10 December 2010

João Guimarães Rosa

Here is an example of why everything gets lost in the translation of a multilingual novel (considered the best Brazilian novel):

"Born June 3, 1908 in Cordisburgo state of Minas Gerais, Rosa, the greatest Brazilian author since Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis (1839-1908), came from a wealthy patrician family. He earned a medical degree and worked as a doctor and a diplomat before publishing in 1946 his first book, Sagarana, a collection of short stories. Grande Sertão: Veredas (Big Backlands: Pathways, The Devil to Pay in the Backlands in the American translation) was published in 1956.

"Rosa was responsible for inventing a new language mixing regional slang to Indian dialects and modern and archaic Portuguese and foreign languages. Grande Sertão: Veredas is the pinnacle of this accomplishment. The novel's story is an endless monologue told in the first person by Riobaldo, an ex-bandit, who with unfinished sentences and invented words recalls what happened to him and sexually-ambiguous character Diadorim in the backlands, starting at the end of the nineteenth century.

"He died at his home in Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, on November 19, 1967, of a heart attack just three days after being formally received at the Academia Brasileira de Letras. The author, who had a nearly fatal heart attack in 1962 was chosen in 1963 to become an 'immortal,' but refused to join the other 39 members of the Academy of Letter fearing 'the emotion of the moment.'

"A sample from Grande Sertão: Veredas extracted from the episode known as the 'Slaughter of the Ponies,' which was eliminated from the US translation:
"I can't remember how many days and nights it was. I'd say six, but I may be telling a lie. And if I hit on five or four, I may be telling a whopper. I only know it was a long time. It dragged on for years, sometimes I think. And at other times, when I consider the problem, in a different light, I think it just flitted by, in the whiz of a minute that seems unreal to me now, like a squabble between two hummingbirds.... We were trapped inside that house, which had become an easy target. Do you know how it feels to be trapped like that and have no way out?... I can tell you—and say this to you so you'll truly believe it—that old house protected us grudgingly: creaking with complaint, its dark old rooms fumed. As for me. I got to thinking that they were going to level the whole works, all four corners of the whole damn property. But they didn't. They didn't, as you are soon to see. Because what's going to happen is this: you're going to hear de whole story told."

We have no idea, from the English translation, how the languages worked to help each other out and make the text more complex.

No comments:

Post a Comment