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Search tags: Portuguese-literature
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review 2019-02-11 21:19
Probably full of literary merit -- but decidedly not my jam.
The Hour of the Star - Benjamin Moser,Clarice Lispector,Colm Tóibín
The Hour of the Star - Clarice Lispector,Benjamin Moser,Colm Tóibín

I wasn't planning to write a review of this book, but since I already voiced off in a PM, I might as well copy my thoughts into a post after all.

 

Long story short, I'm finding, once again, that a combination of art- and purposefully deconstructed speach and a virtually plotless description of drab lives -- or A drab life -- just isn't my kind of thing. Fortunately it's a short book -- picked deliberately because I had a premonition Lispector and I wouldn't get along -- but all the time while I was listening all I could think was, "OMG, and this is what they preferred to Barbara Pym in the 1970s ..."

 

There were moments when I thought, if only my Portuguese were sufficiently up to snuff for me to be able to read this in the original; maybe I'd be able to pick up on some note or subtext that just got lost in translation.  But if the translator's afterword is to be believed, the reverse seems to be true -- according to him, while people with only a limited understanding of Portuguese may actually be able to make some rudimentary sense of the book, it's a seven-times-sealed box to the average Portuguese mother tongue speaker.  This has to be the first time I'm hearing it's actually harmful rather than helpful to be fluent in a given language in order to be able to understand a book written in it. 

 

(The translator, who also wrote a biography of Lispector, goes on to describe that the original passages from her works that he quoted in his biography did not pass the muster of several copy editors in the Portuguese edition of that biography ... they all insisted on "amending" what they believed to be his own (flawed) sentence structure and punctuation.  So, he tells us, much to Lispector's fury also did the French translator of Lispector's very first book, in an attempt to make the book more palatable to French readers.)

 

And if Lispector's prose is, though no doubt highly artistic, also so construed and littered with sentences devoid of any meaning as to make it impossible to follow (especially in the first roughly 1/3 of this book), the audio narration made it even worse. Note to self: If encountering Melissa Broder ever again, run, don't walk away. Obnoxiously squaky, reading as if by rote, and with no sense of intonation -- and also clearly zero feeling for the text she was reading (which is partly down to Lispector herself ... but not entirely).  I was seriously tempted to DNF and quite honestly only finished listening to it in order to be able to check off Brazil on my world reading map chart -- though I do hope I'll find a better representative of Brazilian literature after all.  (Hopefully even a woman writer: I'm currently looking at Dora Doralina by Rachel de Queiroz, which MR reviewed a while ago IIRC, as well as Lygia Fagundes Telles, and, on BT's recommendation, Patrícia Rehder Galvão.  Further recs most definitely welcome.)

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review 2018-08-19 17:03
Empty Philosophy: “O torcicologologista, Excelência” by Gonçalo M. Tavares
O torcicologologista, Excelência - Gonçalo M. Tavares

“– Gosto muito de bater na cabeça das pessoas com uma certa força.
– Gosta?
– Sim, agrada-me. Dá-me prazer. Uma pessoa vai a passar e eu chamo-a: ó, desculpe, Vossa Excelência?!
– E ela – a Excelência – vai?
– Sim. Quem não gosta de ser chamado à distância por Vossa Excelência? Apanho sempre, primeiro, as pessoas pela vaidade... é a melhor forma.
– E quando a pessoa-Excelência chega ao pé de Vossa Excelência, o que acontece?
– Ela aproxima-se e pergunta-me: o que pretende? E eu, com toda a educação e não querendo esconder nada, digo: gostava de bater com certa força na cabeça de Vossa Excelência. É isto que eu digo, apenas. Nem mais uma palavra.”


In “O torcicologologista, Excelência” by Gonçalo M. Tavares (In English: "His Excellency, The Circumlucologist")


Let’s try to translate this quote in which the two characters go by the same name: “Excellency” (as well as the Passerby):

"I like to hit people's heads with a certain force.”
“Do you like it?”
“Yes, I like it. It gives me pleasure. A person will go by and I will call him or her: ‘Oh, sorry, Your Excellency?!’”
“And is she or he, the Excellency, going?”
“Yes. Who does not like being called from a distance by Your Excellency? I always get people first through their vanity ... it's the best way.”
“And when the person-Excellency comes near Excellency, what happens?”
She or he approaches and asks me: “what do you want?”, and I, polite, and not wanting to hide anything, say: ‘I would like to strike your head with a certain force. This is just what I say. Not another word.”

 

 

If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

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review 2018-07-01 10:54
Give Me a Boat: “The Tale of the Unknown Island” by José Saramago, Margaret Jull Costa (translator)
The Tale of the Unknown Island - José Saramago,Peter Sís,Margaret Jull Costa

 


“A MAN WENT TO KNOCK AT THE KING’S DOOR AND said, Give me a boat."

In “The Tale of the Unknown Island” by José Saramago


I love the way Saramago builds this parable by using the Portuguese King D. João II and Columbus. He went to Lisbon in 1476 and remained here for several years, seeking the support of King D. João II and gathering nautical and geographic intelligence from the returning sailors. Why did we want to embark on the Age of Discoveries? Easy: We saw a niche begging to be literally explored. On the other hand, Spain was fighting the Moors, the Turks were attacking Italy, and Austria and France and Britain were fighting each other in the Hundred Year War. Portugal, on the other hand, was a united kingdom with relatively few internal problems and enemies. Smart, uh? We’re always looking for an opportunity to shine bright…

 

If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

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review 2018-06-22 19:02
Fin-de-siècle Urban Nightmares: “Lucio's Confession” by Mário de Sá-Carneiro, Margaret Jull Costa (translator)
Lucio's Confession - Mário de Sá-Carneiro


"Deep down, I did hate those people – the artists. That is, those false artists whose work consists of the poses they strike: saying outrageous things, cultivating complicated tastes and appetites, being artificial, irritating, [and] unbearable. People who, in fact, take from art only what is false and external.”

 

In “Lucio's Confession” by Mário de Sá-Carneiro, Margaret Jull Costa (translator)

 



From the street, two floors below my hotel window in a dreary urban business park slash hotel district, I heard desperate, blood chilling cries for help. I rushed to the window, expecting to see the victim of a hit and run car accident lying bloodied at the curb-side but instead, I saw a young man with a tear stained face wearing only a long sleeved, open-cuffed shirt walking this way and then that, each time with purpose, until the moment he changed his mind. Shouting, pleading with his hands outstretched. For a heartbreaking moment, I thought he looked like my estranged stepson.

 

If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

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review 2018-06-20 10:13
Et ego in illo: “Baltasar and Blimunda” by José Saramago, Giovanni Pontiero (Translator)
Baltasar and Blimunda - José Saramago,Giovanni Pontiero

“If Adam was punished for wishing to resemble God, how do men come to have God inside them without being punished, and even when they do not wish to receive Him they go unpunished, for to have and not to wish to have God inside oneself amounts to the same absurdity, and the same impossible situation, yet the words Et ego in illo imply that God is inside me, how did I come to find myself in thus labyrinth of yes and no, of no that means yes, of yes that means no, opposed affinities allied contradictions, how shall I pass safely over the edge of the razor, well, summing up, before Christ became man, God was outside man and could not reside in him, then, through the Blessed Sacrament, He came to be inside man, so man is virtually God, or will ultimately become God, yes, of course, if God resides in me, I am God, I am God not in triune or quadruple, but one, one with God, He is I, I am He, Durus est hic sermo, et quis potest eum audire.”

In “Baltasar and Blimunda” by José Saramago, Giovanni Pontiero(translator)

(“ […] Se a Adão por querer assemelhar-se a Deus, como têm agora os homens a Deus dentro de si e não são castigados, ou o não querem receber e castigados não são, que ter e não querer ter Deus dentro de si é o mesmo absurdo, a mesma impossibilidade, e contudo Et ego in illo, Deus está em mim, ou em mim não está Deus, como poderei achar-me nesta floresta de sim e não, de não que é sim, do sim que é não, afinidades contrárias, contrariedades afins como atravessarei salvo sobre o fio da navalha, ora, resumindo agora, antes de Cristo se ter feito homem, Deus estava fora do homem e não podia estar nele, depois, pelo Sacramento, passou a estar nele, assim o homem é quase Deus, ou será afinal o próprio Deus, sim, sim, se em mim está Deus, eu sou Deus, sou-o de modo não trino ou quádruplo, mas uno, uno com Deus, Deus nós, ele eu, eu ele, Durus est hic sermo, et quis potest eum audire.”

In “Memorial do Convento” by José Saramago
)


Arriving in Mafra, let us imagine ourselves as part of the crowd that, on October 22, 1730, attended the consecration of the convent. Impossible not to be impressed by this façade more than 230 meters in length. To the centre, the basilica with its dome and bell towers, and on each side the imposing turrets. The portico columns clearly showed the neoclassical influence, complemented by several sculptures in the same style. Saramago tells us that 40,000 workers worked night and day so that the Basilica could be finished on D. João V's birthday.

 

If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

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