Gregory Rabassa Awarded Brazilian Studies Association Lifetime Contribution Award

Gregory Rabassa, Emeritus Professor of of Spanish and Portuguese, City University of New York, has been named the 2008 recipient of the Brazilian Studies Association’s Lifetime Contribution Award.

BRASA’s LCA recognizes Dr. Rabassa as a leader in the field of Brazilian studies in the United States for his record of outstanding scholarly and creative achievements, and for his significant contributions to the promotion of Brazilian Studies in this country. BRASA especially wishes to emphasize Dr. Rabassa’s lifetime contributions to the promotion of Brazilian culture and literature internationally, considering that his numerous translations of Brazilian writers have made Brazil’s literature more readily available to English-language readers.

Dr. Rabassa was recognized in a ceremony at BRASA’s Ninth International Congress at Tulane University in New Orleans on March 29, 2008. BRASA presented Dr. Rabassa with a plaque of appreciation for his lifelong commitment to Brazilian culture, language and literature, and Professor Rabassa addressed the congress. His speech, on new directions in the field of literary translation, was published in the BRASA Notes newsletter and on the BRASA website.

A group of prominent Brazilianists, including Earl Fitz (Vanderbilt University), Elizabeth Lowe (University of Florida), Jay Miskowiec (Aliform Publishing), the Brazilian writer Domício Coutinho (New York City) and translator Cristina Ferreira-Pinto Bailey (Austin, Texas) introduced Dr. Rabassa at the ceremony and commented on his many achievements in the field of Brazilian Studies and literary translation.

Professor Rabassa’s prominent career in Brazilian literature began as an undergraduate student at Dartmouth College, where he studied Portuguese, among other languages. After serving in Europe as a US Army language specialist during World War Two, he pursued his PhD at Columbia University, graduating in 1954 with a dissertation on Blacks in Brazilian literature after 1888. It was later published by Tempo Brasileiro Press as O negro na ficção brasileira (1965), one of Professor Rabassa’s first scholarly contributions to Brazilian literary studies. Professor Rabassa has also written on Lima Barreto, Osman Lins, and on Padre Antônio Vieira, among other areas of Brazilian literature. Today, Professor Rabassa is Distinguished Professor in the Department of Hispanic Languages and Literatures at Queens College, in New York, where he has been teaching since 1968.

Professor Rabassa’s greatest impact in the field of Brazilian Studies in the US has been as a translator. Rabassa has been called one of the greatest practitioners of the translation craft and has been the recipient of some of the most prestigious translation awards in the US, such as the National Medal of the Arts, which he received from President George W. Bush in 2006, and the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for the Art, for his 2005 memoirs If This Be Treason.

Dr. Rabassa translates primarily from Portuguese and Spanish into English. He has published over forty translations of Latin American literature, among them some of the most important twentieth-century Brazilian authors, such as Jorge Amado, Machado de Assis, and Clarice Lispector. In addition to fictional works, he has also translated several seminal critical works, such as Afrânio Coutinho’s An Introduction to Literature in Brazil(1969; Introdução à literatura brasileira, 1966), and Darcy Ribeiro’s The Brazilian People: The Formation and Meaning of Brazil (2000; O povo brasileiro, 1995). Through his superb translations of Brazilian authors, Rabassa has made a major contribution to the promotion of Brazil’s culture and literature in the United States and, throughout the English-speaking world. And as a translator, scholar, and university professor, he has had a significant impact in the field of Brazilian Studies.

BRASA’s Lifetime Achievement Award Committee, consisting of Vice President Peggy L. Sharpe and Executive Committee members Peter Beattie, Kathryn Hochstetler, and Maxine L. Margolis received numerous nominations for this prestigious award. The committee selected Dr. Rabassa for his outstanding contributions to the promotion of Brazilian culture, literature and literary translation. The nomination was ratified by the BRASA Executive Committee.