Big Ideas in Small Cafés – Two Writers Meet in Lisbon

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Translator Susannah Finzi recalls her meeting with Armando Nascimento Rosa, author of Fernando and his Grandmother.

March 2014 in Lisbon saw the premiere of my own play Blind Eye. Stage left, covering scene changes, was a singer who switched seemingly effortlessly from tango to bluesey swing via haunting fado (composed by himself).

Armando Nascimento Rosa, I then discovered, was also professor of Theatre and Cinema at the University of Lisbon and an award winning playwright highly regarded throughout the Portuguese speaking world. Reading his work for the first time I could see why; riffs on Greek theatre, characters from real life including Tennessee Williams and Marilyn Monroe and science fiction – and his work is incredibly rich in big ideas.

He’s also the most generous of collaborators. We’ve analysed his big themes for hours in Lisbon cafes, and argued my interpretations of his real meaning line by line on Skype. I’ve translated three of his plays so far, but his depiction of Fernando Pessoa and his mad grandmother Dionisia is unquestionably the most challenging; a portrayal of one of the greatest of Portuguese writers through the voices of the troubled child, the serious young man, the sophisticate and the prankster and his co-conspirator, his one real confidante. His beloved grandmother.

See Fernando and his Grandmother by Armando Nascimento Rosa, translated by Susannah Finzi, at the Omnibus Theatre on July 3st.  For more info, click here.