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July, 2016

When in Hell, Embrace the Devil: On Recreating “Grande Sertão: Veredas” in English

Image: Passages of Grande Sertão: Veredas hanging in the Museum of the Portuguese Language in São Paulo. (Wikimedia Commons.) Alison Entrekin’s translation of an excerpt from Grande Sertão: Veredas appears in the July 2016 issue of Words without Borders: “Brazil Beyond Rio.” When I was approached about translating a certain Brazilian literary classic renowned for its made-up language and asked if I’d be willing to produce a...

Brazil Beyond Rio

Any attempt to introduce Brazil in a single essay is fraught from the outset. The country is, much like the United States, a continental nation, the site of European discovery tales to rival our own, and host to a series of political upheavals. It is also home to a literary history that has at times looked outward for inspiration, and at others inward to construct, via literature, an idea of nationhood that has often seemed elusive. Perhaps a solution presents itself in an idea every bit as...

Grande Sertão: Veredas (Bedeviled in the Badlands)

The following is an excerpt from the new translation of João Guimarães Rosa’s magnum opus, Grande Sertão: Veredas, first published in English in 1963. That translation soon fell out of print for reasons that are not entirely clear. As translator Alison Entrekin explains in her introduction to the piece on our blog, “[t]o read Grande Sertão: Veredas for the first time in Portuguese is like setting foot in a foreign country where the...

The Time Left

They were hard to push down, the buttons. Stiff, you might say. Marcelinho strained and scrunched his face, and succeeded. It still worked, even after everything. The buttons had always been stiff, even before Ricardo’s death. The little door was cracked, and behind the plastic Marcelinho said he saw some bloodstains, still. “Don’t be daft, son. That thing’s clean as a whistle. And be grateful that piece of junk still works.” Work is too ambiguous a word. Does...

Death in the Amazon

The Assassination 1. They’ve set up the ambush by a small bridge across a stream. They’ve been hiding among the trees since early morning—and they’re lying in wait. They know that José Cláudio and Maria will have to slow down here. That’s when the first shot is fired. Discharged from a hunting rifle, the bullet hits both of them at once: it goes through Maria’s hand and lodges near the left wall of José Cláudio’s stomach....

Lua

“When are you going to write a book like Knife?” “Never, for sure.”   I was choosing the songs to put on the soundtrack of Lua Cambará when I came across the recordings of the spirituals commending the souls of the dead to God. Ten cassette tapes stored in a Styrofoam box. In the northeast of Brazil they still chant songs filled with religiosity during funeral celebrations. The women’s voices seemed to sprout up, beautiful and strange, up from the...

Beauty, a Terrible Story

To Sergio Keuchguerian “You’ve never heard of a curse never seen a miracle never cried alone in a filthy bathroom nor ever wanted to see the face of God.” —Cazuza, “Only Mothers Are Happy” Only after ringing the doorbell many times did he finally hear the rumble of footsteps coming down the stairs. And he recognized the worn rug, once purple, later just red, then each time a lighter shade of pink—now, what color?—and heard the tuneless bark of...

Esperança Terena

Eliseu Cavalcante is a Brazilian photographer based in New York. In July 2013, Cavalcante traveled to Mato Grosso do Sul in Brazil to capture the land-rights struggle of the Terena, an indigenous tribe. The resulting project, Esperança Terena, aims to bring awareness about the issue of indigenous land rights in Brazil. During the height of occupations to reclaim territory that traditionally belonged to them, Cavalcante traveled to the Esperança ranch right...

Quipapá Gold

L’or de Quipapá is the debut novel from Hubert Tézenas, an author who has spent the first thirty years of his career translating American and Brazilian novels into his native French. The crime novel dives into Brazil of the late 80s, exploring all the crime, corruption, and seedy underbelly of a country in economic repression, having just recovered from a military dictatorship. Quipapá is home to a sugar cane magnate, whose workers are treated more like slaves. When...

Falling in Love with Bahia & Brazil: On Negritude, Saudade, & Surrender

I have been trying actively to stave off a case of Brazil-o-philia since the early 2000s when I lived in pre-gentrification Brooklyn. Preventive care for me looked like resisting the allure of capoeira classes, which offered the promise of instant friendship and community, endless references to obscure terminology, a pet name (as a West Indian, it’s hard for me to resist affectionate teasing and nicknames), and a warrior physique. Determined to keep my hot foot off Brazilian soil, I cut...

The Pharmacist’s First Report

The following is an excerpt from Lúcio Cardoso’s Chronicle of a Murdered House, forthcoming in December 2016 from Open Letter Books. My name is Aurélio dos Santos, and for many years I have been established in our small town with a business selling medicines and pharmaceutical products. Indeed my shop could be considered the only such establishment in the town, for there is little competition from the stall selling homeopathic remedies on the Praça da Matriz....

Coral Reef

Imaginary distances part from this spot, mirages which tell of the true distances between us. A man planted in front of the window is a ghost of himself suspended by improbable lines and colors. We are him and he is all of us as if we were yet the city around him. We are him and his slumped shoulders. We are him and his face gnawed by fish. We are him and the narrow streets that cut across him and stick through him like poles shackles and other senseless forms of nostalgia (like all forms of...

ithaca

if you want to journey to ithaca call ahead because it looks like everything in ithaca is full restaurants, bars cheap hotels pricey hotels you can't travel to the ionian sea anymore  without reservations  and the ten-hour trip feels like ten years stopping in egypt? don't even think about it and the duty-free shops are full of perfumes you can buy with a credit card. your whole life you've wanted  to visit greece it was a childhood dream conceived in adulthood...

Ephemeral Invention

After Ferreira Gullar It’s this body through which I discern myself a body made of flesh and desire of limestone and fuel of sap and ecstasy of clay and wind carbon fiber and shit. This body which, prone to dejection, at times boasts such grandeur such nobility a window onto my own illusions that, as I walk the streets, others anoint with the same name my mother gave me the one the notary public recorded in his notepad. A body —head torso and limbs skin guts smiles and...

“Among Strange Victims” by Daniel Saldaña París

Rodrigo, the central character in Daniel Saldaña Paris’s Among Strange Victims, slogs along in a life that doesn’t seem to be his, writing press releases for his job as a self-proclaimed “administrator of knowledge” at a local museum and then, on his off days, either masturbating or looking out at the vacant lot behind his Mexico City apartment. He lives a depressed, inert life, referring to himself, in the novel’s opening paragraph, as something...

June, 2016

The City and The Writer: In El Salvador with Roxana Méndez

Image: Roxana Méndez. If each city is like a game of chess, the day when I have learned the rules, I shall finally possess my empire, even if I shall never succeed in knowing all the cities it contains. —Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities Can you describe the mood of El Salvador as you feel/see it? El Salvador is a country of contrasts. On the one hand, it is full of warm-hearted people and beautiful places, like the sea, the mountains, and, above all, the interior regions of...

From the Translator: Schernikau’s Quiet Radicalism

Image: From the cover of Ronald M. Schernikau’s Kleinstadtnovelle (Small-town Novella). Lucy Renner Jones’s translation of Ronald M. Schernikau’s “Small-town Novella”​ appears in the June 2016 issue of Words without Borders: “The Queer Issue VII.” It all started with a photograph of a longhaired man with a beard wearing eyeliner. He gazes with an enigmatic smile into the camera and his fingernails look as if they are lacquered with...

In Memoriam: Gregory Rabassa, 1922–2016

Image: Earl Fitz with Gregory Rabassa. Photo courtesy of Ezra E. Fitz. The great translator Gregory Rabassa died June 13 at ninety-four. You can read an excerpt from his memoir, If This Be Treason, here. In the meantime, some translators from Spanish share their thoughts and memories. From Earl Fitz To help honor the memory of the great teacher, scholar, and translator Gregory Rabassa (1922–2016), I thought you might be interested in my rendition of one of his favorite...

WWB Weekend: Soccer Queens of Colombia

In honor of the Copa America final this weekend and the pride celebrations this month, we turn to Alberto Salcedo Ramos’s rollicking “Queens Football,” from our Queer issue of June 2014. The modifier refers to neither borough nor monarch, but to the name of an extraordinary Colombian soccer team, Las Regias, the Queens. With an all-transvestite roster, the team formed in 1992 to raise money for gay AIDS and drug addiction sufferers in Cali. When Ramos...

“Infidels”  by Abdellah Taïa

In the wake of this month’s mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, pundits from across the political spectrum have argued over the language used to describe and understand the fraught cultural, social, and political stakes surrounding this horrific act of violence. To some, the shooting is an act of radical Islamic terrorism. For others, the Orlando attack is better understood as the zenith of a wave of deadly mass shootings fueled by a gun culture run amok....

Dispatches from the Festival degli Scrittori, Florence, Italy

Image: Dany Laferrière (center) and Alba Donati (right) at the 2016 Festival degli Scrittori at Palazzo Strozzi. On June 6-8, writers, translators, and publishers from around the world gathered in Florence for the tenth annual Festival degli Scrittori and Gregor von Rezzori Prize, awarded to a work of foreign fiction translated into Italian. Founded in 2007 in honor of novelist and memoirist Gregor von Rezzori, the prize and the festival surrounding it are organized by the Santa...

An Interview with Dany Laferrière

Image: Dany Laferrière during the 2016 Festival degli Scrittori. Photo by Jessie Chaffee. Dany Laferrière’s novel The World is Moving Around Me was a finalist for the 2016 Gregor von Rezzori Prize. Born in Port-au-Prince in 1953, Dany Laferrière worked as a journalist in Haiti before moving to Canada in 1976, where he also worked as a journalist. His books include How to Make Love to a Negro Without Getting Tired, Heading South, and The Return, for which he was...

An Interview with Mircea Cărtărescu

Image: Mircea Cărtărescu. Photo by Jessie Chaffee. Romanian poet, fiction writer, and journalist Mircea Cărtărescu was awarded the 2016 Premio Gregor von Rezzori for his trilogy Blinding. Born in Bucharest in 1956, he is one of Romania’s premier writers. His works of prose include Nostalgia, Travesti, and The Levant, among others. His awards include the 2012 Berlin Prize for Literature, the 2013 Spycher-Leuk in Switzerland, and the 2015 Austrian State Prize...

Translating the Classics: An Interview with Lydia Davis

Image: Lydia Davis at the University of Georgia Chapel (with George Cooke’s 1847 painting, "Interior of St. Peter's"), Wikimedia Commons. In the spring of 2016, as co-teachers of the course Translating the Classics, we and our eight students engaged in an electronic conversation with Lydia Davis, acclaimed author of short stories, collected in volumes like Can’t and Won’t (2014), Varieties of Disturbance (2007), and Break It Down (1986); and translator of...

Refugee Stories: Idomeni, Greece

Image: Ahmad at the refugee camp in Idomeni, Greece, photographed by Martin Trabalik.  In 2015, over 800,000 individuals fleeing war-torn lands in the Middle East made the hazardous journey from Turkey to Greece in overcrowded, ill-equipped boats, hoping eventually to find their way to safety elsewhere in Europe. From the islands of the eastern Aegean they headed to the mainland and north, eager to cross into Macedonia and continue along the so-called Balkan Route to Austria and...

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