Translating Lima Barreto
Lima Barreto is by no means an easy writer for modern Brazilian readers, let alone for English-speaking ones. Certain passages, by contemporary standards, appear dispersive; and there are others where the ideas seem to lack precision or are left incomplete. There is also a certain lack of regard for maintaining the dramatic impetus; prolonged scenes with characters who are not central to the plot, such as the introduction of Felizardo’s wife and children in the penultimate chapter; three characters about whom we hear nothing more.
My overriding concern as translator has been to keep the readers with me, hoping that they will not get disheartened when the going is a little heavy, because when they reach the good bits, they are really good. This is, to my mind, a truly remarkable book.
A remarkable book, and one that presents remarkable difficulties to the translator. In many places it has been a great challenge to reshape the ideas and descriptive passages into a form that reads like authentic English while staying as close as possible to the meaning and character of the original text; a challenge which I hope has been worthwhile.