Antonio Carlos Jobim: An Illuminated Man
(by Helena Jobim, published by Hal Leonard, 2011)
Dário Borim Jr.
University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and WUMD
WHILE LISTENING TO ANTHOLOGICAL RENDITIONS of bossa nova classics by Ella Fitzgerald, Stan Getz, João Gilberto, Dizzy Gillespie, Oscar Peterson, and Sarah Vaughan, among others, I read Helena Jobim’s elegant
Portuguese prose about the genesis of true gems of twentieth-century music. After every other minute, I was further enthused to re-create, in English, such fascinating story lines that explained the writing of “Dindi,” “Desafinado,” or “The Girl from Ipanema.” Moments of such sensorial and intellectual bliss had been extremely rare in my life as writer, literary critic, translator, and radio producer.
It was not always an easy spell, though. Antonio Carlos Jobim was someone else who knew all too well the perils and powers of translation. He always sought the most competent professionals in the business, such as lyricists Ray Gilbert, Norman Gimbel, and Gene Lees, to make his songs shine in meaning and elegance in the English language. He, himself, worked diligently on several of the new versions proposed for his lyrics.He understood the lights and shadows, especially the cultural and linguistic aspects, of literary translation, which demands cuts and additions, welcomes similarities and differences, but cannot refrain from gains and losses. As a result, many stanzas of “Águas de março” and “Waters of March,” for example, are not the same. Although they differ considerably even in length, the two poems display much more in common than the literal images they convey. Most significantly,
neither is superior to the other.
Translating this book has been as daunting as any other translation task, except for the fact that Helena Jobim is an award-winning writer and her brother is regarded by many critics as one of the greatest composers of the twentieth century. So, I definitely gave my heart and soul to this mission, but not without the support from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and several individuals. My thanks go to John Cerullo, for trusting this project, plus Iris Bass, Jessica Burr, Mike Edison, and all other Hal Leonard staff who have helped make this volume what it is visually and otherwise. For various acts of kindness and expertise I am indebted to Helena Jobim herself, her husband, Manoel Malaguti (in memoriam), Marco Feitosa, Thereza Otero Hermanny, Ana Lontra Jobim, and Cristina Rocha, in Brazil; and Ann Fifield, Kassandra Hartford, Maureen Hall, Rick Hogan, Janet Homer, Christopher Larkosh, and Charles Perrone, here in the United States. Most of all, I am grateful for the generosity and inspiration from pianist and singersongwriter Robert Lamm, one of the founding members of the legendary group Chicago.