This week Andrei at The Untranslated posted the first installment of a really fascinating interview about Portuguese literature. The interviewee is Miguel, who keeps a literary blog called St. Orberose.
The interview is packed with information; most immediately I am excited about one of the books it mentions in particular, the Tragic History of the Sea (collected and edited in the 18th century by Bernardo Gomes de Brito, trans. Charles R. Boxer).
As Miguel describes it:
. . . a collection of 16th century reports of shipwrecks. Ships coming from India, dangerously overstuffed with spices, tended to shipwreck off the coast of Africa; the few survivors made it to land and then started long marches hoping to be saved by some Arab caravan that traded slaves with the Portuguese. These reports, written by survivors or dictated to scribes once they arrived in Lisbon, weren’t trying to be literary, aren’t jewels of language; they have the force of reportage and describe extraordinary things in simple prose; these survivors had to eat bugs, went mad, fought off Africans, were captured, eaten; some were sheltered by tribes, but not for free; the Africans were savvy enough to know Portuguese merchants passing by would ransom them back. People who read this amazing human document will acquire a totally different idea of European-African relationships than the traditional one about oppressors and oppressed (that didn’t become true until the 19th century, with colonialism).
I’m looking forward to part two of the interview, going up soon!