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September 2007

Our Sonnets from the Portugese

The Lusophone world spans three continents and half a dozen countries, from Brazil to Mozambique and points in between. Grounded in European traditions and informed with local custom, this multivocal literature reflects both its shared Portuguese heritage and a cornucopia of contemporary regional innovations. With José Eduardo Agualusa , Rosa Alice Branco, Alexander Cuadros, Mia Couto, Manoel de Barros, Augusta Faro, Rubem Fonseca, Teolinda Gersão, Milton Hatoum, Conceição Lima, Alberto Martins, João Melo, Ondjaki, Paulo Polzonoff, and Ana Paula Tavares, set to a soundtrack provided by DJ Spooky. Elsewhere in this issue, Nani Gouri talks with Hisham Matar, Ewa Lipska sets off verbal fireworks, and Asli Erdogan finds William Blake in a seedy Rio bar.

Sign of These Times
By João Anzanello Carrascoza
The couple stopped in the middle of the way to rest. They were both tired of fleeing and took shelter in a cowshed near an empty road. Soon the woman felt the first warnings. It was a providential stop;…
Translated from Portuguese by Renato Rezende
Halfway to a House
I take light from the closet drawers. The first day of fall. And all those years at the bottom. Before, it wasn't me. It was a house under construction. I before myself. Now I dismantle the summer,…
Translated from Portuguese
An Interview with José Eduardo Agualusa
José Eduardo Agualusa, 46, is a growing name in world literature. Born in Huambo, Angola, Agualusa has already been embraced across the Portuguese-speaking literary world—especially in Brazil…
Translated from Portuguese
A Practical Guide to Levitation
By José Eduardo Agualusa
I do not like parties. The idle chat, the smoke, the fatuous talk of drunks, I find them all tiresome. Plastic plates annoy me even more. And plastic cutlery. And plastic cups. I'm served roasted…
Translated from Portuguese by Daniel Hahn
The Fat Indian Girl
By Mia Couto
She reclined on her bed cylindrically, unable to move, filling the feathery fabric with fluff.
Translated from Portuguese by David Brookshaw
A Juicer
So many saints that they obstruct the heavens. We have yet to buy a plastic Christ. Holy water which will be absorbed by the blotting paper of sin. Thoughts of unbelief watch us closely. Love converts.…
Translated from Polish
The Smells of Evil
Let them hate, as long as they fear. –from the tragedy of Lucius Actius, Atreus The secret agent of order. He would prefer to present before the court the chaos of uncertainty. He places a teaspoon…
Translated from Polish
A Splinter
I like you a twenty-year old poet writes to me. A beginning carpenter of words. His letter smells of lumber. His muse still naps in rose wood. Ambitious noise in a literary sawmill. Apprentices veneer…
Translated from Polish
Had she busied herself in time with the systematic counting of ship screws it would not have come to this— indecent acts of poetry. Translation of "Niedyskrecja." Copyright by Ewa Lipska.…
Translated from Polish
Number One
And so what that our planet is bookable. The moon listed in property records. The sun included in a notarized deed. Numbered cities. Mortgaged streets. Multi-digital fate. New wars secured by property…
Translated from Polish
The New Century
The new century came as no surprise. Already past midnight, we call it by name. Your dress beside the bed. My suit, a pirate flag. Reports warn us of the slippery surface of history. The question, what…
Translated from Polish
The Woman Who Stole the Rain
By Teolinda Gersão
I go to Lisbon on business fairly regularly. I get on a plane to go there, if not every month, then at least every six weeks or so. I understand the language well enough not to need an interpreter, having…
Translated from Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa
Local Affairs
After attending the first Festa Literária Internacional de ParatióFLIPóin Brazil in 2003, Julian Barnes wrote in the Guardian, “What makes a literary festival work? Organisation,…
Electric Africa
Brian Eno once famously remarked that the problem with computers is that there isn't enough Africa in them. I kind of think that it's the opposite: they're bringing the ideals of Africa. After…
Song of Seeing
Having lived many years in the scrub grass in the way of birds The boy took on a bird's kind of stare— He obtained a fountainesque vision. He observed things the way birds observed them. All…
Translated from Portuguese
There was a high wall between our houses. Difficult to send her a message. There was no email. Her father was a jaguar. We tied notes to a rock bound to a rope and I threw the rock into her backyard.…
Translated from Portuguese
The Book of Wheeling
By João Melo
Today, for some unknown reason, I’ve decided to share with you certain indiscretions that even my wife is unaware of. Of course this is just a figure of speech, for the truth is that women seldom…
Translated from Portuguese by Clifford E. Landers
from “City in Crimson Cloak”
By Asli Erdogan
March marks the end of the long dry season in Rio. It’s the month when the tropical rains begin, rains that persist for days, nights,weeks. A huge army clad in black suddenly spreads over the horizon;…
Translated from Turkish by Amy Spangler
Comrade António and the Cuban Teachers
By Ondjaki
“But Comrade António, don’t you prefer to live in a free country?”I liked to ask this question when I came into the kitchen. I’d open the refrigerator and take out the water bottle.…
Translated from Portuguese by Stephen Henighan
The Ants
By Augusta Faro
Dolores’ mouth was clean. She brushed her teeth some six times a day; flossed one by one, two by one, up, down, around. Every day the interdental brush probed into hard corners. Diligent rinses…
Translated from Portuguese by Alison Entrekin
By Rubem Fonseca
I was White and had fianchettoed my bishop. Berta was mounting a strong center pawn position.“This is the office of Paulo Mendes,” my voice said on the answering machine, giving whoever had…
Translated from Portuguese by Clifford E. Landers
from “The History of the Bones”
By Alberto Martins
Alberto Martins’s History of the Bones opens with the narrator receiving a phone call from the provincial seaside cemetery where his father is buried. In a brief conversation, he learns that that…
Translated from Portuguese by Idra Novey
The Best Seller
By Germano Almeida
On the phone he said he was a young writer who wished to speak with a representative of Ilhéu Publishing and, for lack of anyone else at the time, I made myself available to see him. Shortly afterward…
Translated from Portuguese by Clifford E. Landers
The Best Seller
By Germano Almeida
He described himself down the phone as a young writer who was keen to meet with a representative of Ilhéu Publishing, and in the absence of anyone else at that moment I agreed to receive him. Shortly…
Translated from Portuguese by Daniel Hahn
A Dialogue on Translating Germano Almeida
By Daniel Hahn & Clifford E. Landers
Editors' Note: This month we present the first in a series of dialogues: two translators produce versions of the same text, then discuss their choices and approaches. Here Daniel Hahn and Clifford…
Translated from Portuguese
I brought flowers . . .
I brought flowers They're not all white, Mother But they're morning's fresh flowers They opened yesterday I kept them by me all night While straining the honey And weaving my dress It's…
Translated from Portuguese
Intrusive Reader in the Night
By Milton Hatoum
When I write, I never think of the reader. But last week, late at night, I was reading a story by Jorge Luis Borges at a table in a bar when a man of my age came over to me with an air of hostility:“I…
Translated from Portuguese by Idra Novey
The 2007 Book Clubs are Here!
2007 Words Without Borders/Reading the World BOOK CLUBS ARE HERE ALL ARE INVITED TO READ, COMMENT, AND PARTICIPATE RTW BOOK CLUBS 2007 LINEUP: JANUARY and FEBRUARY James Marcus and Cynthia Haven, Collected…
Petty Tyrants
Petty tyrants who founded kingdoms at the foot of their sorrow Petty tyrants who will never conquer the China Seas or the realms of Manicongo Petty tyrants who climb the roofs of their shacks and survey…
Translated from Portuguese
The House
Here I wanted my house built. It was to be tall, permanent, made of stone and light. Of porous black basalt brought from Mesquita. The roof-tiles made with mud from Riboque, red as the heart of the hibiscus…
Translated from Portuguese
The Tale of the Sorceress
San Malanzo was old, so old. San Malanzo was poor, so poor. No children nor grandchildren, Still less step-children, even nephews. She was so very poor and so very old. Old and poor she was, San Malanzo,…
Translated from Portuguese
A Drawing Textbook
By Maxim Kantor
The main characters:Sergei Ilyich Tatarnikov: a dissolute and disaffected sixty-year-old historian.Roza Crantz: a middle-aged academic, an art historian and culturologist, enthusiastic about the fall…
Translated from Russian by Timothy D. Sergay