The Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935) was a sort of self-contained literary universe. Besides the production signed with his own name (which he referred to as his “ortonym”), all his life Pessoa wrote poetry and prose under the name of fictitious characters. (Since Pessoa failed to clearly and systematically identify and classify each of those characters, the total number varies according to the expert: from just over 70 to more than 130.)
These characters were not just pseudonyms — not all of them, anyway. Some of them were “full” individuals, with their own personality, writing style, political ideas, social relations, and personal history. Pessoa called them “heteronyms”.
There were only three “full” heteronyms: Alberto Caeiro, Álvaro de Campos and Ricardo Reis. Caeiro had only basic schooling; Campos was a nautical engineer and Reis was a medical doctor. Despite that, in what poetry concerns, Caeiro was the Master, the guru, of the other: in fact, Pessoa declared Caeiro as his own (Pessoa’s) master. Other “disciples” of Caeiro include António Mora, a “semi-heteronym” that only wrote non-fiction prose (essays on politics, aesthetics and religion).
The five “men” (Pessoa, Caeiro, Campos, Reis, Mora) knew each other and were friends of some sort. But especially after the untimely death of Caeiro (in 1915) the men grew increasingly apart in the interpretation of what were the true aesthetic principles of the dead Master: Campos and Reis, in particular, “wrote” (then unpublished) essays attacking each other’s claims of what Caeiro really meant… (The controversy is probably intended to replicate the Apostles’ disagreement on what Jesus/Christ was and meant, a disagreement that shows on the Acts and Epistles.) At least in one occasion, Campos wrote in a literary magazine a letter mocking/contradicting Pessoa’s essay published in the previous issue.
All his life Pessoa was also an adept of horoscopes and other mystical beliefs, like spiritual channelling. (And, keeping coherent with his own multiplicity, he also wrote scornful texts about astronomical charts and the belief in spirits…)
The image shows four astronomical charts, Pessoa’s own manuscripts. Clockwise from top left corner: Pessoa (b. 13 June 1888, 3 p.m.), Caeiro (b. 16 Apr. 1889, 1:45 p.m.), Reis (b. 19 Sept. 1887, 4:05 p.m.), and Campos (b. 13 Oct. 1890, 1:17 p.m.). As expected, Pessoa is not totally coherent in what concerns the birth dates of his heteronyms: in his personal notes and letters we can find slightly or significantly different chronologies…