Mouth of Hell

Pessoa (possibly) and Crowley

A few weeks ago my daughter and I were in Portugal, primarily to learn more about Maria Gabriela Llansol’s writing and life. We visited Lisbon, Sintra and Cascais. I was amused to learn that Aleister Crowley was there too in 1930. He had been invited by the eccentric poet, Fernando Pessoa, whose work I once liked very much. Crowley, mystic, Satanist, fascinated me for a brief period when I was a teenager when, via Jung, I was drawn to the occult.

We saw in Cascais a chasm below a high, overhanging cliff, known locally as Boca do Inferno (Mouth of Hell), a favourite place for suicides. It was here, appropriately, that Crowley staged a suicide, leaving a note, weighted down by a cigarette case, recorded in his diary as: ‘I cannot live without you. The other Boca do Inferno will get me—it won’t be as hot as yours.’ In reality he had left Portugal and rejoined his lover, Hanna Jaeger, in Berlin. Pessoa played along, writing about Crowley’s ‘mysterious disappearance’ for local newspapers, even claiming to have seen Crowley’s ghost a day or two later.

4 thoughts on “Mouth of Hell

    • It surprised me too. I deleted “once” a couple of times and then decided to leave it. For all the sublime in Pessoa’s work, there is a solipsistic aspect to his writing that sets my teeth on edge. It’s possibly a phase, a reaction to other things I’ve been reading. I prefer his poetry to ‘Book of Disquiet’. These days I read the poems more often, but they are so highly allusive and self-referential, I am sure a lot gets lost in translation.

      • Thanks. I had just wondered whether there had been some decisive rupture or change in your appreciation. I can get the solipsistic aspect.

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