The River of January series

The River of January series proposes to depict the life and customs in Rio de Janeiro during the last 200 years, as seen through the eyes of its writers. The first four of twelve projected volumes have already been published.

The books are presented in a bilingual format, with the original Portuguese texts opposite the English translations. The texts have been annotated in detail so that readers can understand the references made to people, places and events. As the series continues, rather like in a jig-saw puzzle, the notes gradually produce a picture of the turbulent and fascinating history of Rio de Janeiro (that is relatively unknown outside Brazil).

Bilingual editions are not uncommon in non-fiction, especially for ‘coffee-table’ books illustrated with photos. But in literature, with the exception of the occasional volume of poetry, they are virtually unknown.

The parallel text format offers readers with a command of both languages ample possibilities for an interactive approach; by comparing the two texts they can evaluate the degree of success of the translator’s solutions.

The experience can be equally interactive for readers who are native speakers of one of the languages and are learning the second. It is a format that makes the original texts accessible, for example, to English-speaking students of Brazilian literature; and one that may stimulate Brazilian students of English to read or reread these Brazilian classics.

Even readers with little or no knowledge of Portuguese – many of whom, however, speak Spanish, Italian or French – may enjoy exploring sections of the original texts in the way an opera-goer studies the librettos.

As the eyes of a globalised world are focused on Brazil, and in particularly on Rio de Janeiro, due to the major sporting events that the city is to host in the coming years, it seems an opportune time to present this series that provides international readers with an overview of the city’s illustrious past and the greatness of its literature.