Johnny Lorenz, professor in the English Department, has been awarded a National Endowment for the Arts grant to support his translation of the award-winning Brazilian novel Crooked Plow by Itamar Vieira Junior. Lorenz is one of 24 NEA Literature Translation Fellows for 2021.
Born in Salvador, Bahia, in 1979, Vieira Junior is a descendant of African diasporic and Indigenous communities and his 2018 novel Crooked Plow received the Jabuti, Brazil’s national literary prize for best novel of the year as well as the prestigious literary prize in Portugal, the Prémio LeYa. In its first two sections, Crooked Plow is told from the perspective of two sisters who are descendants of slaves and daughters of impoverished workers on a plantation in Bahia. These sections depict women characters in their ongoing struggle as land laborers who eventually turn to violence to redefine themselves. The third section shifts in narration to an encantada—a female Afro-Brazilian divinity—who is outraged by the pollution of her river and the misery of her devotees. The novel also offers a portrayal of sacred local rituals informed by the African diaspora and Indigenous belief systems. It has never been translated into English.
Lorenz’s 2012 translation of Clarice Lispector’s A Breath of Life was a finalist for Best Translated Book Award and his translation of Lispector’s The Besieged City was listed as one of the “Best Books of 2019” by Vanity Fair. His honors include a PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant and a Fulbright Grant.