- Here on Douradores Street: Essays on Fernando Pessoa by Eduardo Lourenço
Eduardo Lourenço's contribution to Pessoa scholarship has had such a profound impact on the field that a collection of his essays in English translation is certainly to be welcomed, particularly as Pessoa and his heteronyms garner [End Page 267] ever-increasing attention from critics outside the field of Lusophone Studies. Sousa's selection includes key texts such as "Pessoa, or Reality as Fiction" ("Pessoa, ou a realidade como ficção"), "The Book of Disquietude, Suicidal Text?" ("O Livro do Desassossego: texto suicida?"), and "Fernando, King of Our Bavaria" ("Fernando, rei da nossa Baviera"). The majority of the texts included in this collection date from the 1970s and 1980s, with just the last article, "Time and Melancholy in Fernando Pessoa" ("Tempo e melancolia em Fernando Pessoa"), being more recent (1999). Of course, Lourenço's criticism of Pessoa's work is extensive, and the task of selecting texts that might be considered representative would not be easy; it is a pity, nevertheless, that the translator of this collection was not able to include some of Lourenço's more recent academic work - including conference papers -, which has been informed by, and reflects upon, the trajectory of Pessoa scholarship (including his own earlier work). This is of particular importance given the shifts that have taken place in Pessoa studies as we discover more about the heteronymic poet's work, and also since several of the articles included here have already appeared elsewhere in English translation (see, for example, Eduardo Lourenço, Chaos and Splendor & Other Essays, ed. Carlos Veloso (Dartmouth: University of Massachussetts Adamastor Book Series, 1, 2002). The articles selected by Sousa are all well known and widely read in Portuguese; as such they need no introduction in terms of their content. In light of this, I shall focus my attention on Sousa's Introduction to the volume ("Here on Douradores Street," pp. 11-38), and his approach to translating Lourenço's eloquent prose.
The Introduction is clearly aimed at readers with little or no prior knowledge of Portuguese literature, Pessoa or Lourenço. In a chatty and informal style, the author offers a brief chronology of Pessoa's life and a summary of Lourenço's career, before outlining some of the key critical perspectives on Pessoa. For Sousa, one of the most important contributions that Lourenço has made to Pessoa scholarship is his particular interpretation of the drama em gente. Certainly, Lourenço was one of the first critics to reject the Freudian understanding of Pessoa's work that was introduced by Gaspar Simões; yet it must also be recognised that both this and Lourenço's interpretations are only two amongst myriad possible ways of understanding Pessoa's complex games of self, and which are detailed in the vast criticism available on this author. Indeed, in his Introduction, Sousa does begin to outline his own reading of Pessoa and, in particular, Campos's poetic dialogue with Walt Whitman, and to define his objections to some specific points that Lourenço makes in the articles collected in this volume.
In terms of the translations themselves, one's attention is drawn by the translator to the liberties that he has taken with Lourenço's original Portuguese texts. Sousa has edited the texts, often reducing them in length and omitting sentences and, in parts, some substantial passages - particularly those sections that give greater detail about the specificities of the Portuguese literary, cultural and historical contexts. Sousa explains that he wishes to focus on Lourenço's analysis in his translations, yet I cannot help but think that if these texts are to [End Page 268] be useful to a reader who does not speak Portuguese, or who is not aware of the specific Portuguese context, but who has become aware of Pessoa as a Modernist writer and in the context of so-called World literatures, then these passages may be crucial to their understanding of...