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Felipe Martinez: from "Grand Sertão: Veredas" by João Guimarães Rosa
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<p>Excerpts from <i>Grand Sertão: Veredas</i><br />
By João Guimarães Rosa
Translated from the Portuguese by Google<sup>TM</sup></p>

<p><u>I.</u></p>

<p>There is no devil. Neither spirit. I've never seen. Someone ought to see, so it was myself, this your servant. Would tell you ... Well, the devil regulates its black state, the creatures, women, men. Ate: children - I say. Well, not saying "boy - train the devil"? And the uses in plants, the waters, on land, wind ... Manure. ... The devil in the street in the middle of the whirlwind ... </p>

…"
felipemartinez  guimarãesrosa  joãoguimarãesrosa  grandesertão  grandesertãoveredas  translation  googletranslate 
april 2014 by robertogreco
OUTWARD FROM NOTHINGNESS » Interview: Felipe W.Martinez On Translating Joao Guimarães Rosa
"Translation is a utopian concept. In truth, all translation is impossible. This is even the case with translations that are generally accepted as “definitive” (for the time). Chapman’s 17th century translation of Homer’s Iliad was once the definitive English translation, but was replaced a hundred years later by Alexander Pope’s translation. Of course, this provisional nature of the product of translation is no reason to throw our hands up and say enough! –Which is what’s seemed to happen with the work of Guimarães Rosa in many cases, it’s been largely absent from the English language for decades now.

When I said just now that Translation is impossible, I mean the utopian concept of translation is impossible. Just as determining an ideal reader is impossible, and, essentially, communication, in many ways, is impossible. Walter Benjamin asks: “what does a work of Literature really say? A work of literature tells very little to those who understand it–even they must grapple to “understand” the work. Ultimately it is the work of effort that matters, the willingness of the translator to approach Guimarães Rosa. The process. The toil, the struggle, the attempt to point in the direction of art."



"I learned Portuguese for a year before I began the translation, not because I thought I could translate Grande Sertão: Veredas, but just because I wanted to be able to read Grande Sertão: Veredas. As I learned the language, I inched closer and closer to being able to read the original. Once I could, I realized I could record what I was reading, and that, with research and the right dictionaries, I could even translate. What are translators after all but readers who write what they read? The renowned translator, Gregory Rabassa, translated One Hundred Years of Solitude as he read the work for the first time. I’m following his lead in this translation. I’m discovering the work and translating it at the same time."



"I think Guimarães Rosa once said something to the effect of You can tell a man by the way he tells his stories, the words he uses. I’m paraphrasing. So, man creates himself through his language, and that language gives shape to his world. The only way to change himself and the world, is to change his language. Essentially: the words make the man. But Guimarães Rosa’s neologisms were not invented merely to complicate the work. True, a single neologism might be made up of three similar words, from three different languages, with two or three possible meanings–but, he knew what he was doing. He was drawing life out of every language he could touch upon, modern and ancient, present and lost, new and, sometimes, invented, all in attempt to more fully translate the world around and inside of him. This does complicate the translation process, but only to the extent that we can’t ever be certain we’ve grasped the author’s complete intention. I consult an array of dictionaries when translating. To translate a fragment of the author’s intention, I think, can be just as amazing as anything we might expect from a perfect/complete translation. The Brazilian poet, Haroldo de Campos, quotes Goethe in an epigram to one of his poem: “Every entelechy is, namely, a fragment of eternity.” I always think about this."
felipemartinez  2013  guimarãesrosa  joãoguimarãesrosa  brasil  brazil  translation  portuguese  walterbenjamin  goethe  haroldodecampos  neologisms 
december 2013 by robertogreco
HAVE YOU SEEN THIS MODERNIST?: JOÃO GUIMARÃES ROSA | HTMLGIANT
"This is the story: in 1956, in Brazil, a forty-eight year old Brazilian diplomat published a singular novel entitled Grande Sertão: Veredas, a 500-page monologue, set in the North-Eastern Backlands of Brazil (a stark contrast to the stereotypical and often sought after clear-watered beaches of Rio de Janeiro, home to Carnival). The novel follows the exploits of a bandit for hire, Riobaldo, as he questions the existence of the devil and his love for a fellow bandit. Deemed one of the most important works of modernist literature in Brazil shortly after being published there, Guimarães Rosa was elevated to stand beside Clarice Lispector as one of the two most important Brazilian writers since Machado de Assis. With the onset of the Latin American Boom in the U.S. in the early 1960s, and with the success of another Brazilian writer, Jorge Amado, in translation in the U.S., publisher Alfred A. Knopf set its sights on Guimarães Rosa and Grande Sertão: Veredas. In 1963 an English translation of Grande Sertão: Veredas was published in the U.S. It’s English title: The Devil to Pay in the Backlands. The translator: Harriet de Onís, a very reputable translator of Spanish and Portuguese, but no match for Guimarães Rosa. The Devil to Pay in the Backlands was deemed a sham for its strategic attempt to achieve readability over anything else—which meant eliminating Guimarães Rosa’s linguistic innovations, one of the most significant marks of the novel. You see, Guimarães Rosa had a working knowledge of something like twelve languages, and was as erudite as Jorge Luis Borges. He spun the Portuguese language like Joyce did English, and incorporated everything from the archaic to the invented… So, in the beginning-end, The Devil to Pay in the Backlands didn’t sell well. And since the point of literature for big publishers is the translation of literature into dollars, The Devil to Pay in the Backlands was never reprinted as such. What happened after that? It’s hard to say. The short of it: Guimarães Rosa and his work was relegated to American universities and rarely mentioned outside again. Now, in Brazil, for the last fifty years, Guimarães Rosa has been a pillar of modernist literature. In other parts of the world too, they know it. But in the U.S., us, we’re just now learning…this isn’t the whole story of course. Just pieces of it. Real stories don’t come clean."
felipemartinez  2012  guimarãesrosa  joãoguimarãesrosa  brasil  brazil  translation  language 
december 2013 by robertogreco
REAR VIEW MIRROR #1 | REAR VIEW MIRROR
"We can argue that an English translation is possible, only the decision to take up the task has not yet been made. And it is in the light of this brilliant idea that I revisit the history, life and afterlife of Joao Guimarães Rosa’s work, with the hope that new generations of readers will expand their reading, thoughts and work beyond the political, geographical, cultural, and linguistic borders set by the narrow belief that we can learn only from that which falls within the scope of our own language.

I submit to the English reader that we should read João Guimarães Rosa now, especially now, when we live during a time in which we tout such words as globalization, hybridization, hyperconnectivity, and experimentalism . . . our goal: to ensure these terms are deeply reflected, through translation, in our new culture, which is, just as was Rosa’s world, constantly changing."
felipemartinez  2012  guimarãesrosa  joãoguimarãesrosa  brasil  brazil  translation  language 
december 2013 by robertogreco
Grande Sertão: Veredas by João Guimarães Rosa | W.Martinez | continent.
"What is a translation that stalls comprehension? That, when read, parsed, obfuscates comprehension through any language – English, Portuguese.

It is inevitable that readers expect fidelity from translations. That language mirror with a sort of precision that enables the reader to become of another location, condition, to grasp in English in a similar vein as readers of Portuguese might from João Guimarães Rosa’s GRANDE SERTÃO: VEREDAS.

There is the expectation that translations enable mobility. That what was written in one language be accessible in another. And that a translator is to serve as a mediator, acting ultimately in service to ideas within the source text. To disperse them.

However, this notion of translation is partly antithetical to the ideas in Rosa’s work. Or, alternately, to convey the despair of terrain slipping beneath one’s feet, and to encounter the heightened suspense of magic, the translation, as part of its strategy, cannot devotedly rely on its original language, not as its source text.

The work undertaken by Felipe W.Martinez is a new form of translation that risks everything in order to encounter the same treacherous knowing Rosa had traversed. And it takes its risks by not taking risks: by being, almost word for word, a literal translation. This is an approach that reductively converts, as opposed to translates. The idiomatic differences between English and Portuguese are not accented. The syntax is not finessed.

Liberties are not assumed on account of improving readability. What stands, resoundingly amid such absences, is the awakened challenge of reading. The genuine peril of not knowing.

That is, this translation, one that purports to know nothing, creates access into the guileful world Rosa had created in Portuguese. But not by translating.

If anything, GRANDE SERTÃO: VEREDAS is speaking a cosmic language through a linguistic one. And W.Martinez does us the service of recognizing this, as what configures the shapes of words and sentences is not as simple as neologisms, portmanteaus, and digressions, but as terrifying as the path the fool traverses: all paths.

As such, this translation doesn’t speak English, just as the original does not speak Portuguese. It is the assemblage of paradox as a new logic that can be navigated, if only one could suspend the comfort of readability, of expectation. If one could descend a mountain in the pitch dark of night, each step shocking the body, unable to acclimate to the unleveled heights.

Without a doubt, the translation is incongruous to the Portuguese. Taking a small excerpt to compare:
Eh, well, thereafter, the rest the Sir provide: comes the bread, comes the hand, comes the god, comes the dog.


What is striking is the interplay between “god” and “dog”. To most English speakers, this anagram is a familiar one. But in Portuguese the words god (“deus”) and dog (“cão”) are not so closely linked. In fact, there is no direct mention of “deus” in Rosa’s text:
Eh, pois, empós, o resto o senhor prove: vem o pão, vem a mão, vem o são, vem o cão.


Both are fascinating. In Rosa’s excerpt, the rhythm is unmistakable and precise, despite, of course, the indices of hesitation: the commas, the Eh, the uncomfortable way of searching through prolongation and wait. This is the sort of paradox Rosa can engage within a sentence. W.Martinez’s does this as well, at a scale that reverberates beyond the sentence, and with one noticeable addition: deus.

What may appear to be an overstep, to add such a weighted word that draws out wordplay but is, nevertheless, not in the source text, is exemplary of risk. The translation buzzes because of it. This is because throughout the text we encounter dogs frequently, as some primal beast on par with humans. The dog is one that masters and can be mastered. A creature that is at times its face, and at others a mask. It is a powerful presence. For the translator to be attuned to the reverent undercurrent attributed to this animal, and create within the translation such charged play in English from what was only an implication in Portuguese, is in tribute to the grand beauty within dissonance.

What aberrant modes of writing and translation can teach us most assuredly, is that things, words, are not in states of rightness or wrongness, but of oscillation. This isn’t so different from what Rosa says himself:

The Sir look…see: the most important and beautiful, of the world, is this: that the people are not always same, still were not completed — but that they go always shifting. They tune or detune.

We find this so readily in W.Martinez’s translation, this tuning and detuning."

[Long sample of the translation with original Portuguese]

"INTERVIEW: FELIPE W.MARTINEZ (Interviewed by Ben Segal)


1) How did you come to be interested in João Guimarães Rosa?

While I was studying Literature & Writing at UC San Diego, a friend produced and surprised me with a wonderful and mysterious xerox copy of The Devil to Pay in the Backlands, the so-called failed, 1963 English translation of Grande Sertão: Veredas. The book, as a book and not a translation, to me was outstanding, and struck me as magnificently as had other works I was encountering at the time, by writers like James Joyce, Juan Rulfo, Samuel Beckett, and William Faulkner, among others.

When I finished reading the Devil to Pay in the Backlands, I took to the business of seeking out more work from the author. It was then that I learned that Guimarães Rosa was not like the other authors I mentioned, insofar as no one I knew had read anything by him, and very few people (outside of

University departments of Spanish & Portuguese) were talking about him. This led to the realization that none of his books were for sale, and hadn't been in decades.


2) Can you talk about the history of the book's reception in 1963 and its bizarre history of failed English translations?

In 1963 the North American publisher, Alfred A. Knopf--after rejecting publishing deals with many other soon-to-be rising stars of the Latin American Boom (including Jorge Luis Borges and Julio Cortázar)--decided to undertake what is today considered by many to be the most complex, Post-World War II novel in all of Latin America: João Guimarães Rosa’s Grande Sertão: Veredas. The English translator, Harriet De Onís, was no match for Rosa’s linguistic ingenuity and vast erudition. Her experience was in translation from Spanish, and while her willingness to undertake the task was commendable, it was flawed from the outset. She opted to make the text approachable to English readers, whereas it was nowhere near approachable for Brazilians in the original Portuguese. Imagine: Finnegans Wake translated into plain English for the general reader. Well, no one would like it, and so was the case with The Devil to Pay in the Backlands. Brazilianist scholars called it a sham, a completely deficient simplification of a masterpiece. General readers were either unimpressed or not reached. Sales of the translation declined continuously after the initial launch, and after that, the text was never published again. Some amazingly qualified translators have tried to retranslate Grande Sertão: Veredas since 1963 to no avail. Subsequently, Knopf translated two more works by Guimarães Rosa, two collections of short stories. Neither was published beyond the initial run.


3) To a reader unfamiliar with GR's work, the original English translation appears much more fluid than your version. You've explained why that fluidity is in fact a problem in the HDO translation. Can you talk a little bit about how difficult this is even for readers of Portuguese and the ways in which this is a highly disrupted and jarring text.

The novel in the original Portuguese is so disjointed, fragmented and seemingly desultory, both on a narrative and linguistic level, that both practiced and unpracticed readers alike initially struggle to gain, and then are rarely able to maintain their footing on first read. In this sense the common analogy drawn between GS: V and Ulysses by James Joyce is justifiable: it's a masterpiece of its language, though relatively few native speakers are able to understand it. This is in large part due to the fact that Guimarães Rosa was not only extremely erudite, but he had travelled much, and, from as early as the age of six, studied languages. He spoke six and read in fourteen others. His work is artfully overrun by neologisms, portmanteaus, words colloquial and archaic, many altogether invented, rearranged syntaxes, digressions, meanderings, illusions, recollections, etc. Another novel one might think of is Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon. On several planes, Pynchon is the closest thing to a North American Guimarães Rosa.


3b) Can you talk about some of the strategies you've employed in order to create awkwardness and difficulty, and how that difficulty might be different in the English version from in the original Portuguese?

Guimarães Rosa said of his work that he didn’t wish to let the reader rely on clichés, that he wished to shock the reader at every moment, just like life. He considered this in every sense. No cliché words, phrases, grammars, or plots. This was not to be difficult, but to create at every word and turn of phrase, something the reader had not read or experienced before, yet could comprehend or intuit.
I tried to follow in this lead and before I began, I established these rules for myself:

● translate all neologisms into English (in the De Onís translation, neologisms were in many cases omitted; invented words replaced with standard words they signified)

● syntax remains faithful to the original (this in an attempt to see that the English language and its readers adapt to the Portuguese structures of signification rather than the other way around)

● punctuation remains unchanged

… [more]
translation  joãoguimarãesrosa  brasil  brazil  literature  nancyfumero  2013  portuguese  bensegal  grandesertão  guimarãesrosa  felipemartinez  flow  fluidity  grandesertãoveredas 
december 2013 by robertogreco
A Conversation With Dr. David Treece « On The Devil To Pay In The Backlands, or Grande Sertão: Veredas
"I think what happens is that the translators who have translated Guimarães Rosa so far, somehow felt compelled to consciously or unconsciously tame the wildness of his writing, which is very unorthodox, which is very poetic in the end, it’s a prose that’s very close to the volatility of poetry, poetic language, and that’s what makes it extraordinarily unique. It’s pushing at the boundaries of what you can say in prose. What happens in the translations of the short stories, and probably what happens in The Devil to Pay in the Backlands, is that the poetry is transformed into prose, so that the sense of a world in transformation as a kind of magical, transformative experience, is lost and we’re left with the events, which sometimes are powerful enough to have some effect, but which, linguistically, at the level of the narration itself, the guts are taken out of it."

[See also: http://thedeviltopayinthebacklands.wordpress.com/2010/05/01/a-conversation-with-dr-luiz-f-valente/ alt link http://amissingbook.com/2010/05/01/a-conversation-with-dr-luiz-f-valente/ ]
guimarãesrosa  translation  davidtreece  joãoguimarãesrosa  felipemartinez 
july 2010 by robertogreco
On The Devil To Pay In The Backlands, or Grande Sertão: Veredas
"My name is Felipe Martinez and I am an independent researcher from San Diego, California. I am investigating the absence of Brazilian author João Guimarães Rosa (1908-1967) in the English-speaking world. This investigation aims to acquaint the reader with a novel counted as one of the greatest of the twentieth century. I welcome any and all inquiries, submissions of articles, essays, translations, etc. concerning João Guimarães Rosa. I may be contacted at AMISSINGBOOK@gmail.com."
guimarãesrosa  grandesertão  literature  translation  english  brasil  portuguese  joãoguimarãesrosa  brazil  felipemartinez  grandesertãoveredas 
july 2010 by robertogreco

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