At first it had no name. It was the thing itself, the vivid thing. It was his friend. On windy days it danced, demented, waving wild arms, or in the silence of evening drowsed and dreamed, swaying in the blue, the goldeny air. Even at night it did not go away. Wrapped in his truckle bed, he could hear it stirring darkly outside in the dark, all the long night long. There were others, nearer to him, more vivid still than this, they came and went, talking, but they were wholly familiar, almost a part of himself, while it, steadfast and aloof, belonged to the mysterious outside, to the wind and the weather and the goldeny blue air. It was part of the world, and yet it was his friend.
Look, Nicolas, look! See the big tree!
Tree. That was its name. And also: the linden. They were nice words. He had known them a long time before he knew what they meant. They did not mean themselves, they were nothing in themselves, they meant the dancing singing thing outside. In wind, in silence, at night, in the changing air, it changed and yet was changelessly the tree, the linden tree. That was strange.
Everything had a name, but although every name was nothing without the thing named, the thing cared nothing for its name, had no need of a name, and was itself only. And then there were the names that signified no substantial thing, as linden and tree signified that dark dancer. His mother asked him who did he love the best. Love did not dance, nor tap the window with frantic fingers, love had no leafy arms to shake, yet when she spoke that name that named nothing, some impalpable but real thing within him responded as if to a summons, as if it had heard its name spoken. That was very strange.
He soon forgot about these enigmatic matters, and learned to talk as others talked, full of conviction, unquestioningly.
The sky is blue, the sun is gold, the linden tree is green. Day is light, it ends, night falls, and then it is dark. You sleep, and in the morning wake again. But a day will come when you will not wake. That is death. Death is sad. Sadness is what happiness is not. And so on. How simple it all was, after all! There was no need even to think about it. He had only to be, and life would do the rest, would send day to follow day until there were no days left, for him, and then he would go to Heaven and be an angel. Hell was under the ground.
Matthew Mark Luke and John
Bless the bed that I lie on
If I die before I wake
Ask holy God my soul to take
He peered from behind clasped hands at his mother kneeling beside him in the candlelight. Under a burnished coif of coiled hair her face was pale and still, like the face of the Madonna in the picture. Her eyes were closed, and her lips moved, mouthing mutely the pious lines as he recited them aloud. When he stumbled on the hard words she bore him up gently, in a wonderfully gentle voice. He loved her the best, he said. She rocked him in her arms and sang a song.
See saw Margery Daw
This little chicken
Got lost in the straw
No início, não tinha nome. Era a própria coisa, a coisa vívida. Eram amigos. Em dias ventosos, dançava, demente, esbracejando selvaticamente, ou no silêncio da noite, sonolenta e sonhadora, balançando no azul, no ar dourado. Mesmo à noite, não ia embora. Enroscado na sua cama de gavetão conseguia ouvir a sua sombria agitação lá fora no escuro, pela longa noite fora. Havia outros, mais próximos dele, ainda mais vívidos do que isso, que iam e vinham, falando, mas eram plenamente familiares, quase parte de si próprio, enquanto ele, inabalável e distante, pertencia ao exterior misterioso, ao vento e ao tempo e o ar azul e dourado. Fazia parte do mundo, e, ainda assim, eram amigos.
- Olha, Nicolas, olha! Olha a árvore grande!
Árvore. Era esse o seu nome. E também: a tília. Eram palavras bonitas. Já as conhecia mesmo antes de saber o que significavam. Elas não tinham sentido próprio, não eram nada por si só, significavam a coisa que cantava e dançava lá fora. Ao vento, no silêncio, na noite, no ar que mudava, ela mudava e, no entanto, permanecia imutável a árvore, a tília. Era estranho.
Cada coisa tinha um nome, mas, apesar de cada nome não ter valor sem a coisa nomeada, esta coisa não se importava com o seu nome, não necessitava de nome, e era apenas ela mesma. E depois havia os nomes que não significavam nada de substancial, como tília e árvore significavam aquela bailarina obscura. A mãe perguntou-lhe de quem ele gostava mais. O amor não dançava, nem batia ao de leve na janela com dedos frenéticos, o amor não tinha braços frondosos para abanar, ainda assim, quando disse aquele nome que nada nomeava, alguma coisa dentro dele, intangível mas verdadeiro, respondeu como se tivesse sido intimado, como se tivesse ouvido o seu nome a ser chamado. Isso era muito estranho.
Depressa se esqueceu destes assuntos enigmáticos, e aprendeu a falar como os outros, cheio de convicção e sem se questionar. O céu é azul, o sol é dourado, e a tília é verde. O dia é luz, termina, a noite cai, e então fica escuro. Dorme-se e de manhã acorda-se novamente. Mas um dia virá quando não acordarás. Isso é a morte. A morte é triste. A tristeza é o que a felicidade não é. E assim por diante. Como tudo é afinal tão simples! Não havia necessidade de pensar nisso. Ele só tinha que ser, e a vida faria o resto, mandaria o dia seguir outro dia até que não houvesse mais dias para ele, e, então, iria para o céu e seria um anjo. O inferno estava debaixo do chão.
Mateus, Marcos, Lucas e João,
Sobre a minha cama a vossa bênção.
Rogai ao Senhor minh’alma levar,
Se eu morrer antes de acordar.
Espreitou por entre dedos entrelaçados a mãe, ajoelhada ao seu lado, à luz da vela. Sob uma touca brunida de cabelos enrolados, o seu rosto pálido e imóvel era como o da Senhora do retrato. De olhos fechados, os lábios em surdina os versos piedosos enquanto ele os recitava em voz alta. Quando ele tropeçava nas palavras difíceis, ela apoiava-o suavemente, numa voz maravilhosamente delicada. Era ela quem ele mais amava, disse ele. Ela embalou-o nos seus braços e cantou-lhe uma canção.
Todos os patinhos,
Sabem bem nadar.
Cabeça para baixo,
Rabinho para o ar.
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.