Some critics have commented that understanding the specific Brazilian political context of the novel is helpful for reading Quiet Creature. This may be true, but it’s not prerequisite for understanding it.
English can be tricky because there are so many false cognates, but sometimes, as long the idea conveyed is not wrong, these false cognates can themselves offer synonyms or lead to a better alternative word or phrase in translation.
Even my editor at Melville House, who championed the project form the outset, told me she was surprised by the response. After this, editors began asking my opinion about which Latin American writers ought to be translated.
Noll is highly respected in Brazil, and at the same time divisive, somewhat like Hilda Hilst. Neither of them enjoys the universal acclaim you might associate with Clarice Lispector, whom everyone adores, myself included.
This makes his writing very pleasing to read: João Gilberto Noll pays attention to detail, but only to certain details. And it’s never easy to foresee which details will send the narrator or the plot in an unsuspected direction.
I have a few minor rules for myself but I break them all the time. For example, when translating from Romance languages to English, there is often a choice between a Latinate cognate and a Germanic equivalent.
English offers both obscurity and dark or darkness, and some translators will tell you the Latinate word is generally reserved for poetic and figurative expressions, while the Germanic word is used for colloquial and idiomatic use.