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"A Lost Lady" Published in Brazil in Portuguese

"A Lost Lady" Published in Brazil in Portuguese

Monday, July 1, 2019

Mauricio Tamboni, 34, and his partner, Luís Fernando Protásio, are the energetic forces behind a new independent publisher, Ponto Edita, in São Paulo, Brazil. Tamboni studied translation and interpreting, a branch of linguistics, at Unibero. Protásio, editor of Uma mulher perdida, has a PhD degree in Translation/Linguistics from Unicamp (State University of Campinas). Tamboni worked as a translator in the Brazilian publishing market for ten years before Ponto Edita, and has taught translation courses.

Their inaugural June 2019 publication of A Lost Lady in Brazilian Portuguese, Uma mulher perdida, has subtle differences from the original language. Tamboni says they do not plan to distribute in Portugal where they have their own edition of the novel.

We recently interviewed Tamboni on his interest in Willa Cather’s writing, his choice of A Lost Lady for their first publication, and Cather's attention to certain social themes and their persistent relevancy today.

Tell us about your publishing company —

Ponto Edita is a new, small and independent publishing house in the state of São Paulo, Brazil. We started in December 2018 with the idea of publishing great authors that are either not very famous or not very often read in Brazil, both public domain and new talents. My business partner Luís and I are both translators, so bringing foreign literature into Brazilian Portuguese is our focus for now, but at the same time we work with local artists to give these books something fresh and unique. The independent publishing scene in Brazil is strong, but Ponto Edita draws inspiration mostly from the foreign markets. If we consider the British independent scene, we are inspired by houses like Charco Press, Dostoyevsky Wannabe and Persephone Books. From the North American scene, we always keep an eye on New Directions Publishing, which, by the way, publishes Brazilian author Clarice Lispector in English.

How were you introduced to Willa Cather and why are you interested in reissuing A Lost Lady? (Uma Mulher Perdida) Or, rather, what drew you to this novel (and to Cather)?

I had heard of Cather a few years ago, during a Literature course in college, but here she’s one of those authors that maybe some people have heard about, but definitely not a lot of folks have read. When I began to really consider the idea of Ponto Edita, we started hunting for authors, and for whatever reason her name popped up. And don’t even ask me why we started with A Lost Lady as it’s not even her most well-known piece! But it was a happy coincidence because I found there are a lot of allegories that could be read as strong political warnings precisely when the political climate in my country was going down the drain. It’s also a book that has never been translated into Brazilian Portuguese — actually, very few books by Cather have, and at this point, except for our edition of A Lost Lady, all of them are out of print.

Is there a fan base of interest or existing market of readers of Willa Cather in Brazil which fueled this publication? If so, can you tell me more about that?

There are some scholars in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro studying her works, but I don’t think there is what could be considered a “Cather fan base” here yet. We are working to create one. And that’s part of what moves us. I know of great publishing houses out there who will only publish very well-known authors, and they are great at what they do. But here at Ponto Edita, we have written on our wall, literally written on the wall, that we want to edit new narratives and shake the comfort zone, so that’s what we do. We like the challenge and I know there are people out there who will support us. We’ve been talking and spreading the word to groups like #ReadWomen, which in Brazil are city-based and very open to accept authors who are not extremely popular yet, and that’s interesting because Cather was a very avant-garde woman, and it’s good to reaffirm that and take her to this kind of people, who are open to her literature.

When do you expect the book to be ready for sale and how can people buy it outside of Brazil?

It was released on June 17th, so it’s already out, actually. As for those who are out of Brazil, I think the easiest way would be to contact us through e-mail (contato@pontoedita.com) or social media (@pontoedita).

Who translated the work and what difficulties or pleasures did they find in doing so? Was Cather’s language and descriptive text difficult to translate into Brazilian Portuguese?

I translated it myself, and it was edited by Luís Fernando Protásio. There were quite a few difficulties when it came to descriptions, mainly around the flora, names of plants, because Nebraska is so represented in Cather’s work and, well, different places and climates will have different plants. So, some of the, say, flowers you have in Nebraska, we don’t have them here, or sometimes I would only find the scientific name, and using it in literature doesn’t make sense most of the time. So, yeah, there was that. And also some of the terminology related to winter. I remember this one word, “muff.” I mean, we barely have snow in this country, so it’s not like we have a muff in our closets. And because languages tend to be economical, when you don’t have muffs, you don’t see a word for muffs very often. Specifically for the word “muff” I did a lot of research and found nothing, but thank goodness one of the very competent proofreaders knew that a muff in Portuguese is called “regalo.” It was also interesting to re-create Cather’s economical style – this characteristic of having information present on the page but also leaving room for much to be imagined. It was definitely an experience!

As a Brazilian publisher, what do you find of interest or relatable in Cather’s works?

It’s curious that I had A Lost Lady in hand last year, when the political climate in Brazil started to become really strange. And with this book, I find that there are many layers to be read. You can read it as just a good novel, and that’s fine. But then, as one of our collaborators said, you can also read it focusing on the passage of time and how it changes relations. But to me, because I had it in my hands at that precise moment, I really read it as a set of allegories that can work as important warnings about what’s going on in the world right now. There’s an ecological warning, as Professor Robison points out, while we are living in times of climate change denials; there’s a warning of greedy financial capitalists, and today so many people are losing their rights and living in poor conditions – you know, we can find it there, and Cather wrote it almost a century ago. And in her works she seemed very concerned with the conditions of immigrants, which is so relevant these days. 

And while topics like these should concern every citizen, what I expect with this book is that it touches the minds and the hearts of Brazilians and brings some of those so-needed reflections. And it seems to be happening because a few days after we sent the first copies out, we got some very impressive feedback from some people. One woman sent a message saying she read the book in two days, but she was refusing to read the “Afterword” because she didn’t want to let it go, and that all the while she was in tears because she saw so much of herself in Marian Forrester. That makes us feel like all the work was worth it, really, and surely shows how relevant and contemporary Cather’s writings are, how she touches people.

What other works are in your catalogue (or the genre) and are you interested in translating and publishing more works by Willa Cather?

We are not focused on any specific genres, we just believe that good literature should be able to reach people, regardless of labels, and we try to be a tool to make this happen. A Lost Lady is our first book out, but we are currently working on books by Gertrude Stein and contemporary authors Kate Armstrong, from England, and Juan Francisco Moretti, from Argentina. We would love to publish the whole “Prairie Trilogy” at some point in the future — it would be great to do that!

How did you connect with Mark Robison for your preface?

My editor sent me Professor Robison’s text while we were working on the edition and when I had already finished the translation. As I said earlier, throughout the translation process I had this intense feeling of discomfort with all those political warnings I was finding in the narrative and what was happening in Brazil. And when I read his text, in October, right on election day here, I thought “I need this text to be in the book!” And to me, Professor Mark was so great at putting that feeling into words – so much better than I ever would be, really. So I found his e-mail address, sent him a message and he was so kind to let us translate it and share some of his knowledge with Brazilian readers.

Is there anything else you’d like to add? Do you have any plans to come to the United States (or “Cather Country” here in Red Cloud?) any time soon?

I’d love to visit Cather Country, and I hope it doesn’t take too long to happen! I’d like to invite everyone in the United States and everyone who is reached by this interview to follow our work. They can visit us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or our webpage at pontoedita.com, and maybe drop us a line if they’d like. We answer everyone, message by message.