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Ana Maria Machado and Lucas Verzola

Bianca Cosa and Barbara Ehler translate their short stories

Our third and fourth editions happened in April and May and we discussed some of the works by Ana Maria Machado and Lucas Verzola through two of their short stories "Tratantes" "Fôlego"

As usual, a challenging and fascinating debate on literary translation, interpretation, narrative, technique and style.

Our guest translators were Bianca Costa and Barbara Ehler.

Below, some extracts of their version in English.


TRATANTES by Ana Maria Machado.

translated by Bianca Costa


She had not slept well. Woke up quite early, sweaty all over. The air-conditioner was not working. It made a loud noise and did not refresh the air at all. The technician had promised to come twice and never showed up. Just like the handyman, who assured her he would come soon to look at the cabinet door and put an end to that unpleasant squeaking every time it opened. Had what’s-his-face come? Not even him. We trust, wait, time goes by, nobody shows. They are all mistreaters, the lot of them. Incapable of showing up for an appointment. [...] “I’ll go get the treatment!” the girl announced. In a moment she was back, a bottle of moisturiser in hand. Lydia lied down in the hammock, stretched her legs, they sat by each of her sides, each took one of her feet in their hands. She closed her eyes and felt the children’s tiny hands spreading the lotion. The faintest lavender aroma. An even lighter touch, of young souls and fingers. Soft, yet capable of transporting her with deep pleasure, with delicious caressing, simultaneously warm and fresh. Life felt in their fingertips . Willing it to never end. [...] And so she kept linking the words together, while the afternoon slipped away and night approached, in a story that would last longer than herself, and someday, who knows?, it might get told, in a farewell manner, to a little girl by an older woman who would remember that most fulfilling day. While her memory lasted.


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FÔLEGO by Lucas Verzola

Translated by Barbara Ehler

Gulp


Whenever the door opened and the light beam invaded the room, my body froze, my hair bristled, my heart raced, my eyes opened wide then closed tight, as if to reinforce how much I squeezed my crossed fingers on each hand, hoping that I wouldn’t be the one chosen for the night, neither any of my closest friends –– though in some nights I not only hoped that we wouldn’t be chosen but also wished someone to be taken, usually a looney who kept shouting to high heaven, or a brutal inmate who would threaten us, since our group, though having a high turnover, would normally shelter the calmest mad ones of the place –– which was a real advantage because it made us go unnoticed by the nurses (or watchdogs, as we called them), who were always looking for cases they considered extreme to be taken to the first floor, where the ties were tighter, the sedatives stronger, the electric shocks more powerful, and from where, the dogs said, the boys would leave straight to their parents’ house –– which would bewilder us, and so much so that Seventeen (we had numbers, not names) forced himself into a heavy fit so as to be taken there and, who knows, go back home, something which we never found out if actually happened because we never saw the lad again, but if I were to bet I’d say this whole business about going to your parents’ house was nothing but a cock-and-bull story –– not only because I had learned to consider every good thing they said as a lie, but because Thirty Six and Fourteen didn’t even have families and they simply vanished after they were taken to the first floor by a nurse called Afranio, a repulsive guy with a ginger moustache who looked like Yosemite Sam and smelled of formaldehyde and had his white coat dirty with something I knew was blood –– and it must have been, since open wounds were extremely common there, and it was even more common for them to become infected and spread to large areas and release pus and other fluids which would leave the place stinking even more, fit to breed maggots, and which would almost always result in serious problems such as scars on the skin, deformity or the amputation of limbs, or even in the death of some of the boys –– something which, for better or for worse, we ended up getting used to the longer we stayed there, even though we never really knew for how long exactly we had been inmates, as there was no official recording, and our attempt to track the days with scribbles on the walls (four vertical lines and a horizontal one every five days) was ruined when they took two of us to the first floor because of that –– something which astonished everyone, as it was hard as heck to believe that a mere attempt to measure time would lead to such drastic consequences, which were in fact becoming each day more normal, so that a simple light beam shining through the door would produce fear, even though such fear never really became an actual danger for me, who survived, while those around me perished –– perhaps because their fingers weren’t as tightly crossed or, maybe, because they resigned interiorly, which is something I never allowed myself to do, even with the pain of a hundred volts caused by two electrodes attached to my head or by the precise blows given by the watchdogs on the most fragile parts of the poor children or by the harsh words telling me that I was crazy because of my slut momma who wouldn’t have caught syphilis if she had been a good girl or by seeing my friends being taken and never coming back, to be forgotten, to dis-exist, as it could have happened to me even though I resisted, and fought, and crossed my fingers the tightest I could –– and this is why I write: as a way of keeping to resist and to exist, even though from so far away from that place –– so that they will never forget.


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Our fifth edition will be on the 25th June at UCL and you can register for free on Eventbrite.


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