«Conceptual foundations of the treatment of psychosis The psychoanalytic treatment of the psychoses is founded on Sigmund Freud’s conceptual theses ...»
Not every form of writing or occupation that involves writing in our sense will do. The activity should be, firstly, genuinely creative, not mechanical, repetitive or stereotypical. Secondly, it should be carried out with as much autonomy as possible, as psychotics tend to have serious difficulties with social relations, which as a rule involve demands from others, where the machinery of production is usually given priority over cooperation and tolerance among the members of a team or working group.
Daniel Paul Schreber, whose Memoirs provided the material for Freud’s theoretical developments on psychosis, was a writer. (Schreber 1988; Freud 1911c) Although his Memoirs cannot be regarded as a work of art, it is nevertheless a remarkable piece that allowed Schreber to be released from a psychiatric hospital after years of involuntary incarceration and to re-insert himself in the world.
5 AJP 24 1 | LeonardoRodriguez_Destructionand.pdf After Schreber, the works of other psychotic creators and of people who could maintain a psychosis at bay through writing have been the object of study by psychoanalysts. In Lacanian psychoanalysis, Lacan’s study of the life and works of James Joyce has been inspirational. This is not so much a case of the so-called ‘applied psychoanalysis’. Lacan’s position, which we follow in this respect, was that it is not a question of applying psychoanalytic concepts and methodology to the supposed comprehension or enlightenment of the creative productions of psychotic writers, artists or scientists; it is rather a question of learning from them, that is, from their works, as testimonies of the best (and sometimes the worst) that a human being can do, and do spontaneously, without any particular training, when faced with psychosis.
Fernando Pessoa, a man in search of tranquility Fernando Pessoa (1888–1935) is considered the greatest Portuguese poet of modern times. He gained public recognition during his lifetime, but most of his work has been published after his death; in fact, a good deal of it only over the last twenty-five years. Recently the French psychoanalyst Colette Soler published a study on different aspects of the life and works of Pessoa which are of psychoanalytic interest, and what I have to say now on Pessoa has in part followed her essay. (Soler 2001) While alive, he published under three different names besides his own. He claimed that those names (Alberto Caeiro, Ricardo Reis and Alvaro de Campos) were not pseudonyms, but names
that belonged to others, that is, writers that he invented, whom he called heteronyms (literally:
‘the names of others’). These others were not only names: Pessoa created them as entire personalities, each with his own biography, personal style and position on a number of philosophical, religious and ideological matters. This is not a case of multiple personalities, where the subject moves from identity to identity, but of a plurality of well-defined identities, which for Pessoa corresponded to entirely real creatures, even if what he took to be real was unconventional. Pessoa’s heteronyms established relations between themselves. Thus, Alberto Caeiro was the master—in the sense of the literary teacher and mentor—of both Ricardo Reis and Alvaro de Campos. Each of them wrote commentaries and critiques about the others and about Pessoa himself. Each heteronym created other heteronyms, each with a history and a personality of his own (Pessoa 1998; 2001a; 2001b; Simoes 1996).
By the time of his death, Pessoa had published a book of forty-four poems, Mensagem (Message), some 160 poems in different magazines and journals and more than a hundred works of criticism, social commentary and creative prose, including some passages of The Book of Disquiet (Liuro do Desassossego), written by a certain Bernardo Soares, whom Pessoa considered to be a semiheteronym, introduced as an ‘assistant bookkeeper in the city of Lisbon’. Pessoa explained that he considered Soares a semiheteronym because ‘his personality, although not my own, doesn’t differ from my own but is a mere mutilation of it’ (Pessoa 2001, 9)
His English translator Robert Zenith writes that after Pessoa’s death:
[his] posthumous editors opened up the now legendary trunk in which the author had deposited his legacy to the world: twenty-nine notebooks and thousands upon thousands 6 AJP 24 1 | LeonardoRodriguez_Destructionand.pdf of manuscript sheets containing unpublished poems, unfinished plays and short stories, translations, linguistic analyses, horoscopes, and nonfiction on a dizzying array of topics— from alchemy and the Kabala to American millionaires … The pages were written in English and French as well as Portuguese, and very often in an almost illegible script. The most surprising discovery was that Pessoa wrote not under four or five names but under forty or fifty. … It wasn’t until the 1980s that reliable, relatively complete editions of poetry by the main heteronyms began to appear, and no such edition has yet appeared for the poetry signed by Pessoa himself, much of which still need to be “lifted” from the manuscripts. Pessoa’s English heteronyms and his one French heteronym remained virtually unpublished until the 1990s, when many of the minor Portuguese heteronyms also began to make their way into print.
(Pessoa 2001, xii) Pessoa’s father died when he was five. His mother then married the newly appointed Portuguese consul to Durban, at the time a developing town in the British colony of Natal, South Africa.
Pessoa lived there from the age of seven until he was seventeen, when he returned to Lisbon to study at the university. He soon dropped out and started to earn his living as a freelance translator for Portuguese companies.
He started to write early, and in English, the language of his schooling in South Africa. At the age of fifteen he won the Queen Victoria Memorial Prize for the best English composition (against 899 competitors) submitted by students seeking admission to the University of the Cape of Good Hope. After his return to Portugal, he continued to write almost exclusively in English for a few years. As a child, he was reserved, preferred to be alone and did not engage in sports or other social activities. The English he wrote revealed his mastery of the language, but it derived mostly
from books, not from social life. As Zenith puts it:
It comes as no surprise … that the language of his English poetry tended toward the archaic (“Mr. Pessoa’s command of English is less remarkable than his knowledge of Elizabethan English,” commented a review of his 35 Sonnets (1918) in the Times Literary Supplement), and if his English prose often delighted in being humorous and colloquial, the humor was literary and the colloquial expressions came from Dickens, not from what Pessoa heard on the streets of Durban.
(Pessoa 2001, xviii) According to his own account, his career in heteronymy had began in childhood. As a small child he invented a literary playmate, whom he called Chevalier de Pas, in whose name he wrote letters to himself, probably in French (a language that he learned from his mother). At the age of thirteen he began to produce a series of make-believe newspapers. These were elaborate productions in three columns that contained real and invented news, poems, short stories, historical pieces, riddles and jokes, signed by a number of writers to whom he gave names and who had distinct interests and literary styles. His first heteronyms ‘proper’ wrote in English. They were Charles Robert Anon (presumably short for ‘anonymous’) and Alexander Search. Pessoa had calling cards printed for Alexander Search, who wrote a large series of English poems under the title of Documents of Mental Decadence. Search was supposed to have been born in Lisbon the same day as Pessoa, and had a brother by the name of Charles James Search. Both brothers, in turn, had a French colleague, Jean Seul (= ‘alone’), also a poet, the author of moral satires, some of which have been published, and of an essay on the behaviour and psychology of exhibitionists.
This composition of creative writers (and not just of creative writings) is reproduced, with different variations, throughout Pessoa’s works. Pessoa himself was, in his own view, a heteronym 7 AJP 24 1 | LeonardoRodriguez_Destructionand.pdf created by the others. As an adult he changed his surname. It was a subtle orthographic alteration, from Pessõa to Pessoa (which means ‘person’ in Portuguese).
As a child he was not well, and as an adult everything in his writing indicates the magnitude of his suffering and, in great detail, the manifestations of his psychotic experience (presumably of a schizophrenic nature), as well as his struggle to find some peace. The Book of Disquiet, an extraordinary work in poetic prose which is difficult to classify under any genre as it contains essays, aphorisms, biographical accounts and reflections on a great diversity of themes, concerns essentially Pessoa’s disquiet—desassossego in Portuguese: restlessness, agitation, lack of tranquility, inner turmoil. A French translator invented the word intranquillité to render it.
The preface of The Book of Disquiet is written by Fernando Pessoa, while the body of the book is signed by Bernardo Soares, a ‘semiheteronym’. The first section of the book is entitled ‘Autobiography without events’ (or ‘Factless autobiography’), and is paradigmatic of Pessoa’s fundamental position: that of a being whose reality is entirely in the realm of words, not of ordinary bodies.
He was aware of his profound malaise. He remarked in The Book of Disquiet that a madman is not liable to see the madness of his own ideas. He was interested in his madness but felt incapable of getting to know it. So around 1907 Pessoa (only 19 at the time) created another heteronym, a Dr Faustino Antunes, psychiatrist and the author of an essay on intuition, who wrote to one of his former teachers in Durban, a Mr Belcher, and to a former classmate, Clifford Geerts, asking them for information about a mentally deranged patient of his by the name of Fernando Pessoa.
They both replied. His ex classmate made these remarks:
Pessoa had prepared a letter for the same classmate that he never sent, signed by Dr Faustino
Antunes. He had written:
[I am writing you about the] late Fernando Antonio Nogueira Pessoa, who is thought to have committed suicide; at least he blew up a country house in which he was dying, he and several other people—a crime (?) which caused [a] great sensation in Portugal at the time (several months ago). I have been requested to inquire, as far as is now possible, into his mental condition and, having heard that the deceased was with you in the Durban High School, must beg you to write me stating frankly how he was considered among the boys at the said institution.
(Pessoa, 2001a, p. 14) 8 AJP 24 1 | LeonardoRodriguez_Destructionand.pdf In The Book of Disquiet, Pessoa (as Bernardo Soares) gives a vivid account of his experience, in which we can recognize psychotic schizophrenic features and his oscillation between melancholic and megalomaniac positions. A Vivid’ account is an ironic term when applied to someone for whom life was a torment and a permanent source of disquiet. It was only his heteronymy and his capacity to create make-believe realities and as if alter egos that kept him seemingly sane—a very odd human being but probably not an obviously raving lunatic in need of certification.
The following are selected paragraphs extracted from The Book of Disquiet to illustrate the
I asked for very little from life, and even this little was denied me. A nearby field, a ray of sunlight, a little bit of calm along with a bit of bread, not to feel oppressed by the knowledge that I exist, not to demand anything from others, and not to have others demand anything from me—this was denied me, like the spare change we might deny a beggar not because we’re mean-hearted but because we don’t feel like unbuttoning our coat.
I envy—but I’m not sure that I envy—those for whom a biography could be written, or who could write their own. In these random impressions, and with no desire to be other than random, I indifferently narrate my factless autobiography, my lifeless history. These are my Confessions, and if in them I say nothing, it’s because I have nothing to say.
Isolation has carved me in its image and likeness. The presence of another person—of any person whatsoever— instantly slows down my thinking, and while for a normal man contact with others is a stimulus to spoken expression and wit, for me it is a counterstimulus, if this compound word be linguistically permissible.
The mere thought of having to enter into contact with someone else makes me nervous. A simple invitation to have dinner with a friend produces an anguish in me that’s hard to define. The idea of any social obligation whatsoever—attending a funeral, dealing with someone about an office matter, going to the station to wait for someone I know or don’t know—the very idea disturbs my thoughts for an entire day, and sometimes I even start worrying the night before, so that I sleep badly. When it takes place, the dreaded encounter is utterly insignificant, justifying none of my anxiety, but the next time is no different: I never learn to learn.
We never love anyone. What we love is the idea we have of someone. It’s our own concept—our own selves—that we love. This is true in the whole gamut of love. In sexual love we seek or own pleasure via another body. In non-sexual love, we seek our own pleasure via our own idea. The masturbator may be abject, but in point of fact he’s the perfect logical expression of the lover. He’s the only one who doesn’t feign and doesn’t fool himself.
(Pessoa, 2001a, pp. 272–279) 9 AJP 24 1 | LeonardoRodriguez_Destructionand.pdf
And in a poem by Alvaro de Campos:
Sexuality requires life, and for most people, what would life be without sexuality? For Pessoa, sexuality is completely alien; erotic attraction for another is a strange, destructive, fragmenting experience. He had one relation (and only one according to all accounts) that could be called
romantic. She was Ofelia Queiroz. Richard Zenith gives a brief account of their encounter: