Yesterday, after putting up my invitation to read The Book of Disquiet along with whatever group of sharp characters plans to join in with me, I discovered that the novel-like non-novel has been included in the last couple of editions of the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. So I used this as a marketing hook in my Twitter promotional effort, under the untested assumption that some readers out there somewhere are neurotically working off of (surely not through) this list.
I think this was my favorite joke (de-Twittered just a bit):
Imagine the poor reader, trapped in his deathbed, who has read all 1,001 books except #PessoaDisquiet. He feebly turns the pages of the Richard Zenith translation, but his eyesight and concentration are insufficient for the difficult concepts and miniscule type of Pessoa’s text. His strength wanes; the book slips from his fingers; he feels the icy shadow of Death approach, knowing that he ends his life unloved, and badly read. Just one book short of being well-read, actually.
Do not be that reader.
Perhaps others are not so amused by the title of that book as I am. The official position of Wuthering Expectations is that there is no book that a generalized “you” must read before “you” die. Specific “you”s will want to consult a religious authority within “your” faith for some important exceptions. Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet will not be among them. I can come up with a long list of shoulds, but no musts, and even the shoulds need to be preceded by ifs. E.g.: If you are at all interested in literature, you should get to know some of Shakespeare’s plays.
Not that I am knocking the Must Read book as such. It is a list among many lists, but a pretty good one. The accompanying website has a nifty gadget to search the list by date, language, nationality, and so on. I find sixteen books in Portuguese, the oldest being The Lusiads, The Crime of Father Amaro, The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas, and Dom Casmurro, outstanding choices. Then a standard cluster of Portuguese and Brazilian Modernists: Amado, Lispector, Guimăres Rosa, Saramago, and Lobo Antunes (plus Pessoa). And then two novels by Paulo Coelho, about whom I will admit suspicion but plead ignorance. I doubt that the typical purchaser of Before You Die is quite so fond of avant garde fragmentation and alienation and extremely long paragraphs as this list of authors would suggest, but this is a great list for me.
The Must… Die list also includes a number of oddities I never see anywhere else, which I wish someone else would read and tell me about. Who is up for Emilio Salgari’s The Tigers of Mompracem (1900), the second of an eleven-volume series about the adventures of a Malaysian pirate? See left, and do not miss this amazing page of Salgari’s Italian book covers, provided by his current English-language publisher. I would also like to hear, from a reliable book blogger, something about Ivan Vazov’s 1888 Under the Yoke, the classic Bulgarian epic.
Why did I write this? Oh yes, to encourage morbid neurotics who read in order to make checkmarks in spreadsheets to read The Book of Disquiet with me. To encourage other people, too.