Looking at Goa's least known, yet ages old, literary tradition... (TianChengWen)
(too old to reply)
Goanet Reader
2018-08-13 23:32:30 UTC

Indian languages, linguistics, and culture.

Goan Literature In Portuguese | A Literatura Portuguesa em Goa

Talking about Indian literature is fundamentally different
from talking about, let's say, Czech, or even French
literature. While literary traditions in most major countries
cleanly map on to a single language, the situation in India
is a lot more complex.

You have literary languages that are literary registers of
mother tongues in the subcontinent, cosmopolitan literary
languages that cut across the region (ie Sanskrit and Persian),
and colonial languages. All these distinct traditions
co-exist and are all part of the region's literary culture
and history. For example, Tamil, Sanskrit, and English could
all be considered part of a Chennai-ite's literary

Indian intellectuals of yore freely drew from
multiple traditions simultaneously and considered
them all part of their collective cultural history,
so I don't see the problem with us mere mortals
attempting to do the same.

According to The Indo Aryan Languages, Colin Masica, the
literary Indo Aryan languages are Sindhi, Sinhalese, Marathi,
Bengali, Assamese, Nepali, Hindi, Urdu, and Punjabi. The
literary Dravidian languages, of course, are Tamil, Telugu,
Kannada, and Malayalam.

Konkani, on the other hand, exists in a sort of limbo -- the
region is intimately bound to Marathi, the language of its
culturally-dominant northern neighbor, through the language's
widespread use for cultural and literary purposes, while
Goa's culture and history are distinctive enough that a Goan
voice might be expressed better through truly local modes of
expression involving the local language variety (ie Konkani,
distinct from Marathi and Kannada).

In any case, Goa's linguistic landscape is characterised by
multilingualism and different domains of usage for different
languages. Konkani is used for literature, but not on a large

Portuguese and Marathi were traditionally the written
languages of the Catholic and Hindu elites respectively,
while Konkani was used by both groups. English came to
replace Portuguese over time. Though, as we'll see, these
lines aren't that clear-cut.

In fact, Marathi newspapers in Goa have a larger readership
than Konkani newspapers.

When it comes to literature, Goa, by virtue of its
history, ended up being the confluence of four
distinct literary traditions. That's right -- four.
Konkani, Marathi, Portuguese, and of course,
English. To speak of (modern) Goan literature is to
include all four literary traditions.

I've always been interested in Goa's Portuguese history
(though I know very little about it), so Goa's Portuguese
literary tradition ended up piquing my interest the most. In
addition, I learn Portuguese (albeit the Brazilian variety
and not the European variety that was pushed in the Empire's
African and Asian colonies) and I find the language's
dispersal (through the vehicle of imperialism, of course),
quite interesting.

It's also arguably the least known of these traditions, given
that Portuguese has ceased to play a vital role in Goa, and
is not widely read anymore.

This self-same tradition, however, has ceased to play an
active role in the region's creative output, a decline that
shows a direct correlation with the language's loss of status
in Goa. A particularly telling example is that of O Heraldo
(The Herald), Goa's most widely read newspaper, which was a
Portuguese daily from its inception in 1909, until 1983, when
it switched to English. (Upon switching, the first and last
o’s were shrunk, making the paper's logo look like Herald,
instantly recognizable as English).

Now, how do you actually go about dipping your feet in the
wine-green waters of the vast mar português, o mar sem fim,
as they wash up against at the tranquil shores of Goa?

A small dash of serendipity, and by reading the work of a
dogged scholar, as it turns out.

I was fortunate enough to receive my initiation into this
neglected, yet thoroughly fascinating facet of Goa's literary
culture from Frederick Noronha, who I had the great pleasure
of meeting at his home office/library in Saligão, Bardez. I
left his office enriched with, among other things, two
volumes from an anthology, titled Lengthening Shadows, of
Goan short stories originally written in Portuguese,
published by his independent publishing house, Goa 1556.

That's right. These stories were written in Goa, by
Goans, but in Portuguese, part of a contemporary
tradition that spanned from Rio de Janeiro, to
Lisbon, to Macau, to Mozambique. And the coolest
part about this anthology? These stories are not
available anywhere else in English.

This anthology features a range of well written, compelling
stories that cut across different eras, styles, social
situations, and even genres, brought to life in English
through the masterful translations of Dr. Paul Melo e Castro,
a professor of Portuguese at the University of Leeds.

Perhaps today, for the Anglophone Goan reader, a point of
interest might be the differential cosmopolitanism of these
writers, their orientation towards currents of Lusophone and
continental European literature and thought alongside their
familiarity with the native Goan scene and, at times, with
Anglo Indian currents.

The stories are quite vivid and endearing, featuring
distinctively Goan settings and characters. Many of them
offer a look into a Luso-Indian cultural milieu that's all
but snuffed out. Many of the stories even feature words and
phrases from Konkani.

The writers (and their characters) are mostly Catholic (for
reasons spelt out above), but not exclusively so. Some of
the writers included in the anthology are Hindu and were
writers of note in Konkani and Marathi.

Then you have the case of Vimala Devi (the pen name of Teresa
da Piedade de Baptista Almeida, and yes, that's one person's
name), who was from a Catholic background (obviously) and was
based in Lisbon, who used a Sanskrit pen name to underscore
her Indian background.

In fact, she seems to be the GOAT of the whole collection,
and of Goan Portuguese literature as a whole. She and her
husband Manuel de Seabra wrote A Literatura Indo-Portuguesa,
an anthology of Goan Portuguese literature. Dr Melo e Castro's
own anthology draws heavily from Devi's.

In addition, after moving to Lisbon, she wrote a collection
of short stories set in Goa called Monção (Monsoon), some of
which are included in Lengthening Shadows (and are my
favorite reads from the whole collection).

The same Professor Melo e Castro runs a blog with a bunch of
lyrical, poetic depictions of Goa. (Not translated)

I'm grateful to have been able to take a peek into this once
vital cultural force and I hope that as my Portuguese
improves, I'll be able to appreciate these stories and
poems in the original. The journey's been interesting so far.

Portuguese signage in Panjim
'Legal' can also mean cool, awesome in Brazilian Portuguese

Contact the writer via the blog above. Send your comments, feedback to
***@goanet.org and join a Goan discussion worldwide.

Continue reading on narkive: