The translator and editor Heloisa Jahn, one of the most recognized professionals in her field in the country, died at her home in São Paulo this Monday, of an unconfirmed cause, at the age of 74.
Jahn’s curriculum included the translation of key names in Spanish literature, such as Jorge Luis Borges, Mario Vargas Llosa, Ricardo Piglia and Julio Cortázar, with whom she was a friend.
From English, he has translated novels by classics such as George Orwell and Charles Dickens and has just published a bilingual version of the poems by Canadian Louise Glück, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.
A native of Montenegro, the translator spent much of her youth in her home state and moved to São Paulo at age 20, when she transferred to a philosophy course at the University of São Paulo.
In the following decade, during the darkest period of the military dictatorship, she was detained and interrogated by the armed wing of the government and decided to go into exile from 1970 to 1977, sharpening her skills with multiple languages while visiting several European countries.
It was at this time, in fact, that he introduced himself to Cortázar, a writer he admired and whom he decided to approach on a sudden during one of his visits to Paris. The two later established a firm and affectionate correspondence until the death of the Argentine short story writer, in 1984.
The translator returned to São Paulo in 1985 and worked for the next 30 years at leading publishing houses such as Brasiliense, Companhia das Letras and Cosac Naify, until the year this landmark house closed. Afterwards, she retired and began to dedicate herself mainly to translation.
Daughter of a primary school teacher and a book-loving businessman, she told in a recent testimony that she learned to read and write in an almost self-taught way in a mixture of Portuguese and Spanish, as she had memories of hearing, with her brothers, “Don Quixote” translated in voice discharged by the father. She enjoyed the challenge of deciphering words and codes.
He also had a particular affinity with children’s literature, having worked on works by the Dane Hans Christian Andersen for the publisher 34 and the “Contos de Grimm” for the Companhia das Letras, for example, in a list that exceeds a hundred translations.