Haroldo de Campos: The Ethics and Poetics of Transcreation

Haroldo de Campos: The Ethics and Poetics of Transcreation
This paper discusses the Brazilian theory and practice of translation as transcreation, set in motion in the 1950s by the Neograndes group of concrete poets (namely the late Haroldo de Campos, his brother Augusto and Décio Pignateri), in light of two of the most challenging cultural approaches to translation in the late 1990s: Lawrence Venuti's alignment with an "ethics of difference" in translation (1997), and Henri Meschonnics's call for a "poetics of translating" (1999).
Following Venuti's lead that "minority situations redefine what constitutes the'domestic' and the'foreign'", the concept of "transcreation" will be analyzed as a forcible junction of a European metaphysics of translation that displaces the original (Benjamin, Derrida) and an indigenous anthropophagic tradition, updated by the modernist Oswald de Andrade as the "absorption of the sacred [Western colonial] enemy". In Haroldo de Campos's writings, however, the indebtedness to primitive traditions and art forms is matched with the recovery of a creolized Iberian baroque. Furthermore, both are but parcels of a universal poetical legacy that needs to be expropriated and appropriated through translation in order to bring Brazilian cultural productions to the fore of a poetics of modernity that is basically construed through Western parameters, catapulting Brazilian concretism to its visionary role in the post-industrial technological era.
Haroldo de Campos anchors the poetics of concretism in the avant-garde experiments of authors such as Mallarmé, Pound and Joyce. Mallarmé's A Throw of Dice (1897) is seen as the precursor of the "verbi-voco-visual" experiments of the concrete poets, where structural elements such as rhythm and (typographical) spatiality are privileged over ve…

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