A New German Translation

A new German translation of Grande Sertão: Veredas is underway. German translator, Berthold Zilly, will translate the Brazilian masterpiece for Munich publisher, Hansel. Currently a visiting professor at the Federal University of Santa Catarina in Florianópolis, Berthold Zilly is acclaimed for his translations of great Brazilian works such as Euclides Da Cunha’s Os Sertões.

The interview at Estadão, here, from which the material for this post was taken and translated by my self for the benefit of English readers, reports that Zilly was very hesitant to undertake the project, which will take three years of exclusive dedication.

In the interview for Estadão, journalist, José Geraldo Couto, cites the fact that the first German translator, Curt Meyer-Clason, had the great advantage of corresponding with João Guimarães Rosa to ask questions and exchange ideas about the translation throughout the process, and asks Zilly why the current German translation isn’t enough.

Zilly replies:

It’s a good translation that accounts for plot & character traits, but it flattens a significant portion of the difficulties of Rosean language in an effort to accomplish readability for a German audience. Continue reading

Grand Sertão: Veredas [Out of Nothing]

“If the original does not exist for the reader’s sake, how could the translation be understood on the basis of this premise?”
                                                                           Walter Benjamin, The Task of the Translator

Click on the quote above to see three excerpts of Grand Sertão: Veredas, translated from the Portuguese by Google Translator, and recently published in the fifth issue of the LA-based electro-mag, Out of Nothing.

Dialogue with Guimarães Rosa

“Dialogue with Guimarães Rosa
Excerpts from an interview with Günter Lorenz in Genoa, 1965”

As Published in Princípios magazine
Issue 86, Aug / Sept, 2006, Pages 48, 49, 50, 51
Translated by Felipe Martinez & Daniel Werneck


Lorenz: (…) I would like to talk to you about the writer Guimarães Rosa, the novelist, the magician of language, drawing upon his books that are a part, I think, of the theme “the man from Sertão.”

Guimarães Rosa: Yes, I think if we wanted to say everything we have to say about these three or four points, one year from now we would still be talking. And neither you nor I have that much time. I suppose this list of things about me that interest you don’t have a strict sequence…

Lorenz: Only an improvised, interchangeable sequence.

Guimarães Rosa: Exactly. And because of that, I would like to begin with the last thing you mentioned. You called me “the man from Sertão.” I have nothing against it, because I am a Sertanejo/frontiersman, and I think it’s wonderful that you deduced that from reading my books, because it means that you understand them. If you call me “the man from Sertão” (and I really consider myself as such), and we want to talk about this man, then the other points are already mentioned. It’s because I am, first and foremost, this “man from Sertão”; and this isn’t merely a biographical statement, but also—and in this, at least, I believe as firmly as you do—that he, this “man from Sertão”, is present as a point of departure more than anything.

Continue reading

Interview with Dr. Earl E. Fitz


Dr. Earl E. Fitz is Professor of Portuguese, Spanish, and Comparative Literature at Vanderbilt University, and is coauthor, with Professor Elizabeth Lowe, of Translation and the Rise of Inter-American Literature. His expertise in the fields of Translation Studies and Inter-American Literature are invaluable to the discourse concerning João Guimarães Rosa and his absence from the English-speaking world, and I’d like to thank him for his time and consideration.

Professor Fitz, could you tell me a bit about your own experience with the work of João Guimarães Rosa?

I first came upon Rosa at the City University of New York, where, in the early 1970s, I was a doctoral student studying with Professor Gregory Rabassa.  The first Rosa text I encountered was Grande Sertao: Veredas, which we read, in the original Portuguese, as part of Greg’s course on “Modern Brazilian Literature.”  At Greg’s urging, I also read, later that same semester, Sagarana and Primeiras Estórias.  The following summer, I got around to the other Rosa texts as well.

Continue reading

Bolaño, Borges, Cervantes, García Lorca, Guimarães Rosa, Quevedo ∞

“Literature is not made from words alone. Borges says there are untranslatable writers. I think he uses Quevedo as an example. We could add García Lorca and others. Notwithstanding that, a work like Don Quijote can resist even the worst translator. As a matter of fact, it can resist mutilation, the loss of numerous pages and even a shit storm. Thus, with everything against it—bad translation, incomplete and ruined—any version of Quijote would still have very much to say to a Chinese or an African reader. And that is literature. We may lose a lot along the way. Without a doubt. But perhaps that was its destiny. Come what may.”

“Literature is Not Made from Words Alone”
Interview by Héctor Soto and Matías Bravo
First Published in Captial,
Santiago, December 1999

Republished in
Roberto Bolaño: The Last Interview & Other Conversations

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 Continue reading

Thomas Colchie

Back in March we learned from Professor Valente of a rumor that has been circulating among Guimarães Rosa Scholars for years: Thomas Colchie was awarded a Guggenheim to undertake a new English translation of Grande Sertão: Veredas, but never finished.

I would like to thank a regular reader of AMB, and writer for In Lieu of a Field Guide, Ryan, for sharing this: the About the Editor info on Thomas Colchie, published in the anthology A Hammock Beneath the Mangoes: Stories from Latin America (1992), which confirms the rumor and makes it fact:

“Thomas Colchie is a noted translator and literary agent for writers from Latin America, Portugal, Spain, and Portuguese Africa. […] Now at work on a biography of Jorge Amado, he has also been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship to translate The Devil to Pay in the Backlands by João Guimarães Rosa.”

Continue reading

School Assignment

For years now, section six of the following interview has been quoted as evidence of João Guimarães Rosa’s incredible knack for the languages of the world; and yet, as far as I can tell, no English translation of the interview in its entirety exists. This is surprising considering Silvana Guimarães’s opening comment, identifying the correspondence between Guimarães Rosa and his young cousin as one of the closest things to an interview with Guimarães Rosa we have today.

I particularly like the way the letter is written. Perhaps you will find some similarities between it and another text by Guimarães Rosa.

You can find the original Portuguese Here.

Interview: João Guimarães Rosa by Lenice Guimarães de Paula Pitanguy
Translated into English by Felipe Martinez & Daniel Werneck

[Silvana Guimarães]

Usually, Guimarães Rosa wouldn’t give interviews. He was against such “ostentation.”  However, he made at least one exception by reason of affection. His cousin, Lenice Guimarães de Paula Pitanguy, a young girl at the time, sent him a questionnaire for a school assignment. The questions were answered by letter, and are reproduced here with permission of the addressee, in its original spelling.

Continue reading

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]

Continue reading