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The Lusiads (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – 15 Feb 2001

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks; New edition edition (15 Feb. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192801511
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192801517
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 2 x 12.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,427,103 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"Arms are my theme, and those matchless heroes Who from Portugal's far western shoresBy oceans where none had ventured Voyaged to Taprobana and beyond."

So begins Landeg White's excellent new translation of one of the greatest epic poems of the Renaissance, Camoens' The Lusiads, which tells the story of the creation of the Portuguese Empire through the feats of one of its greatest voyagers, Vasco da Gama, as he recounts his voyage to India in 1497.

As its opening lines suggest, Camoens' poem drew on the classical heritage of Homer and Virgil in fashioning a poem of national and imperial identity. The geographical scope of the poem is truly epic as it surpasses its classical forebears, taking in West Africa, the Cape of Good Hope, the Indian Ocean and the Far East, and culminating in Camoens' extraordinary global vision of the world in Canto 10. Yet as White points out in his excellent introduction, the tone of the poem is also deeply elegiac; published in 1572, the poem is written at the point of the waning of the Portuguese Empire to which Camoens' was so passionately committed.

White's translation should be complimented for rescuing the poem from the indifferent prose version of William Atkinson's 1952 translation. In retaining the power of Camoens' octavos, White avoids always rhyming his couplets, which prevents the sense of lines becoming mangled. This is a fine translation, which provides a new and accessible version of the epic of Portuguese nationhood. --Jerry Brotton --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Landeg White is Former Director, Centre for Southern African Studies, University of York and former editor of Journal of Southern African Studies (OUP); published poet and author of works on colonialism, Apartheid and African poetry. His latest book is Bridging the Zambezi: a Colonial Folly (Macmillan 1993)

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Nick Kern on 19 Oct. 2004
Format: Paperback
I took this as holiday reading to Portugal. Epic poetry is not everyone's cup of tea, but if you enjoy Homer's Odyssey or Virgil's Aeneid, you'll like this. At only ten "cantos" long this was shorter to read than them, especially as the translation seeks to recapture the natural language and "readability" of the original.
Classical gods, nymphs and a giant mixed in with what was the historical voyage of Vasco de Gama in the fifteenth century sounds like a weird hybrid. But Camoes really does pull it off!
The gods embellish the story, but any intervention of theirs can be accounted for in other ways (the weather, for example). It becomes a more exciting way of describing what happened historically. The giant Adamastor symbolizes the dangers in rounding the Cape.
There are some heavy going bits (for example, the stories of each Viceroy at the start of Canto Ten). But there's battles and there's erotica. There's the adventure of new discovery. The excitement of the new knowledge and the new age really does come across.
The Elizabethan Edmund Spencer was writing "The Fairy Queen" at around the same time as Camoes. If you've ever had to study that, let me tell you that this is far more real and far less moralistic. Genuinely a good sailor's yarn, well written. Within the classical structure sounds the authentic voice of first hand experience.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 15 Jan. 2001
Format: Paperback
This book covers a big period of the Portuguese history in a poetry way. It obeys to a structured and complex form of writing. Camões is one of the biggest writers of all times, like homero he elevates the portuguese people to the skies of olympus :) hasta ppl
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 5 Jun. 2001
Format: Paperback
This is probably the most classical book you can get from Portugal. Camões traveled in the 16th century through many continents and here he recounts all his adventures in verse. It is an amazing book that every Portuguese peson has studied or at the very least knows about. Camões incarnates the very soul of Portuguese pride. Genial book if you care to understand any of the above.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 12 reviews
50 of 53 people found the following review helpful
Camoes: The Portuguese Shakespeare 15 Sept. 2001
By Kendal B. Hunter - Published on
Format: Paperback
At some point in life we realize why "The Classics" ARE classic. At some point the great literature and words reach out and touch us to the very core of our being, that special spark that is real you. The Lusiads has done that to me.
Being written in a minor tongue and focusing on a minor nation's history, this rhyming wall of words has not had much circulation out side of the lusophonic orbit, which is a shame. This work deserves its proper place behind the Iliad, The Odyssey, the Aeneid, and the Divine Comedy. This English translation enables anglophonics to understand Camoes, the Portuguese Shakespeare.
Unlike the Aeneid, which focuses on one mans journey from Troy to Rome, this story focuses on the Portuguese in the plural as a collective people. It celebrates their special history, using Vasco Da Gama's 1497 voyage to India as the focus of drama.
The only drawback to the book is that you need to read a survey of Portuguese history and geography to savor this book. I lived in Portugal for two years, therefor I understood the allusions and the story. It is not, however, as bad as the Divine Comedy where almost every paragraph is foot-noted, but a perusal of the encyclopedia would help before, during, and after the reading.
Lastly, I have read the Lusiads in Portuguese. Since it is written in poetic form with cantos, and in a second tongue, it was grueling work. I can only compare it to reading Milton or Pope in another language. Poetry by nature is dense writing, and if the reader is also dense, trouble occurs. Therefore, I endorse this English translation to mono- and polyglots alike.
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Dynamic epic that speaks to modern-day readers 23 Mar. 2006
By USAF Veteran - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
First the nuts and bolts. The Lusiads (Os Lusiadas) was published in Portuguese in 1572. 'The Lusiads' would be more understandably translated 'The Portuguese'. Lusiads means inhabitants of the Roman region called Lusitania - after the legendary founder Lusus who was a companion of the Roman god Bacchus. It is an epic (long poem where a hero or heroes in a wide-ranging adventure embody representative national characteristics). It would be similar to the Odyssey, El Cid, or Divine Comedy.

The first English translation was in 1655, and multiple translations have ensued. Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton even did a Victorian age translation. This translation is by Landeg White and is my favorite translation.

The story is of the voyage of Vasco da Gama from Portugal to India. This was the beginning of a world-wide Portuguese trade empire and was a seminal world event in mixing Western and Eastern Cultures.

The author was a low-grade officer/noble who lost an eye battling the Moors, and spent most of his life in the East as a bureaucrat and soldier for the Portuguese empire. His first-hand knowledge of the countries described in the epic along with his experiences as a soldier, prisoner, ship-wreck survivor etc. gave him unmatchable insight into his subject.

In the original Portuguese, the book is written in rhyming, eight line paragraphs called 'ottava rima'. Since Portuguese is a Romance language with a few common endings for most words, it is very easy to rhyme. The same is not true of English. Rather than force this translation to rhyme and using odd word orders and odd words to fit the rhyme scheme, White has used a non-rhyming format that only has the last couplet of the eight lines rhyming. This is the perfect compromise and makes reading the

English translation fairly close to reading in the original language.

Now for the specifics. Multiple famous literary figures have praised this book for hundreds of years. Some have even said it is worth learning Portuguese just to read Camoes in the original. The reasons for this are several. First, Camoes tells a good story. This is not a sterile, boring recitation. Second, the described events are adventurous and illuminate history, cultures and human nature.

But most importantly, this book allows the personality of the author to shine through. The best parts, in my opinion, are where the author comments on the happenings, or adds his advice to the Portuguese people and rulers. The last few stanzas of the book show you the feelings of the author when he exclaims,

"No more, Muse, no more, my lyre

Is out of tune and my throat hoarse,

Not from singing but from wasting song

On a deaf and coarsened people.

Those rewards which encourage genius

My country ignores, being given over

To avarice and philistinism,

Heartlessness and degrading pessimism.

I do not know by what twist of fate

It has lost that pride, that zest for life,

Which lifts the spirits unfailingly

And welcomes duty with a smiling face."

It is Camoes that makes this a matchless epic - not the subject and not his poetry. As the Brittanica puts it, "His best poems have the unmistakable note of genuine suffering and deep sincerity of feeling. It is this note that places him far above the other poets of his era.

In short, this is a wonderful work of art that can be profitably revisited over and over. This translation is one of the best and the explanatory text and notes make the reading much easier.

Highly recommended.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
A lyric account of Vasco da Gama's voyage to India 20 Jan. 1998
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
The name "Os Lusíadas" (The Lusiads) means sons of Lusos.
Lusos were the inhabitants of Lusitania. Lusitania was the ancestral name for Portugal; therefore the title really means "The Portuguese".
This book is excellent for those interested in both poetry and history. This is an epic account of the voyage made by Vasco da Gama around the cape of Good Hope (southern tip of Africa) on his way towards the discovery of the maritime route to India.
Luis de Camões uses his best "ingenuity and art" to enshroud his lyrics with the myths of that time and to put the "naus" in the hand of the nimphs.
This reading by the way was mandatory in the Portuguese educational curriculum.
Luis de Camões died on June 10 1580, and that is now celebrated as Portugal's day.
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Camoes, o poeta (the poet) 13 Jan. 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
This here, is what perhaps can be considered the foundry of portuguese literature. Writen by one of the worlds greatest poets, Camoes, retells in verse the story of "Os Descobrimentos." Outstandingly well written, and should bring tears to any of portuguese origins.
22 of 32 people found the following review helpful
A question of timing 8 July 2003
By C. E. R. Mendonça - Published on
Format: Paperback
Had Camoens been "Englishened" shortly after his own lifetime, no doubt some English translator could have grasped the proper tone, meter and spirit for his work to be presented in English grab. However, since he died in 1580, just when Spain absorbed Portugal into the Iberian Union, his poem in praise of the Portuguese exploits in India was not to be Englishened when the English where busy trying to undone what he had praised. Therefore he lost his chance with the English language. As it is, all English translation of Camoens have been at best exercises in creative anachronism (such as Richard Francis Burton's Victorian one) or simply inadequate (such as the Penguin trans., which is _in prose_!). Also, there is the problem that a translation of the high degree required is best achieved between cognate languages (such as the German trans. of Shakespeare, or the Portuguese trans. of the D.Quixote). Be as it is,Camoens didn't fail to attract the attention even of Marx & Engels, who quote the opening section of the Lusiads (in Portuguese) in the _German Ideology_. Therefore I advise reading _any_ English trans., but only to get a foretaste before learning Portuguese and reading the original.Finally, for those who think the poem's "hero" Vasco da Gama to be unintersting: the hero of the poem is the Portuguese people in general, therefore the name of the poem - the _Lusiads_ (from Lusitania, i.e. Portugal) and not the "Gamaeid".
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