14 October 2010

A new translation of Grande Sertão: Veredas?

Felipe at A Missing Book has an exclusive interview with Earl E. Fitz on what is shaping up to be the next main event in Latin American letters: the translation of the extremely difficult and slippery epic Grande Sertão: Veredas by the Brazilian master João Guimarães Rosa. Here is Fitz on the place of Guimarães Rosa in literature:

With respect to literary history, our pantheon of Western literary giants should, without doubt, include Rosa in it. And it would have already done so had he been more accessible in good, reliable English translations. Perhaps he will yet be. If I were re-writing Western narrative history, I would include Rosa in the tradition of Proust, Mann, and Joyce, arguing that, at his best, as in [Grande Sertao: Veredas], Rosa brings together, into a single, marvelously philosophical and deeply poetic text, all of the different breakthroughs concerning artistic, literary, and intellectual invention that these other great writers have wrought.

In the Americas, one of the still unexplained anomalies is why the original English translation of [Grande Sertao: Veredas], The Devil to Pay in the Backlands (trans. by de Onis and Taylor) did not strike more fire, with the critical establishment and with the general reading public in the United States, when Knopf brought it out in 1963, just as the now famous “Boom” period was gathering force. Regardless of how one feels about the translation itself, the fact that Rosa and [Grande Sertao: Veredas] are all but totally missing from discussions even now in the North American academy about “Latin American” literature is, to my way of thinking, simply astonishing. And unacceptable. To have this great Brazilian masterpiece absent from discussions of literature in the New World is a glaring omission of the most damaging sort, and it needs to be rectified....


Just recently, my old graduate school cohort and long time friend, Professor Elizabeth Lowe, the Director of the Translation Program at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and I have committed to doing a new English translation of The Devil to Pay in the Backlands. We’ve collaborated on other translation projects, including [Clarice Lispector]’s Agua Viva (The Stream of Life) and her posthumous novel, Um Sopro de Vida (A Breath of Life), and we feel we could offer a useful new English version of this great novel, one that would help gain for it the recognition it so richly deserves. Just as other great texts, like Don Quixote, need to be periodically re-translated so that they can speak to yet another generation of readers, so, too, we feel does Rosa’s epical masterpiece need to be updated and re-introduced to the English speaking world.

I can't help posting a lengthy excerpt. You can read the entire exchange here.

1 comment:

  1. Or maybe not? ...


    So who's it gonna be. Earl Fitz & Elizabeth Lowe OR David Treece...