Jacob Porat: " Homage to Fernando Pessoa"
Some Opening Words - Lisbon,
My first real encounter with
Fernando Pessoa was early in 2004 when I read his work, "The Book of
Disquiet". This was the period when my exhibition "Conversations
with Kafka" was being shown in the Czech Republic - an exhibition which
had occupied me both mentally and physically since the year 2001 (when
it was first exhibited in Israel), and was to occupy me for a further
two years while it was shown in different cities both in the Czech
Republic and in Poland.
During this period I came
across the Hebrew translation of "The Book of Disquiet" by Fernando
Pessoa, and probably what triggered my immediate interest in this book
was the similarity - about which I had no doubt - between the world of
this text and the world as presented in the texts of Franz Kafka.
Later on, after reading the
poems in Pessoa's book "From the Highest Window", I started
working on the series which I called "Homage to Fernando Pessoa".
The exhibition was shown from mid-November 2008 for two and a half
months at the Belgium House at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and
the opening ceremony was in the framework of the conference dedicated to
'The Pessoa Paradigm and the Phenomenon of Heteronomy: A
The common factor between the
two series, "Homage to Fernando Pessoa" and "Conversations
with Kafka", lies in the fact that neither was created in any way with
the intention of illustrating the writings of these authors. At the
most, the intention was to express the essence of each. This is the only
aspect they have in common In all other ways the series are totally
different from each other, firstly technically: the works on Kafka are
prints and those on Pessoa are oil paintings and include mixed
Furthermore: I assume that
also from the thematic aspect there are clear differences between the
two series, and as I do not usually analyze my works, also not in
retrospect, I will only add the following: the series "Conversations
with Kafka" is apparently far more integrated than that of "Homage to
Fernando Pessoa", an integration achieved partly by the use of a
repetitive motive which appears in each of the works in the series,
while there is no such repeated motive in the series on Pessoa, a fact
which perhaps expresses the aspect of the heteronymous nature of Pessoa
and which made his works much less harmonized in comparison with the
significant unity of the works of Kafka. And of course in retrospect,
and without my having been aware of this from the beginning, it is
possible that the names of the series also in some way express the
difference between them...
In connection with the two
authors in question, I should add a further factor which led me to
create the two series: in addition to the not insignificant features
they have in common, and not only in the field of their creativity but
also in the course of their lives -- in their interpersonal relations
and even in the fate of their works from all aspects - there are also
significant differences between them in all of these facets, but this is
not the place for a superficial discussion of this topic. On the other
hand, in my opinion there is a real need for an extensive and serious
study of this topic.
In this connection: Prof. Shimon
Sandbank, in his excellent book "The Way of Wavering" (1974, in Hebrew),
discusses "forms of uncertainty in Kafka's work", a topic which I find
absolutely relevant to Pessoa's work as well.
On the other hand: In his Postscript to
the book Sandbank says: "Kafka's lack of certainty implies a lack of
despair as well [...]. In spite of his accepted image, he is not the
poet of despair [...]. His destruction of the world is what he calls a
constructive destruction" – and I am not sure that these words of Shimon
Sandbank are perfectly applicable to the work of Fernando Pessoa.
I will conclude with what
could maybe be a relevant Fernando Pessoa's saying:
A rainy day is as beautiful as a
Both exist: each one just exactly
what it is.