Writer and translator Padma Viswanathan discusse her translation from the Portuguese of Graciliano Ramos’s São Bernardo, with literary critic Miguel Conde. Presented in collaboration with New York Review Books and Words Without Borders.
Paulo Honório, the protagonist of São Bernardo, is a ruthless and demanding owner of a large estate—where as a young man he worked as a field hand—in the backlands of Brazil. After returning the farm to prosperity, and marrying a beautiful and educated wife, Honório decides to write his memoirs, but what comes out is far from what he anticipated.
Graciliano Ramos is one of Brazil’s greatest writers. Rural life—its language and rhythms, its isolation and society—is at the heart of his work, expertly and inventively brought into English by Padma Viswanathan’s translation of one of his most cherished novels.
By Graciliano Ramos
Published by New York Review Books
Translated by Padma Viswanathan
A masterwork about backcountry life by one of Brazil’s most celebrated novelists.
Paulo Honório is a sometime field hand who has kicked and clawed and schemed his way to prosperity, becoming master of the decrepit estate São Bernardo, where once upon a time he toiled. He is ruthless in his exploitation of his fellow man, but when he makes a match with a fine young woman, he is surprised to discover that this latest acquisition, as he sees it, may be somewhat harder to handle. It is in Paulo Honório’s own rough-hewn voice that the great Brazilian writer Graciliano Ramos, often compared to William Faulkner, tells this gritty and dryly funny story of triumph and comeuppance, a tour de force of the writer’s art that is beautifully captured in Padma Viswanathan’s new translation.