Fourteen Brazilian Women in a Book

Fourteen Brazilian Women in a Book

    I asked Prof. Szoka about the various typos throughout the book.
    She said that yes, there were
    typos, and they had been caused
    by the strict deadline that the proofreaders had to face. I also
    about the erroneous translations, something that
    clearly annoyed the professor. She seemed puzzled.



    It was a dreary, rainy night in Manhattan when I went to Americas Center on Park Avenue to attend a panel on
    women writers from Brazil, an event connected to the release of
    Fourteen Female Voices from Brazil (Host Publications), an
    anthology edited by Columbia professor Elzbieta Szoka.

    I will not elaborate much on the book itself, for there is an upcoming review I wrote, which includes a brief
    interview with Professor Szoka, that will soon appear on
    The New York Press.

    In the small, packed room the public was varied: some were Brazilian immigrants, intellectuals, others were
    American scholars, while many were fans of literature or journalists from Latin publications.

    The first one up was Professor Szoka, who explained how she traveled to Brazil and contacted several female
    writers of various backgrounds and interviewed them about their literary history. The interviews appear alongside the short
    stories, poems and plays that are included in the anthology.

    Next was Helena Parente Cunha, who read (in Portuguese) from her short story "Single
    Mother," a touching narrative from a woman who became an unwed mother in the 70s and was kicked out of her house. Through her struggles, she
    studied and became a renowned architect, and despite all the hardships, she is proud that her own daughter chose to become a
    single mom as well. She was followed by Professor Szoka, who read from the translation.

    The red flags quickly went up as I followed the English version and noticed some flaws in the translation, which
    seemed a bit sanitized in my point of view. For instance, as the woman recounts her arrest, she remembers that she states to the prosecutor:

    "Meu baseado é limpo, eu nunca vendi pó"

    In the translation by K. David and Elizabeth A. Jackson, the passage reads "I have a clean background , there must
    be a mistake, I never sold drugs", while a correct version would read
    "My marijuana is clean, I have never sold cocaine."

    Next up was Conceição Evaristo, who apologized for not being able to speak English and talked about the struggles
    of being a black female writer in Brazil. Later, Professor Szoka read from
    "Ana Davenga", a tragic story on a woman
    living in the crime-ridden shanty houses of Brazil. The reading was followed by a Q & A session.

    I tried to refrain from being the first one to ask, but after a long period of silence, I asked Prof. Szoka about the
    various typos throughout the book, and I inquired if a second edition would have them ironed out. She said that yes, there were
    typos, and they had been caused by the strict deadline that the proofreaders had to face.

    I also asked about the erroneous translations—something that clearly annoyed the professor, who apparently had not
    been asked about that. She seemed puzzled, and then I pointed out the point described above and the incorrect translation of
    "lúdico" (ludicrous) as "constructive", in Marly de
    Oliveira’s "Smooth Panther" (Suave Pantera), something that a woman sitting
    next to me noticed during the reading.

    "I guess the translators took some poetic license", she replied, and then other questions were asked. Prof. Szoka
    refrained from doing any more translating, once commenting that maybe we wouldn’t trust her translation.

    Later in the session, I spoke up again and apologized for my hostility—and later, during the cocktail that followed,
    I personally spoke with Professors Szoka and Jackson, where I expressed my concerns in a more amiable way.

    I also met with the two authors, who were very receptive and kind as they signed my copy of


    Fourteen Female Voices from Brazil,
    Americas Center, Nov. 06, 2003, featuring Helena Parente Cunha,
    Conceição Evaristo, K. David Jackson (Yale) and Elzbieta Szoka (Columbia).


    Ernest Barteldes is an ESL and Portuguese
    teacher. In addition to that, he is a freelance writer who has regularly
    been contributing The Greenwich Village Gazette since September 1999.
    His work has also been published by Brazzil, The Staten Island
    Advance, The Staten Island Register, The SI Muse, The
    Villager, GLSSite and other publications. He lives in Staten
    Island, NY. He can be reached at

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