Translating Camões


by Landeg White
Universidade Católica

In the comprehensive and authoritative Routledge Encyclopedia of Translation Studies, edited by Mona Baker, David Connolly, comments ‘translators … rarely keep notes about the process of translation or any record of the choices made in the process,’ adding ‘it is precisely insights into this process that are missing from most theoretical models.’

In 1997, Landeg White published his verse translation of Camões’s The Lusíads, and in 2012 followed it up with verse translations of Camões’s Collected Lyric Poems. This short book, a contribution to the CECC series on ‘Translating Europe through the ages’, is a personal record of that experience. It records, over some seven and a half years, the almost daily choices made in respect of poetic form (choice of line-length, stanza, type of rhyme), grammar (phrase and sentence structure, navigating the differences between Portuguese and English syntax), and vocabulary (the diction appropriate for Camões’s huge variety of styles).

The account makes few theoretical claims. But it reflects continually on the linguistic dimensions of the problems faced, in a manner that should engage theorists in the effort to bring together translation theory and translation practice. It records, too, what was in essence a labour of love. Connolly continues, ‘love for the poet’s work together with some degree of inspiration are important factors usually missing from models and theories of poetry translation’. They are found here in abundance.