After 52 hours translating a total of 36,558 words, plus another 20 hours reviewing it, Carmem Dametto's "Filicide ― Notes on Narcissism" is now available in English. Working on this non-fiction book was a very enjoyable experience and I can definitely say that I've learned a lot about psychology and, more specifically, about the different levels of this condition, which consists of the desire of killing one's own children, especially as a result of narcissism.
Despite the fact that the book is geared towards psychologists and psychotherapists, laypeople will be able to read and reflect on their own behavior with their children, as well as that of their parents and of everybody around them.
Carmem goes through her experience diagnosing and treating victims of filicide and narcissism in different settings, from in-patient institutions to her own private office. And she does so in such an accessible way, telling anecdotes and bringing examples to the real world without resorting only to the theoretical side of it. Here's a little bit of the author's note:
Filicide, whether it is pathological or not, is an inherent feeling to human nature. When I deal with the subject, it is not my intention to denounce or criticize the parents and children of patients or regular people; I do so to understand a universal phenomenon from which many run away upon considering it something “wrong.” Actually, it is not something wrong. [...] It happens unconsciously, whether we are the victims or perpetrators. However, it bears repeating: It is something as physiological as peeing. And, as such, it must be talked about and treated the same way.
From the very beginning of this project, even before I hit Chapter One, I was inundated by so many cultural references that it truly made it for a very pleasant experience. Carmem quotes an amazingly powerful poem called Cântico negro, which was written by José Régio with the collaboration of some of the most interesting minds in twentieth-century Brazil. The specific interpretation transcribed in the book was that of singer Maria Bethânia, even though an equally effective and more literal version of it was also made popular by actor Paulo Gracindo.
Bethânia (above) and Gracindo (right) in their renditions of Cântico negro
As a complement to the study of filicide and narcissism, Carmem quotes and explains two mythological allegories we all know so well: Narcissus and Oedipus. Analyzing these two myths from a psychological perspective adds so much to the stories that readers will look at similar tales with new-found interpretation abilities. One of them was Hamlet; the other one was the Binding of Isaac by his father Abraham, whose iconic painting by Caravaggio was selected as the cover image for the book.
All in all, translating this book was one of those dreams-come-true for a literary translator like me; the type of book that you can't quite let go and have the urge to read and reread it again and again, because at every turn you find something new and you can't help but associate explanations and examples to facts of life and things you see on the news. And, every time you find a book that explores a serious subject in such an accessible way, readers receive a true gift.
Finally, I'll leave you to the official synopsis, which speaks for itself regarding the subject and the author's non-fictional storytelling style:
This is an important book on filicide. As a mental phenomenon present in the deepest unconscious mind of human beings, filicide behavior must obviously be detected before its destructive potential can ever be fulfilled—not to mention the psychotic condition in which this phenomenon appears more evidently. Those who wish to include family members in their professional scope must be familiar with it and understand it well, resorting to truly therapeutic intentions before they can ever be considered competent enough to address such a complicated human ensemble formed by parents and children acting affectionately towards one another.
I hope you get a chance to it check out and learn about such a heavy topic explained by an expert who makes it easier to tread the subject lightly.
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).