Andrew Kelly Nelson and James Krause, Department of Spanish and Portuguese
Of all Latin American authors, the works of João Guimarães Rosa present some of the greatest difficulties for translators. He experienced laudable critical success throughout Latin American and Europe, but–for reasons that are under investigation–received a tepid reception in the United States. This project was developed to examine the extent to which the translation and editorial processes played in this poor reception by the US readership by examining the extensive communication that the author maintained with the translator of his work. Such correspondence is unique in that it documents the collaborative translation process between the author and his English-language translator, a relationship that is not commonly found in the world of literature and not so extensively documented. The transcriptions will be used to understand the literary and extraliterary factors in the translation process that resulted in the poor reception of his work in the English-speaking world while it succeeded in the other languages into which it was translated (French, Spanish, Italian, and German).
During the Spring 2014 term, I was registered as a foreign exchange student and intern at the Instituto de Estudos Brasileiros (IEB) [Institute of Brazilian Studies] at the University of São Paulo (USP). Beyond the transcription of the correspondence exchanged between Rosa and de Onís, I was also responsible for helping prepare for the historical relocation of the institute to its new building.
Access to the João Guimarães Rosa Archive of the institute is open to the public; however, the archive only permits on-site document transcription by hand. Before my arrival, officials at BYU and USP had established an official contract between the two universities. This agreement allowed me full access to the campus, including direct access to all documents housed in the archive. Consequentially, I worked with the original documents and was permitted to work as much as I needed to complete the project, despite strikes and shutdowns related to cutbacks in university payrolls and unrest caused by disagreements with the FIFA World Cup. Each morning, Monday-Friday, I arrived at the institute and quickly reviewed the transcription from the previous day and then was able to transcribe between 10-30 original pages each day, depending on the density of each document.
The final transcription included 63 of the 128 letters of the collection, totaling 324 typed pages. James Krause, my faculty mentor, had done prior research on the correspondence and already had a copy of the first half, which I did not transcribe. With the entire set of letters, professors and students within the department will be able to further develop their research on the works of Rosa.
After completing the transcription, I presented my research to students and the directors of the institute. Once I returned to BYU, I wrote a research paper, in Portuguese, entitled “Uma obra prima danficada: Novas evidências na tradução falahada de Sagarana por João Guimaraães Rosa” [A Damaged Masterpiece: New Evidences of the Failed Translation of Sagarana by João Guimaraães Rosa] based on the completed correspondence. I am in the process of applying to BYU’s Masters of Portuguese program, and this research paper will be submitted as the writing sample for my application. The transcription together with my research paper may potentially form the basis of my Masters thesis, or that of a fellow student, based on my acceptance into the program and the topic that I decide to investigate.
Recently, two BYU professors were in Brazil seeking internship opportunities for BYU students. They visited the IEB and met with the director of the institute. She informed them that they were pleased with my work, and due to budget cuts, the university was unable to fund as many of their own students to work in the archive. She asked for BYU to send more students to do work similar to what I had done, but to research other famed Brazilian authors. Should this happen, which is very likely will happen, BYU will be recognized for its major contribution in furthering Luso-Brazilian studies; such recognition would open new doors for BYU professors and students.
Although this project made major headway in the study of João Guimarães Rosa, there is still much to be done. Paramount is the need to obtain permission from Rosa’s descendants to publish the complete English correspondence. The correspondence between Rosa and his translators in French, Spanish, Italian, and German have already been published; however, the correspondence in English is much larger than any of the others and is most pertinent to translation studies as it is the only of the translations to fail. In its current state, the transcription is useful to the BYU community and other researchers that come to campus whose only other option is to consult the originals in the archive. The publication of these letters will add a key element to the fields of translation and Luso-Brazilian studies.