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!)
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.
The last five days of the eleventh-century Icelandic politician, writer of sagas, and famous murder victim Snorri Sturleleson (the Norwegian spelling, Snorre, is preserved in the book) make up Thorvald Steen’s most recently translated historical fiction, The Little Horse. Murdered. . .
We all know Paris, or at least we think we know it. The Eiffel Tower. The Latin Quarter. The Champs-Élysées. The touristy stuff. In Dominique Fabre’s novel, Guys Like Me, we’re shown a different side of Paris: a gray, decaying. . .
One hundred pages into Birth of a Bridge, the prize-winning novel from French writer Maylis de Kerangal, the narrator describes how starting in November, birds come to nest in the wetlands of the fictional city of Coca, California, for three. . .
At 30, the Mexican writer Valeria Luiselli is already gathering her rosebuds. Faces in the Crowd, her poised debut novel, was published by Coffee House Press, along with her Brodsky-infused essay collection, Sidewalks. The essays stand as a theoretical map. . .
Fantomas Versus the Multinational Vampires: An Attainable Utopia (narrated by Julio Cortázar) is, not disappointingly, as wild a book as its title suggests. It is a half-novella half-graphic novel story about . . . what, exactly? A European tribunal, Latin. . .
Marie NDiaye has created a tiny, psychological masterpiece with her Self-Portrait in Green. In it she explores how our private fears and insecurities can distort what we believe to be real and can cause us to sabotage our intimate relationships.. . .
Reading a genre book—whether fantasy, science fiction, crime, thriller, etc.—which begins to seem excessively, stereotypically bad, I have to make sure to ask myself: is this parodying the flaws of the genre? Usually, this questioning takes its time coming. In. . .