Black signifyin(g) between Geni Guimarães’s A cor da ternura and

The color of tendernesstranslating black brazilian people and texts

José Endoença Martins*

With a very delicate sense of purpose, Guimarães exposes us to her childhood memories without judging the participants.  Instead, she presents moments as factual and innocent –often even playful – from the viewpoint of a child. The narrative voice is that of a child; this perhaps accounts for narrator’s lack of commentary about the political and racial climate of Brazil. Niyi Afolabi, 2013.


Introductory Remarks

This article is a discussion of the potential operative dimensions of Gates’s (1988) literary concept of Signifyin(g), applied to Translation Studies. Within the field of African American literary criticism and theory, the basic theoretical assumption of Sygnifyin(g) is that black texts converse, talk, through the specific dialogical processes of imitation, revision, repetition or difference of linguistic, stylistic, cultural and racial features, which are developed in one precedent work and are, then, re-elaborated in the following one. Within black translation studies, theory and practice, this intertextual dimension of literary Blackness would occur between the source text and the target work. Bearing the notion of Signifyin(g) in mind, the discussion I am about to initiate within this article aims at developing a comparative study on translation, seen here as a second level of Signifyin(g) – the first being the literary one – due to the fact that translation itself may also be evaluated as a conversational event between the original language and the translated tongue.

The analysis of the present translational Signifyin(g) involves African Brazilian Geni Guimarães’s (1998) A Cor da Ternura and its rendition into English as The Color of Tenderness, conducted by Niyi Afolabi (2013). Due to limitation of space, I wish to address my interest in translation to the chapter Crystal Moment – or Momento Cristalino – leaving the other sections out. The selection of this part of the novel is due to its emphasis on Geni’s black family’s racial pride, after one of its member reaches professional excellence, becoming a teacher. This instantiation of the singular performance of a black group’s empowerment allows me to propose a kind of analysis that deals with both the lingual and the racial dimensions of translation. My argument stipulates that both lingual and racial renditions of African Brazilian experiences in Guimarães’s novel are mutually contributive and reciprocally interdependent. Besides, they reinforce the understanding of the dynamic and political forces of translation. In the analysis, racial translation is encompassed under the concept of Negritude and its lingual counterpart is envisioned under the notion of Paralatio. Negritude is predicated on the idea of difference between Blacks and Whites, while Paralatio signals distinction involving the source and the target languages. On the one hand, Negritude tends to shed light on the empowerment of black people’s emancipating experiences, having Caliban as its prototypical agent or performer. Therefore, emphasis on Blackness leads to the disenfranchisement of Whiteness among Brazilian Blacks. On the other, Paralatio highlights the power of the target rendition, thus focusing on domesticating translation, or placing emphasis on the translated language, rather than on the foreignizing rendition, or focusing on the source text (Venuti, 1998) The article is anchored on six distinct parts, all of them interconnected: the characterization of African Brazilian literature, the novel’s summary, the discussion of the concept of Signifyin(g), the analysis of the notion of Negritude, the comments on the idea of Paralatio, and the conduction of translation’s analysis.

I start with Duarte’s (2014) definition of African Brazilian literature as a pluralistic, productive, composite and ambiguous perception of black writers’ writing in Brazil. Then, I deal with the summary of the content of the source text A Cor da Ternura. This section intends to help the potential reader grasp some of the instigating aspects of Geni’s family Blackness within the black Brazilian community of the Guimarãeses, isolated from any group of white people. Therefore, making room for black pride, this perception of a black family is the central issue in the other four parts. Besides, I proceed with the characterization of the theoretical and applicable forces that Gates (1988) encounters in the concept of Signifyin(g), as a useful strategy to measure the dialogical dimensions encompassing source and target texts in the translation process. In addition, the analysis of Negritude is the fourth part of the article. Willing to redesign the concept as an instantiation of racial translation, I resort to Césaire’s view of Negritude as black people’s affirmation of Blackness, but I redefine and conform it to the requirements of the ideas discussed here. As a concept, the design of  Paralatio is the fifth section of my discussion. It is understood here as a modality of lingual rendition marked by linguistic and cultural differences between the source and the target language. Paralatio, or Venuti’s (1998) Domestication, tends to hide or disguise the perception of translation from the target reader’s apprehension. The last part deals with the comparative analysis of both texts – the source one A Cor da Ternura and target one The Color of Tenderness – from two distinct perspectives, both racial and lingual renditions. Protagonist Geni’s racial and lingual depiction complements and supplements one another.


 1. Black literature, African Brazilian literature, Signifyin(g)

I see in the concept of African Brazilian literature a more elastic formulation (and more productive). (...) It inscribes itself as an operator capable of embracing better, by its necessarily composite breath, the various trends in the discursive demarcation in the field of African descent identity in its literary expression. (DUARTE, 2014: 28).

The mobility of identity among Brazilian fictional characters and poetic personae of African origin, already anticipated in the introduction, also meets Duarte’s (2014) attempt to define the concept. His question regarding the definition is “Black literature or African Brazilian literature?” However, before deciding which his conceptual preference is, Duarte discusses the two notions. He mentions, initially, some of the authors who have been endorsing the term Black Literature. Amongst these, he includes the creators of Black Notebooks (Cadernos Negros), who, since 1978, when the publication of the anthologies of black texts was initiated, have accepted and endorsed the notion of Black Literature. Thus, under this name, literature would be the writing of fictional, poetic, theatrical or critical texts, developed by black people, specifically addressed to the black race in an unapologetically black form. As a result, such an essentialist meaning would exclude names of authors of the stature of Castro Alves, Jorge de Lima and Raul Bopp, Brazilian writers who are not black, but have dealt with Brazilian Blackness in their texts. Other thinkers, according to Duarte, defend the term Black Literature, not motivated by color, but because of their concern with a black aesthetic promoted by both black and white writers. As a result, Black Literature would ally itself to a more elastic sense, thus allowing the inclusion of the writing by those Blacks who consider themselves as Negroes, and also of those non-black writers who deal with the experiences and ideological, cultural, racial and identity options, especially unique and peculiar to the Blacks and their Brazilian descendants. Racial variations would also include textual elements which, in turn, would go beyond the author's color, would leverage the preference for black trajectory, activate the denunciation of white hegemony and would strengthen the black subjective “Self”. However, Duarte rules out the validity of the term Black Literature, claiming that "black literature are many, which at least weakens and limits the effectiveness of the concept as a theoretical and critical operator" (DUARTE, 2014: 25).

In order to challenge the concept of Black Literature, to which he does not adhere, Duarte (2004) uses the term African Brazilian Literature, the one of his preference.  He justifies his choice, explaining that

The term African Brazilian, due to its semantic configuration refers to the tense process of cultural mixing underway in Brazil since the arrival of the first Africans. A process of ethnic, linguistic, religious and cultural hybridization. (...) To Luiz Silva (Cuti), it works as an attenuating element, which would dilute the political sense of identity affirmation contained in the word Negro. Admittedly, by embracing the full range of phenotypic variation inherent in miscegenation, terms like African Brazilian or African Descendant carry with them the risk of taking the same sense of the sign "brown" (pardo),  present in the IBGE statistics as despised by fundamentalists of racial pride, translated in the slogan "100% Negro". (DUARTE, 2014: 26).

Although Duarte (2014) alerts to the risks associated with the term, his commitment to the concept African Brazilian Literature is founded on the idea of ​​openness and blending that the concept entails. He admits that black experience in Brazil should not be taken as coming from one source only, but as encompassing variations exceeding beyond experiential essentialism. The various positions listed by Duarte in order to enable the replacement of Black Literature with the term African Brazilian Literature go in the same direction. Among these, two stand out. The first one encompasses the idea that the African Brazilian writer would be a subject of his own enunciation, whose authorship and origin cannot be reduced to the level of exclusivity without nuances or other borrowed elements. The second one connects itself to the notion of point of view. In a society like Brazil, contaminated by all kinds of pitfalls leading the African Brazilian subject to perceive himself/herself as a dispossessed being, the point of view, more than the color of the skin, becomes something relevant. And Duarte explains that “as important or more than the explanation of authorial origin, is the place from which the author expresses his/her worldview” (DUARTE, 2014: 27). Duarte's profession of faith in the concept of African Brazilian Literature comes, as some other literary critics think, from the need to associate the term with a more pluralistic orientation, dialectics, multiplicity and openness to countless racial shades and matrices. Such guiding and forming ingredients of African Brazilian Literature are embodied in five elements dear to Duarte. These are theme, authorship, point of view, language and public, which, according to the author, validate “the existence of African Brazilian Literature in its fullness" (DUARTE, 2014: 42).

My personal experience commenting on African Brazilian Literature welcomes Duarte’s five elements, due to their crucial centrality within the scope of his characterization of the term. However, I would like to bring to the discussion the idea of intertextual dialogue, as a theoretical supplement to the position held by the Brazilian literary critic. This supplementarity goes by the name of Signifyin(g), a concept held by the African American literary critic Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (1988). In his characterization of the notion, Gates states that Signifyin(g) is the metaphor, or the trope, which can explicate the dialogue through which some black writers lead their writing, consciously or unconsciously, to establish with other texts, written previously. He writes that this intertextual conversation is only possible because the black text is a book that talks – The Talking Book –, embedded within a literary and cultural tradition that has two voices. Gates tells us that “the black tradition is double-voiced. The trope of Talking Book, of double-voiced texts that talk to other texts, is the unifying metaphor within this book. Signifyin(g) is the figure of the double-voiced, epitomized by Esu’s depiction in sculpture as possessing two mouths” (GATES, 1988: xxv.). This black dialogue among texts happens through these four conversational modes: imitation, revision, repetition and difference.

My personal position is that the description of Signifyin(g), that is, of the dialogue among black texts within African Brazilian Literature, can be analyzed through the application of these three distinct concepts: Negriceness, Negritude and Negriticeness. This conceptual triad is associated with the double-voiced figure of the Orisha Eshu. According to Gates (1988), when the deity utilizes his two mouths to communicate, he always generates a third alternative. In his words, during communication, Eshu has the power not only to join the parts that are apart, but has also the strength to make himself the sum of the separate parts. He is “the past, the present and the unborn”, a creative or generative phenomenon, which can be characterized as “two, it becomes three” (GATES, 1988: 37). Similarly, the joining and the sum of Negritude and Negriceness (NEGRIT+ICENESS) will generate Negriticeness.


 2. The Guimarãeses’ Blackness within Color and Tenderness

Born in 1947, a poet (Terceiro Filho; Da Flor o Afeto, da Pedra o Protesto), a novelist (Leite do Peito; Cor da Ternura), and a children’s literature writer, Geni Guimarães begins her career as an author within the Quilombhoje movement. Afolabi (2013), the translator into English of Guimarães’s A Cor da Ternura as The Color of Tenderness, announces her literary figure as such:

Geni Guimarães is one of the most mature and by far, the most accomplished, with awards ranging from the coveted Jabuti Prize in 1998, the Adolfo Aisen prize in 1989, to the Black Personality award in 1990. She writes poetry as well as fiction, and also writes children’s literature. The body of her work reveals a playful writer who on the one hand combats racism and sexism, and on the other, unaggressively situates the Afro-Brazilian experience within the totality of Brazilian reality. Yet despite her record of productivity, the critical reception of her works is scanty, a situation that is not limited to Guimarães alone (AFOLABI 2013: xiii).

Afolabi’s words not only acknowledge the author’s literary production and artistry but also place Guimarães in high position within Afro-Brazilian letters, in which her The Color of Tenderness excels.

Guimarães’s The Color of Tenderness is about Blackness, as it is lived by a large black family in a Brazilian rural area. The reader learns about the family’s experiences through the protagonist Geni’s narrative of her life from childhood to the moment she starts her career as a teacher in a public elementary school. Geni portrays herself as a curious, smart and sensitive girl, qualities manifesting themselves along the whole story: her conversation with her mother about color change through “colored rain” (p. 04); her revealing talk with the spider on the roof and her acknowledgement of “the eyes within” (p. 22); and her smart strategy to attract a white school girl to her side, who had refused to enter a black teacher’s class, by letting the student to “watch my purse while I teach” (p. 82). All these events seem to testify to Geni’s personal qualities, humane sensibilities, racial awareness and artistic density.

The family is a fertile soil for Geni to develop her personal inclinations and potentialities. This is a black family, which proudly feeds a distinctive type of Brazilian Blackness.  This pride does not come from wealth because economic capital is not available to them. On the contrary, theirs is a racial capital. It is based on resilience and self-assurance. Resilience is due to the need they have to confront harsh economic conditions. Self-assurance results from their belief in the promotion of racial empowerment.

Despite the scarce living economic conditions, Geni’s family manages to conciliate self-assurance with self-pride. Self-pride is mutually supportive of the family members’ individual aspirations. Its self-helpfulness derives from self-love and the love of the others, which is an important part of their lives as a group. Each member performs tasks leading to the augmentation of the family’s racial capital. The mother is always there at home for the children, and both the father and the older boys and girls work for the whole family’s economic sustainability and existence. The younger girls and boys are there to help the mother with the housework. In short, Geni’s story is a narrative of her black family’s economic scarcity, but at the same time, of its racial pride’s abundance.

From Geni’s narrative, the reader can deduce that the building of such a conflictless life is possible due to the fact that the family’s house is situated in an isolated spot. Neighbors are never mentioned. Outsiders are only referred to on special occasions. For instance, Chica Espanhola, the midwife, appears only to help the mother with the birthing of Zezinho, Geni’s youngest brother. Vó Rosário comes to teach the children about black people’s experiences during slavery. Ordinarily, people do not come to visit the Guimarãeses. Family members leave the house to accomplish their duties: the father and the sons go to work and Geni walks to school. As the writer, the protagonist and the narrator in The Color of Tenderness, Geni is the only faithful testimony of the harmony that feeds the family’s members.  She herself acknowledges that she is, in great part, the beneficiary of the family’s harmonious routine.

The initial event in Guimarães’s narrative, that of Geni’s breastfeeding, seems to become the nurturing metaphor of this black pride that the narrator wishes to convey. For the little narrator Geni, her sucking the milk is like the sucking of the Blackness that has long been cultivated by her mother and, now, is up to her to take it to the future with a life of black excellence in education. It would be education for her own benefit, not for the family’s, as her father signals it, when he is challenged by the administrator of the farm where he works, who believes that formal studies are useless, or “stupidity” (p. 66) for Blacks, but Geni’s father reacts the only way possible in order to reassure black learning. “You see, I am not actually studying for myself … but for my daughter” (GUIMARÃES 2013: 66), Geni’s father promptly replies to the white man.

Another event leading to Geni’s sense of racial pride comes with old Vó Rosário’s unexpected arrivals at the family’s house. Vó Rosário’s stories about slavery seem to be credible due to her age, who is said to be 98 or 112 years old. Vó Rosário’s historical tales appear to feed Geni’s initial literary creativity, leading her not only to create her first poem but also to attempt to say it in the school ceremony on the Day of Slavery Abolition. That situation provides her with mixed feelings of pride, fear and deception: pride for her ability to create verses; fear of not being capable of reciting them in public; and deception with her fear of public shame. Within these three distinct feelings, the one which is the most painful for her is shame, which she does not limit to her own internal existential turmoil, but transfers to the entire black race. Uncritically, she accuses her own people of being passive, cowardly, and fearful. Additionally, in a mental reversal of perspective she attaches heroism to white Brazilian personalities like Caxias and others. Her shameful hate is also addressed to her family: to the father and the mother, whom she loves much. “A child pushed his father, who pushed his grandfather, who pushed… Resultantly, even my foolish self became part of the same line of thought” (GUIMARÃES 2013: 58-60), she cries. As a result of anxiety and despair, she completely fails and is not able to say her verses on that May 13th.

However, this is just a moment in Geni’s temporary weakness. Racial disempowerment will be overcome later in the narrative, when she becomes a teacher and reassumes her total individual and racial assurance. The graduation ceremony, in which she is granted the position of the official speaker, is an event of racial consciousness to which all family members – father, mother, sisters and brothers – come, and are there for her and the race. The narrator Geni expresses a tender comment on her father’s enthusiasm with her professional achievement:

Once again, my father stood up, adjusted the knot of his tie, and maintained a royal posture. In order to hear me, he disregarded all etiquette, and cupped his hands around his ears. All the formalities came to an end. I went to meet them so that we could return home together. Princess-like, I gave my certificate to my father, the king of the moment, who in turn, wrapped it in a handkerchief and carried it as if it were a crystal vase (GUIMARÃES 2013: 76).

All of the family members are proud of the daughter’s and sister’s educational achievement, which is not only for her, not even only for the Guimarães family, but for the entire race. However, the highest point of achievement in her living trajectory has to do with her taking the position of a professional teacher in a public school. Racial challenge is over there also, waiting for her. The major confrontation comes  in the voice of a white girl-student who refuses to enter Geni’s class, justifying her refusal as such: “I am afraid of a black teacher” (GUIMARÃES 2013: 79). The entire chapter is dedicated to the resolution of that crucial obstacle to Geni’s teaching performance. Proud and confident Geni deals with the incident with professional consciousness and racial sensibility, through negotiating directly with the white girl, not allowing anybody – teachers or The Principal – to steal from her the responsibility for the solution. By both giving the fearful white girl extra classroom duties and praising her learning activities, Geni wins the student’s confidence and lowers her racial fears of the kind of the intimidating Blackness she sees portrayed in the black teacher’s presence. Later on, when the problem is overcome, verbalizing her acceptance of Geni’s race and professional teaching qualities, the white girl says: “tomorrow, would you let me sit close to my cousin Gisele? I will watch your purse from there as well. Tomorrow, I will bring bread and butter for lunch; do you like bread and butter?” (GUIMARÃES 2013: 82).

Geni´s success with the white girl crowns her father’s ancient pride of supporting his daughter to follow with her studies and become a teacher.  He had cried out his pride years before against the white administrator’s disbelief in black people’s intellectual capacity for formal learning, saying: “He could even be a white man. But more proud than I could ever be. A teacher daughter, he is never going to have” (GUIMARÃES 2013: 66). The narrative closes with Geni addressing her gratitude to the entire black race and ancestors, in recognition of the kind of life they energized her to attain:

Ancestral feelings escaped from the uterus, the uterus of my roots; they have imprinted permanent  laws of all my days. Since my childhood, I have carried a heavy burden, forced to treat loaded contents and wounds that have been invented for the coffin of reductionism. Prone to my messianic mission and style, I am a pastor of my people; I fulfill with pleasure the right and responsibility to take them to harmonious places. My coat of arms I have discovered and keep always ready; above, below, and in the middle; the magic of words (GUIMARÃES 2013: 83).

Geni’s awareness of her black ancestry and roots reveals that she has grown up and become a consciously politicized woman, who feels responsible for herself, her family and  the black race, making herself “a pastor of my people” leading “them to harmonious places”, through “the magic words” of writing and literature.

Geni’s final comments highlight the interconnection between the individual and the collective in black novels, thus revealing, consciously or unconsciously, an alliance between the pastor and the herd, to use her own words. This literary achievement is elaborated by Deleuze and Guattari (1986), who acknowledge identification of individuality with collectivity in black novels – “Minor Literature”, as they name them – writing that “what each author says individually already constitutes a common action, and what he or she does is necessarily political, even if others aren’t in agreement (DELEUZE & GUATTARI 1986: 17). Grewal (1998) envisions similar characteristics in Toni Morrison’s novels, an African American woman writer and a Nobel Prize winner. For Grewal, Morrison’s “novels aim to redistribute the pressure of accountability from the axis of the individual to that of the collective. Her art draws its imperatives from personal and collective histories” and establishes “the liberation of black history itself” (GREWAL 1998: 11).


3.Gates’s Signifyin(g) as a Talk between Black and White Text

Interconnection between the individual and the collective, as prescribed by Delueze/Guattari (1986), identified by Grewal (1998) in  Morrison’s novels, and developed by Guimarães (2013) in The Color of Tenderness, in which her female character Geni’s individual activities are coincident with her family’s collective expectations, can be associated with Gates’ (1988) concept of Signifyin(g). My resorting to Gates’s concept, in this part of the discussion, intends to validate the expansion of this kind of novelistic individual-collective interaction to the broader literary sphere of the literature of African descent in general, where the individual’s new text inserts itself in the collective literary milieu of the novels already established by black writers locally, nationally and internationally.

In his seminal work The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of African-American Criticism, Gates (1988) designs the analytical qualities of Signifyin(g) and argues that African-American literary production results from its black authors’ capacity to perform conversation between previous and later texts, based on four dialogical devices: imitation, repetition, revision or difference. In Gate’s words, due to its conversational properties, Signifyin(g) is depicted as a double-voiced black tradition, in which later texts talk to previous ones. The orisha Eshu with his two mouths –  sculptures of the deity show one mouth looking back, or searching the past; the other is gazing forth, or scrutinizing the present – epitomizes black literary double-voicedness.

Within the artistic or literary scope of Signifyin(g), both Eshu and double-voicedness are inseparable aspects, thus contributing to enriching the qualities of black literature, from a postcolonial perspective. This postcolonial movement between the past and the present, between the today’s text and the works from the past, this double-voicedness metaphorically sponsored by Eshu, is validated by Gates as a phenomenon that is nurtured by both colonization and decolonization, or by white texts and black novels. Regarding the literary colonization of the black author, that is, regarding the influence of literary Whiteness on black literary development, Gates explains that “black writers, like critics of black literature, learn to write by reading literature, especially the canonical texts of the Western traditions. Consequently, black texts resemble other, Western texts” (GATES 1988: xxii). Gates’s validation of this interpenetration of both black and white literary production is seen by François Vergès (2005) as the interdependence involving both Center and Periphery and “ces interactions metropole-colonie” (VERGÈS 2005: 75), “these interactions between metropolis and colony”. Vergès argues that

La colonie n’est pas cet espace exterieur à la métropole, mais un espace qui affecte idées, représentations, mouvements sociaux et politiques en métropole, et vice versa. La citoyenneté, l’identité nationale, les strategies de représentations, les pratiques d’inclusion et d’exclusion sont étudiées à la lumière de ces interactions métrople-colonie (VERGÈS 2005 : 75).

The colony is not this outdoor space to the metropolis, but a space that affects ideas, representations, social and political movements in France, and vice versa. Citizenship, national identity, strategies of representation, the practices of inclusion and exclusion are considered in light of these interactions between Metropolis and Colony (My Translation).

One can say about this proximity between Gates (1988) and Vergès (2005) that Gates is thinking of the ancient slave, whom, he believes, has been signifying since the very moment he first stepped on the soil of the New World. Vergès, on the contrary, is looking at the contemporary African and diasporic black writer, whose texts are written after African Nations have become independent and freed themselves from Western domination. Between Gates’s gaze at the white-black interconnections in literature and Vergès’s look at the interactions between the metropolis and the colony, time flows, participates and contributes.  With time, cultural development, literary maturity or artistic achievement, and a sense of independence have led contemporary black writers to an opposite position: they have changed their focus and abandoned white influence in favor of black models.

This change in direction does not make colonization vanish from gaze. Actually, it makes colonizing forces concomitant with decolonizing enterprises. As a result of the concomitance of these two orientations, colonization is led to become porous, to weaken and make room for the new decolonizing perspective. Gates acknowledges black adoption of this new ideal, saying: “free from the white person’s gaze, black people created their own unique vernacular structures and relished in the double play that these forms bore to white forms. Repetition and revision are fundamental to black artistic forms, from painting and sculpture to music and language use” (GATES 1988: xxiv). Repetition and revision of both white and black artistic forms give black authors’ literary production its peculiarity, which recaptures Eshu’s double-voicedness through Signifyin(g). For Gates, leading examples of the decolonizing black double-voicedeness are the novels by Ralph Ellison and Ishmael Reed. Their narratives are novels, whose literary antecedents “are both white and black novels”. Gates goes on to say that

One can readily agree with Susan Willis that black texts are “mulattoes” (or “mulatas”), with a two-toned heritage: these texts speak in standard Romance of Germanic languages and literary structures, but almost always speak with a distinct and resonant accent that signifies (upon) the various black vernacular literary traditions, which are still being written down (GATES 1988: xxiii). 

Mulatto novels are double-voiced literary events which highlight Eshu’s double-voicedness within black literature. With the orisha’s intervention, this productive literary metaphor for black novels’ polarity between black and white, colonization and decolonization, metropolis and colony, and Center and Periphery is under control. Separation, rivalry or conflict among these dualities are mitigated and, in the place appears mutual contribution. In the place of polarity, comes in plurality; connection of the parts replaces separation of parties. The fusion of antagonizing elements is Eshu’s responsibility. The Yoruba deity encompasses in himself these three elements:  the past, the present and the “unborn”. He is capable of making these three aspects exist simultaneously, without philosophical conflict. Gates (1988) describes Eshu as the force that eliminates contradiction among these three antagonizing aspects, because

Esu (Eshu) represents these stages, and makes their simultaneous existence possible, without any contradiction, precisely because he is the principle of discourse both of messenger and as a god of communication (…) What appears in a binary system to be a contradiction resolvable only by the unity of opposites is more subtly – and mysteriously – resolved by the Yoruba in the concept central to the Ogboni secret society that “two, it becomes three”. (GATES, 1988: 37).

If one takes Eshu’s acceptance of, or struggle against, binarism, as it is proposed by Gates in his association of Signifyin(g) with the orisha, to the field of the flow between colonization and decolonization one can also apply to that the expression that “two, it becomes three”. That is, the sum, not the separation, of colonization and decolonization leads to postcolonization. Thus, the postcolonial experience results from the relationships existing between colonization and decolonization, between metropolis and colony, and the Center and the Periphery. Or from Gates’s perspective, it grows between literary Blackness and Whiteness. Vergès (2005) acknowledges the postcolonial flows as an important aspect for the dismantling of binarism. She writes that

La notion de flux est importante, car ele rompt avec l’idée d’une pensée statique, figée, qui ne serait travaillée que par le dehors. Les recherches soulignet la porosité des frontrières entre les groupes, la capacité d’adaptation, d’improvisation des groupes qui ne détiennent pas le pouvoir économique ou politique. Ce  que la notion de flux cherche à souligner, c’est l’aspect trans-national, trans-continental en opposition avec une pensée qui avait favorisé l’idée d’une identité nationale etnicisée, pure, inchangée. Transculturation, métissage, hybridation, créolization : une série de notions a été proposée pour décrire les processus e les pratiques culturelles d’emprunt, de bricolage. (VERGÈS, 2005 : 86).

The concept of flow is important because it breaks with the idea of a static thought, frozen, which would only work from the outside. The researches underline the porous frontiers between groups, adaptability, improvisation of groups who do not have the economic or political power. What the concept of flow seeks to emphasize is the transnational and transcontinental aspect in conflict with a thought favoring the idea of a national identity or  ethnicity, pure, unchanged. Transculturation, intermingling, hybridization, creolization: a series of concepts has been proposed to describe the cultural processes and practices of borrowing and bricolage (My Translation).


Such a kind of postcolonial fecundity in terms of ideas, concepts and practices is similar to Eshu’s plurality and Signifyin(g)’s multiplicity, due to the fact that these three notions – Eshu, Signifyin(g), the postcolonial – are nurtured by the flow, not the statics. In other words, purity is exorcized or extirpated and its place is taken by métissage, créolization, or impurity. Brazilian literary critic Duarte (2014) expresses similar ideas regarding African Brazilian Literature.

Willing to expand the idea of flow one step further, I turn to Tyson (1999). The thinker reaffirms what has already been said here about the fact that postcolonial ideas and practices converge with African American literary sensibilities and peculiarities. Tyson stresses the fact that postcolonial criticism is a body of theories, concepts and assumptions which help us look at the African American literary experience from the point of view of the artistic production of a former colonized group of people. The intersection between the literary production of Black American writers and postcolonial criticism is made explicit in Tyson’s words. “Postcolonial and African American criticism”, this critic writes,

are particularly effective at helping us see connections among all the domains of our experience – the psychological, ideological, social, political, intellectual, and aesthetic – in ways that show us just how inseparable these categories are in our lived experience of ourselves and our world […]. Postcolonial and African American criticism also share a number of theoretical assumptions and political concerns because both fields focus on the experience and literary production of peoples whose history is characterized by extreme political, social, and psychological oppression. (TYSON 1999: 363).

Besides, Tyson (1999) also distinguishes one body of thought from the other, explaining that postcolonial criticism “tends to be rather abstract and general in its analyses” while African American criticism “tends to be more concrete and specific” (TYSON 1999: 363).

Both African American experience and postcolonial ideas and practices can also be associated, due to the idea of flow. Bearing in mind this notion of flow empowering both Eshu’s and Signifyin(g)’s influence on black texts’ dialogical and conversational dimensions, let me pose two distinct questions: (1) can one apply Eshu-Signifyin(g) connections, as they have been discussed so far, to black literature other than its African American specificity?; (2) can one utilize Eshu-Signifyin(g) encounter as a translational theory? The two questions are answered positively. The first positive answer comes from Gruesser (2007), who not only argues that “Signifyin(g) proves to be especially valuable in analyzing how texts within specific genres respond to other texts”, but also asserts that “the theory can be usefully applied to texts outside the African American literary tradition” (GRUESSER, 2007, p. 57), in which it was genuinely born. Gruesser enlarges his comprehension of the subject by attesting that “Signifyin(g) is a uniquely black rhetorical concept, entirely textual or linguistic, by which a second statement or figure repeats, or tropes, or reverses the first” GRUESSER, 2007, 14). The positive answer to the second question will be tackled in the next sections of this study, in which I will deal with two specific modalities of translation practices, the racial and the lingual ones.


4. Racial and Lingual Translation: Interconnection Between Negriticeness and Translatio

This section intends to establish the bases of a personal theoretical proposal. In it, I postulate that literary Signifyin(g) can work as translational theory. I wish to assume that both racial and lingual translation benefit from Gates’s (1988) idea of Signifyin(g), due to the dialogical intertextuality nurturing the concept, which, as I believe, can also feed the practice of translation, because of the fact that the concept is originally thought of by Gates as a conversational play between two texts. My personal design aiming at transposing the concept of Signifyin(g) from literary criticism and theory, as Gates announces it, to translational analysis, as I wish to use it, accepts the fact that translational Signifyin(g) may ally itself to the idea that both people and texts translate themselves or are translated as well. Therefore, I suggest that, in order to become translatable subjects or entities, both people and texts must migrate from their original human or linguistic environment to a new one. In other words, migration moves people and texts from one racial or lingual tradition to another. I defend the idea that “tradition (racial, lingual) becomes translation (racial, lingual) through migration (racial, lingual)” (MARTINS, 2013: 56).

Resulting from historical events, in special black slavery, racial migration involves a back and forth displacement between both black and white traditions, which turn the New World into an appropriate environment for the encounter of distinct cultures. My argument is that:

Racial traditions migrate with people who displace themselves and when they move from one tradition to another they translate themselves, becoming either faithful to the values they bring with themselves or identify with the cultural environment that houses or accepts them. However, this is not what always happens. As a fluid concept, many times, translation goes beyond the isolating polarity of the two traditions and, thus, encompasses  reciprocity, exchange, mixture of the two parties, traditions, subjects or objects involved in the process. (MARTINS, 2013: 56).

Considering the idea of translational conversation, a tradition’s displacement cannot be solely reduced to the racial field, but must be extended to linguistic phenomena. Thus, one must admit that Lingual migration is likewise a back and forth movement between both an original linguistic and a receptive language tradition. Here, I suggest that translation, from its lingual perspective,

happens when it involves something parallel to what I have mentioned above regarding racial translation: an encounter of languages. Here, I validate what was announced in our original thesis: that migration allows traditions to translate themselves. In other words, the dispersion of texts, through the dialogue of writing with rewriting, makes lingual translation take place. Here, again, the dichotomy between source and target tradition can also, sometimes, be overlapped and overcome by the hybridization of the two traditional poles. (MARTINS, 2013: 58).

Within this personal design for the phenomenon of translation, its racial version includes these three distinct stages: Negriceness, Negritude, or Negriticeness. And the lingual modality of translation displaces itself among these three spheres: Paralatio, Similatio, or Translatio. Both racial and lingual rendition works in trios due to their association with three specific theories of translation: Domestication, Foreignization, and Hybridization. For instance, the first trio includes Negriceness, Paralatio and Domestication, which highlights the hegemonic forces of the receptive traditions, both racially and lingually; the second trio comprehends Negritude, Similatio and Foreignization, which opposes itself to the previous one by emphasizing the racial and lingual energies of the tradition in displacement; the third one encompasses Negriticeness, Translatio and Hybridization, whose power is applied to provide constraints to the polarity that limits the perspectives of the two previous trios, due to their dichotomous features. However, these trios are not always fixed, but can vary sometimes and assume other configuration as, for example, Negritude, Paralatio and Domestication, the case we will see here later.



4.1. Negritude as Racial Translation


A look back at Geni’s experiences in Guimarães’s (1998/2013) The Color of Tenderness or A Cord a Ternura – from breastfeeding to teaching career – informs the reader that the protagonist is in the process of translating herself racially. Therefore, she embodies Blackness. Geni’s racial translation takes place mostly within the world of her black family, a fact that associates her with the idea of Negritude. My personal conception of Negritude is that the concept validates and affirms the kind of value that “concentrates on the cultural energies of people of African descent” (MARTINS, 2007: 258). By focusing “on the positive aspects of Negritude” (MARTINS 2013: 64), my analysis of the concept comes close to the way Césaire (2004) conceptualizes it.

Together with Senghor, Césaire (2004) is the creator of the neologism Negritude from which I derive my view of the notion. Césaire (2004) sees the concept as the courageous affirmation of our Blackness, saying

C’est tout cela qu’a été la Negritude: recherche de notre identité, affirmation de notre droit à la différence, sommation faite à tous d’une reconnaissance de ce droit et du respect de notre personnalité communautaire (CÉSAIRE 2004 : 89).

All this has been Negritude: search for our identity, asserting our right to be different, every demand made of a recognition of this right and respect of our communal personality (My Translation).

In Césaire’s passage, three words seem to excel in importance: identity, difference and personality. They take part in Geni’s racial development as a black woman living in a Brazilian rural environment. There, Guimarães’s novel exemplifies the enactment of Geni’s family’s strong “personnalité communautaire” designed by Césaire in the concept of Negritude. However, in the case of Geni, the construction of this “communal personality” is not a fact yet, but a wish, a process, which depends on the enactment by the family of this “reconnaissance de ce droit et du respect de notre personalité communautaire” – “recognition of this right and respect of our communal personality” – in order to turn itself into real experience. Both Geni and her family do everything to put black identity, difference and personality into practice. For this to happen they resort to a kind of racial experience of Blackness, which owes much of its quality to the ways both the earlier and contemporary African Brazilians have been dealing with through migration, tradition and translation of their own life and that of their ancestors, over the centuries. Just think of the trade of Africans to Brazil and consider slave-ships, slavery and diasporic displacement and you will be able to picture the magnitude of African descendants’ dislocation in space and time and their invaluable contribution to the making of the Brazilian experience.

Studies by experts like Clifford (1997) and Hall (1992) have signaled the humane contributions of diasporic cultures and people to the host cultural environment. Defining Diaspora as “a home away from home” (CLIFFORD, 1997: 248), Clifford reminds us that “diaspora cultures” result from the “ways people leave home and return, enacting differently centered worlds, interconnected cosmopolitanisms’ (CLIFFORD, 1997: 27/28). Additionally, Hall highlights diaspora’s meaning as a movement from one tradition to another, as a passage from one tradition that is ours to another that belongs to others. The difference between these two thinkers being that Hall does not see the return to the prior tradition possible while Clifford does.

In her living experience of the Brazilian Blackness within which she is inserted, Geni does not consider – at least not consciously – her return to African original Blackness. On the contrary, she knows that she has to “negotiate and resist the social reality of poverty, violence, policing, racism, and political and economic inequality” (CLIFFORD, 1997: 261), without abandoning her black Brazilian setting. By remaining loyal to her rural black cultural habitat in Brazil, Geni, together with her father, mother, brothers and sisters, becomes able to “articulate alternate public spheres, interpretive communities where critical alternatives (both traditional and emergent) can be expressed” (CLIFFORD, 1997: 261). She succeeds through personal education and professional success as a teacher, with emotional support and financial help from the family.

 From Hall’s (1992) point of view, Geni replaces one tradition with another, faithfully hoping she does not have to mingle with the white culture. This supporting attitude toward Blackness , apart from Whiteness, gives her a sense of identity stability. Such a feeling of being close to the black heritage of her own family, according to Hall (1992), makes her think she can “restore [her] former purity and recover the unities and certainties which are felt as being lost” (HALL, 1992: 309). Geni’s tradition-based identity derives from the feeling that she can keep daily contact with the black culture created by her own family. In Hall’s words, one feels that Geni believes “it may be tempting to think of identity in the age of globalization as destined to end up in one place or anther: either returning to its ‘roots’ or disappearing through assimilation and homogenization” (HALL, 1992: 310). Fortunately, for the best or for the worst, Geni opts to integrate her family with her African-Brazilian roots.

Bearing in mind the facts involving Geni and her family, both Clifford’s and Hall’s comments, other theoreticians’ contribution can help us better understand the magnitude of the concept of Negritude.


For this to happen effectively one must retake the idea of flow that moves among colonization, decolonization and postcolonization. Colonized, decolonized and postcolonized people, like Geni and her family, have become effective attempts to “create sociopolitical structures that are derived from their own history and culture” (CONE 2007: 04), as nationalist thinkers advocate. For instance, in literature, Shakespeare’s (1994) The Tempest provides an instantiation of the colonized’s nationalism and postcolonialism in the depiction of Caliban – a prototypical representation of Black Nationalism and Negritude – who articulates the dismissal of Prospero, the white European who has taken over his island and, as a result, represents Whiteness usurping colonized people’s material properties and culture. On two distinct occasions, the overthrowing of the European settler is portrayed in Caliban’s confrontation to Prospero’s presence in his mother Sycorax’s island. On the first occasion, Caliban claims the ownership of the island, calling out "the island is mine, by Sycorax my mother/which thou tak’st from me” (SHAKESPEARE 1994: 18). Then, his claim is made visible through the curse he casts upon Prospero:

All the charms
Of Sycorax: toads, beetles, bats, light on you! (…)
You taught me language, and my profit on’t
Is, I know how to curse: the red-plague rid you
For learning me your language. (SHAKESPEARE 1994: 18-19).

As a colonized being, Caliban's struggle for autonomy and independence, activated through his desire to repossess Sycorax’s island, has later been repeatedly reshaped by the works of various black and white thinkers and writers. With greater or lesser violence, aggression or determination, these new Calibans within Black transnational letters, Geni included, have spread their nationalist agenda. And, therefore, they have signified upon both Caliban’s emancipating resistance and rebellion against Prospero’s power and upon colonizing social and political structures designed by colonialist enforcement in Sycorax’s former territory. Roberto Fernández Retamar (1989), for example, signifies upon Caliban’s rebellious act by reclaiming him, with passion, as representative subject of racial struggle, saying that "our symbol then is not Ariel, as Rodó thought, but rather Caliban. [...] I know no other metaphor more expressive of our cultural situation, of our reality. [...] what is our history, what is our culture, if not the history and culture of Caliban?" (RETAMAR 1989: 14). This instantiation of the resisting Signifyin(g) continues with Fanon (2004), who examines the decolonizing agenda of Black nationalism as it is represented by Caliban’s quest for self-determination as a desire for black people’s struggle for liberation and, thus, states that decolonization infuses the black colonized subject with "a new rhythm, specific to a new generation of men, with a new language and a new humanity. Decolonization is truly the creation of new men" (FANON 2004: 2).

This "new humanity" of the Negro that Fanon reiterates by associating it with both black Nationalism and Caliban is taken up by Memmi (2007) as the breakthrough by means of which the colonized Black (and others) asks himself: "how can one get out of that, except through the rupture, the explosion, every day more violent, of this vicious circle. Due to its own internal fatality, the colonial situation calls for revolt” (MEMMI 2007: 169-170) against the colonizing Whiteness and the West. Hand in hand, both black humanity and rupture pave a significant trajectory and find in Afro-American thinker West (1993) a more purposeful formulation, this time not directed against the Western colonizer or the white oppressor, but in favor of the cultural values ​​of African origin. It is, West contends, "a nostalgic search for the African parent” (WEST 1993: 85), a search that takes shape in the answer to Du Bois’s (1986) question, given by the Negro’s regained humanity, "what, after all, am I? […] am I a Negro?” (DU BOIS, 1986: 821). Imbued with this self-determined and independent humanity, the new black being or subject or self fully immerses himself into the Black culture, an attitude that Ferreira (2004) claims to be characterized by a “period in which the person plunges into the Black nationalism” in order to escape from the white values. Ferreira argues that the Negro’s “interest in ‘Mother Africa’ becomes evident” (FERREIRA 2004: 81).

However, to stop the assimilation of white values ​​and start appreciating and living the Black values of Negritude is still a reactive attitude, necessary but incomplete for the emergence of a "black humanity" that invigorates Blackness. Thus understood and lived, that is, in isolation and apart from Whiteness, Blackness is denounced by Glissant (2005) as something coming from an atavistic culture. He teaches us: “the atavistic cultures tend to defend (…) the status of identity as a single root and to exclude the other” (GLISSANT 2005: 27). Exclusive identities, such as the nationalist, which is based on values ​​of African origin only, are seen as "purified identities". "Purification”, Robins (1991) explains, "aims to secure both protection from, and positional superiority over, the external other" (ROBINS 1991: 42). As this is an identity marked by an antagonistic polarity between two worlds, or two opposing traditions (that of the ex-slaves and that of the owners of slaves), Hall (2006) believes that the “purified” Negro – that is, the Nationalist Black – finds it “tempting to think of identity in the age of globalization as destined to end up in one place or another” (HALL, 1992: 310), that is, in the West or in Africa. Nationalist Afro-Brazilians like Geni and her family opt for Africa. As we have seen from Caliban to today, racial mobility of people of African descent contemplates this long historical perspective. Historically, African Brazilians have also gone through migratory displacement as slaves, within our country, during and after slavery was abolished. Diasporic displacement, dislocation or migration of racialized subjects reflect postcolonial experiences in Bhabha’s (1988) view, as he writes that

the contemporary postcolonial discourses are rooted in specific histories of cultural displacement, whether as a "middle passage" from slavery to servitude, as a "trip out" of the civilizing mission, the accommodation of the massive migration from Third World to the West after World War II, or the movement of economic and political refugees within and outside the Third World. (BHABHA, 1988: 241). 

My personal assumption here is that Geni not only personifies Caliban’s decolonizing attitudes and, therefore, signifies upon the entire collection of ideas discussed above, from the Cuban Retamar to Indian Bhabha, but also proudly and successfully affirms her proactive Brazilian Blackness or Negritude and nationalism.


4.2. Paralatio as Lingual Translation

Both Negritude and Paralatio follow a movement that is similarly unidirectional, but distinctly oppositional. As for unidirectional dispersion, on the one hand, as racial displacement, Negritude remains faithful to Blackness, or Geni’s original racial background as we have seen within her personal and family experience. On the other, as lingual dispersion, Paralatio moves from source language (Brazilian Portuguese) or its original linguistic tradition, to the target text (English) or the language tradition that is not its. Race and language give them distinctiveness within their mobility. Therefore, while Negritude stresses Geni’s reinforcement of black vitality, Paralatio focuses on the linguistic dynamics of the derived text, the translated one.

Here, Paralatio deserves a consideration, apart from the concept of Negritude, which, borrowed from Martinican poet Aimé Césaire, was briefly discussed above. As a concept, Paralatio is a coined word, aimed at dealing with linguistic dispersion within translation.  It was created after two other words, Paraphrase and Translatio, through the combination of the first part of PARAphrase (PARA) with the second half of TransLATIO (LATIO), resulting in the neologism PARALATIO, which encompasses the idea that paralatic translation and, therefore, resembles the linguistic and cultural qualities of the target language and culture. From this very perspective, Schleiermacher (1992) explains that any translation based on paraphrase seeks to solve linguistic and cultural problems by expanding or limiting the terms in the target text. The way the German theorist sees intertextual exchange, a paraphrasal translation “seeks to overcome the irrationality of languages” by dealing “with the elements of both languages”, and gets its effect “by increasing or decreasing them” (SCHLEIERMACHER 1992:40). He summarizes this process saying that “the translator leaves the author in peace as much as possible and moves the reader toward him” (SCHLEIERMACHER 2004: 49). And he clarifies that, in this case,

The translator is endeavoring, in his work, to compensate for the reader’s inability to understand the original language. He seeks to impart to the reader the same image, the same impression that he himself received thanks to his knowledge of the original language of the work as it was written, thus moving the reader to his own position, one in fact foreign to him (SCHLEIERMACHER 2004, 49). 

The translator’s endeavors to make the translation reader’s life easier when he reads a translated text are accompanied by other theorists dealing with paralatic translation, those whom Landers (2001) calls targeteers or free translators.  Thus, Paralatio, as a process of interlingual rendition is also known as free translation. Translational freedom is seen by Chesterman (1997) as change, when a text moves from language A to language B. He argues that texts (idea and language) “spread and change as they are translated (…) In this light, a translator is not someone whose task is to conserve something but to propagate something, to spread and develop it: translators are agents of change. Translators, in fact, make a difference” (CHESTERMAN 1997:02). For him, “free translation tends to prioritize functional equivalence”, which ties us to the idea that “translators have the right to translate just how they feel, exploiting a wide range of relations between source and target” (CHESTERMAN, 1997: 13) language or culture.

Besides Chesterman (1997), other translation theorists and practitioners give distinct labels to free rendition of source texts in motion to the target languages. For instance, Landers (2001) names it fluency and transparency and characterizes fluent and transparent rendition as

Most translators judge the success of a translation largely on the degree to which it “doesn’t read like a translation”. The object is to render Language A  into Language B in a way that leaves as little evidence as possible of the process. In this view, a reader might be unaware he/she was reading a translation unless alerted to the fact. Whether adopting this perspective or not, upon beginning a project the translator must decide to what point transparency is a desideratum (LANDERS 2001: 49).

Freedom within translation associated with translation success and creativity is also analyzed by Amorim (2005), who argues that “free or creative translation would have found an invaluable space within American poet and translator Ezra Pound, who conceived translation as a form of criticism and creation” (AMORIM 2005: 57). Gentzler (2009) adds valuable contribution to the purpose of paralatic rendition of texts by asserting that Nida also privileges free rendition. He affirms that for Nida “the biblical translator should not underestimate communication. On the contrary, they should bring it to the fore, using any linguistic resources and theory of communication available to help them with the task” (GENTZLER 2009: 80).

My initial speculation that tradition becomes translation through migration receives, now, a supplementary assumption involving a domesticating modality of textual translation from the perspective of paralatic renditions. Venuti (1998) explains that, when translation “domesticates foreign texts”, that is, when it follows Paralatio, it brings to them “linguistic and cultural values that are intelligible to specific domestic constituencies” employing “a translation strategy that rewrites the foreign texts in domestic dialects and discourses”, and transforming domestication into “a choice of certain domestic values to the exclusion of others” (VENUTI 1998: 67). I will argue, then, that a text ‘traditions’ itself into a culture that receives it through free translation at the same time that the source text A Cor da Ternura acclimatizes itself to Paralatio under the linguistic and cultural force and will of the target language of The Color of Tenderness that receives it.


4.3. Analytical Perspectives within Translational Negritude and Paralatio

The model for translation analysis discussed above has designed three distinct trios: (1) the one amalgamating Negriceness, Paralatio and Domestication indicates the accommodation of source people, and texts within source culture, under target cultural and linguistic environment; (2) the other including Negritude, Similatio and Foreignization reveals resistance of source human subjects and texts race and language to being assimilated by the target racial and lingual environment accommodation by empowering both source race and language; and (3) the last one dealing with Negriticeness, Translatio and Hybridization fuses both accommodation and resistance of original race and language. The analysis that is about to happen hereon wishes to integrate the race of the second trio (Negritude) with the language of the first one (Paralatio), therefore making racial resistance and lingual accommodation work together. As a result, Negritude goes together with Paralatio.

The extract of Guimarães’s novel The Color of Tenderness chosen for the intensive analysis of both racial and lingual translation is titled Crystal Moment or Momento Cristalino. The reason why I chose this chapter has to do with the fact that it seems that the events portrayed in it by the narrator Geni represent a very high point within her empowered Blackness. In the chapter, her academic success is at the center of her black family’s life and, therefore, shows the moment of her graduation ceremony, celebrated by her together with her family. This is the moment when we see racial translation taking place along with black decolonization. The decolonizing racial translation is symbolized by Negritude, which does not only evidence resistance to Whiteness – the same way Caliban also resists to Pospero – but also shows an invaluable affirmation of a certain black humany, which Césaire refers to as

Elle fait reference à quelque chose de plus profound, très exactement à une somme d’expériences vécues qui ont fini par définir et caractériser une des formes de l’humaine destine telle que l’histoire l’a faite: c’est une des formes historiques de la condition faite à l’homme (CÉSAIRE 2004 : 80).

It makes reference to something more profound, exactly to a sum of experiences that have come to define and characterize a form of human fate as history has made it: it is one of the historical forms of the status accorded to man (My Translation).

Césaire’s words on Negritude corroborate the idea of Blackness that empowers the experience of Geni’s family. This is an affirmative Blackness, which leads Geni’s family to move in search of educational excellence, represented by her certificate, speech and career.

According to the analytical model prescribed – Negritude, Similatio, Foreignization – lingual translation should follow Similatio as its orientation. However, contradicting my expectation, lingual translation will onward be metaphorized by the concept of Paralatio. This is due to the massive presence of elements indicating linguistic domestication of the Brazilian Portuguese, as the source language, by English, as its target language.

In this first excerpt of Geni’s narrative below,

I – NEGRITUDE: Para dezembro foi marcada a data para realização do evento. Minha colação de grau. Em casa conversamos e decidimos que todos da família estariam presentes. Decidimos ter que calçar e vestir todo mundo adequadamente, como exigia a ocasião (Guimarães, Cor da Ternura 82)

PARALATIO: December was set for the realization of the ceremony. My graduation. At home, we discussed what dress to wear and which shoes to put on – all befitting of the occasion. (Trans. Afolabi 75).

the family’s Negritude shows itself “comme prise de conscience de la différence, comme mémoire, comme fidelité et comme solidarité » (CÉSAIRE 2004 : 83) or «as awareness of difference, like memory, like loyalty and solidarity ». This is the Blackness that relates to her family’s collective preparation for her graduation ceremony, which happens in December. The reader is informed that the whole family will participate and will need clothes and shoes appropriate for the solemnity of the occasion. Paralatio indicates the lingual translation of the domesticating kind, and, thus, privileges fluency within target language. Fluent rendition masks real translation, by making translation and the target language coincide. In this regard, Landers (2001) explains that “most translators judge the success of a translation largely the degree to which it ‘doesn’t’ read like a translation” (LANDERS 2001: 49). The result of translational fluency’s prevalence over lingual resistance is that the target language overcomes the source text, and domesticates it. One example of this translationally fluent strategy is the expression “Para dezembro”, a temporal adverb in the source text, which is retaken in the target excerpt as the subject “December” by English translator Afolabi. Besides, in the nominal level of the rendition, “todo mundo” becomes “all” and the adverb “adequadamente” is translated as the verb “befitting”. Finally, the translator reduces the sentence “como exigia a ocasião”  to the expression “of the occasion”, thus engendering syntactic rendition.

In the next passage,

II – NEGRITUDE: Fizemos o balanço e, vendo a escassez do dinheiro, concordamos no seguinte: só compraríamos tudo novo para mim. Os outros só comprariam aquilo que não tivessem mesmo, de jeito nenhum. Portanto, compramos roupa para um, sapato para outro e assim por diante (Guimarães, Cor da Ternura 82).

PARALATIO: We evaluated things based on scarcity of Money and came to terms with the following: we would only buy new items for me. Others would buy only what they lacked. For one we’d buy a dress, for another, shoes – and so on (Trans. Afolabi 75).

Geni’s racial translation reaffirms her family’s Negritude. Through Geni’s words we are informed that the family prepares itself in order to be present in the graduation ceremony of its most successful daughter who becomes a teacher. Due to financial scarcity, they are led to make cuts in what would be proper and needed. During the discussion of the preparation, they agree that some would wear the old things if they were still wearable; others would have news things if the old things were not manageable. Due to her condition as the center of the celebration, only Geni would have new clothes and shoes. As she is the first teacher in the family nobody complains about the special attention she deserves from everybody. Regarding Paralatio, the fluent rendition of the source passage occurs in both syntactic and nominal level. Syntactic transfer relates the sentences “Fizemos o balanço” to “we evaluated things”; “vendo” to  “based”; and “concordamos no” to “came to terms with”. In addition, translator Afolabi reduces the sentence “aquilo que não tivessem mesmo, de jeito nenhum” to the short sentence “what they lacked”. Finally, Simple Past tense “compramos” becomes “we’d buy”, a second future form. As for translation involving nouns, Afolabi rends the expression “tudo novo” as “new items”, discards the rendition of the conjunction “portanto”, and deals with “a dress” as the equivalent to “roupa”.

The paragraph below

III – NEGRITUDE: No dia, todos estavam nervosos, mas arrumaram-se muito cedo para a cerimônia. Meu pai cortou o cabelo do Zezinho, do Dirceu e dos outros homens da família. Depois o Joãozinho cortou o do meu pai. (Guimarães, Cor da Ternura 82-83)

PARALATIO: On my graduation day, everyone was nervous but they all got ready on time for the ceremony. My dad cut Zezinho’s hair, that of Dirceu and other men in the family. Afterwards, Joãozinho cut my father’s hair (Trans. Afolabi 75).

displays the excitement taking possession of Geni’s family members. This is a moment of the family coming together “comme solidarité”, a kind of solidarity through which everybody helps each other. Geni’s father cuts the sons’ hair and has his hair cut by Joãozinho. Paralatic rendition of the source passage involves the manipulation of nouns. For instance, the expression “no dia” is enlarged in order to become “on my graduation day”; the adverb of time “muito cedo” is rendered as “on time”, and the pronoun “o” is replaced by its equivalent noun “hair”.

 In the excerpt below,

IV – NEGRITUDE: Vez em quando, encorajava-os com um riso. Meu pai, ao lado da minha mãe, estava pleno, altivo, sereno. Com os olhos, acompanhava todos os meus movimentos, engolindo salivas de prazer. Minha mãe me bebia através dos ares do meu pai, que, embevecido, ajeitava a gola da camisa, propositalmente, me segredando que estava feliz (Guimarães, Cor da Ternura 83).

PARALATIO: From time to time, I encouraged them with a little smile. My father was sitting by my mother. They were following my contagious gestures with their attentive eyes. My mother was also watching through the lenses of my father, who to his delight, adjusted his collar as a gesture that all was well and that I was doing fine (Trans. Afolabi 75-76).

Geni’s association with Negritude includes the description of the sentiments involving the family, feelings that are at the center of the narrative. She concentrates her attention on both the father’s and the mother’s behaviors regarding her. Her words focus on their pride, which reveals itself in their eyes, mouth, body movements and in the way the father praises Geni greatly, telling her he is very happy with her own achievement. Again, paralatic translation involves both nominal elements and syntactic structures. Regarding the rendition of nouns, Afalabi decides to move to English the expression “vez em quando” as “from time to time”. Besides, the expression “com um riso” arrives at the target text with the addition of the adjective “little”, therefore becoming “with a little smile”. The opening expression “com os olhos” is thrown to the end of the sentence as “with their attentive eyes”, enlarged by the adjective “attentive”, not referring any longer to the singular pronoun “he”, but to its plural form “they”. The noun “ares” is replaced by the word “lenses”. In addition, the expression “a gola da camisa” is reduced to “collar”. Also, the word “movimentos” becomes “gestures”. The adjective “embevecido” moves as the expression “to his delight”. Within the syntactic sphere, paralatic translation amplifies source language’s domestication by the target text. It is the case of the sentence “estava pleno, altivo, sereno”, whose rendition is discarded. Translator Afolabi also transforms the implicit pronoun “he=my father” into its plural form “they”, which includes Gen’s father and mother. The sentence ”me bebia” has its intensified meaning mitigated by the equivalent “was also watching”. Finally, the sentence “me segredando que estava feliz” is strongly enlarged in order to become “as a gesture that all was well and that I was doing fine”. As a result, Geni’s father’s personal reaction becomes something impersonal.

The next passage

V – NEGRITUDE: Fui chamada para receber o certificado. Eles, meus pais, não se puderam conter só com palmas. Levantaram e me aplaudiram em pé. Mão abertas, barulhentas, livres. Meus irmãos, contagiados, perderam a timidez e também se puseram em pé, me aplaudindo e apontando, como se só eu existisse ali, como se no momento eu estivesse me apossando da chave do céu (Guimarães, Cor da Ternura 83).

PARALATIO: I was called up to receive my certificate. They, my parents, could not limit their excitement to just clapping for me. They stood up and clapped while standing. They had opened hands, free and noisy. Likewise, my brothers and sisters also lost their timidity and clapped, pointing me out and making me feel as if I was going to receive the key to heaven (Trans. Afolabi 76).

introduces one of the two highest moments in Geni’s graduation ceremony. Encapsulating the family’s experience of Negritude refers to the event in which she receives her certificate. The other will be her graduation speech. During the first moment, her family does not restrain its excitement and enjoyment. Father, mother, brothers and sisters stand up, yell and clap hands, loudly and noisily, with no fear. From their seats, they point up to her as if she were the only person on stage, as if she were passing on to them the key to heaven. They seem to embody the kind of Negritude that Césaire felt and lived when he said that

la Négritude résulte d’une attitude active et offensive de l’esprit. Elle est sursaut, et sursaut de dignité. Elle est refus, je veux dire refus de l’oppression. Elle est combat, c’est-à-dire combat contre l’inégalité (CÉSAIRE, 2004 : 84).

Negritude is the result of an active and offensive mind. It is a start and a burst of dignity. It is refusal, I mean refusal of oppression. It is fighting, that is to say, fight against inequality (My translation).

In the sphere of the paralatic translation, or target language’s domestication over source text, one must resort to Landers’s (2001) words, who writes that “the object (of fluent translation) is to render Language A into Language B in a way that leaves as little evidence as possible of the process” (LANDERS, 2001: 49). Translator Afolabi seems to follow the theorist’s explanation and makes some paralatic intervention on the syntactic level. He first changes the intransitive sentence “não se puderam conter” into the transitive “could not limit their excitement”. Besides replacing “conter” for “limit”, he adds the noun “their excitement”, but denies to offer an English equivalence to the expression “só com palmas”. Other paralatic arrangements conducted by Afolabi include the rendering of the expression “em pé” into the sentence “while standing”. In the sentence “Mão abertas, barulhentas, livres” an implicit verb becomes the explicit form “opened” of the sentence “They had opened hands, free and noisy”. Other syntactic manipulations deal with the complete elimination from English of the sentences “se puseram em pé”, “como se só eu existisse ali” and “como se no momento”. On the other hand, Afolabi adds the sentence “making me feel as if” to his English version. Specific language arrangements are managed by translator Afolabi in the area of nominal Paralatio. For instance, he discards translation for the adjective “contagiados”, creates the verb “to receive” as the equivalent for “apossar-se”. Finally, he adds the word “likewise” to a sentence.

The excerpt below

VI – NEGRITUDE: O diretor esperou pacientemente até que eles percebessem o ultrapassar do limite e fossem, um a um, retomando seus lugares nos bancos. Terminada a entrega dos certificados fui convidada para discursar, por ter sido escolhida para oradora da turma. (Guimarães, Cor da Ternura  83-85)

PARALATIO: The director waited patiently for each excitement to recede, knowing full well that their time was up and waiting for the graduates to return to their place.  At the end of giving out the certificates, I was invited to make a speech since I was selected as the valedictorian (Trans. Afolabi 76).

shed light on the second most significant moment in the ceremony: Geni’s delivery of her graduation speech. She had been chosen by her course-mates to be the group’s orator. Narrator Geni does not mention the content of her public oration, but we can imagine it or deduce it from the reaction that she notices in the family from the stage where she is speaking or reading her speech. Again, paralatic rendition within this paragraph is mostly syntactic. Translator Afolabi adds the sentence “for each excitement to recede” and rends the sentence “até que eles percebessem o ultrapassar do limite” as “knowing full well that their time was up”. Some parts of this sentence also obey paralatic rendition. For instance, the translator sends the verb “percebessem” to English as “knowing full well” and the expression “o ultrapassar do limite” as “their time was up”. Besides, another sentence addition takes place: “and waiting for the graduate”. The sentence “retomando” has as its English counterpart “to return”. The sentence “Terminada a entrega” moves to English as “At the end of giving out”, and “para discursar” becomes “to make a speech”. Domesticating semantic translation also takes place. Afolabi renders “limite” as “time” and “oradora da turma” equals “the valedictorian”. Word addition or suppression also occurs as, for instance, the elimination of the expressions “um a um” and “nos bancos”.

In the next paragraph,

VII – NEGRITUDE: De novo, meu pai ficou em pé, desatou o nó da gravata e assumiu postura de rei. Para melhor me ouvir, esqueceu a etiqueta, fez conchas com as mãos e envolveu as orelhas. As formalidades todas terminaram. Fui até eles para voltarmos juntos. Eu, princesa, entreguei meu certificado ao rei, que o embrulhou no lenço de bolso e passou a carregá-lo como se fosse um vaso de cristal (Guimarães, Cor da Ternura 85).

PARALATIO: Once again, my father stood up, adjusted the knot of his tie, and maintained a royal posture. In order to hear me, he disregarded all etiquette, and cupped his hands around his ears. All the formalities came to an end. I went to meet them so that we could return home together. Princess-like, I gave my certificate to my father, the king of the moment, who in turn, wrapped it in a handkerchief and carried it as if it were a crystal vase (Trans. Afolabi 76).

Geni’s family lives an extraordinary moment for their Negritude. Both the receipt of the certificate and the speech delivery place the whole family and each of its members in the same level of ecstasy, with the father excelling in excitement. It is him who stands up and unknots his tie. Behaving as if he were a king over there, he neglects etiquette and cups his ears in order to capture the daughter’s message. As the ceremony ends, they return home together. Feeling like a princess, Geni hands the certificate to her father and, he, like a king, carries it home as if it were a crystal vase. Translator Afolabi addresses his transparent paralatic translation to syntax and renders the sentence “meu pai ficou em pé” as “stood up”. Afolabi makes the sentence “fez conchas com as mãos e envolveu as orelhas” arrive at English as “cupped his hands around his ears”. Semantic treatment of Paralatio occurs when the verbs “desatar”, “assumir”, “esquecer”, “terminar” move to English as “adjust”, “maintain”, “disregard”, “come to an end”. Other semantic interventions take place when Afolabi decides to treat the word “rei” as “father”, “princesa” as “princess-like”. The most relevant addition of some translational part appears with the inclusion of the expression “the king of the moment”.

The following passage

VIII – NEGRITUDE: Ele, fingindo brincar de mágico, retirou os sapatos dos pés e nos mostrou: duas bexigas enormes desfiguravam seus calcanhares e algumas escoriações marcavam toda a região nos peitos dos pés. Fiquei extática. Tudo aquilo por mim, para mim. Toda aquela dor para me ver receber o certificado (Guimarães, Cor da Ternura 85).

 PARALATIO: Pretending to be doing magic, he took off his shoes from his feet and showed us: two big pock-marks disfigured the front and back of his feet. I was quite ecstatic. All that for me; just for me. All of that pain just to see me get my certificate (Trans. Afolabi 78).  

brings to the front some humorous elements of the family’s celebration and associates them with pain. Both humor and pain are protagonized by Geni’s father and, thus, place the family’s Negritude and racial translation on a new dimension within the narrative. The paragraph shows humor when the father plays a magic, informing that he is going to take his shoes off. When he does take them off the painful aspects become evident: his feet are disfigured by big wounds on their back and on their front. As a result of the sight of the blessures, Geni is, momentarily, paralyzed due to the ugliness of the injures on her father’s feet. However, then, she reacts with pride because she is sure that he has done all that for her and her certificate. Syntactic and domesticating Paralatio finds its place in the way Afolabi deals with translation as he renders the sentence “fingindo brincar de mágico” as “pretending to be doing magic”, but discards the long sentence  “algumas escoriações marcavam toda a região nos peitos dos pés”, leaving it out of the target paragraph. Regarding paralatic semantic interventions, Afolabi translates the expression “duas bexigas enormes” as “two big pock-marks”, “calcanhares” as “back of his feet” and “peito dos pés” as “front of his feet”. Finally, the verb “receber” is rendered as “get”.

The Guimarãeses’ saga comes to its end in the next paragraph.

IX – NEGRITUDE: “Perdão do quê? Eu é que peço perdão. Imagine só... Esquecer de usar a meia. Já pensou se um dos seus arremedou amigos visse? Deus me livre de te envergonhar!” Pensou um pouco e arremedou a conversa. “E quer saber de uma coisa? Se precisar, enfio de novo o desgraçado do sapato do Zé no pé, sem meia e tudo, e volto lá para bater todas aquelas palmas de novo” (Guimarães, Cor da Ternura 86).

PARALATIO: “Sorry for what? I should ask for your forgiveness. Look at that! I forgot to use the socks. Imagine if one of your friends had seen me. God forbid that I embarrass you!” He thought for a while, and then, continued his conversation. “And you know what? If need be, I will put on the shameful shoes and everything else; and return there to clap for you all over again” (Trans. Afolabi 78). 

In it, the reader follows the conversation between the father and the daughter Geni. The father begs Geni’s forgiveness for not having behaved properly during the ceremony: he had forgotten to wear the socks and, as a result, had his feet injured. He was ashamed of his behavior and would not forgive himself if he had embarrassed her before his friends and teachers. However, he says he was so proud of the daughter’s intellectual achievement that he would do all that again if he had to, just for clapping for her again. Regarding paralatic translation, the focus lies first on the syntactic aspects of the passage. For instance, translator Afolabi transfers to English the sentence “Eu é que” as “I should”. The sentence “imagine só” becomes “looks at that”, “já pensou” is rendered as “imagine”, and “arremedou” moves to English as “continued”. Afolabi deals with the sentence “E quer saber de uma coisa?” as “And you know what?” As for semantic Paralatio, the translator replaces the singular with the plural as that occurs between “meia” and “socks”, between “sapato” and “shoes”. Afolabi renders the expression “de novo” as “all over again”.  Pragmatic Paralatio also occurs with the discard of words, as when Afalobi leaves the expressions and words “de novo”, “do Zé” and “sem meia” with no translation equivalents in English.

This last excerpt closes the crystal moment of the Guimarãeses’s celebration and racial translation.

X – NEGRITUDE: Novamente, leve onda de riso encheu a sala. O Dirceu pediu a bênção e se retirou para dormir. Todos fizeram a mesma coisa, e eu já estava para imitá-los, quando o vi procurando alguma coisa. “O senhor queria alguma coisa, pai?” “Estou vendo onde foi que guardei o danado do diploma. Vou dormir com ele debaixo do travesseiro que é pra sonhar sonho bonito. (Guimarães, Cor da Ternura 86).

PARALATIO: Once again, a slight wave of laughter circulated within the room. Dirceu asked for his parents’ blessing so as to go to bed. Others did the same thing and I was about to do the same when I saw my father looking for something. “What are you looking for, father?” “I am wondering where I left the diploma. I am going to sleep with it under so as to have sweet dream (Trans. Afolabi 76).  

It crowns the black family’s Negritude as the effective confirmation and empowerment of their Blackness associated with one of its daughter’s scholastic achievement. Through Geni’s academic success, the family experiences an extraordinary story and can affirm their singular Negritude. Césaire says that Negritude

C’est une manière de vivre l’histoire dans l’histoire : l’histoire d’une communauté dont l’expérience apparait, à vrai dire, singulaire (CÉSAIRE, 2004 : 82).

This is a way of living history within history: the history of a community whose experience appears to be, indeed, singular (My translation)

At home, that night after the ceremony, they are ready to go to bed when the father and the daughter talk. He wants to have a last chat with Geni and tell her about his pride of being her father. He does not remember where he had left the daughter’s diploma, but promises that he would sleep with it under the pillow and would dream with the kind of black achievement Geni had just had. Regarding syntactic Paralatio, Afolabi deals with some of the sentences of the passage. For instance, he moves to English the sentence “encheu a sala” as “circulated within the room”. The sentence “se retirou para dormir” reads as “as to go to bed”. He also rewrites “para imitá-los” as “to do the same”. He renders “o senhor queria alguma coisa, pai?” as “what are you looking for, father?”. The sentences “estou vendo” and “é para sonhar” moves to English as “I am wondering” and “to have… a dream”. As for semantic Paralatio, Afolabi renders the word “todos” as “others”; the pronoun “o” becomes “my father” and the adjective “bonito” moves to English as “sweet”. Finally, concerning pragmatic Paralatio, Afolabi discards an explicit  translation for the expression “o danado do”.


Concluding Conjectures

Aiming at delineating my concluding remarks on both the racial and lingual translatability of Guimarães’s novel A Cor da Ternura into The Color of Tenderness, it is plausible to assert  that Duarte’s (2014) characterization of the literary production by black Brazilian authors as African Brazilian Literature rather than Black Literature, as some writers have been postulating as the only valid alternative, adds invaluable contribution to the ideas I have assumed in this article, concerning analytical openness leading to a more inclusive appreciation black letters within the environment of Brazilian literary production in these initial years of the 21th century.  

For its proposal of Geni’s personal and potential translatability, evolving within African Brazilian community deeply concerned with its members’ racial and lingual empowerment, the novels The Color of Tenderness and A Cor da Ternura show themselves as the repository of the idea that translation results from the migration of one tradition to another tradition. It is visibly detectable that both Geni – the major character of the novel – and the novels translate themselves: Geni becomes a teacher; the novel travels to another language, English.

The concepts regarding Brazilian Blackness (Negritude),  the metaphors (Caliban), the identities (Nationalist) together with the concepts regarding textual blackness (Paralatio), the translational processes (Transparence) and the translational identities (Domesticating) have provided an instigating, though  complex, appreciation of translatability involving both people’s and text’s migration from one tradition to another, thus resulting in both black people’s life change and black text’s textual transformation, leading to unprecedented possibilities of analysis and appreciation.

The application of Gates’s (1988) concept of  Signifyin(g) within the analysis of the novel under study has added invaluable theoretical and practical support to the discussion, leading to the black people’s racial mobility and black texts’ linguistic or cultural displacement. Such an empowering conversational knowledge and attitudes among African Brazilian people (the Guimarães family) and between the two distinct languages involved in the process (Portuguese and English).

Finally, it is worth recapturing my opening hypothesis that “tradition becomes translation through migration” dealing with both black humanity and writing, in order to reinforce Hall’s (1992) postcolonial and postmodern point of view concerning identity. He explicitly argues that “identity becomes a ‘moveable feast’: formed and transformed continuously in relation to the ways we are represented or addressed in the cultural systems which surround us” (HALL 1992: 277). The black Guimarãeses, in the novel, seem to position themselves close to the ‘moveable feast’ kind of identity that appeases postcolonial and postmodern cultural critic Stuart Hall.  


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* Ensaísta, ficcionista, poeta, crítico e pesquisador, com dezenas de publicações no país e no exterior, José Endoença Martins é professor do Programa de Pós-graduação em Estudos Transculturais da UNIFACVEST. Autor, entre outros, de A cor errada de Shakespeare (2020); Enquanto isto em Dom Casmurro (2018); e Conversão de mulheres escravas em narrativas negras espirituais e políticas: autobiografia dentro da experiência literária negra (2020).

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