It might seem like a roundabout route, and yet it just might work. Distant Brazil is showing an interest in studying Goa’s literature, and there are hints of a whole lot of positive fallouts from what’s already happening.
In the first two months of 2016, scholars from distant Sao Paolo (and some other areas of Brazil) showed up in Goa. Their mission: to study literature from here. Two aspects need to be kept in mind. Some scholars, like Prof Helder Garmes, has been looking at Goan writing (in Portuguese) for some time now. He has encouraged some of his young students to do likewise. So, you might be surprised to realise that parts of Goa’s pre-1961 literary heritage are today better understood in Brazil than in Goa itself!
Secondly, at the start the interest of the scholars was in Portuguese writing from Goa, now a fast-being-forgotten field here. But they did not stay within the confines of this field alone. They have begun looking — quite deeply, one might add — at Goan writing in English too. They next grew interested in Goan writing in Konkani, and would like to do the same for Marathi too. Understandably, in these last two language fields, their ability to work would depend on which literary works which have been translated. So, such interest in Goa could lead to use taking our literature a bit more seriously. For sure, someone might get the idea that it’s worth translating some texts, in the hope of reaching out to wider audiences. Already, the smarter among the Konkani writers have been giving an enhanced push to get their works translated, knowing fully well that this means far wider audiences.
With support from Sao Paulo, the Brazilians are working on what they call a ‘Pensando Goa’ (Thinking Goa) project. This makes more sense today, because it’s not just about nostalgia. There’s growing enthusiasm over BRICS, the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa network of emerging economies too. This means that Goa could actually play the role of being a useful bridge to link the wider reality India and that of Brazil. This would go far beyond just focussing on accidents of history from the past (which is important too, at least to set the initial connect happen). So, with that as the core, other scholars with shared interests were roped in from other parts of the globe. And who doesn’t like to visit Goa?
Some came in from Portugal and Macau, our other colonial cousins, to use a term flippantly. There were also Portuguese language scholars from the UK and the US, coming from universities in Leeds and Dartmouth respectively. This all led to at least three events in Goa. These were informative, because this group has an insight into parts of the Goan past that we ourselves have forgotten (or let die) here.
Cielo Festino, a Argentinian lady professor in Brazil, has been studying Indian writing in English. Now, she’s focussing her attention to Goan writing in English. If names like Raul de Loyola Furtado, Nisha da Cunha and Imelda Dias, are not familiar to many readers here, work by her and others could change all that. Likewise, the 38-year-old Dr Paul Melo e Castro, of the University of Leeds, has been translating old, forgotten Portuguese short stories written by Goans into English. He also co-edited (with Prof Garmes), a novel by the highly-rated Goan writer in Portuguese, Epitacio Pais, whose work would have almost been lost but got published as ‘Preia Mar’ (High Tide). Prof Festino questions the view that particular narratives have, or don’t have, literary value. She argues that narratives have to be considered in terms of what each culture considers as literature.
That’s yet another reason of why not to look down at the local, and the diverse languages and scripts it has been expressed in.