Maybe you've heard of Jorge Amado, and Luis de Camoes, who wrote the first epic poem in Portuguese. But not Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935), even though he is lauded as the greatest novelist in modern Portugal.
Born in Lisbon, Pessoa grew up in South Africa, where his stepfather was a diplomat. He began writing poetry at age six ("To My Beloved Mother"), and published short stories in English while still in high school.
In 1905 he returned to Lisbon and immersed himself in the modernist movement, the new world of literary and artistic experimentation spearheaded by James Joyce, T.S. Eliot, Ruben Dario, and Miguel de Unamuno. He published literary magazines and literary criticism, translated English novels and poetry, and produced 25,000 pages of his own creative work.
And he created a lively interior world of men, mostly gay men, who established strong same-sex bonds through art.
Heteronoms are fictional characters who write their own stories, poems, and essays, using their distinctive backgrounds and voices, and who interact with each other and comment each other's works. By the end of his life, Pessoa had developed more than 70 characters with complicated geneologies and relationships to each other:
Albert Caiero, author of O guardador de Rebanhos, is critiqued by Ricardo Reis, whose brother Federico writes about him.
Claude Pasteur comments on Cadernos de reconstrução pagã, written by Antonio Mora, a student of Caiero.
Pero Botelho creates a character, Abilio Quaresma, who writes stories of his own.
Dr. Gaudencio Turnips edits a journal, O Palrador, which publishes the work of José Rodrigues do Valle, Dr. Caloiro, Gabriel Keene, and Diablo Azul.
A mysterious being named Ibis accompanied Pessoa through his life, and published poems of its own.
The voluminous interrelations of the many different people living in his head were mostly for the benefit of Pessoa and his friends; during his lifetime he published only four books in English and one in Portuguese, a symbolist poetic epic called Mensagem (The Message).
Many more books have been gleaned from his manuscripts since. The Book of Disquiet (Livro do Desassossego), published in 1985 (English translation 1991), is a semi-autobiographical novel/diary/ commonplace book by heteronom Bernardo Soares, a compendium of life in 1920s Lisbon by a gay man writing in the voice of another gay man.