The Interesting Story of Pessoa’s Biography
Head Master, Mr AD Pinheiro, presented to the Honorary Consul for Portugal in Durban, Mr Elias de Sousa, a book. What is noteworthy about this particular book, is that it is written about one of Durban High School’s most famous Old Boys, world renowned poet Fernando Pessoa; it is written by a former teacher at DHS, Mr Hubert Jennings; and was “found” by DHS Old Boy, Chris Jennings, Hubert’s son. And now, decades later, is has been published.
“The Poet with Many Faces” is the first biography of Fernando Pessoa in English and there is quite a story attached to it. In the words of Chris:
“I presume you want to know a bit on how a one-time teacher at DHS came to be interested in Pessoa, learnt Portuguese and became fascinated by the genius of Pessoa long before most people in the English speaking world became aware of this. Went twice to Portugal, once on a Gulbenkian scholarship, befriended Pessoa’s family and was given access to a room full of Pessoa’s papers. As a remarkable classical scholar, who wrote beautiful English and was a published poet in his own right he was able to do some beautiful translations of numerous of Pessoa’s poems. Apart from an earlier publication on Pessoa in Durban, his book on Pessoa “The Poet with Many faces” was written in the 60’s and was being prepared for publication in 1968 when a revolution in Portugal and the suicide of one of the main promoters of the book caused it to be shelved. 24 years after my father’s death it was found in the rafters of my daughter’s garage when she moved to Cape Town. This, together with boxes full of my father’s papers mostly on Pessoa.
Not knowing whether these were of interest to anyone in the Pessoan world we sent an inventory of these to Universities round the world including, Oxford, Lisbon, Yale, Brown, South America, etc and to our huge surprise were amazed at the interest these engendered. We eventually handed everything over to Brown who had promised to scan everything and make it all available to anyone interested. This has been done and several symposia on my father’s work have been held at Brown with attendants coming from all over the world. I understand a number of books and theses are in progress based on my father’s work about which my sister and I were completely unaware.”
A fascinating story indeed.
If you would like to learn more about it, “In search of Fernando Pessoa” is an article written by Hubert Jennings giving in-depth details: