The Jaguar & Other Stories

David Treece is Camoens Professor of Portuguese at King’s College London, and the first person to translate the work of João Guimarães Rosa into English in forty years. The Jaguar & Other Stories was originally published by Boulevard Books in 2001, then again in 2008, in celebration of the centenary of Guimarães Rosa’s birth.  You can read Professor Treece’s own description of the work and its genesis Here.

The collection is comprised of six short stories and two novellas. The short stories were originally published in Primeiras Estórias (1962), and the novellas, in the posthumous collection Estas Estórias (1969). Every page is filled with what I can only imagine are examples of what is possible when the translator possesses a command of both the original and target languages; and, while I can’t speak for the quality of the translation, I can tell you that The Jaguar & Other Stories proves the finest reading of  João Guimarães Rosa in English. The language is vibrant and surprising, the tone rich, and, as I reread the stories again and again, I cannot help but think that this is the very closest I’ve come to reading the words of João Guimarães Rosa. Having read Barbara Shelby’s 1968 translation of The Third Bank of the River so many times, it’s strange to see Treece’s words on the page. They are familiar and alien. The same events, new emotions. Whereas the early translations commissioned by Knopf are criticized for being flat, bland, Treece’s text jumps when Treece says “Jump”; it sublimely pulls at the reader, celebrating the human imagination in its protean splendor.

With my eyes doing double takes at every turn of the word, I truly believe Professor Treece has given Senhor Rosa his due consideration in carrying out this very important work.  I hope we will see more translations in the future, from Professor Treece, as well as from all of the translators spread out across the globe who have yet to realize the great challenge available to them.

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