Posted in English

May I Be Of Assistance? 

I’ve always thought of the verb Assistir as a straightforward false friend, meaning, as it does, to attend or spectate at an event, and has nothing to do with helping or supporting any way. But today I was reading the book “Trilby” by George Du Maurier, written at the back end of the nineteenth century and I came across this sentence

And, indeed, here was this immense audience, made up of the most cynically critical people in the world, and the most anti-German, assisting with rapt ears and streaming eyes at the imagined spectacle of a simple German damsel, a Mädchen, a Fräulein, just “verlobte”—a future Hausfrau—sitting under a walnut-tree in some suburban garden

That really sounds like a very Portuguese use of the word “assist”. So I looked in my trusty Chambers and it turns out that assist had, in Shakespeare’s day, much the same meaning as its cognate does in Portuguese. What’s more, when I checked the priberam online dictionary I found that Assistir has several senses, including the British one. They give as it’s synonyms Ajudar, Socorrer and Cooperar.

So what we have is a word with two distinct meanings, in the process of diverging, where one sense is dominant in English and the other in Portuguese, but while the lesser sense is still used in Portuguese, the lesser sense in English has all but faded away to nothing.

Posted in English, Portuguese

A Vida Nos Livros

“A Vida No Livros” de José Jorge Letria – Tradução

Nem dez vidas me bastaram, eu sei

Ten lifetimes wouldn’t be enough, I know

para ler os livros que fui arrecadando

to read the books I’ve been collecting

e que me desafiam para que

and that challenge me because

me perca neles como um peregrino

I lose myself in them, like a pilgrim

nas rotas de um mitigado desespero.

on the trails of a muted despair

Sou eu que pertenço aos livros

It’s me that belongs to the books

e não o contrario, já o disse tantas vezes

and not the other way around, I’ve said it many times

pois o que eles vão entesourando

because the treasure they are hiding

é a pequenez do tempo que me resta

is the shortness of the time that remains to me

para os ler e neles me encontrar.

to read them and find myself in them

Os livros falam de vidas e de guerras

The books speak of lives and wars

e eu só falo do que os livros contam,

and I only talk about what the books tell me

esquecido que ando do que vivi

oblivious that I’m wandering from what I lived

e bem podia e devia contar-vos.

and can and should tell you

São os livros que me acenam

It’s the books that move me

apontando-me para os mostradores

pointing me to the faces

dos seus relógios imóveis e opacos,

of their motionless, opaque clocks

assim como quem diz: por mais que vivas,

as if they were saying: no matter how you live,

por mais que faças, tu partirás

no matter what you do, you will depart

e nós, bem ou mal, havemos de ficar,

and we, good or bad, have to stay

porque não nos cansámos de viver

because we never got tired of living

a ficção de que são feitas estas vidas.

the fiction from which these lives are made