Some critical points about the Slauerhoff CD by Cristina Branco

Note that this not a full translation of the Dutch version, but only a summary.

As a Cristina Branco fan I also have some criticism.

For the CD Cristina Branco canta Slauerhoff Mila Vidal Paletti translated Dutch poems by Slauerhoff into Portuguese. I think the translations are OK. There are some differences between the translations as printed in the CD booklet, and as sung. Some changes are justified, because they were necessary to make the lyrics singable. Two examples:

  1. O descobridor

    First verse, third line.
    Assim ia ("so he went") becomes ia assim ("he went so"). The meaning doesn't change, and it sounds better when sung. The Portuguese sounds flow together better, which is what makes the language so beautiful.

  2. Vida triste

    Second verse, fourth line: Written Nem ele se farta das delícias da paixão became the sung Nem se farta da paixão.
    Both seem valid translations of the original "En wordt niet gelescht door lust" ("And is not quenched/assuaged by lust/passion").

There are also some changes that do change the meaning too much, and that weren't always necessary to make it easier to sing.
Perhaps I'm wrong, and the problem is my insufficient knowledge of Portuguese. If so, please tell me.

  1. Os solitários

    Third line of first verse: "De schrale maan verschijnt" ("The bleak/pale moon appears").
    Translation: Pálida, a lua assoma ao firmamento.
    But when sung, "lua" (moon) was changed to "luz" (light). Too great a difference, and no real need: "lua" has a syllable too many, but it combines with the a of "assoma", so there is the same number of syllables.

  2. O descobridor

    Fourth line, first verse: Voor op de plecht en als de boeg zich hief. ("At the front of the forecastle/forward deck, and when the bow raises itself.")
    The printed lyrics have: No alto da coberta, olhando a proa erguer ("On the height of the deck, watching the rising of the bow").

    But Cristina sings: No alto da descoberta, olhando a proa erguer, or literally: "At the height/climax of the discovery, watching the rising of the bow".
    The rhythm is better, but I do object: Coberta means cover, deck, and there is an expression coberta de proa meaning "foredeck". That word proa, bow/prow, returns later in the sentence. That makes coberta a suitable translation.
    But descoberta means discovery; that is of course a key issue in these poems, but I find that insufficient reason for such a big change of meaning.
    And it is not a occasional mistake: in other recordings of this song the same change can be heard.

  3. Vida triste

    Third line of first verse: Nog nooit hield mijn hart het tegen ("Never did my heart stop it").
    Translation: Nunca tu, meu coração resististe ("Never did you, my heart, stop it").

    In the sung version the word "tu" ("you") is skipped to get a better rhythm. That requires changing the verb, because "heart" is now the subject. So resististe should become resistiu, but that doesn't rhyme with triste. Instead the present tense resiste is sung. Too much change of meaning, unless the rules for the usage of tenses between Dutch and Portuguese are different in a way that I cannot sufficiently judge.

  4. Saudade

    Slauerhoff in poem Saudade: "Als rieten ruischen bij de stroomen". (In modern Dutch: "Als rieten ruisen bij de stromen"). In English: "When reeds/canes gurgle near the streams".
    Translation: Canas murmurando à beira-rio ("Reeds/canes murmuring at the strip of the river"). Acceptably translated. But when sung, "canas" is changed to "coisas" ("things, matters"). Too much difference, and unnecessary.

To conclude, a point regarding pronunciation, my inevitable hobby-horse.

  1. O engeitado

    One poem, O engeitado is not sung but recited in Dutch by Cees Nooteboom, to background music. Well done, and great music.

    But the effect is spoilt by some errors in the pronunciation: In the title o engeitado the g is pronounced as in give, not as in genre. Such a pity, because Portuguese pronounces a written g the same as French, and Cees Nooteboom as a writer and erudite person probably knows some French.

    The few Portuguese words in the Dutch lyrics he pronounces as a kind of Spanish, but not really: A vida é immenso tristura, and Tudo é dor become "La vida es imensa tristura" and "Tudo es dor".
    Because Spanish "tu eres" and "él es" in Portuguese are "tu és" and "ele é", changing "é" to "és" causes a change in meaning and makes the line ungrammatical.

    But perhaps this makes it more authentic: Slauerhoff himself may not have known the correct pronunciation, considering the error in "immenso tristura", which in the (printed, but not sung) Portuguese translation is corrected to "imensa". That is assuming the printed Dutch text is authentic, which I did not check.

    Addendum 6 June 2023:

    Not authentic, I found 22.5 years later. In fact, Cees Nooteboom read the text exactly as Slauerhoff originally wrote it, i.e., in Dutch, with one sentence in Spanish, not Portuguese. The other sentence not in Dutch contained two Portuguese words and one Spanish verb form. So the error, if we may call it that, was with Slauerhoff, not Nooteboom.