Zenith, Richard 1956-
ZENITH, Richard 1956-
PERSONAL: Born February 23, 1956, in Washington, DC; son of James E. (a mechanical engineer) and Shirley (a bookkeeper; maiden name, Birk) Zenith. Education: University of Virginia, B.A., 1979. Religion: "Raised as a Roman Catholic."
ADDRESSES: Home—Rue da Veronica, 152 r/c-Dto., 1100 Lisbon, Portugal.
CAREER: Translator, critic, and writer. Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, instructor in English, 1979 and 1982-83; Tilton School, Spanish teacher, 1984-85.
MEMBER: Phi Beta Kappa, American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese.
AWARDS, HONORS: Fellowships from National Endowment for the Humanities, 1985-86, 1988-89, and 1990-91, and from John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, 1987-88; grants from John Anson Kittredge Educational Fund, 1986, Vogelstein Foundation, 1987, Institute for Portuguese Culture and Language, 1988, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, 1989-90, and Camoes Institute, 1991; PEN Award for Poetry in Translation, 1999, for Fernando Pessoa & Co.: Selected Poems.
Luandino Vieira, The Loves of Joao Vencio, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1991.
Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquietude, Carcanet (Manchester, England), 1991, revised edition, Penguin (New York, NY), 2003.
Antonio Lobo Antunes, An Explanation of the Birds, Grove Weidenfeld (New York, NY), 1991.
Antonio Lobo Antunes, Act of the Damned, Secker & Warburg (London, England), 1993, Grove Press (New York, NY), 1995.
113 Galician-Portuguese Troubadour Poems, Carcanet (Manchester, England), 1995.
Sophia de Mello Breyner Andressen, Log Book:Selected Poems, Carcanet (Manchester, England), 1997.
Fernando Pessoa, Fernando Pessoa & Co.: SelectedPoems, Grove Press (New York, NY), 1998.
Antonio Lobo Antunes, The Natural Order of Things, Grove Press (New York, NY), 2000.
Fernando Pessoa, The Selected Prose of FernandoPessoa, Grove Press (New York, NY), 2001.
Antonio Lobo Antunes, The Inquisitors' Manual, Grove, (New York, NY), 2003.
Also translator of poems in Brazilian Poetry, 1950-1980, Wesleyan University Press, 1983, and verse selections of Oswald de Andrade: Selected Works, Pittsburgh University Press, 1993. Contributor of translations to periodicals, including Translation, Atlantic Monthly, and Paris Review.
Contributor of poems, short stories, essays, and reviews to periodicals, including Georgia Review, LER, and Latin America Literary Review. Editor of A Educacao do Estoico, by Fernando Pessoa, writing as Barao de Teive, Assirio & Alvim (Lisbon, Portugal), 1999.
SIDELIGHTS: Richard Zenith is a translator, critic, and writer whose translations from the Portuguese have won him numerous awards. He is best known for translating the works of contemporary novelist Antonio Lobo Antunes and of the Modernist poet and prose writer Fernando Pessoa, who died in 1935. Zenith noted in an article for the Literary Review that Pessoa is "Portugal's other great poet after Luis Camoes." Pessoa, Zenith further explained, was brought up in South Africa, but after returning to Lisbon, Portugal, he never again left his country. "Yet he traveled immensely," Zenith wrote, "multiplying himself into dozens of differentiated literary personalities which in their ensemble constituted an ever-expanding universe, with an infinite potential for interrelationship among them." Pessoa called these alter egos his "heteronyms," and published both verse and prose under their various names and guises. More than simple pen names, Pessoa's heteronyms took on a real persona, from the aristocratic Barao de Teive who penned A Educacao do Estoico, to the middle-class clerk Bernardo Soares, the putative author of The Book of Disquiet. Pessoa and his literary friends helped bring Modernism to Portugal; after his early death, a trunkload of his work was discovered, and Zenith has been responsible for translating much of this into English.
Working as an editor, Zenith collected the materials for the Portuguese edition of A Educacao do Estoico, supposedly written by de Teive. Though a minor work in the Pessoa oeuvre, it does provide insight to Pessoa, as Zenith explained in a lengthy essay included with the book. According to George Monteiro in World Literature Today, "Zenith offers a psychology for understanding Pessoa, especially his creation and manipulation of heteronyms."
In Fernando Pessoa & Co.: Selected Poems, Zenith gathers and translates a wide sampling of Pessoa's verse written under his own name and others. Much of Pessoa's early work was free verse and Whitmanesque, often times employing "musical lyrics expressing nostalgia, love, and patriotism," according to Booklist's Ray Olson. The same critic found Zenith's collection to be a "beautiful one-volume course in the soul of the twentieth century." Zenith won the 1999 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation for this work. Zenith does the same task for a sampling of Pessoa's non-verse writing in The Selected Prose of Fernando Pessoa, for which he also provides "an excellent introduction and headnotes," according to Michael Dirda in the Washington Post Book World. Dirda also noted that Zenith "has made himself into the Portuguese master's most energetic translator and advocate." Benjamin Kunkel, writing in the Los Angeles Times, similarly found Zenith's selection "beautifully translated, compact while appropriately diverse, and another of its virtues is that it gives an account of a life that makes up in fascination what it lacks in outward event."
With The Book of Disquiet, Zenith tackles the free-flowing diary-without-dates of the heteronym Soares, the clerk who finds little exciting in life. This formless novel was written over two decades and includes more than 25,000 separate entries, some merely scraps, and all of which Zenith needed to edit for his translation. Zenith, in fact, worked on the translation in two separate editions. John Gray of the New Statesman thought that "readers of Zenith's &lsbq;2003&rsbq; edition will find it supersedes all others in its delicacy of style, rigorous scholarship and sympathy for Pessoa's fractured sensibility." Francis King, writing in the Spectator, also praised Zenith's "brilliant introduction." Michael Scarf, reviewing the same work in Publishers Weekly, further noted that Zenith has done "an admirable job in bringing out the force and clarity of Pessoa's serpentine and sometimes opaque meditations."
Zenith has also translated several works by Antunes, including the novel The Inquisitors' Manual, a "scathing critique of the regime of Portugal's fascist dictator Antonio de Oliveira Salazar," as a reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle described the work. This allegory on the abuse of power focuses on one Portuguese family before and after Salazar's 1974 revolution. Chad W. Post, writing in the Review of Contemporary Fiction, praised Zenith for his ability to "capture . . . so well" the various voices in Antunes's novel. This is doubly important in a novel like The Inquisitors' Manual, for it is told in over a dozen voices and spans half a century.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, April 15, 1998, review of Fernando Pessoa& Co.: Selected Poems, p. 1414; December 15, 2002, Michael Spinella, review of The Inquisitors' Manual, p. 731.
Literary Review, summer, 1995, Richard Zenith, "New Portuguese Navigations," pp. 477-460.
Los Angeles Times, September 30, 2001, Benjamin Kunkel, review of The Selected Prose of Fernando Pessoa, p. BR12; January 26, 2003, Thomas McGonigle, review of The Inquisitors' Manual, p. R10.
New Statesman, May 28, 2001, John Gray, "Assault on Authorship," p. 52.
New York Times Book Review, March 2, 2003, William Deresiewicz, review of The Inquisitors' Manual, p. 12.
Publishers Weekly, December 2, 2002, Jeff Zaleski, review of The Inquisitors' Manual, pp. 32-33; December 9, 2002, Michael Scarf, review of The Book of Disquietude, pp. 77-78.
Review of Contemporary Fiction, summer, 2003, Chad W. Post, review of The Inquisitors' Manual, p. 134.
San Francisco Chronicle, January 26, 2003, review of The Inquisitors' Manual, p. M2.
Spectator, June 30, 2001, Francis King, review of TheBook of Disquietude, p. 40.
Times Literary Supplement, October 12, 2001, Gabriel Josipovici, review of The Book of Disquietude, p. 25.
Washington Post Book World, July 22, 2001, Michael Dirda, review of The Selected Prose of Fernando Pessoa, p. 15.
World Literature Today, winter, 2000, George Monteiro, review of A Educacao do Estoico, p. 216.
Penguin Group (Canada), http://www.penguin.ca/ (November 14, 2003), "Richard Zenith."*