"This thing is the most difficult for a person to understand"
April 7, 2022 10:49 AM   Subscribe

A brief survey of the short story, part 56: Clarice Lispector (+ a few stories) - 'In Brazil (her family, fleeing anti-Jewish pogroms, emigrated from Ukraine in 1921 when she was still an infant), Clarice Lispector became that unusual combination: an avant-garde artist who is also a household name. Fame arrived in the 1960s, two decades after she published her first book and a decade before she died, aged 56, from ovarian cancer. She had no particular desire for fame, just as she had no particular desire to be identified as an experimental writer. She never understood why readers found her work opaque, while the fact that she consistently attempted new things in her writing was, for her, simply necessary to her aim: "In painting, as in music and literature, what is called abstract so often seems to me the figurative of a more delicate and more difficult reality, less visible to the naked eye."'

(Chris Power for The Guardian)


"Hailed by Benjamin Moser as "the most important Jewish writer since Kafka," Clarice Lispector was a celebrated national icon in her home country of Brazil during her lifetime, and is now recognized as one of the greatest writers to come out of Latin America in the 20th century." ("Actually, I think she is better than JL Borges," Elizabeth Bishop confided in a letter to Robert Lowell.) (James Yeh for Vice)


A Few Stories:

Report on the Thing (where the quote from the title comes from, in Vice)

Love (in the Offing Mag)

Remnants of Carnival (in Vogue)
posted by plant or animal (10 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
News and critical essays on the work of Clarice Lispector
She is a much loved Carioca and Brazilian Icon. Here is a picture of her statue with her dog at the Leme end of Copacabana beach where I often used to walk pre plague; and a 2015 New Yorker article.
She had a prolific output, publishing nine novels, 85 short stories, five books for children and countless letters and newspaper columns.
posted by adamvasco at 11:24 AM on April 7, 2022 [3 favorites]

Excellent choice for a posting. Moser's biography of her, Why This World?, is well written and very informative regarding her background and Brazil during her life.

Here's a Backlisted podcast episode on her fascinating novel Água Viva.
posted by the sobsister at 12:56 PM on April 7, 2022

I read 'Report on the Thing'.

If Gertrude Stein had dropped acid in the middle of a manic episode she might have been able to write like that. In her dreams.
posted by jamjam at 12:58 PM on April 7, 2022

I read Lispector's The Passion According to G.H. on two four hour train journeys half a year ago. I had too little sleep (plus the train made me even sleepier) and the last third of the novel is one great blur. I drifted in and out of sleep, believing myself in the protagonist's shoes and I felt obsessed with the novel's cockroach. Whenever I managed to keep my eyes open for a while, I would continue the book, but eventually fall asleep again with vivid, almost feverish episodes on what I just read.

It was my most unique reading experience of 2021 and even though I really cannot recommend it, I also wouldn't wanna miss it.
posted by bigendian at 1:21 PM on April 7, 2022 [2 favorites]

The New Yorker article adamvasco mentions is quite good, and not at all what one fears when reading the title, "The True Glamour of Clarice Lispector."
posted by taz at 1:37 PM on April 7, 2022

I had a prof include this piece by Lispector in a reader in uni. I love it so much.
posted by juv3nal at 5:19 PM on April 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

The Hen (translated by Elizabeth Bishop!) is a favorite of mine.
posted by aws17576 at 9:46 PM on April 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

Thanks for this. Lispector is amazing. The story Love linked above is incredible. The main character goes from a mundane everyday life to suddenly having an epiphany in a garden where she perceives the cyclical fecundity and decomposition of life on earth. The way it is described is breathtaking, and it makes sense to me that she wrote the story in Brazil, where (at least to this Minnesotan) the plants even in many cities seem so exaggerated and almost Dr. Seuss-y.
posted by umbú at 5:48 AM on April 8, 2022

I enjoyed being introduced - thank you.
posted by drowsy at 2:11 PM on April 10, 2022

I had a prof include this piece by Lispector in a reader in uni. I love it so much.

On reflection, students potentially have it so much easier nowadays. A prof can just ping a web source so that it gets stored on internet archive and then link to a bunch of things instead of us having to shell out $400+ for a shoddily bound collection of photocopies.
posted by juv3nal at 5:39 PM on April 13, 2022

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