I clearly recall the day I first became truly aware of myself, I mean of myself as something that everything else was not. As a boy I liked best those dead intervals of the year when one season had ended and the next had not yet begun, and all was grey and hushed and still, and out of the stillness and the hush something would seem to approach me, some small, soft, tentative thing, and offer itself to my attention. This day of which I speak I was walking along the main street of the town. It was November, or March, not cold, but neutral. From a lowering sky fine rain was falling, so fine as to be hardly felt. It was morning, and the housewives were out, with their shopping bags and headscarves. A questing dog trotted busily past me looking neither to right nor left, following a straight line drawn invisibly on the pavement. There was a smell of smoke and butcher’s meat, and a brackish smell of the sea, and, as always in the town in those days, the faint sweet stench of pig-swill. The open doorway of a hardware shop breathed brownly at me as I went past. Taking in all this, I experienced something to which the only name I could give was happiness, although it was not happiness, it was more and less than happiness. What had occurred? What in that commonplace scene before me, the ordinary sights and sounds and smells of the town, had made this unexpected thing, whatever it was, burgeon suddenly inside me like the possibility of an answer to all the nameless yearnings of my life? Everything was the same now as it had been before, the housewives, that busy dog, the same, and yet in some way transfigured. Along with the happiness went a feeling of anxiety. It was as if I were carrying some frail vessel that it was my task to protect, like the boy in the story told to us in religious class who carried the Host through the licentious streets of ancient Rome hidden inside his tunic; in my case, however, it seemed I was myself the precious vessel. Yes, that was it, it was I that was happening here. I did not know exactly what this meant, but surely, I told myself, surely it must mean something. And so I went on, in happy puzzlement, under the small rain, bearing the mystery of myself in my heart.
Was it that same phial of precious ichor, still inside me, that spilled in the cinema that afternoon, and that I carry in me yet, and that yet will overflow at the slightest movement, the slightest misbeat of my heart?
Lembro-me perfeitamente o dia em que me tornei consciente da minha pessoa, ou melhor, da minha própria pessoa em relação a tudo o resto daquilo que não era. O que gostava mais quando era mais novo, eram aqueles intervalos do ano em que não se fazia nada, onde uma estação terminava e uma outra ainda estava por começar, tudo era cinzento, abafado e silencioso e algo proveniente daquela cor cinza e daquela imobilidade parecia aproximar-se de mim. Era algo pequeno, suave, hesitante que chamava a minha atenção. Neste dia de que falo, estava a passear pela rua principal da cidade. Estávamos em novembro, ou março, não estava frio, mas neutro. Uma chuva ligeira, quase impercetível, caia dum céu baixo. Era durante a manhã e as donas de casa andavam cá fora com sacos de compra e lenços na cabeça.
Sem olhar para nenhum dos lados, um cão de busca, passou por mim, empenhado em seguir uma linha invisível desenhada na estrada. Havia um cheiro a fumo, a carne do talho e o odor salobre do mar e, como sempre na cidade por aqueles dias, um ligeiro fedor adocicado a lavadura. A porta de uma loja de ferragens, à minha passagem, exalava um bafo ferrugento na minha direção. Assimilando tudo isto, experimentei algo a que só podia dar o nome de felicidade, ainda que não fosse felicidade; era mais e menos que felicidade. O que é que tinha acontecido? O que é que nessa cena banal diante de mim, de paisagens usuais, de sons e cheiros da cidade, me dava uma sensação estranha que crescia de repente dentro de mim como a possibilidade de uma resposta a todos os desejos por cumprir da minha vida? Tudo era agora como tinha sido antes. As donas de casa, aquele cão atarefado, estavam iguais e, ainda assim, de certa maneira, transfigurados. Com a felicidade veio um sentimento de ansiedade. Era como se eu transportasse um vaso precioso com a função de o proteger, como o rapaz da história que nos contavam na aula de religião, que levava o Senhor pelas ruas pecaminosas da Roma antiga escondido na sua túnica. No entanto, no meu caso, parecia que era eu o vaso precioso. Sim, era isso, era de mim que se tratava. Não sabia ao certo o que isso significava, mas disse a mim mesmo que isso, de certeza, devia significar algo.
E lá continuei naquela feliz perplexidade sob a chuva miudinha carregando o mistério de mim mesmo no coração. Era este o mesmo frasco do licor precioso, ainda dentro de mim, que transbordou no cinema naquela tarde e ainda levo dentro de mim e que irá transbordar ao mais leve movimento, à mais leve palpitação?
John Banville, one of the most eminent Irish fiction writers has a style which is enormously challenging for the translator. The seemingly easy-going texts that were initially read proved to have various hurdles which were not very easy to overcome. Never having had the pleasure of reading Banville, we were pleasantly surprised to discover him in one of our MA classes. The rich, flowing yarns that Banville spins by use of extremely short sentences makes it so much harder to translate or attempt to do so into the Portuguese language; it is simultaneously challenging to maintain a respectable level of richness, rhythm and poetry all conveying a profound meaning in the seemingly plain text. Banville’s writing is superb, achieving a level of complexity which was simultaneously clear and cohesive in structure and in meaning. The English in use is amenable, there are no dense, complicated words used to describe everyday things, feelings, gestures and thoughts yet the complexity lies in Banville’s ability to thread all of these in an intricate fashion.
In translating the two extracts, namely Dr. Copernicus and Eclipse, we tried to keep to the author’s style but also retrieve the magic and transmit the atmosphere that seems to permeate the text, alternating between the real and the unreal. Nonetheless, this is a demanding task for translators for this extract is rich in stylistic challenges such as alliteration, repetition, musicality and sonority present in the extract.
Apart from the writing style, the translator has other issues to deal with in this task like direct speech or the repetition of sounds that were repeatedly inserted in this text to serve a particular purpose. The first extract, Eclipse, was slightly easier to translate as the language was different and slightly easier to work. On the other hand, Dr. Copernicus required many hours of teamwork as there were more metaphors, symbolic terms and sentences which we found more difficult to translate or find an equivalent in the target language.
Translating these extracts was a pleasurable difficulty as we wanted to give the translated texts in the Portuguese language the same meaning and strength, thus requiring intense group work. Every decision was discussed thoroughly with the supervision of our professors and only then was the suitable structure decided upon. It was a long, intense and rewarding task which gave new insight into an exciting author, developed new translation techniques and helped built teamwork abilities.