Writer, translator D A Smith
from Houston, Texas, was in Goa
to host a lecture on the
Portuguese poetry of Goan poet
Laxmanrao Sardessai. Smith
holds BAs in Creative Writing
(Sam Houston State University)
and Chinese Studies (University
of Houston), and writer of the
novel 'Axis Mundi Sum', has
also recently translated
Orlando da Costa's novel
'O Signo da Ira' (The Sign of
Wrath). In conversation with NT
BUZZ Smith speaks about the
poetry of Laxmanrao Sardessai,
Orlando da Costa's contribution
in Goa's literature scenario
and the scope of Goan
literature in Portuguese


Q. Can you elaborate upon the topic of the talk, 'Avante,
Goeses, Avante!: The Portuguese Poetry of Laxmanrao
Sardessai', which you delivered at Xavier Centre for
Historical Research, Porvorim?

After a 30-plus year career of writing short stories in
Marathi, Laxmanrao Sardessai switched to writing poetry in
Portuguese for a period of about two years, between 1964 and
1966. These poems were published in the Portuguese language
newspapers like A Vida and O Heraldo. About half of his poems
dealt with political issues, such as merger with Maharashtra
and the state of affairs in Goa after 1961, while the rest of
his poems addressed a variety of themes, from growing old
(Sardessai turned 60 in 1964), to the life of a poet, to
appreciation of Goa's natural beauty.

Q. Laxmanrao Sardessai wrote this poem during the Opinion
Poll (1964) as he was against the merger of Goa with
Maharashtra. How would you look at this work? Is it only
about Opinion Poll or is it making a deeper comment about

You're right. The period in which Sardessai wrote poetry,
1964-1966, preceded the Opinion Poll, and he wrote a number
of poems in favour of remaining separate from Maharashtra. He
doesn't discuss the Opinion Poll specifically -- I imagine
there was no need, for his readers would’ve known exactly
what he was talking about in his poems.

Sardessai makes some comments about democracy that display
certain ambivalence, in the sense that post-1961 events left
him concerned about Goa;s future, though on the whole I'd say
he was certainly more fond of democracy than colonial rule.
After all, he'd been imprisoned twice by the Portuguese for
anti-colonial agitation.

Q. What inspired you to translate the works of Laxmanrao

          At first I read and translated a few of his poems
          purely for pleasure, but as I read more I realised
          that he'd published enough to constitute a real
          body of work. More importantly, Sardessai addressed
          a wide range of subjects beyond politics, and
          thereby gave us a good look at what the
          Portuguese-speaking literary scene in Goa was like
          after 1961, when the language was already waning.

What's more, the fact that Sardessai was a Hindu writing in
Portuguese, rather than a Catholic, was unusual. All of these
elements, taken together, brought me to the conclusion that
the entirety of Sardessai's poetic work was worthy of

Q. You have also recently translated works of Orlando da
Costa’s novel 'O Signo da Ira' ('The Sign of Wrath'). How was
this creative process? Also how would you look at his
contribution to Goa's literature?

Translating a novel was quite different from translating
poetry, and I intend to make additional revisions to 'O Signo
da Ira'/'The Sign of Wrath', so it’s really an ongoing
process. I found it deeply interesting and very rewarding to
read Orlando da Costa's book and render it into a story that
made sense in English and maintained not just the plot, but
the Portuguese and Konkani elements that give the book its
unique flavour. Regular consultation with Portuguese and
Konkani speakers, and those familiar with Goan history, was

          As for Orlando da Costa’s contributions to Goan
          literature, I think it’d be safe to say that 'O
          Signo da Ira' cements his place as one of Goa’s
          foremost novelists, even though he spent much of
          his life in Portugal. The wide array of critical
          responses to the book indicate that he really
          struck upon something essential to Goan life, and
          the continued interest in his work is evidence of
          its ability to speak to people more than fifty
          years after the publication of 'O Signo da Ira'.

Q. How do you look at the role of translators who in many
ways bring out the hidden literary gems to wider audience?

Translation is always going to be important if there's to be
any hope of sharing a culture’s literature with those who may
not speak its language. Sometimes it's easy to find the major
works of a language translated into other tongues, but in the
case of lesser-known works, or languages with smaller numbers
of speakers, the translator's work is all the more important.
Translation can save obscure works from extinction -- albeit
in a different form than the original -- and it can bring
attention to languages and works worthy of greater
consideration by a larger public.

In the case of Goan literature in Portuguese, there's a lot
of material out there waiting to be made accessible not only
to Goans, but Portuguese speakers around the world.
Translating it into English makes it easier for
non-Lusophones to not only enjoy Goan literature, but to
simply be made aware of its existence, which is the first and
biggest hurdle. To me, publicity of the original language,
and translation into English, is one of the best ways to
preserve literature and share it with as many people as

NOTE: DogEars Bookshop off Rua Abade Faria in Margao (SH1 Ground Floor,
Adolfo Mansion, Rua Bernardo da Costa) organises an evening of stories,
story-telling and translation on Saturday, February 18, 2017 at 5 pm with
Jayanti Naik (author), Augusto Pinto (translator) of The Salt of the Earth:
Stories from Rustic Goa, in conversation with Damodar Mauzo. The function
is open to the public. Details from or 9850 398530.

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