Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Annotations, Soon In Portuguese

Annotations, my first book, appeared 23 years ago, when New Directions published it in the fall of 1995. In the intervening years, the brief, dense, lyrical novel--or poetic memoir, if you like--has, I'm thankful to say, attracted a steady readership and remains in print. Until recently, however, neither the book nor any portion of it has ever been translated into another language, as my other work has. An attempt shortly after the book was published in the US failed because the foreign publisher felt Annotations was perhaps too culturally specific. For my part, based on my own experience as a reader and translator, I have long wondered if the dense web of allusions, and the intricate, often lilting quality of the prose was the barrier. But unless you hear from the publisher and potential translators, you may never know what is or was going on.

A few years ago, however, I learned that a planned publication of Annotations in Portuguese, or Anotações, was going to go forward. The publisher is A Bolha Editora, who co-published my translation into English of Brazilian writer Hilda Hilst's novel Letters from a Seducer in 2014 with Nightboat Books. Guided by writer, editor and genius Rachel Gontijo Araújo, A Bolha Editora is one of Brazil's exciting small presses, publishing both domestic and international authors, and have been based in the downtown Botafogo neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro since their founding (though I believe they may have recently moved to Brasília, the federal capital). Among the other authors and artists on A Bolha's roster are a number of prose and poetic experimentalists, including Claude Cahun, Kammal João, Bhanu Kapil, Tove Jansson, Douglas A. Martin, Adriano Motta, Jesse Moynihan, Nathanaël, Virgílio NetoGail Scott, and Studs Turkel.

Anotações' translator is Daniel Lühmann, originally from Poço de Caldas, Minas Gerais, Brazil, and now living in Lisbon. Daniel has previously translated the noted graphic novel, Snowpiercer (A Perfura de Neve) by Jacques Lob, Benjamin LeGrand and Jean-Marc Rochette, and Philip K. Dick's A Scanner Darkly (Um Reflexão na Escuridão), into Portuguese, and also makes intriguing performance videos, under the title "Pasarela" (Catwalk), which you can view on YouTube. If you read Portuguese, you can enjoy Mayra Azzi's short, informative profile of him on Revista Trip (the same site that featured the Thiago Borba images) going about his morning routine, with accompanying photos. Or if you are feeling especially tl;dr, you can see Azzi's photo series "Despertando com Daniel Lühmann" (Waking Up with Daniel Lühmann) at Cargo Collective.

Anotações, from A Bolha
Editora (image © A Bolha Editora
and Rodrigo Martins)
In terms of the translation process, he was a pleasure to work with, possessing not just a fine ear but a subtle eye, and we resolved some thorny issues involving vernacular terms and syntax, assonant, consonant and rhyming prose, and obscure references that American readers might be able to guess but Brazilians probably could not. (As was the case with the original version, it will have a glossary, though much expanded from the one I provided at the request of James Laughlin.)

Daniel even devised a solution to "Scaredy cat, scaredy cat, too scared to know where your shadow's at" that mirrors but is hardly an echo of the original. In the process, he even reminded me that I'd invented a few words in that text. His version will be of incalculable help to anyone translating Annotations into any other language, and, like the best translations, he creates a music akin to the original, but distinctively (Brazilian) Portuguese. To him, publisher, author and visionary Rachel Gontijo Araújo, and everyone at A Bolha Editora, I offer my deepest abraços e obrigadões.

The volume is slated to be out later this year, I think, and I think it's OK to show part of one of the covers (there may be two), which uses a original painting by Rio native Rodrigo Martins (cf. above).

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