Monday, 17 January 2011

A "unique" book ... and (or) a unique student ...

There are various books, whose valuable themes (such as "Saudade") because of  never having been approached in such a way, become uncomparable ... that being the case of the first ever  bi-lingual anthology of fado poetry recently published by the Gulbenkian Foundation, on which eighteen English speaking poets and translators took up the challenge of  creating versions in English of  a series of poems previously sellected by Vasco Graça Moura, on which fado  singing was based.

What makes this book even more unique is the fact that it was given to me by a student, Garcia (I'd rather call him friend), who regardless of being already retired ... in more than a simple Christmas gesture remembered the long gone classes in which we  (students and I included)  had "attempted" to translate into English some of the best known Portuguese poets - Fernando Pessoa and Antonio Botto (for endless hours and in all sorts of possible versions). 


Having thoroughly read most of the versions, I feel that there is something missing in many of them ... there is a noticeable absence of the "Portuguese essence" ... the essence of the "Portuguese soul" which I only felt in one or (eventually) two of the translators' versions.

With due respect ... I believe it would have been better to have had Portuguese translators do it and have their versions revised by English speaking  translators ... , but that's obviously one opinion ... my opinion, though I feel tempted to challenge some of my students to give me their opinion on it as well.

Uniqueness may be a subjective concept ... and every student may be considered unique in his or her own way ... but those who have known Garcia or even been his "classmates" in the development of the English Language can't help  saying he was (is) definately "unique" ...

I wish he knew (I don't think I have ever told him) how much I (sometimes) miss his "uncomparable" observations ... tinged with the touch of his "peculiar" humour ...

Fado - (Portuguese: destiny, fate) is a music genre which can be traced from the 1820s in Portugal, but probably with much earlier origins.(Wikipedia)
Saudade - is a Portuguese and Galician word difficult to translate adequately, which describes a deep emotional state of nostalgic longing for something or someone that one was fond of and which is lost. It often carriesa fatalist tone and a repressed knowledge that the object of longing might never return.(Wikipedia)

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