A month of Brazilian Literature

In recent years, Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector has been rediscovered in the Anglo-Saxon world. This phenomenon, also described as “Hurricane Clarice” (Benjamin Moser), was the result of the increase in the translations of her works into English. Some of her novels and short stories have been translated several times. Benjamin Moser’s Clarice Lispector biography Why This World was very influential on the rediscovery of Lispector. New Directions started to publish the author’s complete works. You can browse through their website to see Lispector’s books available in English and links to important articles on her work.

I would define “Hurricane Clarice” as an event of literature, following Terry Eagleton, and I am happy to have my part in this event as the Turkish translator of Clarice Lispector’s novels.

I want to conclude the Brazilian Literature Month of Global Literature in Libraries Initiative with a salute to Clarice Lispector–one of the true greats of Brazilian and world literature.

Translating Clarice Lispector

Translating Clarice Lispector is like screaming with her. This is how she also describes her writing: a scream. The task of Lispector’s translator is to scream in her own language. However, there is also another aspect of her texts: silence. This is how the narrator describes the novel in The Hour of the Star: “It is a mute photograph. This book is a silence. This book is a question.” In other words, the translators, but also the readers, of Clarice Lispector need to scream silently, take a silent photograph, preserve both the silence and the question. In the languages she is translated into, Clarice Lispector manages to open a gap and place her own words and style in it.

Although translation is a process of agony, the translator of Clarice Lispector never feels lonely. Clarice Lispector defines this agony in Água Viva: “How to translate the silence of the real encounter between the two of us?” A question that is essential to think about Lispector and the art of translation. Throughout the road, Clarice Lispector whispers to the translator’s ear and shows her the way as she does in The Hour of the Star: “Listen to me, listen to the silence. What I say to you is never what I say to you but something else instead.” Thus, I don’t think a reader/translator can extract a direct answer from Clarice Lispector for their questions. This is the reason why she is probably one of the great liberators: her texts are polysemic, open to multiple readings, and do not impose a meaning on the translator/reader.

I define Clarice Lispector as a translator as well. She translates paintings to writing, music to writing, and writing to paintings. (She asks in Água Viva: “Can what I painted on this canvas be put into words?”) She is a translator not because she translated many works into Portuguese — she translated Oscar Wilde, Jules Verne, Walter Scott, and several children’s books– but because her texts are foreign even in the language they were written in. In other words: Lispector deconstructs all forms of authority in her texts, disrupts the punctuation, grammar and creates her own language, digging a gap in the middle of the authority of language as well. She writes on the moment of translation and lives there.

Thank you for following Brazilian Literature Month…

Let me summarize what we have discussed throughout “this strange and cruelest of Aprils” as one of our contributors, Sarah Rebecca Kersley, defined the April of 2020 in her article.

If you would like to read a summary of Brazilian literature and my perspective about Brazil’s image in the world, please visit my welcome post.

We started the month with an interview with Prof. Darlene Sadlier, who is a well-known academic in the U.S. studying the Portuguese-speaking world. Sadlier kindly answered my questions about Brazil and her publications.

One of the most important Machado de Assis scholars of Brazil, Prof. Lucia Granja answered my questions on Machado de Assis and Brazilian literature in this interview. You can also read an interview with Brazilian writer Veronica Stigger in our coverage. Her novella Opisanie świata was translated into English in PEN/Heim Translation Series by Zoë Perry and is currently available for publication.

Thoroughout the month, I tried to share information about the institutional aspect of Brazilian literature as well. You can read posts in our coverage about Biblioteca Nacional and its Translation Support Program and Brazilian Academy of Letters.

Professor Leonardo Tonus of Sorbonne University, the founder and head organizer of the annual “Printemps Littéraire Brésilien”, wrote about the aim and reach of this great project that carries Brazilian literature beyond the Lusophone world in an informative article.

Dr. Cíntia Schwantes wrote a comprehensive piece about Brazilian writer Érico Veríssimo for Brazilian Literature Month. Dr. Lorena Sales dos Santos introduced Brazilian writer Lygia Fagundes Telles and analyzed her works in a detailed article. Telles was nominated for Nobel in 2016 by Brazilian Writers’ Union. Nara Vidal, Brazilian writer and the founder of Capitolina Books, wrote about her online bookstore of Brazilian literature.

We were honored to publish an exquisite essay by Ambassador Ary Quintella on a literary upbringing, fathers and sons, letters, time, Casa de Rui Barbosa and Brazilian literature.

Brazilian journalist and writer Hugo Almeida presented a great Brazilian writer: Osman Lins who “did not distinguish between life and literature.” Journalist Sofia Perpetua presented one of the unique voices of Brazilian literature, Carolina Maria de Jesus: the voice of the voiceless.

Dr. Eliseo Jacob wrote a wonderful portrait of the favela raised Brazilian writers and Geovani Martins, a new literary voice from the favela. Dr. Olivia Holloway wrote about Brazilian writer Aluísio Azevedo and underlined that “Aluísio Azevedo’s novels and plays offer poignant moments to reflect on societal change and multiculturalism in an ever-accelerating world.”

We were lucky to read a wonderful portrait of the great Brazilian writer Guimarães Rosa and a sophisticated analysis of his work written by Brazilian writer Noemi Jaffe.

We reviewed Eliane Brum’s brilliant book The Collector of Leftover Souls which comprises “the field notes on Brazil’s everyday insurrections.” Poet and translator Sarah Rebecca Kersley presented a portrait of Brazilian poet and writer Luciany Aparecida.

Dr. Cimara Valim de Melo, coordinator of the project “Translationalities: Contemporary Brazilian Literature in Translation,” wrote a sophisticated article about the role of the translator in the promotion of Brazilian literature worldwide.

Writer and translator Padma Wiswanathan presented Graciliano Ramos and shared her experience as the translator of Ramos’s São Bernardo in a beautiful article. We also shared an excerpt from the book.

We believe staying home can be an opportunity to discover new literary worlds. We shared with you some picks from Brazilian literature as stay-home readings that are available in English. In another post, we shared some highlights of Brazilian children’s literature.

Professor Luiza Franco Moreira wrote a wonderful portrait of Brazilian literary critic and sociologist Antonio Candido and underlined that “Antonio Candido’s restless intelligence and impeccable integrity set a high bar for literary studies in Brazil.”

I would like to thank Karen Van Drie for inviting me as the guest editor of Brazilian Literature Month. I would like to thank our contributors for their insightful posts that enriched the discussion about Brazilian literature. Our contributors were not compensated for their articles. They contributed to our coverage for the love and joy of literature.

Thank you for following the Brazilian Literature Month…

Let me end with a poem by a great Brazilian poet, Carlos Drummond de Andrade.

José

What now, José?
The party’s over,
the lights are off,
the crowd’s gone,
the night’s gone cold,
what now, José?
what now, you?
you without a name,
who mocks the others,
you who write poetry
who love, protest?
what now, José?

You have no wife,
you have no speech
you have no affection,
you can’t drink,
you can’t smoke,
you can’t even spit,
the night’s gone cold,
the day didn’t come,
the tram didn’t come,
laughter didn’t come
utopia didn’t come
and everything ended
and everything fled
and everything rotted
what now, José?

what now, José?
Your sweet words,
your instance of fever,
your feasting and fasting,
your library,
your gold mine,
your glass suit,
your incoherence,
your hate—what now?

Key in hand
you want to open the door,
but no door exists;
you want to die in the sea,
but the sea has dried;
you want to go to Minas
but Minas is no longer there.
José, what now?

If you screamed,
if you moaned,
if you played
a Viennese waltz,
if you slept,
if you tired,
if you died…
But you don’t die,
you’re stubborn, José!

Alone in the dark
like a wild animal,
without tradition,
without a naked wall
to lean against,
without a black horse
that flees galloping,
you march, José!
José, where to?

(Translated by Len Sousa)

About the Guest Editor:

Basak Bingol Yuce is a world literature scholar, journalist, and literary translator based in the US. She holds a PhD degree in comparative literature from Binghamton University. One of her areas of study is Brazilian literature. Dr. Yuce’s journalistic work focuses on literary and international journalism. She is a regular contributor to Turkish media outlets. Dr. Yuce translated books and articles from English, French and Portuguese into Turkish, among them the works of Clarice Lispector, Terry Eagleton, Antonio Candido, André Aciman, Ken Bruen, and Harold Bloom.

2 thoughts on “A month of Brazilian Literature

  1. This is all very interesting information. However, I must observe that, as usual, “Brazilian” seems to be limited to the classical centres of literature in Brazil: São Paulo and Rio. Living and working (literature translation) in the Northern part of the country, I feel obliged to mention the interesting literature being produced in the Amazon Region. Should there be at least some interest, I would be willing to translate some samples into English (although I mainly work into Dutch and German).

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    1. Thanks for your comment. If you could check the first interview of the month with Brazilianist Darlene Sadlier you will see that this is a concern I myself articulated and asked Prof. Sadlier as a question with an emphasis of “as always”. GLLI’s Brazilian Literature Month is limited to the month of April and we could cover only a small part of a vast tradition. This said we had coverage about Northeast as well with Graciliano Ramos and Luciany Aparecida for instance. I am aware that there are not enough translated literature in English written in the Amazon region. But we tried to give voice to the Amazons with Eliane Brum’s newly translated book The Collector of Leftover Souls. (Although it is again a limited voice.) This said, GLLI’s main aim is to present world literature already translated into English because they are the ones available to the librarians. But in the coverage for Brazil, there are texts about or mentions of untranslated or under translated writers as well. We discussed this very role of translation in an article by Cimara Valim de Melo. There is also a post by Nara Vidal to her bookstore specifically dedicated to Brazilian literature that directs readers to underrepresented writers. I appreciate your comment and concern which I share with you. Unfortunately Brazilian Literature month ended in April but I am sure many websites in English that have continuous coverage will be interested to publish more translated works from Brazil. Thank you for following the Brazilian Literature Month.

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