Gringa Reads

What I did on my summer vacation

Events, NewsZoe Perry1 Comment
I spent most of July and part of August in Brazil. The first two weeks of my trip were spent in São Paulo, where I caught the tail end of the World Cup (let's not talk about it) and ate at overpriced restaurants and sat in horrible traffic visited friends and family. Then I traveled up the coast to the impossibly quaint, waterfront colonial town of Paraty, which lies just beyond the Rio de Janeiro/São Paulo state line.

I was delighted to have been chosen as one of six early to mid-career Portuguese to English translators selected to take part in the Paraty Literary Translation Winter School, co-sponsored by the BCLT, British Council, Brazilian National Library Foundation and the Universidade Federal Fluminense. The course took place the week before Paraty's most famous event, FLIP (Paraty International Literary Festival). Six literary translators from the UK joined six of our Brazilian counterparts for a full week of literary translation.

Mornings were spent apart, following a format similar to the BCLT summer school translation workshops. The into-English group worked with translator and BCLT program manager, Daniel Hahn, on an unpublished text by José Luiz Passos, winner of the 2013 Portugal Telecom Prize. The into-Portuguese group worked with Paulo Henriques Britto and Sam Byers, author of Idiopathy, which was selected as one of Waterstones' eleven best of the year. Our group was also joined by translator Alison Entrekin and And Other Stories' editor-at-large, Sophie Lewis. Afternoons (and evenings – these were long days) were spent workshopping samples of our own translations.

José Luiz (or Zé, or 'Joe Steps'), in addition to being a brilliant author, was an all-around nice guy and a joy to work with. His writing choices are very deliberate and it was wonderful to hear him speak about his process – he had an answer to all our questions. You can read an interview with Zé here and read the fruits of our labor here.

Everyone described the experience as like a dream. Internet connections were spotty and unstable, and after a couple of days cut-off from the outside, staying in the same pousada, eating all our meals together, working and translating up to 11 hours a day, it felt like we were in our own little world.

I won't give a lengthy recap of Flip, as many others will have done a perfectly good job of that, including this dispatch on Words Without Borders. But I will say it was delightful way to round out the Paraty experience. Set to Paraty's colorfully charming backdrop, I caught some great panels (I witnessed writers laugh, cry, beg for more and ask to leave), wined and dined with old and new friends, spotted lots of literary celebrities, amassed a new personal library, saw Gal Costa belt it out on stage, and boogied down at the Companhia das Letras party. So much mental energy was spent on the week preceding it, though, that by the time I hit the second night of Flip on Thursday, it felt very much like the final night, and my enthusiasm for facing the crowds waned considerably by the weekend. It felt like Carnaval, but better. It was my first Flip, and definitely won't be my last.