Writing about the Unwritten
CHESTERTOWN, MD— A new book by professor emeritus Thomas Cousineau offers fresh insight into the work of Portuguese Modernist writer Fernanco Pessoa. Published recently by Dalkey Archive Press, An Unwritten Novel: Fernando Pessoa’s “The Book of the Disquiet,” is Cousineau’s fifth book. It focuses on Pessoa’s posthumous masterpiece, The Book of the Disquiet. The publisher’s description states that, “An Unwritten Novel offers the general reader, as well as students and teachers, an ‘Ariadne’s thread’ that will help them to find their way through this labyrinthine masterpiece: a self-proclaimed ‘factless autobiography’ in which all the expected elements of the contemporary novel remain ‘unwritten.’”
Cousineau discovered The Book of Disquiet several years ago thanks to a review by the British novelist Paul Bailey in which he said, “This book has moved me more than anything I have read in years. I have rarely encountered such exhilarating
lugubriousness.” Cousineau’s own reading of The Book quickly convinced him that it was one of the towering masterpieces of 20th century fiction, even if, much like its narrator, it could be so aptly described as “the ruins of buildings that were never more than ruins.”
Pessoa’s editor and translator Richard Zenith writes that, “Cousineau does an excellent job of identifying and unraveling key strands in Pessoa’s work, which he then reweaves in various patterns to illuminate Fernando Pessoa, his semi-autobiographical persona Bernando Soares, and their collaborative project(ion) of Disquiet. An Unwritten Novel, well-written and well-argued, is an important contribution to Pessoa studies that will be much appreciated by Pessoa scholars and by anyone who admires the work of Portugal’s great Modernist writer.”
Cousineau taught English at Washington College from 1978 through spring of 2013. In addition to guest-editing “Beckett in France” for the Journal of Beckett Studies, Cousineau’s other publications include Waiting for Godot: Form in Movement, After the Final No: Samuel Beckett’s Trilogy, Ritual Unbound: Reading Sacrifice in Modernist Fiction, and Three-Part Inventions: The Novels of Thomas Bernhard.