Fernando Pessoa and Kenneth Snipps: A true fairy tale (Story Time Sunday, 08/26/12)

Once upon a time there was a man named Fernando Pessoa.  Fernando lived in Lisbon, Portugal and was an editor, writer, and translator.

But Fernando was shy.  Like many shy people he liked to play pretend, and, in particular, Fernando liked to play pretend with his writing.  He liked to pretend so much, that he started pretending to BE different writers and people who had their own writing and even biographies.  “It’s boring being me,” Fernando said, to his neighbor – a worn out lady with a geranium plant —  and POOF!  There stood another person who could be more interesting  than Fernando himself (younger older, or even a different sex and nationality). That person could be a completely different sort of writer than Fernando Pessoa, and in this way,  Fernando could expand infinitely, allowing all these different facets to take root in him and speak.

This sort of pretending  — which Fernando called heteronymic creation — kept the author busy his whole life long.  So far, we think Fernando created 72 different heteronyms (although there may have been MORE).

Fernando didn’t make these personalities up for any “reason.”  He didn’t become famous with them, or make money with them, or – thank goodness—get sent to a loony bin with them.  He made them because, as you may know, it is fun to make pretend people, much like you make a chocolate cake, or whip cream into butter.  He understood that creativity was about that experience and that experience alone, and that “making” could be fun and useless and small.  And if you kept on doing the small pretending, those acts could create a compendium which was actually stupendously enormous. (Fernando created a total of 25,000 pages according to Wikipedia—which are STILL in the process of being edited).

Creating pretend-people and saying that they are real is super fun.  Don’t believe me?  Check out the German organizational expert and  anti-chaos operative, Mitzi Notnagel, and her associate, the polyamorous autodidact and fashion/culture consultant Simone BaumbaumZiegfieldShalom (nee Stein).

But even more fun would be to do what Fernando did — come up with a whole WORLD of people who are pretend.

And that’s exactly what someone in the US has done!  This person has created a blogger, named Alan Boardman – himself a fake person — who in turn writes a wonderfully mundane blog about a town in Connecticut and he talks about a whole bunch of pretend people.   Note some of them are real, but are placed in unreal situations like Slappy the Seal.

Here is the link to the Mr. Boardman’s blog:


The star of this group of pretend people is the elusive Kenneth Snipps.

Kenneth is a letter writer.  The letters are real, and are sent via snail mail to real institutions, companies and stores.  Kenneth writes these missives in longhand,  asks a question or two, and signs off in a chipper manner with a tiny signature.

These letters really go out to recipients all over the world.

Kenneth – and the whole PROJECT of which Kenneth is a member — came to our attention at Magically Real, because of a lovely note he wrote to the Pleasure Chest in Los Angeles.  One of our operatives received the letter and conveyed the important information to HQ.

You can read the letter to the Pleasure Chest here:


Here is another letter written to Midas Mufflers:


Fernando (and Pip and Diablo) would love Kenneth Snipp and Alan Boardman, and the charming Barbara (aka Babs) Deaver.  This is pretending for the sake of pretending. Making odd toys and sending them out into the world for pleasure, a touch of satire, and surprise.

Thank you Alan Boardman and co, for doing this fun, strange, thing.

And thank you Fernando, for getting this heteronymic project underway in the first place.


PS – You can friend Kenneth Snipps on Facebook!

(Copyright, Stephanie Barbe Hammer, August, 2012)

5 thoughts on “Fernando Pessoa and Kenneth Snipps: A true fairy tale (Story Time Sunday, 08/26/12)

  1. this reply just in via Facebook from Mr. Snipps:

    “Wow! Thanks for mentioning me in your article. Maybe we can all get together when we come to LA to promote my upcoming books “The Kenneth Snipps Letters” and “Seat Cushions Float: 50 Helpful Crash Tips.””

  2. What a great post! Mr. Boardman’s blog reminds me a bit of Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon folks, as well as the crew from George Singleton’s new collection, out in a few more days from Dzanc Books. All made-up people no doubt based on real ones the author knows.

    And multiple author and character personalities is a lot of fun for writers, as we can have our little laughs at reader expense. Of course Jose Saramago took one of Pessoa’s more famous writing personalities, Ricardo Reis, and turned him into the main character of one of his novels, a man who spends time talking to his dead alter ego. Rivka Galchen had some fun in “Atmospheric Disturbances,” naming one of her characters Tzvi Gal-Chen, a professor of meteorology. Oh, and I’m working on a novel in which the main character has the name I used as a pseudonym to ghost write an action-adventure book for a client–they’ll never know so what the heck! My little joke, and I get to use that great name again.

    1. Thanks for reading, Joe. I LOVE the Boardman blog which I think is even funnier than Keilor, and am so thrilled that Mr. Snipps “replied” to me on fb. Excited about your project and look forward to reading. Huzzah for heteronyms!

  3. Almost forgot. Next time you’re on Facebook, make friends with a fellow named Donat Bobet, the alter ego of a writer we both know.

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