Voices: Teresa Rita Lopes, Richard Zenith, Jorge Louraço, António Mega Ferreira, José Barreto, Fernando Cabral Martins, Luís Miguel Nogueira Rosa Dias, Manuela Nogueira, Pablo Javier Pérez López and Sofia Saldanha
O Íbis, ave do Egipto, Pessoa Inédito. Fernando Pessoa. (Orientação, coordenação e prefácio de Teresa Rita Lopes). Lisboa: Livros Horizonte, 1993.
* Free translation by Eugénia Brito
4. Ibis, the Egyptian bird
Sofia: We are in the very heart of Pessoa’s Lisbon. We will walk down Chiado towards Rossio. In 1909 Fernando Pessoa received an inheritance. He left his aunts' house and lived alone for the first time. He rented an apartment at Rua da Glória.
Teresa Rita Lopes: He had to wait until the age of 21, at that time majority was only at 21, to receive an inheritance from his father’s mother.
Teresa Rita Lopes: And decided to set up a printing press.
Sofia: He saw an advent in the newspaper O Século for a publishing house that was for sale in Portalegre.
Old train whistle
Sofia: He went there, bought the machines and called the publishing house Company Ibis Typography and Publisher - Steam Factory.
Richard Zenith: Pessoa’s attraction to Ibis was not at all innocent,
Ibis bird call
Richard Zenith: It was not just because of the beauty of the bird.
Flipping pages, Ibis bird call
Fernando Pessoa: Ibis, the Egyptian bird,
Always standing on one foot
(which is fairly odd)
It’s quite a quiet bird
Because with only one foot it won’t walk the earth. *
Richard Zenith: Ibis is a bird that likes to be in the water on one foot. And this was a symbol, because Ibis was a sacred bird, an Egyptian God Thoth. And Thoth was the scribe of the Gods, so he was the inventor of writing, and it had also to do with magic.
Old printing machine, Ibis bird call
António Mega Ferreira: And then there's a mystery, Ibis Typography seems never to have worked. But it is not quite like that.
Teresa Rita Lopes: It did work indeed. Ibis printed a newspaper of the Algarve, O Povo Algarvio, a Loulé newspaper.
José Barreto: But his idea was to print his own texts, not to depend on anyone. He could publish his texts in Portugal and in England.
Fernando Cabral Martins: After a few months bankrupt he shuts up shop, sells the presses and that’s it he moves on to something else.
António Mega Ferreira: And then there is a letter from his mother in which she says: “Fernando, you have to be careful about putting yourself into these situations, look what happened with that Ibis thing,” but clearly it didn’t work out because he had no ability for business, I mean he had a way for what we know which was writing.
Old printing machine stopping, street sounds, door opening and closing
Sofia: Ibis was the first in a series of unsuccessful businesses. But Pessoa had other skills that few people had in Portugal a hundred years ago.
António Mega Ferreira: 100 years ago knowing languages in Portugal was a very important tool in the job market and he knew languages very well. He knew English of course and French too. From 1908 he was 20, 21 years old, he started working in several offices as a correspondent in foreign language. What for? To ensure correspondence with the international market, with international companies, etc., and therefore he started working very early. In fact in 1908 there is a thing, an extraordinary document that is in the 1908 diaries, which is a plan for life.
António Mega Ferreira: In this plan for life he calculates how many covenants he needs to have and in how many offices he has to work with to give him x dollars a month to allow him to devote himself to writing. This means that at the age of 20 Fernando Pessoa knew very well what he wanted to be. He wanted to be a writer.
José Barreto: He was a freelancer he was always a freelancer. His family in Lisbon got him jobs in English companies, but of course he had to be a functionary or a permanent employee. But he had to say goodbye to his freedom and would have to be a person ruled by time, so he refused several jobs that might as well have solved his financial problems, his existential problems forever, but which would render his dreams as an artist, as a writer, his enormous ambition, impossible. It must be said that it was already a great ambition of the young Fernando Pessoa, to have a major work that would make him the great writer of his generation and of his time.
Luís Miguel Nogueira Rosa Dias: So he earned little, he was always in need. If he had ten escudos in his pocket, and a friend said "Hey give me ten escudos” he would give away the ten escudos and would then be penniless.
José Barreto: He lived in rooms, poorly fed. He borrowed money constantly. He had chestnuts in his pocket, he was always cheating the stomach, he was now and then at the famous literary gatherings in Café Montanha, where he was talking to his fellows and suddenly he reached into his pocket and pulled out a chestnut. And who reports this, his friend Francisco Peixoto Bourbon, affirms that he was sometimes starving.
António Mega Ferreira: I think he had hard times, because he spent all the money, but he never lived in misery. For example, we have an invoice for clothing bought in Lourenço & Santos, which was a great tailor of Lisbon, downtown in Restauradores. There were two stores downtown, today there’s only one. In the diaries of 1913 or 1915, In the diaries of 1913 or 1915, for example, he writes about one night when he walks downtown and goes to Pitta. Pitta was the Pitta hosiery, which still exists today, that was the most elegant hosiery in Lisbon, that is to say the most exclusive one. He was very sensitive, for example, to the way of dress, the elegance, the clothes, all these things.
Inside Pitta hosiery
Manuela Nogueira: He was a person who took very good care of his appearance and well-being. He bathed in cold water. His white shirt was always very clean. Irene was the washerwoman, she entered the door of Rua Coelho da Rocha, rang the doorbell and got in with a basket on her hands, and in the basket there was a bag, a bag in a raw cloth, which you probably don’t even know what it is. And the cloth had an F and a P for Fernando Pessoa hemmed in red, and then she would come in with that bag and say, “Here you are, Mr. Pessoa, your laundry!” He always had Irene to handle his clothes. And he was always flawless, with a tie or more frequently with a bow tie, it was usually a black bow, sometimes dark grey, but most times grey. And a hat, well they always put him with a hat nowadays, don’t they? But I remember him without the hat, because at home he was not wearing a hat was he?
Luís Miguel Nogueira Rosa Dias: He had that trim look. I think it was a certain English influence as well..
António Mega Ferreira: Also, he was a person who spent a fortune on books, fortune but then he had to sell them to get some money.
José Barreto: He rarely left Lisbon, not even the city centre.
Fado music, street sounds
José Barreto: Fernando Pessoa had those habits, didn’t he? He was a man of habits and then the habit of drinking. He worked in those companies, and in those commercial offices, there are dozens and dozens of companies, we have the testimony of the letterheads, he used to write letters. Sometimes he was at the office, he would, get up and say "I'll be right back" and then he would go to Abel, drink a glass or two and go back to work, so that was something that was part of his day-to-day life.
Pablo Javier Pérez López: And he had a great sense of humour, a great sense of humour. The fact that he goes to Abel, that cellar, already known in the "flagrante de litro" story, “caught in the act of drinking”, to have some drinks and then, when he gets back to the office, the son of his boss Moutinho de Almeida asks him, “How can you drink so much, how can you keep it together? You seem like a sponge”. And Pessoa said: “A sponge, no, not just a sponge, a sponge factory with an attached warehouse.” That kind of humour can only exist in people who are tragic, I really think this.
José Barreto: Then at the end of his life he tries to get a permanent job, but he cannot get it. And he becomes very unhappy, very unhappy, because he already longed for some stability, and then in his spare time, he could devote himself to his literary activities.
Fado music playing on the street, street sounds, seagulls
Sofia: But that was only in 1932. Pessoa was already 44 years old, and a considerable amount of his work was still unpublished. His preoccupation with organizing the work was excessive. If you are already at Rossio you can start the next episode.