Grande Sertão

Grande Sertão. Trans. Curt Meyer-Clason. Cologne/Berlin: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1964.

This, a first edition copy of Grande Sertão, the German translation of Grande Sertão: Veredas, sits next to The Devil to Pay in the Backlands on my bookshelf at home. In Piers Armstrong’s essay “Guimarães Rosa in Translation: scrittore, editore, traduttore, traditore,”[1] we find that even while Guimarães Rosa criticized the English translation for its shortcomings, he was sure to send a copy to Curt Meyer-Clason to help facilitate the German Translator’s work.

Armstrong does the reader a great service, in the section titled “Critiques of the Translators’ Work,” by providing side-by-side examples of the original Portuguese, the English and the German translations of selected lines, demonstrating how Meyer-Clason used the English version to a greater extent than was previously understood when it came to carrying out his own translation: “Meyer-Clason did not simply use the English translation for critical comparison but also relied on it as a model for solving the lexical and syntactic transitionsb etween the Romance-language original and the Germanic-language version (75).”

“Original: Os olhinhos dêle a gente só via porque eram inventados de pretos. (442)
French: Ses peitis yeux, on les voyaitque parce qu’ils étaient d;un noir incroyable. (478)
English: You could see his little eyes only because they were not entirely black. (473)
German: Man konnte seine Äuglein nur erkeenen, weil sie nicht ganz schwarz waren. (530)”[2]

[1] Armstrong, Piers. “Guimarães Rosa in Translation: scrittore, editore, traduttore, traditore.” Luso-Brazilian Review, Vol. 38, No. 1 (Summer, 2001), pp. 63-87. University of Wisconsin Press. JSTOR: http://www.jstor/stable/3513678

[2] Armstrong, P. 76. Citations within quote are the author’s own.


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