Eric Becker: Before we get into more details about Brazilian literature itself—how is it you came to literary translation, and why Brazil?
AE: As is probably the case with most literary translators, I didn’t just wake up one morning and think “I want to be a literary translator.” Rather, it came to me slowly. I had originally studied Creative Writing at university in Australia, and wanted to be a writer. But fresh out of university, I married a Brazilian and moved to Brazil. I did what many foreigners do when they first arrive here: I taught English. But it wasn’t really what I wanted to be doing. I realized I had a flair for language and did a course in translation, with the sole intent of becoming a literary translator, even though I had read barely any Brazilian literature before that. I just had a hunch that the creative writing and translation skills could be a useful pairing.
EB: You’ve been translating now for about a decade and a half. What is it you’ve learned or what has changed in your practice during that time?
AE: Well, apart from settling into a way of working that works for me, I’ve developed countless theories about the differences between Portuguese and English, between Brazilian literature and English literatures. In fact, with every new book I translate, I either further one of my pet theories a little or more, or develop a completely new one.
For example, I am endlessly fascinated by how certain literary aesthetics can be received so differently from one culture to the next. The very grammar of the Portuguese language, and the culture in which it is embedded, have given rise to such different perceptions of what constitutes “good style.” Sentences that are witty in Portuguese can come across as pedantic or convoluted in English.