sexta-feira, dezembro 09, 2016

2016 Pessoa Award: Frederico Lourenço

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"New Hellenic and German Essays" (above-mentioned picture) was the book with which I first discovered Frederico Lourenço in 2008. At the time I was quite familiar with other distinguished Portuguese Germanists. To wit: José Gomes Monteiro, Paulo Quintela, Vasco Graça Moura, João Barrento, Viriato Soromenho Marques, and others, but I hadn't yet come across Frederico Lourenço as a Germanist. And what a surprise it was. 

What Frederico Lourenço has been doing for the Portuguese culture in the last years is huge. Portugal is the country where Paulo Coelho, Cristina Ferreira (Portuguese TV host) and José Rodrigues dos Santos (Portuguese TV host) are best seller authors!

My native language is Portuguese, and my command of English is nothing to be ashamed of, If I may say so, so I read English authors in the original. When I can get them in English; sometimes I will have to buy (or get gifted) a German or Portuguese  translation - some of which will anger me no end, after I've spotted one or two completely false idiom translations, which make nonsense of a sentence... It's a strange, but proud feeling to be able to recognise the (ghost of the) original English idiom or phrase which has been replaced with a false one - but it does wreck a book for me. That's one of the reasons for reading the works worth reading in the original, be it English or German.

A few years ago I undertook the translation of two slightly obscure poems by two also obscure Portuguese poets (*). This was for a friend who wanted to read them and there were no German translations available. The experience was quite eye-opening. The problem was not that my German was inadequate, but that it was not up to representing the poetry of the poems. After that I did many more translations from Rilke, Celan, and others (from German into English/Portuguese and vice-versa), and my preference is always to read in the original even if I struggle. I also did some writing in German just to see whether I could, as well as writing some book reviews in German, but my first love will always be German poetry. That's why I always feel uneasy reading translated poetry. How much of the musicality and rhythm is lost? That's why I have a crave for bilingual editions. Double the enjoyment. Celan, Schiller, Hölderlin, Rilke must be read in German, Shakespeare in English, and Pessoa in Portuguese. Failing that I hope for a translation that contains the ideas of the poet. Anyway, translations can't be trusted.

Some years ago I stupidly set myself the task of reading at least one book by every Nobel Laureate novelist. The ones writing in English and German I read a few of them. I think it was Jay Rubin (translator of Haruki Murakami - I know, not a Nobel Laureate as yet) who said something like every translation is a new work of art, which I think is very telling. To my knowledge, Murakami has three translators, Rubin, Phillip Gabriel and Alfred Birnbaum. Although I speak not one word of Japanese and consequently have no clue which of these three translators is most 'faithful' (in a kind of word-for-word way) to the original Japanese, I have come to be able to recognise the translator from their own style and to have a definite favourite - Rubin. Does this make Rubin as Murakami's translator of choice? I don't know. Poetry and prose are so much more than just the words. There's the style, the tempo and the meaning behind the words. I would suggest that reading a fiction book in the original is the only thing to do, a translation can give you a snapshot, a taster, but no more than that. The words in every language are so much more than just their surface meaning, they all have a whole baggage of associations spreading behind them which convey so much.

Frederico Lourenço is not exactly recognised for this formal translations. As far as I know, there aren't any, if I don't account for his translations in his essays. What makes Lourenço stand out when it comes to the German Language is his passion for the German Culture and Literature (that's why he's a Germanist at heart): "Sobre a Ifigénia na Táurida de Goethe" (On Iphigenia in Tauris by Goethe), "Notas sobre o 'amor grego' em Goethe e Schiller" (Notes on Goethe's 'Greek Love'), "Camões em Viena: Um poema de Johann Mayrhofer" (Camoens in Vienna: A Poem by Johann Mayrhofer), "Templo(s) na audição? Problemas no primeiro Soneto a Orfeu de Rainer Maria Rilke" (Temple(s) in the Audition? Problems in the first Sonnet to Orpheus by Rainer Maria Rilke), "A Morte em Veneza de Thomas Mann, novela homérica" (Death in Venice by Thomas Mann, Homeric novel), "Hoffmansthal, Schwarzkopf e a primeira frase de Maschallion no Cavaleiro da Rosa" (Hoffmansthal, Schwarzkopf and Maschallion's first phrase in Der Rosenkavalier), "Beton e Der Untergeher de Thomas Bernhardt: retrospectiva e prospecto" (Beton and Der Untergeher by Thomas Bernhardt: retrospective and prospectus), "Der Cembalist" (original short-story written originally in German by Frederico Lourenço).

I liked his short-story Der Cembalist so much that I'll post here the first page:


NB: 2015 Pessoa Award: Rui Chafes

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