There are things in life we never forget. One of them is the first time we receive a brand-new book… when we open it for the first time and smell its untouched pages… the eagerness to discover a new story… to let ourselves be carried away by each word, each meaning, each thought, a process that makes us grow a little more inside and out… it’s a magical world.
I received my first book by mail when I was five. I remember I was anxiously waiting by the courier and, when it arrived, I unwrapped it very carefully and sat in the garden reading. It was “love at first sight” and I continued doing it throughout all my life. I read all kinds of books: children’s books, novels, adventure books, mysteries, technical books, books about specific topics, etc. These books made me grow intellectually and helped me turn out to be the person I am today. For this reason, I must thank the authors for all the things they have taught me. And, because we are celebrating Women in Translation Month, I was invited to talk about some of the writers who marked my life.
In Portuguese literature, I would highlight the women who made me dream and challenge life with adventures: Sophia de Mello Breyner Adresen, Maria Teresa Maia Gonzalez, Isabel Alçada and Ana Maria Magalhães.
On an international level, I would highlight the writers of the first books I read: Louisa May Alcott, Condessa de Ségur, Anne Brontë and Charlotte Brontë, because it was the stories of these great ladies that made me fall in love with literature and words, or rather, their translators, because the first books I read were translations.
All my life I had several experiences with literature, both Portuguese and international, and I read, not only originals, but also translations. It’s very difficult for a translator to capture all the essence and expression of a writer and, earlier in my life, I started realizing that and gaining great affection and respect for the translator’s profession. The translator has the huge responsibility of “transforming” a story from a specific language, culture and way of thinking to another specific language, culture and way of thinking, without the reader knowing it, without changing the original text, without changing the “words (the identity) of the writer”. Basically, the translator must be invisible.
The writers that had a greater impact in my life were Isabel Allende and Stephenie Meyer. One from Chile and the other from the United States of America. Both have a very “simple” writing, but they can transport us into the story in a way that makes us feel like we are part of it… and we cry, laugh, dance and suffer with the characters.
The first books I read from these writers were translations into Portuguese, only after reading these did I decide to start reading their original books. Considering that it was the first books I read from these authors that made me an unconditional fan of both, I think I can say the translators did a good job. So, I want to thank Vera Falcão Martins, for the translation of the book Twilight and Carlos Martins Pereira for the translation of the book La Casa de los Espíritus.
Unfortunately, there’s still a lot to do. There are a lot of authors in the world we don’t know in Portugal, because of lack of information or because their books haven’t yet been translated into our language. There also are authors in Portugal that have never had their books translated into other languages and, therefore, we lose a little bit of culture wealth, but also knowledge…
The most famous authors already have translations into Spanish or English, but what about the less famous? If they had a chance of being internationally known, wouldn’t they be prosperous too? I give as an example the writer Lubélia Sousa. A 77-year-old woman, with a 4th grade education that writes poems and children’s books better than anyone else. I am a fan and just like Lubélia Sousa, there are a lot of writers still waiting for the opportunity to be known or for their books to be translated.