I picked up a book one day in Paris by the Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa. I had moved to Paris for a while to escape my life in the States, which wasn't going well. I decided to read nothing but great books for a year, a book a day or so, but books in Paris are expensive, so I would go everyday to a bookstore and steal a book. The next day, after I'd finished, I'd return it to the store's shelves and borrow another. This is how I became well read while in Paris.
Paris is like that. It gives you permission to do crazy things.
And this is how I came to love Fernando Pessoa. His was the only book I didn't return. Pessoa is the perfect writer to read in Paris. He thought dreams to be more real than life, and beauty to be found in dreams, both good and bad. Dreams taught us lessons. Pessoa died relatively unknown, probably because he lived and died in Lisbon and not Paris.
When I eventually came home my interests had changed. American friends found my pretensions intolerable. I took up painting and convinced a gallery to sell my work. I gave people copies of Pessoa's masterpiece THE BOOK OF DISQUIET, but never heard back from anybody. I suspect most of them read a page or two. People who haven't lived in Paris shouldn't be expected to understand.
Eventually I reverted back to my rational, ordered, acquisitive American self. But I've always remembered Paris and Pessoa. So, when the Center For Documentary Studies gave me the opportunity to do something creative again, I started thinking again of both, maybe doing a short piece documenting what I learned from them, using photographs I'd taken in the years since returning home.
This is what came of it.
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