Manuel Odorico Mendes (1799-1864) was one of the greatest Brazilian classicists. He began his career as a politician during a period in which the country was governed by Portuguese emperors. However, in 1847, after he had translated two tragedies of Voltaire and portions of the Aeneid, he decided to abandon politics and move to Europe, where he could dedicate his time exclusively to the translation of classical literature and have access to useful books he could not find in Brazil. In France, he published Eneida Brasileira [a Brazilian Aeneid] (1854) and Virgilio Brasileiro (1858), a translation of all works of Vergil. After the complete translation of this Latin poet, he translated the Iliad and the Odyssey, which were published posthumously. His Iliad was the first complete translation of the poem in Portuguese.
Odorico Mendes called his works “poetic translations”. He tried to recreate in Portuguese the poetic effects (in terms of sound, rhythm, and word order) he read in the originals. Even the quantitative rhythm, when strongly marked by light or heavy syllables, receives from Odorico an analogous one, aimed to have analogous effects on the modern reader.
A peculiarity of Odorico Mendes’s translations is its remarkable conciseness; for instance, several books of the Brazilian Aeneid have a smaller number of verses than the original ones. The translator believed Portuguese was a very concise language, and his translations are much more concise than all the others that employ the same regular meter – decasyllables – as Odorico.
In this paper, I will present Odorico Mendes’s classical translations, which are considered pioneer in Brazil, for their concept of “poetic translation” and their practice of translation as “creative task”. Authors such as Schleiermacher, Ortega y Gasset, Haroldo de Campos (maybe the greatest theorist of “poetic translation” in Brazil) will help us understand what Odorico Mendes intended in his work, which created, more than a translation of Virgil, a Brazilian Virgil and a Brazilian Aeneid for his country.