Internationally Acclaimed Translator Richard Zenith Speaks at UMass Boston

(Contributed by Valéria M. Souza)
ZenithOn Wednesday evening, November 17, 2010, more than 40 guests, including faculty, staff, and students from the University of Massachusetts Boston as well as several neighboring institutions, gathered in Healey Library to attend a talk by internationally acclaimed translator Richard Zenith, entitled “Translating Fernando Pessoa and His Personas.” The lecture, collaboratively organized by Professors Diego Mansilla (Translation) and Valéria M. Souza (Portuguese), was sponsored by the Department of Hispanic Studies Translation Program.

Richard Zenith, who translated numerous texts by Lusophone poets and authors including Fernando Pessoa, João Cabral de Melo, José Luís Peixoto, and António Lobo Antunes, is also the author of short stories and poetry in Portuguese. He recently published a photo biography on Pessoa (Temas & Debates, 2010) and is currently working on a biography of the poet. Mr. Zenith’s book Fernando Pessoa & Co: Selected Company (Grove Press) won the 1999 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation, and his new version of Pessoa’s Book of Disquiet (Penguin) was awarded the 2002 Gulbenkian Prize for Portuguese Translation. Mr. Zenith visited the University of Massachusetts Boston this month as part of an international speaking tour.

During last week’s talk, attendees first had the opportunity to gain relevant background information about Fernando Pessoa and his heteronyms, presented by the translator in a lively and engaging format, before participating in a workshop-style question and answer session, in which Mr. Zenith responded to translation students’ many enthusiastic inquiries regarding the challenges involved in working with some specific poems, namely Pessoa’s famous “Autopsychography” and “Tobacco Shop.”

Because the talk drew a substantial audience comprised of individuals with a diverse array of interests—ranging from Portuguese and Spanish language students, professional translators, and translation students to scholars and students of literature—it not only stimulated thought-provoking discussion, but also served as a valuable means of strengthening interdisciplinary and interdepartmental connections among different programs in the humanities at UMass Boston.

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