31 July 09 | E.J. Van Lanen | Comments

L’héritage documentaire de Fernando Pessoa, considéré comme le plus grand poète portugais du XXe siècle, a été classé “trésor national”, a annoncé jeudi le gouvernement portugais.

This looks to put an end to some controversy that was started last summer, when Pessoa’s heirs planned to auction off a large part of his correspondence.

According to the TV5 article:

Elle s’applique à la totalité de l’héritage de Fernando Pessoa, connu ou à découvrir, et interdit toute sortie du territoire national.

La procédure de classement de l’héritage de Pessoa, qui comprend des milliers de lettres, photographies, manuscrits et notes, avait été initiée en octobre 2008 par la Bibliothèque nationale, sur fond de polémique autour de plusieurs ventes aux enchères organisées par ses héritiers.

Essentially, his papers—those that are currently known and those that are yet to be discovered—are forbidden from leaving Portugal.

18 July 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments [1]

LanguageHat brought our attention to this essay by Margaret Jull Costa on the difficulties of translating emotion. She uses a short piece by Fernando Pessoa to illustrate this.

Before getting to the really cool thing, here’s a bit of info on Pessoa, who—along with all of his heteronyms—really was an amazing writer:

After the death of Pessoa’s father in 1893, his mother remarried and the family moved from Lisbon to Durban, South Africa. Pessoa was educated in English and wrote entirely in English until he was seventeen, when he chose to return to Portugal in order to follow a university course. He soon abandoned his studies – a student strike disrupted classes – and, instead, set up a publishing company that rapidly slid into bankruptcy. Whilst in South Africa, he had followed a course in business English and bookkeeping and, since he was also fluent in French, he got a job as a bookkeeper and translator of foreign correspondence in a company in Lisbon and earned a modest living from this until his death at 47 from cirrhosis of the liver. In his spare time he wrote mainly poetry, but also essays and articles, and was involved in various short-lived literary magazines.

The only other works published in his lifetime were a collection of thirty-five sonnets in English (published privately) and a book of poems, Mensagem (Message) in 1934. His genius was only recognised after his death and he is now considered to be Portugal’s greatest modern poet. He left behind a large trunk stuffed with quantities of typed and handwritten papers which are still being collated and published.

Now to illustrate the difficulties of translation, Costa used created this exercise, which has the Portuguese original and a translated version where you can choose one of several different English words at a number of key spots in the text. (Such a good use of internet technology!)

Following this exercise, there’s a list of three different translations and Costa’s response and conclusions:

Verbs of emotion are often difficult to translate, because one has to gauge the level or degree of the emotion described or expressed. Here, with ‘pasmo’, Pessoa is describing a high degree of surprise, so I think ‘I’m always astonished’ or I’m always amazed’ are better than ‘surprised’ – too weak – and ‘stupefied’ and ‘horrified’ – too strong. ‘Pasmar’ has more to do with shocked astonishment than with horror. With ‘desolo-me’, again there is no one perfect translation, since the word implies desolation, distress and sadness. As so often in translation, there is no perfect match, and so choices have to be made as to which nuance must be lost.

Very, very cool. And beyond this exercise, all of the workshops on the Literary Translation website are worth looking at.

1 November 07 | E.J. Van Lanen | Comments

The Guardian adds to the recent, and unexpected, surge of interest in Fernando Pessoa:

Although admired throughout Europe for his myriad alter egos – the 72 highly distinct personae he assumed over the course of his writing life – it is Fernando Pessoa’s mellifluous writing on emptiness that continues to haunt my imagination each time I read him.

John Gray has argued, in his introductory essay on Pessoa, that these “heteronyms”, as Pessoa called them, demonstrate that the indvidual subject – the heart of western philosophy – is an illusion, which Pessoa’s heteronymous authorship undercuts. But I would still argue that Pessoa penetrates, more importantly, into the dark side of the human psyche in his posthumously published collection of fragments: The Book of Disquiet – his disconnected ode to emptiness written by his semi-pseudonymous creation Bernando Soares.

5 October 07 | E.J. Van Lanen | Comments

A few lit-bloggers have gotten together to form The Blog of Disquiet:

The purpose of this site is to draw out everything that comes from reading Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet. As the reading progresses, it will inform the content of this manifesto, which will – possibly – grow and change to reflect the effect of the book on its readers. While this may read as unnecessarily pretentious, in practice, as with the case of many blogs, the entries will reflect whatever reactions and thoughts the participants care to share, provided it centers on texts from The Book of Disquiet and does not digress too far from the source. Think of it as a blog from inside the text.

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