Thursday, 14 April 2011

A THINKER TRANSLATED


Writings on Goa – in any language English, Konknni or Portuguese – are seldom popular and discussed or debated. They are published, they adorn the bookshelves of Goa’s scant bookstores for a while and eventually they are forgotten and if Goa’s history is recorded in Portuguese then we should consider it lost owing to the meager translations and the lack of command of Goans in that language. The reasons for such misfortune are many and varied; this however, is not the place for their enumeration or discussion. The fact that I am reviewing a book published in 2007 should be a case in point.

ON FANCHU LOYOLA’S WRITINGS
It was a few months ago that while in Panjim, I picked up a copy of José Inácio Candido de Loyola alias Fanchu Loyola’s essays titled Passionate and Unrestrained translated by journalist Alexandre Moniz Barbosa. Personally, I had heard of Fanchu Loyola as someone associated with Goa’s freedom struggle but anything more; I was blissfully unaware. Fanchu Loyola wrote in Portuguese – a language in which he had mastery and fluency. He was an outspoken and fierce critic of the Portuguese government – the one under Salazar especially. He was arrested and incarcerated in Fort Peniche jail in Portugal for fifteen years.

The writings of Loyola reflect problems society faced such as alcoholism, casteism and corruption. Reading through his essays, one gets the impression that what really bothered Fanchu Loyola – apart from the corruption in the administration – was alcoholism and casteism: evils that still plague the Goan society.

The essays are divided in two parts: Socio-Religious and Socio-Political. In the former section, Fanchu Loyola’s essays are deeply rooted in Catholic teaching. However, he was not communal but rather advocated the universal principles of love and brotherhood (enshrined in Christianity as well as other religions). It was also interesting to read his musings about the Universe – its origin and purpose. I should particularly mention one of his essays on the New Year’s Eve where he personifies the “Old Year” as an old man who walks into his office and when the clock strikes twelve (the New Year) the old year vanishes into thin air. The old man is a gentleman (of British temperament, to borrow Fanchu Loyola’s words) and cordial; he makes Loyola realize the importance of Time. In this essay Loyola displays innovation and imagination.

He also shows a deep understanding of such abstract concepts like happiness and renunciation, humility and charity and the like. He was a seeker of truth; he wanted to know the mysteries of the universe. He had a deep love and compassion for the poor. More than anything, Fanchu Loyola has to be singled out as a social reformer.

In the Socio-Political section Loyola is as eloquent as in the Socio-Religious one. He never hesitated to take sides in the elections of October 1926, as he asked the people to elect Mr. Mariano Martins over Mr. Prazeres da Costa. Fanchu Loyola also expresses some terse and stern views on the Press Laws and the colonial politics. He minces no words in pointing out the flaws and short-comings of the Portuguese administration.

ON BARBOSA AND THE TRANSLATION
I must confess that my first impulse in picking the book off the bookshelf was not so much due to the indomitable personality of Loyola but because it was a translation of a potential supplement to the history of Goa. As a person interested in Goa’s past (and a student of archaeology also), I regret for not being able to read the voluminous records left by Portuguese, who were arguably the best record keepers in this country. Many a time, a (present day) historian of Goa is left at the mercy of an English translation of a Portuguese record.

The reason why Alexandre Moniz Barbosa should deserve our praises and approval is because he has used his fluency in Portuguese and English to make available certain writings that otherwise would have gathered dust for posterity! Not many Goans know Portuguese and under such circumstances we just hope that the tribe of the likes of Barbosa grows and prospers. I too had the experience of finding a long lost writer and writings (in this case it was my uncle) and the joy is exhilarating when the task is completed! (See my article Destiny’s Book, GT dated 28.08.2008) May I suggest to you Mr. Barbosa, to take up translation as a full-time hobby with a book to your credit every year? I hope that it is not too much to ask!

Another thing that I liked about the book is the retention of the original essays in Portuguese along with their English translation. In my opinion it would reduce the lacunae caused due to arbitrary interpretations as very often happens unwittingly in translations. However, in the book the Portuguese text should have been distinguished from the English text by using a different font.

Since the book is published in a dual language (which is a very innovative approach in a translation having potential historical significance) I have a suggestion for Mr. Khalil Ahmed of Broadway Book Centre, under whose aegis this book is published, to market it in Portuguese speaking countries as well. Goa needs the audience which it rightfully deserves.

ON THE BOOK’S POTENTIAL FOR RAISING QUESTIONS FOR STUDY
Should we be content just by having the knowledge that Loyola was a nationalist or should this book serve as a stepping stone stimulating further research and to challenge conventionally held views? As informed by the blurb of the book, Loyola chose to settle in Lisbon following the Liberation of Goa. Can further research answer such questions as to why he chose to immigrate to Portugal leaving his dear Goa, for whose liberation he had so vehemently fought for?
 
Fanchu Loyola evidently had a good command on Portuguese and the translation done by Barbosa lives up to that level. Neatly printed and bound there is no doubt in my mind that a student (like me) as well as any enthusiast of Goan history would find this book at once interesting.

Passionate and Unrestrained
Author: José Inácio Candido de Loyola alias Fanchu Loyola
Traslated by: Alexandre Moniz Barbosa
Publisher: Broadway Book Centre, Panjim
Price: Rs. 225/- 

(A version of this article appeared on Gomantak Times, dt: July 21, 2010)

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