 pm  
Blogger AruXet said...

I bought Pessoa´s "Book of Disquiet" yesterday - What a book!!!

5:43 am  

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