Two Plus Two: Four

By FERREIRA GULLAR 
Translated by ILAN STAVANS and TAL GOLDFAJN 


Just as two and two are four

I know life is worth the pain
Though the bread is precious
And the freedom, rare 

Just as your eyes are clear
And your skin, dark 

Just as the ocean is blue
And the lake, serene 

Just as a time of joy 
Beckons me behind the terror 

And the night carries the day
In its lap of lily 

 —I know that two and two are four
I know that life is worth the pain 

Even though the bread is precious
And the freedom, rare 

 

[Purchase Issue 17 here.]

Ferreira Gullar (born 1930is the pen name of José Ribamar Ferreira, a poet, playwright, essayist, artist, and central figure of the Brazilian poetry movement the Neo-Concretes. Exiled by the Brazilian government from 1964 to 1985, Gullar worried that he’d meet the gruesome fate of so many other exiled writers, and this fear inspired his best-known work, Poema Sujo, or Dirty PoemGullar is considered one of the most influential Brazilian and Latin American writers of the twentieth century. He was awarded the Jabuti prize in 2007 and was elected as a member of the Brazilian Academy of Letters in October 2014. He died in 2016. 

Ilan Stavans is the Lewis-Sebring Professor of Humanities and Latin American and Latino Culture at Amherst College, publisher of Restless Books, and host of NEPRpodcast In Contrast

Tal Goldfajn is an assistant professor of Hispanic linguistics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She previously taught at Tel Aviv University, Israel and the University of São Paulo, Brazil. She is currently a practicing translator and a faculty fellow in the Kahn Institute at Smith College. She is the author of, among others, Word Order and Time in Biblical Hebrew Narrative, and co-editor of a special issue on translation and history in Latin America published by the Estudios Interdisciplinarios de América Latina y el Caribe. She was managing editor of the Mediterranean Historical Review from 2007 to 2018. Recently her Hebrew translations of the plays The Asphalt Kiss by Nelson Rodrigues and Caricias by Sergi Belbel were staged in Tel Aviv.

Isabel MeyersTwo Plus Two: Four

Related Posts

Campus Aerial

Honoring Amherst Writers

For Amherst College's fourth annual LitFest, The Common put together a Literary Landmarks tour of Amherst College, highlighting locations on campus with special connections to literary figures affiliated with the college, from Robert Frost to Lauren Groff. Building on that effort, we've compiled a list of pieces published in The Common that were written either by or about Amherst professors, alums, and even current students.

bed

A Lifetime

Lara Moreno
My state of mind was evident: memories, excitement, imagination. He wasn’t an open wound, not even a faded scar. But he was something so absolutely familiar and so disproportionately removed from my life that I was starting to crave the perfect addition to top off my trip.

We Shall Be a Country with No History

AATISH TASEER
It was black American writing, and the black American experience more generally, that first alerted me to the presence of history in America. It made the TV-prepared reality I inhabited less flat; it was my first intimation of something tragic and complex...