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 claramente do dia em que me tornei verdadeiramente consciente de mim mesmo; de mim mesmo enquanto algo que tudo o resto não era. Em criança, o que gostava mais era daqueles intervalos mortos do ano, em que uma estação terminara e a outra ainda não tinha começado, e tudo estava cinzento e silencioso e imóvel. E da quietude e do silêncio, algo parecia aproximar-se de mim, algo pequeno, suave, hesitante, a oferecer-se à minha atenção. Nesse dia, caminhava pela rua principal da cidade. Era novembro ou março, não estava quente nem frio. Do céu sombrio, chuva miudinha caía, tão miudinha que mal se sentia. Era de manhã, e as donas de casa estavam na rua, com os seus sacos de compras e os lenços na cabeça. Um cão, em busca de algo, passou apressadamente por mim, sem olhar para a direita ou para a esquerda, seguindo uma linha reta, traçada de modo invisível no pavimento. Havia um odor a fumo e a carne de talho, bem como o odor salobre do mar, e, como sempre acontecia na cidade naqueles dias, sentia-se o fedor tênue e doce das lavaduras. A porta aberta de uma loja de ferragens soprou um fumo acastanhado para cima de mim enquanto passava. À medida que assimilava tudo isto, senti algo a que apenas poderia chamar de felicidade, embora não fosse felicidade, era mais do que felicidade, e era menos. O que teria acontecido? O que é que, naquela cena trivial diante dos meus olhos - as visões, os sons e os cheiros comuns da cidade -, tinha feito essa coisa inesperada, fosse ela qual fosse, florescer de repente dentro de mim, como a possibilidade de resposta a todas as expetativas inomináveis da minha vida? Estava tudo igual: as donas de casa, aquele cão apressado. Tudo igual. E, contudo, de uma certa forma, transfigurado. Juntamente com a felicidade surgiu uma sensação de ansiedade. Era como se carregasse um vaso frágil, que cabia a mim proteger, como o rapaz da história contada em Religião e Moral, que levava a Hóstia pelas ruas libertinas da Roma Antiga, escondida dentro da sua túnica. No meu caso, no entanto, parecia ser eu mesmo o vaso precioso. Sim, era isso, era eu que estava “a acontecer” aqui. Não sabia exatamente o significado disto, mas, certamente - disse a mim mesmo -, certamente que significava alguma coisa. E assim continuei, numa perplexidade feliz, sob os chuviscos, carregando o mistério de mim mesmo dentro do meu coração.
Seria aquele mesmo frasco de icor precioso, ainda dentro de mim, que se derramou no cinema naquela tarde, e que carrego ainda, e que, contudo, transbordará ao menor movimento, ao menor bater irregular do meu coração?
The excerpts from the novels by John Banville seem to have the theme of introspection and self-awareness in common, with surreal elements ("the thing" in "Dr Copernicus") as well as sensorial ones (the idea of happiness in "Eclipse"). The narrative style transports us to those moments, those landscapes, those reflections.
One of the greatest difficulties I felt was precisely in maintaining the narrative rhythm in both excerpts. The author makes use of long sentences, with little punctuation, fitting one thought into the other. I tried to respect this cadence but sometimes I felt the need to divide the sentences, using punctuation and short sentences to convey the same idea, in order to create a text that sounds natural to the Portuguese reader. An example of this is a sentence taken from "Eclipse" (lines 27-29, page 32): “Everything was the same now as it had been before, the housewives, that busy dog, the same, and yet in some way transfigured.”, translated to “Estava tudo igual: as donas de casa, aquele cão apressado. Tudo igual. E, contudo, de uma certa forma, transfigurado”.
This journey through the narrator’s reflections is told almost in poetic form. The almost lyrical discourse is marked by certain elements I tried to maintain, whenever possible. Below are some examples.
- word repetition:
“It was the thing itself, the vivid thing./ It was his friend.”, translated to “Era a coisa em si, a coisa viva./ Era sua amiga.” (“Dr Copernicus” (lines 1-2, page 3))
“…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.”, translated to “…senti algo a que apenas poderia chamar de felicidade, embora não fosse felicidade, era mais do que felicidade, e era menos.” (“Eclipse” (lines 27-29, page 32)). I took the liberty of emphasizing “e era menos”, by separating this expression from the rest of the sentence through a comma, in order to reinforce the idea of the source, in terms of reflection. I believe this idea would be dimmed in Portuguese if I kept the same structure as the original work.
- rhymes and alliterations:
“…belonged to the mysterious outside, to the wind and the weather and the goldeny blue air.”, translated to ”pertencia ao misterioso exterior, ao vento e ao tempo e ao ar azul dourado.” (“Dr Copernicus” (lines 8-10, page 3))
“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.”, translated to “Em dias de vento, dançava, demente, mexendo os braços livremente ou, no silêncio da noite, dormitava e sonhava, balançando no azul, no ar dourado.” (“Dr Copernicus” (lines 2-4, page 3))
- inversion of the order of elements in the sentence:
“From a lowering sky fine rain was falling, so fine as to be hardly felt.”, translated to “Do céu sombrio, chuva miudinha caía, tão miudinha que mal se sentia.” (“Eclipse” (lines 12-13, page 32)).
Another challenge I was faced with was the translation of the English pronouns. In some cases I found the need to proceed to a certain disambiguation in Portuguese: “His mother asked him who did he love the best.”, translated to ”A mãe de Nicolau perguntava-lhe a quem amava mais.” (“Dr Copernicus” (line 22, page 3)).
Finally, the prayer and the lullaby in Eclipse, in which I tried to keep the rhymes:
|Matt Mark Luke and John||Mateus Marcos Lucas e João|
|Bless the bed that I lie on||Abençoai esta cama apoiada no chão|
|If I die before I wake||E se morrer antes de acordar|
|Ask hold God my soul to take||Pedi ao santo Deus para a minha alma levar|
In this case, I added "apoiada no chão" to the verse so it would rhyme with "João". It seems fitting considering the narrator's description of his own bed (“truckle bed”).
|See saw Margery Daw||Abaixo e acima, Maria Lima|
|This little chicken||Esta pequena galinha|
|Got lost in the straw||Perdeu-se na palhinha|
|Nana nana meu menino|
|que a mãezinha logo vem.|
|Foi lavar os teus paninhos|
|à pocinha de Belém.|
In the case of the lullaby, it was difficult to keep the name featured in the original and still keep the rhyme. However, after some research, I realized the name Margery Daw seems to have been included for the single purpose of rhyming with the “seesaw” on which the children played. In Portuguese, I removed the name of the object per se and replaced it with the action that occurs in a seesaw: a child rides on each end, one end goes up as the other goes down. The name Maria Lima was chosen for the purpose of rhyme. The Portuguese option is a localized lullaby the Portuguese would relate to.
I sought a single purpose with the strategies mentioned above: to convey the author's ideas in a way that sounded natural to the Portuguese target audience, so that the translated text felt like an original text.