sexta-feira, outubro 06, 2017

Baroqueness in Literature: "A Brusca" by Agustina Bessa-Luis


(Published in 1948; my wife got me this wonderful edition)


"A Brusca" corresponds to a project with a less systematized approach, with the eponymous title of the first tale, with its forty pages. These tales are linked by the title, which reproduces the name of a site, a ruralism in connection with the portuguese territory contemplated already in "Mundo Fechado" (Closed World) (first novel published in 1948), and especially in "The Sibyl" (1954).

Portuguese is a very plastic language, difficult and ceremonial, but also very surprising for being so baroque. I can feel this baroqueness in all of Agustina's fiction. Is it possible to fully translate it to other languages? To my knowledge Agustina has never been translated into English. I think only the novel "A Sibila"  was translated into German ("Die Sybille")

How will Agustina sound in English and German? 

An excerpt from the tale "A Provinciana" (A Woman from the Sticks/Eine Frau aus der Provinz) to check it.

"A provinciana, em qualquer nação ou continente, é ainda fonte de surpresas, medida de invenção, reserva de cultura - porque a cultura, senhoras e senhores, não é outra coisa senão a frescura de imaginar, quando os outros comemoram coisas passadas. A cultura não se constrange à moldura duma civilização. É livre, obstinada no seu risco e na sua experiência."

("The provincial, in any nation or continent, is still a source of surprises, a measure of invention, a reserve of culture - because culture, ladies and gentlemen, is nothing more than the freshness of imagining, when others celebrate past things. Culture is not constrained to the frame of reference of a particular civilization. It is free, stubborn in its risk and in its experience.")

("Eine Frau aus der Provinz, egal in welchem Land oder Kontinent, ist noch immer ein Anlass zu Überraschungen, ein Appell an die Phantasie, ein Hort der Kultur - denn Jultur, meine Damen und Herren, ist nichts anderes als die Frische Fähigkeit, sich etwas Neues vorzustellen, wenn andere an Vergangenem festhalten. Die kultur zwängt sich nicht in den Rahmen einer bestimmten Zivilisation. Sie ist unabhängig, eigensinnig in ihrem Wagemut und in ihrer Experimentierfreude.") 

You be the judge. Was it possible to translate Agustina's baroqueness?

This collection of tales is not the best representation of Agustina's work, but it's still a fine addition to her fiction. I just wish more people would read her in Portuguese. Maybe the fact that the Portuguese Publishing House "Relógio D'Água" bought her entire back catalogue will change things, and we'll start seeing her work being translated into other languages, namely English and German. 

4 comentários:

Book Stooge disse...

Good to see you back online.

In regards to this author, do you think she has a chance of being sold internationally? There is SO MUCH competition out there clamoring for readers attention. Home grown indies popping up every day, thinking they're the next Stephen King. It is draining to just browse through them and dismiss them. I just don't see Bessa-Luis gaining traction, good translation or no, without some serious glitz and glitter and then I'd be likely to dismiss her FOR that glitz and glitter. Doomed if she does and doomed if she doesn't, you know?

Manuel Antão disse...

You know what? Every time I see a guy like Ishiguro winning the Nobel prize I just wonder...I'm not saying he does not deserve it. He does (one book was enough for me: "Never Let me Go"; fantastic!). But what about the rest of the world? When it comes to Portuguese literature, only Saramago got the Nobel, and he's not a writer I particularly like. But all his books are translated in English, German, Spanish, Swedish, Finnish, you name it. What makes a writer more translatable than others? Maybe it's as you say. It's all about marketing and the glitz. Food for thought.

NB: I'm reading the latest King, "Sleeping Beauties", written with his son. It's utter crap...It reads like a movie script...I don't think I'll be able to finish it...I'm better off re-reading The Stand...

Book Stooge disse...

I've actually just added Ishiguro to my "check out this author" mental list, but that has as much to do with me not liking Mishima's books as anything. I just wanted another japanese author. The OrangutanLibrarian recommended I start with "blah" and I'll see how I like the guy.

I was thinking about the translator thing because I'd recently read Sergei Lukyanenko's final "Night Watch" book and I wondered how he made it into the english market? He told a great story but it was just SO russian. His translator was top notch though. I read another russian guy several years ago, can't even remember his name, and the translation was so rough and sketchy that it was impossible to tell if the guy was a hack writer or if the translator was full of crap. I suspect a bit of both. So I'm aware of the difficulties in translating the beauty and ideas from one language to another.

in regards to king and son. It seems like a LOT of new authors these days write books like movie scripts, hoping that they'll get a movie deal and that is where the quick cash is. What happened to authors who wrote because they had that burning story inside? As for The Stand, do you read the original or the uncut version?

Manuel Antão disse...

I read both. Eons ago the cut edition, and, later, on the uncut edition in hardcover when it came out. It's still one of my favourites. I never wrote anything about it; that's why I want to re-read it and this time write a review on it.

As to the translating beef, when I'0m reading something "foreign" (meaning "coming from another culture and language"), I tend to notice things...That's the way my wiring works. And you're absolutely right. Translating is an art not a science and it's full of people doing hack jobs. Literary translation is not for beginners, at least professionally. You need to build up a lot of experience of translation first, and imo have at least some knowledge of linguistics, theories of translation, etc. It's something you have to train to do over time, with extracts. And usually it pays incredibly badly, at least in Portugal...

Of course these days anyone can do anything. No thought or training required. And what you end up with is usually crap. We have to distinguish between passive command of the language (being able to understand when reading or listening) and active command (being able to speak or write it). One's passive command of a language is generally (perhaps necessarily always?) better than one's active command. This is true even of one's own native language: just think of all the historical, regional and social varieties of your native language that you understand without being able to speak or write them convincingly (unless you are an extraordinarily talented person).

The Art of Translation is one frigging hell of a job...