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Our Sonnets from the Portugese

September 2007

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.

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…
The Best Seller
By Germano Almeida
Rather formal, modest, weighing every word, almost fearful, he held his hand out to me hesitantly.
Translated from Portuguese by Daniel Hahn
The Best Seller
By Germano Almeida
Ceremonious, humble, weighing each word, he extended almost fearfully a timid hand.
Translated from Portuguese by Clifford E. Landers
The Tale of the Sorceress
By Conceição Lima
San Malanzo was old, so old. San Malanzo was poor, so poor.
Translated from Portuguese by Amanda Hopkinson
Petty Tyrants
By Conceição Lima
Petty tyrants / who founded kingdoms at the foot of their sorrow
Translated from Portuguese by Amanda Hopkinson
The House
By Conceição Lima
Here I wanted my house built.
Translated from Portuguese by Amanda Hopkinson
Sign of These Times
By João Anzanello Carrascoza
The couple stopped in the middle of the way to rest.
Translated from Portuguese by Renato Rezende
Halfway to a House
By Rosa Alice Branco
I take light from the closet drawers. The first day / of fall.
Translated from Portuguese by Alexis Levitin
An Interview with José Eduardo Agualusa
By Paulo Polzonoff Jr.
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 and Portugal,…
Translated from Portuguese by Paulo Polzonoff Jr. & Anderson Tepper
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.
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
The Woman Who Stole the Rain
By Teolinda Gersão
I smiled to myself when I saw just where I had ended up, thanks to this lack of efficiency, a lack which the manager appeared to attribute to the workings of fate or chance.
Translated from Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa
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.
Translated from Portuguese by Clifford E. Landers
By Manoel de Barros
There was a high wall between our houses.
Translated from Portuguese by Idra Novey
Song of Seeing
By Manoel de Barros
Having lived many years in the scrub grass in the way of birds
Translated from Portuguese by Idra Novey
Comrade António and the Cuban Teachers
By Ondjaki
“But Comrade António, don’t you prefer to live in a free country?”
Translated from Portuguese by Stephen Henighan
The Ants
By Augusta Faro
Every day the interdental brush probed into hard corners.
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.
Translated from Portuguese by Clifford E. Landers
From “The History of the Bones”
By Alberto Martins
I wanted to get out of there.
Translated from Portuguese by Idra Novey
Intrusive Reader in the Night
By Milton Hatoum
“I am a reader and I came to settle accounts with you.”
Translated from Portuguese by Idra Novey
I brought flowers . . .
By Ana Paula Tavares
I brought flowers / They’re not all white, Mother
Translated from Portuguese by Richard Zenith