You Waspy Wasp



Fernando Pessoa, right, at the Café Martinho in Lisbon, 1914.

In 1929, after a nine-year silence, Fernando Pessoa renewed his correspondence with Ophelia Queiroz, with whom he had enjoyed the only romance of his life. Where his earlier letters, from 1920, found him effusive (perhaps excessively) in his affections, this later chapter sees him in a far more disturbed frame of mind; by the end of the year he had broken off their correspondence again, this time for good. Read more of his letters in The Selected Prose of Fernando Pessoa.

September 24, 1929

So tell me, my little Wasp (who’s not really mine, though you are a wasp), what words you want to hear from a creature whose mind took a spill somewhere on the Rua do Ouro, whose wits—along with the rest of him—got run over by a truck as it turned the corner onto the Rua de Sao Nicolau. 

Does my (my?) little Wasp really like me? Why this odd taste for older people? You complain in your letter about having to put up with some aunts who are eight-odd and fifty-odd years old and aren’t really aunts, but then how do you expect to put up with a creature who’s almost the same age and can never be an aunt, since this profession, to the best of my knowledge, is only open to women? An aunt, of course, needs to be two women or more. So far I’ve only managed to be an uncle, and just of my niece, who, funnily enough, calls me “Uncle Fenando,” due to (1) the aforementioned fact that I’m her uncle, (2) the fact I’m called (remember?) Fernando, and (3) the fact that she can’t say the letter R.

Since you say that you don’t want to see me and that it’s hard for you to want not to want to see me, so that you’d rather I phone you, because phoning means not being present, and write you, because writing is to be at a distance, I’ve already phoned you, Wasp that’s not mine, and now I am writing you, or rather, have written you, because I’ll stop here.

I’m going out and will take the letter in my black briefcase—do you hear?

I’d like to go, simultaneously, to India and Pombal. Strange combination, isn’t it? But it’s just one leg of the journey.

Do you remember this geography, you waspy Wasp?