Translator Jethro Soutar speaks to managing editor Emily Everett about three pieces he translated from Portuguese for Issue 20 of The Common magazine. These pieces appear in a special portfolio of writing from and about the Lusosphere—Portugal’s colonial and linguistic diaspora around the globe. In this conversation, Soutar talks about the complexities of translating poetry and prose: capturing not just the meaning of a piece but the feeling and atmosphere of it, and the culture behind the scenes. He also explains a little of the colonial and racial history of Portugal, Cape Verde, and Mozambique, and how those events echo today through the literature and language of modern Lusophone countries.
And then, as is its wont, death comes knocking at the door. This time from two thousand miles away.
I try to get the image I have of him in my head to focus. The man who tried to be my father for over thirty years. Officially, not biologically, and not anymore. A death that will nevertheless force me home, back to Lisbon, just when I thought I’d found my place on this dry and sleepy island.
As part of this fall’s Lusosphere portfolio, The Common will publish accompanying work online. This month’s poetry feature highlights the work of three Lusa-American poets, tracing their roots back to the Azores and Cape Verde: Jennifer Jean, Nancy Vieira Couto, and Carolyn Silveira.
Joaquim Arena was born in Cape Verde in 1964 and emigrated with his family to Portugal aged 5. He went on to study law and work as a journalist and musician in Lisbon. He is currently the Culture and Communications Advisor to the President of Cape Verde. He has written two novels (The Truth About Chindo Luz and Where Turtles Fly), one novella (A Lighthouse in the Desert) and a hybrid work that mixes biography, fiction, travel writing and history: Debaixo da Nossa Pele – Uma.
Ask a Local with Joaquim Arena: Praia, Cape Verde Islands