Fernando Pessoa's Modernity Without Frontiers: Influences, Dialogues and Responses, a title borrowed from Helder Macedo's description of the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa's work in the Foreword to this book, aims to provide a state-of-the-art panorama of the latest research being conducted on Pessoa's national and international influences, artistic dialogues, and responses his work has generated. In making this scholarship available to an English-speaking readership, thus adding to the small number of books of essays on Pessoa in English, it equally hopes to cement his position at the heart of world literature.
Pessoa cryptically claimed that he did not evolve, but rather travelled: ‘Eu não evoluo: viajo.’ He did not mean that he travelled in the literal sense because, apart from living in Durban, South Africa, between the ages of seven and seventeen, he never again left Portugal, and rarely even left the city of Lisbon. He referred, instead, to his unique ability to inhabit fictional dramatic others, the most developed of which he called heteronyms, each with a distinctive thematic core, context of literary influence, biography and style.
Pessoa also travelled via his wide reading, appropriating, building on and responding to all manner of influences, in the shape of individual artists as well as wider cultural and literary movements. ‘Mature poets’, T. S. Eliot famously declared, ‘steal’, but he immediately qualified this by stating that the best ones – and Pessoa is certainly in this category – transform their sources into ‘something better, or at least something different’.