Two Books, One Subject

Last month I signed two contracts: One with a self-published author and the other with a publisher. Both are based in Brazil and needed a book translated from Portuguese into English. One is a novel; the other, a technical book about law and philosophy. However, they have a lot more in common than the same into-English translator: They both talk about Capitalism and Humanism.

This was purely coincidental and I only realized it after I started translating Caco Porto's As duas faces da abóbora. By that time, I was half-way through O capitalismo humanista, published by KBR and written by Ricardo Sayeg and Wagner Balera, two Professors of Law at the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo (PUC-SP). I love coincidences!

O capitalismo humanista has an academic tone and explores how capitalist societies could benefit from applying humanist teachings to the economic and legal order. Due to the formal writing style and the highly specialized terminology, my output is a lot lower and I spend more time researching. This is especially true due to the fact that I have to research a lot of quotes from philosophers and popes. I didn't translate most of these quotes from scratch, and was able to find them verbatim in English, either because they were originally written in the language or translated from Greek, Latin, Italian, French or German.

I don't have a strong background in legal and economic matters, so translating this book is definitely a challenge I'm enjoying to face, because I'm learning so much from everything I read about the subject. So far, what I've liked the most was translating the historical and philosophical background, that is, how capitalism has evolved in Brazil and worldwide. That made me realize that history is usually taught at school the worst possible way, based on memorizing dates, names, and events just to ace your tests. However, contextualization and visualization are such powerful aids to assure memory retention, that they should be applied at the academic environment a lot less sparingly. The brief history lesson I got from this book made me realize so much about the world today. Too bad you can't take History 101 with the mind of a 30-something-year-old...

Now, about Caco Porto's novel. My output is a lot higher―almost doubled―, even though I have only dedicated four hours to this long-term project scheduled to be completed by late 2013. The first chapter sets the tone to what comes next and, as the good screenwriter that he is, to our delight Caco gives us a movie-like opening. 

We're introduced to a wealthy elderly couple about to go on vacation. She is delighted with the idea, while he is worried about leaving the business in the hands of their son. Through their conversation, we are also introduced to their children, the aforementioned young businessman and his younger sister. The father regrets the fact that she is not business-driven like her brother (i.e. a ruthless capitalist that only thinks about the bottom line) because she decided to "waste her time" helping those in need in missions through Africa (i.e. a humanist who found happiness in helping others.)

Well, I'm looking forward to completing both books and having a renewed, balanced view on these two seemingly opposite, yet complementing subjects.


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RAFA LOMBARDINO is a translator and journalist from Brazil who lives in California. She has been working as a translator since 1997 and, in 2011, started to join forces with self-published authors to translate their work into Portuguese and English. In addition to acting as content curator at eWordNews, she also runs Word Awareness, a small network of professional translators, and coordinates two projects to promote Brazilian literature worldwide: Contemporary Brazilian Short Stories (CBSS) and Cuentos Brasileños de la Actualidad (CBA).