The anarchist banker

by Fernando Pessoa

A paradox has value only when it is not. (Fernando Pessoa)

“We had just finished having supper. Opposite me sat my friend the banker – a well-known capitalist and tycoon – absent-mindedly smoking his cigar. [...] Smiling, I turned to him and said:

“I know what I’ve been meaning to ask you. Someone told me a few days ago that you used to be an anarchist.”

“There’s no ‘used to’ about it, I was and I am. I haven’t changed in that respect, I still am an anarchist.”

“That’s a good one! You, an anarchist! In what way are you an anarchist? Unless, of course, you’re not using the word in its...”

“In its proper sense? I can assure you that I am.”

These are the opening words of The Anarchist Banker, a story by Fernando Pessoa that was first published in the magazine Contemporanea in May 1922. It is the account of a conversation between two men, in a restaurant, at the end of their dinner... A Platonic dialogue... The banker, between one cigar and another, tells his astonished interlocutor why he has always been and still is an anarchist. He explains the course of events that has led him to realize his ideal by acting in a manner “apparently” opposite to that required by anarchism. This, succinctly, is the sense of the dialogue. Away with false truths, appearances, in search of the inner essence of things, hidden under the veil of those appearances...