Introduction to Camoes: Made in Goa

The introduction to Camoes: Made in Goa, a brand-new publication by Landeg White from Under the Peepal Tree press.

Camões arrived in India in November 1553, disembarking in Goa after a voyage of seven months. He arrived not as a Viceroy or Governor or Admiral, not as an authority figure of any kind, but as a convict soldier, sentenced to military service after being convicted of brawling in Lisbon. At the Corpus Christi festival in 1550, he had wounded a court official with a sword thrust, his subsequent prison sentence being commuted to a fine of 4,000 reis and three years military service in India.

It is hard to over-emphasis the scale of this personal disaster. Camões was 28, possibly 29 years of age. He was born into the lower ranks of the nobility, and all his ambitions had been focused on the Portuguese court, where he hoped his skills as a poet would secure him an appointment – the sixteenth century equivalent of a government job. The poems he wrote in pursuit of this were accomplished but conventional, versions of Petrarch whose sonnets in vernacular Italian had swept Europe with their celebrations of unrequited love, and pastoral eclogues featuring shepherdesses who were thinly disguised portraits of ladies at the Portuguese court. Suddenly, that ambition was shattered.

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Book Launch in Lisbon 6/10/2017 – Ultimatum (a novel by Landeg White)

ultimatum-export

A book launch for Landeg’s new novel Ultimatum at Ler Devegar bookstore in Lisbon, Portugal on the 6th October 2017 at 18:30.

This is a free event at one of Lisbon’s finest bookstores with a presentation by Rui Zink.

January, 1890 — Britain threatens Portugal with an Ultimatum: Abandon south-east Africa or face a naval bombardment of Lisbon.

Three centuries earlier, the poet, Luís Vaz de Camões, described the region at issue —

Behold the lake which is the Nile’s source.
And the green Zambezi, too, begins its course.

Further upstream, the river becomes serpentine, twisting itself into a vast swamp, known to Europeans as Elephant Marsh, choked with papyrus, monstrous baobabs, and marabou storks like coffins. Every mud bank has a gang of crocodiles, the air thick with mosquitoes and the nearest horizon a tousled fringe of swamp palms …

Could the European Powers go to War over such a Wilderness?

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Paying ode to Goa’s first global poet: Luís de Camões

A link to a recent article in the Times of India newspaper about an upcoming book by Landeg White about Luís Vaz de Camões years in India – Camões: Made in India.

Later this year, a landmark new book will be released, one of the most important in the long history of India’s contact with Europe, and the crucible of globalization in the Portuguese state in Goa. Its author is the distinguished academic, scholar, poet and translator, Landeg White. The title says it all rather succinctly: Camoes – Made in Goa. The most acclaimed contemporary translator of the works of Portugal’s revered “national poet” makes a sensational case. As he outlined in a previous essay about Camoes in Goa, “it’s up to you whether or not you want to claim him, but if India can take on Kipling, at least selectively, then Camoes should pose no problem”

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Traveller’s Palm – Pruned and Re-invigorated

front_coverThis book carries an experiment with a particular kind of poetry to its limits and perhaps beyond. All my adult life – my life as a poet in Trinidad, Malawi, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Zambia, and now Portugal – I have been oppressed with a sense of rich experience, a wealth of poetic material, unused and unusable. For an audience in Britain, anticipating reports on “the other”, there was always so much to explain before the poem could begin. Yet for me, poetry began when I lost my sense of the exotic, when – as number 46 puts it, describing my family surrounded by Kalashnikovs – “at the time, this all seemed normal”. Added to this, dated as it may now appear, was a Puritan sense of a need to correct colonial misrepresentations by a scrupulous regard for the truth of what I lived and witnessed. No need for clever hyperbole, making the familiar seem strange, when the material itself was so strong. So, taking Luís de Camões – that most literal-minded of poets – as model, I have attempted what I called in The View from the Stockade “a poetry of fact”. The “pure”, the “plain”, the “limpid”, bordering the “prosaic”: it is the tightrope Wordsworth trod. At whatever different level, I am writing in an honourable tradition, driven by something both Camões and Wordsworth implicitly recognised, that there is no such person as “the other”.

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Poetry Library recording

A recording from The Poetry Library’s Special Edition series. Featuring Jack Mapanje and Landeg White in conversation, chaired by David Constantine. Recorded in The Poetry Library on Wednesday 4th May 2016.

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When Paul Celan met Heidegger

When Paul Celan met Heidegger
in that Black Forest hut

where the philosopher and nature met
in the manner of soiled centuries,

his question hung in the damp air:
what of Jews and the Gypsies?

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