The Lockdown Chronicles 21: Fernando

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Fernando reflects.
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Fernando António Nogueira Pessoa (13 June 1888 – 30 November 1935) was a Portuguese poet, writer, literary critic, translator, publisher and philosopher, described as one of the most significant literary figures of the 20th century and one of the greatest poets in the Portuguese language. He also wrote in and translated from English and French [Wikipedia entry].

Published posthumously, The Book of Disquiet is a fragmentary lifetime project, left unedited by Fernando Pessoa, who introduced it as a “factless autobiography.” The book was credited to Bernardo Soares, one of the author’s alternate writing names, which he called semi-heteronyms, and had a preface attributed to Fernando Pessoa, another alternate writing name or orthonym [Wikipedia entry].

On 29 November 1935, Fernando Pessoa (1888–1935), suffering from abdominal pain and a high fever, was taken to the Hospital de São Luís. There he wrote, in English, his last words: “I know not what tomorrow will bring.” He died the next day, aged 47. (Ciuraru 2011).

Text sources: Direção-Geral da Saúde COVID-19 site,; Pessoa, Fernando (2003) The Book of Disquiet, translated by Richard Zenith, Penguin Classics; ; Ciuraru, Carmela (2011) Nom de Plume: A (Secret) History of Pseudonyms, HarperCollins.

Source image: photograph of Fernando Pessoa, ca. 1914, via Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain. This comic strip CC-BY-NC-SA.


Direção-Geral da Saúde (2020) COVID-19 site, available at [Accessed 6 May 2020]

Pessoa, Fernando (2003) The Book of Disquiet, tr. Richard Zenith, Penguin Classics. Excerpt available at [Accessed 6 May 2020]

Ciuraru, Carmela (2011) Nom de Plume: A (Secret) History of Pseudonyms, HarperCollins. Excerpt available via the Poetry Society of America at [Accessed 6 May 2020]

Casa Fernando Pessoa, Lisbon, available at [Accessed 6 May 2020]

The Lockdown Chronicles is a series of periodical comic strips made at night (in candlelight!) adapting and reusing openly-licensed or public domain items from online digital collections. Publication and tweetage are scheduled in advance. Historical sources are adapted and updated for the current pandemic; please refer to each strip’s references on each post for further context.  Catch up with the series at

Salut, Notre-Dame (A comic)

Salut. Etymology 1.From Old Occitan salut, from Latin salūtem, accusative singular of salūs (“greeting, good health”), related to salvus (“safe”). Ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *solh₂- (“whole, completed”).

From [Accessed 16 April 2019].


click on image to access
Priego, Ernesto (2019): Salut, Notre-Dame…. figshare.


I made another comic thingy. I deposited it on figshare:

Priego, Ernesto (2019): Salut, Notre-Dame…. figshare.


“The Best Books on Mexico?” (Start Here Instead)

This morning I was referred to this Guardian Global Development post (let’s call it what it is). I can’t describe the sense of despair I feel when I read the caption “The best books on Mexico: Down the Rabbit Hole, The Years With Laura Díaz, and Mexico: Democracy Interrupted.” It’s not a joke. They are telling you, reader, that those three books are “the best on Mexico”.

Really. Now, allow me to be categorically ranty here: a bit of common sense can make us realise that “best of” lists are always a joke and cannot possibly be objective in any way. Nevertheless, this being the Guardian (read worldwide, and not only in Britain, for this is not still 1910) the old spectre of the subaltern (or the “Global South” subject) being unable to represent his/her own culture within the dominant (economic, cultural) power reappears.

A short autobiographical note: in the schools I worked in Mexico Mexicans had to have qualifications to get a teaching job, but Americans and Brits in gap years seemed not to need them. The rest of us natives had to climb the steps (mined with dead bodies) of the steep academic meritocracy ladder. (To be fair those were dark times –some 15, 20 years ago– and who knows if that is still the case). When I lived there, if you needed someone in Mexico to talk about British literature you looked for a Brit– because being British meant you knew something about your own culture. In Britain today, if you need someone to talk about Mexican literature… well, why would you need a Mexican to do that? Having been born in a “developing” nation means you are perceived as a toddler forever, unable to speak for yourself, inarticulate, ignorant and inexperienced. The grown-ups always know what’s best for you and therefore speak for you.

But I digress. As a quick Friday morning post, below my own “where to start” list of books about Mexico. I am assuming, like the Grauniad did, that you’d need books more or less widely available in English, so this is not a “best of”, and the list of books would be different if I could include books that are currently (sadly) only available in Spanish, Mexico’s official national language. I don’t have time to write small synopses for each book, but I have provided links. You know how to find out more.

Anyway, here it is, for your Christmas shopping list…

Paperback, 398 pages
Grove Press
Original Title: El laberinto de la soledad / Posdata / Vuelta a El laberinto de la soledad
ISBN: 080215042X (ISBN13: 9780802150424)

La región más transparente

Where the Air is Clear, by Carlos Fuentes (1958)
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Farrar, Straus and Giroux Paperbacks
Original title: La región más transparente
ISBN: 9781466840164
ISBN10: 1466840161
384 pages

Massacre in Mexico- La noche de Tlatelolco
Massacre in Mexico, by Elena Poniatowska (1971)
Paperback, 333 pages
University of Missouri Press
Original title: La noche de Tlatelolco
ISBN 978-0-8262-0817-0
Mexican Postcards cover
Mexican Postcards, by Carlos Monsiváis (1997)
Paperback, 240 pages
Verso Books
ISBN-10: 0860916049
ISBN-13: 978-0860916048
News from the Empire, by Fernando del Paso (1987)
Paperback / softback 880 pages
Original title: Noticias del imperio
ISBN-13: 9781564785336
GTIN13: 9781564785336
The Book of Lamentations, by Rosario Castellanos (1962)
Paperback, 400 pages
Penguin Classics
Original title: Oficio de tinieblas
ISBN 9780141180038
No one will see me cry
No One Will See Me Cry, by Cristina Rivera Garza (2001)
Paperback, 207 pages
Curbstone Books
Original title: Nadie me verá llorar
ISBN-10: 1880684918
ISBN-13: 978-1880684917

Here is tijuana!

Here is Tijuana! by Fiamma Montezemolo, René Peralta,  Heriberto Yépez (2006)
Paperback, 192 pages
Black Dog Publishing Ltd
ISBN-10: 1904772455
ISBN-13: 978-1904772453

Slavery Inc
Trade Paperback, Royal PB, 320 pages
Portobello books
ISBN: 9781846274213
Hardback, 304 pages
ISBN: 9781781680735
ebook, 304 pages
ISBN: 9781781682487