Shall we talk about books?

Shall we talk about books?
Shall we talk about books?

NoNo, I don’t want to talk about politics today. Nor the shame, the indignation, the ruptures and the threats that it has brought lately. I want to talk about something much more permanent than an imbroxable president. I want to talk about books, those old companions that, I’m told here, are going out of fashion. Now everyone just wants to watch a video on YouTube, dance on TikTok, give their opinion on Twitter or marathon series with dragons on some streaming. Well, for my part, I beg your pardon, it’s not like that. My favorite companions are still them, these obsolete paper objects, centuries-old technology upon which immortal histories have been recorded.

The other day, in a French class, I proposed a rather dry discussion. The oral test was about the language of Victor Hugo and Voltaire, but I managed to insert a chat about my favorite book, the one that has been with me for a few decades, fascinating me more and more with each reading. How is it possible to translate Grande Sertão: Veredas, by Guimarães Rosa, into French, I asked. Of course, I was taking the test, so I had to answer. There’s no way around it without recreating a little what Rosa described in Riobaldo’s wanderings through the Brazilian heart. Sertão, in French? paths? And the neologisms, and the archaic words recovered, and the erudite influences in the vocabulary, and the prosody of the people of the interior of Minas, Bahia, Goiás?

Rosa, supportive and multilingual that he was (the man spoke almost a dozen languages), he gave the German translator a helping hand, throbbed here and there in other translations around the world, but when he died, he left more than a set of unparalleled works, but also serious problems for editors in languages ​​much further away from Portuguese than French.

I tell this because the reels and feeds of life are no match for the depth and wisdom of a Grande Sertão: Veredas, a Vidas Secas, an A Hora da Estrela, a Dom Casmurro, a Romanceiro da Inconfidência. All of them books, a product that has been digitized and whose houses that sold them seem to be extinct. The writer Mario Vargas Llosa, author of works such as The War at the End of the World and Confessions of the Bad Girl, has a pessimistic view of the future of the product that made him famous. For him, with books, culture as we conceive it also dies.

But I have a certain resistance to admit such a tragic fate. I prefer to think of tragedies only within themselves, of Shakespeare’s plays, of Nelson Rodrigues’ urban chronicles, of Rubem Fonseca’s crimes or of Gabriel García Márquez’s foretold deaths. Books contain all these follies, but also hopes. They have Mário Quintana’s tender beauty and Raduan Nassar’s cup of anger; there are the tenements of Aluísio de Azevedo and the migrants of Rachel de Queiroz; they have William Faulkner’s hate lynchings and Marguerite Yourcenar’s fictional memoirs; there are the dead who speak of Juan Rulfo and the crimes and punishments of Dostoevsky.

Books have life and the world, even if they are representations, imagination, creations that can fight, like Tolstoy’s, or they can have a naive vision of things, like Lima Barreto’s Policarpos Quaresmas. In the waste rooms of Carolina Maria de Jesus or in the palaces of Alexandre Dumas, in the windmills of Cervantes or in the filthy markets of Zola, whether or not we are expecting Godot, they keep us company. At least for me, I don’t know how to do TikTok dance and I don’t have a vocation for Youtuber. Am I too endangered? Well, if it is, let me disappear in good company, at least.


The article is in Portuguese

Tags: talk books

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