Friday, 29 May 2020
A group of more than 40 Portuguese writers hit the headlines recently after volunteering to jointly author a story, taking turns to publish a new chapter daily, after being challenged by award-winning author Ana Margarida de Carvalho.
The group was joined first by over 40 visual artists, and then by 6 teams of over 40 translators, including Dr Mark Sabine, Associate Professor in Lusophone Studies in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Nottingham.
Dr Sabine translated the penultimate chapter of the series into English, which you can read here, and writes below about the experience of translating a chapter of a serial novel in lockdown.
The COVID-19 emergency has prompted countless novel strategies for using the creative arts to address the psychological impact of a global pandemic. Grayson Perry’s Art Club on Channel 4, for example, has united the general public, Turner Prize nominees and celebrities alike in using painting and sculpture to explore the weirdness and anxiety of lockdown, and to provide solace and solidarity to those in isolation.
A similar collaborative spirit has guided the first publication of a novel inspired by the virus crisis, coincidentally (or not) in the country that produced the stand-out ‘plague novel’ of recent times, José Saramago’s Blindness (1995). Bode Inspiratório (in English, Escape Goat) took shape when Portuguese writer Ana Margarida Carvalho convinced 45 fellow authors to each contribute a chapter, each penned within 24 hours of the preceding one, to a ‘serial’ novel published on-line at daily intervals. As the novel gathered readers and international interest, corresponding teams of 46 translators were recruited to produce versions in Spanish, French, Dutch, Italian, English, and, most recently, German. For me, as a scholar of Portuguese literature but only very ‘occasional’ translator, it’s been a privilege to collaborate with many of Portugal’s finest writers, and some of the world’s most acclaimed literary translators, notably the University of Nottingham’s Honorary Professor of Translation Studies, Margaret Jull Costa O.B.E.
In contrast to Saramago’s brutal and excremental dystopia (best known through its 2008 cinema adaptation by Fernando Meirelles), Escape Goat’s vision of a lethal pandemic is darkly comic, with screwball plot twists enabled by flights of sci-fi fancy and protagonised by megalomaniac professors and conscience-stricken cyborgs. Notwithstanding its comedy set-pieces, it frequently captures the suspicion, fear, and sundry privations – sensory, emotional and sexual – of life under siege from contagion, while skewering the zealotry of conspiracy theorists and the despotism and opportunism of cynical leaders outwitted by a virus. No-one in Escape Goat actually advocates injecting bleach, or torching telecoms masts, but the references to our recent experiences are clear. As treated by some of Portugal’s finest storytellers and their translators, they offer both piquant social commentary, and a reminder of the therapeutic power of imagination, as we all confront new threats, frustrations and challenges to everyday life.
Escape Goat can be read at https://escapegoat.world
Notes to editors:
About the University of Nottingham
Ranked 32 in Europe and 16th in the UK by the QS World University Rankings: Europe 2024, the University of Nottingham is a founding member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience, and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our students. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement.
Nottingham was crowned Sports University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024 – the third time it has been given the honour since 2018 – and by the Daily Mail University Guide 2024.
The university is among the best universities in the UK for the strength of our research, positioned seventh for research power in the UK according to REF 2021. The birthplace of discoveries such as MRI and ibuprofen, our innovations transform lives and tackle global problems such as sustainable food supplies, ending modern slavery, developing greener transport, and reducing reliance on fossil fuels.
The university is a major employer and industry partner - locally and globally - and our graduates are the second most targeted by the UK's top employers, according to The Graduate Market in 2022 report by High Fliers Research.
We lead the Universities for Nottingham initiative, in partnership with Nottingham Trent University, a pioneering collaboration between the city’s two world-class institutions to improve levels of prosperity, opportunity, sustainability, health and wellbeing for residents in the city and region we are proud to call home.