The Movida Madrileña in the literature of Pedro Almodóvar translated into Brazilian Portuguese

October 26, 2016 10:20 am

Pedro Almodóvar is a significant Spanish filmmaker who emerged during the cultural effervescence of the Movida Madrileña, a countercultural movement that arose as a cry of liberty from artists who had been silenced for years under the dictatorship of Francisco Franco.


In the years before Franco’s death and the end of his regime, Almodóvar produced several amateur short films in Madrid. Then, with the emergence of the countercultural wave following Franco’s regime, Almodóvar began to produce feature-length films, aligning with the collective spirit of the time which sought increasingly liberated forms of expression.

However, Almodóvar’s output was not limited to cinema. He worked in various artistic media: in addition to acting in theatre groups, singing in a rock band, and writing comic strips, he also published literary works during the Movida. This multiplicity of artistic languages, all of them confined to an underground environment, bear evidence to an artistic and cultural context of frenetic energy.

The Movida was a movement similar to the French New Wave and Pop Art movements, though it had its own unique characteristics. Several authors, including Hidalgo (2009) Strauss (2008) and Vidal (1988), have written about the Movida with the aim of identifying its central figures and the movement’s impact on the post-dictatorial period as well as the present day.

These authors document the Movida Madrileña, including its various manifestations, but do not offer descriptions of the movement itself, as this was not the object of their study. Although the Movida has been recognized from a sociocultural perspective as a highly significant countercultural movement in Spain, there have not been many thorough studies dealing with concrete aspects of the movement, nor research within translation studies.

Given this background, when analysing the existing Brazilian Portuguese translation of Almodóvar’s first literary work, entitled Fogo nas entranhas, and his second (and last), Patty Diphusa e outros textos, the following questions arise: to what extent was the Movida Madrileña taken into account in the Brazilian Portuguese translations? What understanding or awareness of the Movida influenced the translation process? How were the characteristic elements of the Movida reflected when translating the above-mentioned works into Brazilian Portuguese?

This project is a doctoral thesis building on an earlier study conducted during the course of my master’s studies. The primary objective of that study was to identify the central distinctive themes featured in the works of Spanish auteur Pedro Almodóvar. Once the significant and characteristic elements underlying his narratives are distinguished, they become much easier to pinpoint, allowing them to be immediately recognized as “Almodovarian”.

Brazilian Portuguese in Movida Madrileña

The main finding of this earlier study was the affirmation that, although Almodóvar is inspired by literature as a language for artistic expression and as a recurring theme in many of his films, his exploration of a wide variety of codes is not as adept here as it is in his cinematic output. Almodóvar as an auteur is capable of constructing more detailed narratives using the camera lens and the subjects in its focus. For a countercultural auteur, the advantage of visual media is that the artist’s ideas have a more direct impact on the audience. Nevertheless, it must be observed that these literary works display fundamental attributes of the Movida with unquestionable aesthetic value.

Moving forward from this master’s study, it seemed pertinent to examine his literary work specifically, given the scarcity of publications focusing on Almodóvar’s literary output. Another motivating force behind this study, however, was the manner in which the Brazilian Portuguese translations, Fogo nas entranhas and Patty Diphusa, deal with the transgressive themes presented in those books. Topics such as sex, the assertion of feminist ideas, homosexuality, drugs, characterizations, among others, are addressed in such a way that the reader interprets them as personal facets of the author’s artistic universe rather than attributes belonging to the Movida as a para-system. As further evidence that the Brazilian Portuguese translations do not associate Almodóvar’s texts with a cultural movement, the para-texts – such as the prologue of Fogo nas entranhas – make no mention of the movement which is intrinsically linked to these works.

Accordingly, this research is justified by three principal considerations, from an academic point of view. The first factor concerns Almodóvar himself. As mentioned before, previous studies dealing with his art focus primarily on his cinema rather than his literature. Moreover, the general public tends to be aware of Almodóvar’s films, but few are aware of his literary work. The second factor relates to the Movida. Though the studies previously addressed do examine different aspects of this movement, they are not focused on literature. The third reason is that existing translation studies emphasize different factors associated with translating Almodóvar’s cinema, such as linguistic variation and analysis of cultural features and references, but not the translation of his literary texts.

The Movida was a movement similar to the French New Wave and Pop Art movements, though it had its own unique characteristics

The aim of this study is to contribute to the research centred on the Movida as a fundamental factor in Almodóvar’s emergence as an artist. Considering the importance of the movement when translating his two literary works – which constitute one of the primary voices of the period – this study is unique in focusing on Almodóvar’s literature, while other studies of Almodóvar focus on his cinema.

In the field of Translation Studies, there have been no books or academic studies dealing specifically with Almodóvar’s literary texts so far. There are numerous research projects dealing with general aspects, such as critical reception or translation from a methodological perspective (dubbing, subtitling), as well as research dealing with specific features, such as rendering linguistic variations and culture reference points, among others.

Movida Madrileña in Brazilian Portuguese translationWithin this context, the primary objective of this study is to investigate the representation of the Movida Madrileña in the translations of Almodovar’s Fuego en las entrañas and Patty Diphusa y otros textos into Brazilian Portuguese. Specifically, the following objectives will be pursued: to establish a conceptual framework for studying methods of translation the Movida Madrileña; to identify the characteristic attributes of the Movida Madrileña in Almodóvar’s Spanish-language works; to identify the defining elements of the Movida in the Brazilian Portuguese translations of his works; and to describe how the Movida’s significant and characteristic features are reflected in the Brazilian Portuguese translations.

Two initial hypotheses have been formulated: firstly, that Almodóvar’s literary works present various themes which are characteristic of the Movida Madrileña, and could therefore be considered cultural markers of the movement; and secondly, that in the translations to Brazilian Portuguese, these particular characteristics are diminished or not reflected because they are perceived as features pertaining to the author himself rather than as specific cultural markers of this movement.

By 2000, Almodóvar’s career as a filmmaker had truly taken off. That year, he received his first international award, the Oscar for Best Foreign-Language Film for Todo sobre mi Madre. Prior to that, he had been nominated for the Oscar, as well as winning awards at the Golden Globes, BAFTA and Cannes, important awards with worldwide visibility in the field of cinema.

Given the widespread resonance of his art, more researchers began to examine the process of Almodóvar’s artistic formation, and subsequently discovered his two literary works. Consequently, Fuego en las entrañas was first translated in Brazil nearly twenty years after its original publication.

In an interview with Revista Bravo (2006), the director comments that Regina Casé is one of his favourite Brazilian actresses. Perhaps for this reason, she was invited to write the preface for the translation of Fuego. Regina Casé is known and regarded as an actress who has never hesitated to put her emotions and opinions on public display, a quality which is evident in her art. Her performances demonstrate clear spontaneity. It is no accident that the actress is one of the main figures associated with Brazil’s “pornochanchada” sexploitation films of the 1970s.


The choice of this particular actress to write the preface seems to mesh well with Almodóvar’s central themes, considering that it would take someone without a trace of prudishness to adequately talk about Almodóvar in such a novel format, to many of his fans: a literary text the filmmaker wrote during the 1980s.

However, there is more to this than meets the eye. To the average reader and viewer, desire is a clear and recurring theme in the Manchegan auteur’s work, but there are deeper questions involved. The need to clarify this topic was one of the factors which inspired this project. Desire and frank representations of sex, as thematic and aesthetic elements in Almodóvar, are anything but random. This style can be justified by an examination of Spanish history starting from the mid-20th century, which is in fact marked by the Movida Madrileña.

Since this is the case, it would be quite limited to interpret Fuego as a work whose approach to sex is merely “safada” (shameless, with sexual intent), as presented by Casé in the preface. It is evident that Casé’s reading of the text does not extend beyond thematic considerations, overlooking the context in which the original work was produced. Thus, the translation focuses more on the concept of desire in itself, which is commonly associated with Almodovar’s work. Regina Casé’s preface corroborates this observation. In her text, she applies words and expressions which confirm an understanding of Almodovar’s output that is limited with respect to sex. No consideration is given to the political and cultural context of the Movida within the preface.

Certain expressions, such as “bacurinha”, “livrinho safado” and “trepadinha”, attest to a focus on sexual matters. It is important to note that Casé is a comedic actress, so it makes sense that she would use this type of language, particularly when discussing Almodóvar, himself viewed as a director of comedies in at least some of his films, as Strauss (2008) asserts.


In outlining the book, Carmela Toninelo suggests that the reader should first read through the book, and then Casé’s introduction. She claims that “Regina, in a few enthralling pages, may be more like Almodóvar than he tends to be himself” (n.d., p. 01). It is possible that this interpretation arose in response to Casé’s limited vision of desire. In fact, there is an element of caricature to her language which seems overly biased, though this may be explained by the fact that she is an actress from the sphere of entertainment rather than a literary critic. In a publication which claims to offer a thorough contemplation of the author’s context as a means of assessing his artistic works, the translation should be accompanied by a preface which emphasizes the historical nature of Almodovar’s artistic output. Considering these factors, it can be asserted that the work would benefit from retranslation.

On the one hand, the translation to Brazilian Portuguese manages to convey the original works on a linguistic level. Nevertheless, considering the social, political and cultural elements in Spain at the time of their original publication, the existing Brazilian translation, and by extension a Brazilian reader, is not considering the discourse produced within the Movida, and by Almodóvar as its one of its chief representatives.

It can be asserted that a retranslation of the work, containing more translator’s notes or a more comprehensive prologue, would be better able to clarify many words, expressions and situations that particularly express the reality of Spanish life at the time the original was written and published.

Furthermore, it would be possible to conceive of a foreignization of the translation, which Venuti (2002) defends, arguing that it is necessary to highlight differences and emphasize them, not merely indicating the differences between languages but, above all, between cultures.

gabriel-adamsGabriel Adams

A Portuguese/Spanish translator and teacher. He is a PhD student in Translation and Intercultural Studies at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Philology (Portuguese and Spanish) from the Universidade Federal de Goiás (Brazil) and a Master in Arts, Linguistic and Letters from the same university. Through the Erasmus programme, he attended the Universitat de Barcelona for a semester in 2009. In 2012, he was an exchange Master’s student in the Universidad Nacional de La Plata (Argentina). He speaks Portuguese, Spanish, and English. He is also learning Catalan, French and Italian.




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