15 March 2013

Group read: Grande Sertão: Veredas

Coming in May is a group reading of a Latin American masterpiece from Brazil: Grande Sertao: Veredas by João Guimarães Rosa (translated into English as The Devil to Pay in the Backlands). We invite readers to join us in reading this novel, in any language, and posting on and discussing it on the last week of May.

The event is hosted by Richard of Caravana de recuerdos, Scott of seraillon, Miguel of St. Orberose, and me. Miguel will read the original Portuguese, Richard the Spanish translation, Scott the French translation, and I the English translation.

Grande Sertao: Veredas (1956) is a notoriously difficult novel, employing puns, word inventions and archaic words from the Portuguese. The writer João Guimarães Rosa (1908-1967) was a diplomat, fluent in many languages, and had a wide experience as a doctor in the countryside of Brazil. The novel is about bandit wars in Brazil, about making a pact with the devil, about leadership politics, about the celebration of the flora and fauna of the land, about things not seeming what they are.

The Devil to Pay in the Backlands (1963), as translated by James L. Taylor and Harriet de Onís, is generally regarded as a flawed translation. However, this translation is important for giving us the scope of the writer's importance. Unfortunately, this translation is long out of print. A used copy in the Amazon (the bookseller jungle) costs 300 bucks. Only libraries may be the reliable source of a copy.

Here's a rare interview with the Brazilian writer from the Guimarães Rosa specialist blog A Missing Book (On the Devil to Pay in the Backlands).