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.
It’s a rare and wonderful book that begins and ends with violence and humor. At the start of Etgar Keret’s The Seven Good Years, Keret is in a hospital waiting for the birth of his first child while nurses, in. . .
Last year, Han Kang’s The Vegetarian was an unexpected critical hit. Now, it’s just been published in the U.S. and has already received a great deal of positive critical attention. The Vegetarian was a bold book to attempt as an. . .
It’s been almost a year since the publication of Nowhere to Be Found by Bae Suah, but despite being included on the 2015 PEN Translation award longlist, and some pretty vocal support from key indie presses, the book has. . .
Jorge Eduardo Benavides’ novel La paz de los vencidos (The Peace of the Defeated) takes the form of a diary written by a nameless Peruvian thirty-something intellectual slumming it in Santa Cruz de Tenerife in Spain’s Canary Islands. Recently relocated. . .
Anyone with any interest at all in contemporary Moroccan writing must start with Souffles. A cultural and political journal, Souffles (the French word for “breaths”) was founded in 1966 by Abdellatif Laâbi and Mostafa Nissabouri. Run by a group of. . .
Randall Jarrell once argued a point that I will now paraphrase and, in doing so, over-simplify: As a culture, we need book criticism, not book reviews. I sort of agree, but let’s not get into all of that. Having finished. . .
Like any good potboiler worth its salt, Fuminori Nakamura’s The Gun wastes no time setting up its premise: “Last night, I found a gun. Or you could say I stole it, I’m not really sure. I’ve never seen something so. . .
Heiner Resseck, the protagonist in Monika Held’s thought-provoking, first novel, This Place Holds No Fear, intentionally re-lives his past every hour of every day. His memories are his treasures, more dear than the present or future. What wonderful past eclipses. . .
If you’ve ever worked in a corporate office, you’ve likely heard the phrase, “Perception is reality.” To Björn, the office worker who narrates Jonas Karlsson’s novel The Room, the reality is simple: there’s a door near the bathroom that leads. . .
I recently listened to Three Percent Podcast #99, which had guest speaker Julia Berner-Tobin from Feminist Press. In addition to the usual amusement of finally hearing both sides of the podcast (normally I just hear parts of Chad’s side. . .