What is a translation that stalls comprehension? That, when read, parsed, obfuscates comprehension through any language – English, Portuguese.

It is inevitable that readers expect fidelity from translations. That language mirror with a sort of precision that enables the reader to become of another location, condition, to grasp in English in a similar vein as readers of Portuguese might from João Guimarães Rosa’s GRANDE SERTÃO: VEREDAS.

There is the expectation that translations enable mobility. That what was written in one language be accessible in another. And that a translator is to serve as a mediator, acting ultimately in service to ideas within the source text. To disperse them.

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Of the devi? No comment. Sir ask the dwellers. Falsely I fear they unspeak that name of his—only say: whatsitcalled. Volt! no… Whosoever over avoids it, lives with it.


Alison Entrekin repurposes AMISSINGBOOK.COM (Est. 2010) and claims it for her own in 2016.

Alison Entrekin translates a passage of Grande Sertão: Veredas in 2016 that I previously translated and published in 2010.

Febre do Sertão – Rosângela Rennó’s Fever Dream of the Backlands

Rosângela Rennó, Febre do Sertão (Savannah Fever), 2008, two-channel video, 21:04. Photo: Aaron Igler.

Rosângela Rennó, Febre do Sertão (2008). Photo: Aaron Igler.

By Jeffrey Bussmann

For reasons that will be obvious to readers acquainted with the work, João Guimarães Rosa’s Grande Sertão: Veredas rightly belongs on any list of unfilmable novels. Nevertheless, it has not inhibited the production of two cinematic adaptations. The artist Rosângela Rennó (b. 1962, Belo Horizonte; lives and works in Rio de Janeiro) appropriated portions of footage from both films to make the dynamic two-channel video Febre do Sertão (2008).

The 1965 film Grande Sertão attempts the fool’s errand of shoehorning Guimarães Rosa’s sprawling story into a ninety minute cinematic format. Naturally, the epic and meandering narrative, qualities inherent to the novel, are entirely lost. Some twenty years later Rede Globo produced the miniseries Grande Sertão: Veredas starring Tony Ramos and Bruna Lombardi as Riobaldo and Diadorim, respectively. This television adaptation, benefitting from marquee actors and Globo’s production finesse, achieves a certain grandeur in its own right. Lacking from both adaptations is any effort to preserve Riobaldo’s first-person storytelling. Continue reading

Student Responses

The following are written responses to The Devil to Pay in the Backlands by undergraduate students at San Diego State University (Spring 2014).


A Dangerous Business
by Kayla Bond

Look; the most important and nicest thing in the world is this: that people aren’t always the same, they are not all of a piece and finished but keep on changing.

-João Guimarães Rosa

The Devil to Pay in the Backlands is really a story about people. If one reads carefully, you’ll find many hidden gems strictly about the nature of people and the nature of life. One of the main sayings throughout the novel is that ‘living is a dangerous business’. This proves very true in the short pocket narrative of Maria Mutema, even more so than all the battles and gun fights that Riobaldo finds himself in. This is mostly because a simple woman killed her husband for no good reason. She’s even more of a dangerous thought because she isn’t a soldier trained to kill or even someone we would expect to kill viciously and pointlessly. It is proving that anyone can be dangerous and in turn, no one is truly safe… living is a dangerous business.

There are three big things we can learn from this pocket narrative. Continue reading