preface in form of postscript

For new readers – because there suddenly seem to be a lot of you, for reasons that I can’t quite fathom – let me suggest that you start from the beginning, all the better for observing my transformation from wide-eyed gringuinha who couldn’t make her way from Gávea to Humaitá into a wide-eyed gringuinha who definitely can make her way from Gávea to Humaitá, no problem. I hope this has improved your reading experience. Now I can get back to trying to figure out the Buenos Aires subway system.

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on borrowed time

Clarice Lispector na voz do Benjamin Moser, porque não consigo achar a fonte original:

Quando morava no exterior, ela “lived mentally in Brazil, I lived ‘on borrowed time.’ Simply because I like living in Brazil, Brazil is the only place in the world where I don’t ask myself, terrified: what am I doing here after all, why am I here, my God.”

on cacti and resentment

Enemy. Hero.

Benjamin Moser is a no-good low-down thief, and I could hug him for it. Don’t worry, I’ll explain. For a year and a half now, I’ve been recommending A Hora da Estrela to my American friends and complaining about it in the same breath. “It changed my life. But the English translation is a piece of shit.”

As someone who’s done translation work (calling myself a Translator would imply that I was good at it), I know how easy it is to throw stones from houses made of a certain transparent material. But there are things that are misguided, and there are things that are just wrong. Massacring Clarice’s voice and burying her in labyrinthine, leaden prose: unforgivable. There are  decisions in Giovanni Pontiero’s translation (the only one) that won him my everlasting enmity. I complained so often and so vehemently that I got the inevitable response, probably to shut me up: why don’t you do it yourself? And I was totes going to for my Princeton senior thesis (well, it was at least on the shortlist), I just hadn’t gotten around to it, okay?

Yesterday I’d just recommended A Hora da Estrela to another friend and was reluctantly going to fetch the Pontiero translation from the bowels of Firestone (to be delivered with the requisite qualifying xingamentos) when an unfamiliar edition caught my eye. Benjamin Moser is determined to realize all my dreams, apparently (he met Caetano, if you’ll recall, and Caetano thought he was handsome), and the magnificent bastard has done an utterly enviable translation of my thesis project, just published in November 2011. I’m humbled, angered, and pleased that I can finally recommend the book to friends without reservations. Continue reading

dispatches from the frozen north

Sometimes I have trouble pinpointing which carioca mannerisms I’ve picked up, but one has become starkly apparent in the few days I’ve spent back at college. I have absolutely no compunctions about looking at people, and suspect that in part because of this I have terrified a good portion of campus.

The lengths people will go to in order to avoid eye contact at Princeton are frankly hilarious. My colleagues will take sudden and frantic interest in the walls to their right and left, their shoes, the ceiling fixtures, and even the hallway behind them; they sink their eyes down and yank them up at furtive intervals, their gaze slipping across mine like bashful greased lightning. I feel like I might be a particularly horrible phantasm, something that the other is hoping is a figment of his or her imagination.

Sometimes, like Otto Lara Resende, I do come to doubt my own existence. I was passing Nassau Hall yesterday and crossed paths with an acquaintance in the year above me, one who I knew had been studying abroad as well. “Hey, how’ve you been?” I said cheerfully, slowing down. It was just the two of us on the path, but she cast me an alarmed sideways glance and didn’t even break stride. I felt compelled to check that I hadn’t become incorporeal and transparent, tugged red-cheeked at my fitinha do Bonfim, and kept walking. It’s hard being a ghost. Continue reading

landlocked copacabana

“Brasileiros aqui?” I said as I walked in the door. “Tive que ver para crer.”
But, bizarrely enough, it’s true. In a strip mall under a cold Virginia sky, two mineiros are staffing the only Brazilian restaurant in my town: Copacabana Brazilian International Cuisine (the “International” in case the “Brazilian” wasn’t good enough, presumably). The chef and owner, Hermano, received the redhead with a carioca accent with certain confusion but due hospitality.
“I’ve been living here all my life and I never knew that there was a Brazilian restaurant here,” I said.
“That’s what everyone says,” he said with a mournful tinge. “I always have Americans coming in here asking how long the restaurant’s been here. When I say 20 years, they can’t believe it.” Copacabana, unlike its Rio counterpart, is tucked away in a corner of a shopping complex which has become basically abandoned ever since the big gourmet supermarket moved across town. I’ve never been into any other store in the complex; Copacabana’s neighbors include a massage parlor and a Christian Science bookstore. Continue reading

antes tarde do que nunca

Faz um tempo que estava querendo agradecer-lhes a todos. Na verdade, ainda não chegara a fazê-lo não por ingratidão, nem por preguiça, mas porque escrever isto seria reconhecer o fato de que já não estou no Brasil e, portanto, aceitar que a maior aventura da minha vida acabou. O Brasil foi transformativo para mim, disso eu sei. Quando fui visitar a minha avó pela primeira vez desde maio, ela me olhou e disse subitamente, “Você mudou”. Acontece que ela pensava que eu tinha crescido (não tinha). Mesmo assim, acho que, em certo sentido, ela tinha razão.

Parêntese linguística: acho estranho o modo em que “viajar” ganhou um sentido pejorativo na língua coloquial. “Ah, deixei o livro em casa. Viajei, desculpa”. Como se o ato de viajar, de deixar o caminho e se arriscar em outro, mudar (se não crescer fisicamente), fosse sempre um erro. No meu caso, certamente não foi.

Dói mesmo ter que resumir os últimos meses assim, fechar este capítulo, mas vocês merecem. A generosidade que eu encontrava sempre nunca deixou de me chocar. Já lhes agradeci milhares de vezes, do meu jeito americano, e a resposta eterna foi um “De nada!” chocado e quase ofendido. “Imagina!” Na verdade, não imaginara um país onde um grupo de profissionais se dedicariam a realizar (de graça) o filminho de uma estudante; onde eu poderia fazer pesquisa num acervo de sonhos com uma equipe generosa e conhecedora; onde chegaria a conhecer alguns dos meus ídolos; onde uma conhecida me convidaria a morar na casa dela quando não tinha onde ficar; onde mesmo ofendendo a metade da minha faculdade eu faria grandes e doces amigos; onde eu seria dada a oportunidade de traduzir profissionalmente; onde a minha ironia customária me ganharia fãs simpaticíssimos; onde sonhos, enfim, seriam realizados (com a exeção notável daquele em que eu chorei na calçada em frente ao Maracanã).
Já ver um só show do Caetano Veloso teria bastado. Mas a bondade com a qual eu sempre fui recebida – as casas onde pousei, os amigos e colegas novíssimos que me abraçaram e me aguentaram, a confiança que vocês tiveram em mim – dá vontade de sentar no meio-fio e chorar, porque não tenho, nem se fosse dada tempo e ingredientes infinitos para fazer Katharine Hepburn brownies para todos vocês, como retribuí-la. Eu lhes devo tanto. Viajei.  Por favor, me desculpem. Obrigada.