David Raimon, host of the literary radio show Between The Covers, talks to Ways to Disappear’s author Idra Novey, a writer, poet and translator of Spanish and Portuguese literature. From Brazil, she has translated Manoel de Barros, Paulo Henriques Britto and Clarice Lispector (novel The Passion According to G.H). The last two authors are mentioned by Idra, whose motivation to learn Portuguese was reading Clarice’s original writings. They talk about translation (localisation, foreignisation, domestication), the role of women in translation and literature, Latin American authors, political disappearances, her life in Brazil and, of course, visibility, invisibility and ways to disappear.
A piece of language curiosity: they talk about the difficulties in conveying the meaning of the Portuguese world “embora” into English. Idra says “the book initially began with my fascination as a translator with the Portuguese phrase “vou embora.” It basically means “I’m out of here” and you can say it without adding any information about where you’re going or when you’ll be back. We don’t have a daily phrase in English that’s as vague and accepted as going “embora” in Brazil. Beatriz, the writer who disappears into a tree in the novel goes completely, arboreally “embora.”
On its own, “embora” can be a conjunction (translated as “although”, “while”, “though”, “however”, “albeit”, “yet”, “nevertheless”), an adverb (“even though”, “away”), and it can also means “congratulations”, as a contraction of “em boa hora” (a very old fashionable usage though). In the context of their talk, it needs the verb “ir”, which means “to go”, so we have “ir embora” which can be conveyed as “go away”, “walk away”, “break up”. Here in UK, I think people say “I’m off”. Yep, none of them quite as vague, complete and emotional as it sounds in Portuguese.
Listening time: 50 minutes.
Ways to Disappear is a novel about the disappearance of Beatriz Pagoda, a famous Brazilian novelist and cult-classic Brazilian writer (inspired on Clarice Lispector!) who was last seen climbing into an almond tree, puffing on a cigar and holding a suitcase, and her American translator Emma, who flies immediately to Brazil to join Beatriz’s two grown children in solving the mystery of the author’s disappearance. The novel is set in Rio de Janeiro.