Jacob Porat: " Homage to Fernando Pessoa"

Some Opening Words - Lisbon, December 2010

A rainy day

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 Pessoa,  'The Pessoa Paradigm and the Phenomenon of Heteronomy: A Comparative Approach'.

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 techniques.

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 sunny day.

Both exist: each one just exactly what it is.