Sunday, December 11, 2016

Clarice Lispector - Complete Stories (Penguin, 2015) ***½

I had heard of Clarice Lispector only through the music of saxophonist Ivo Perelman, also hailing from a jewish background in Brasil, who dedicated several of his albums to her literary work and was inspired by her.

The author is considered one of the leading figures of modern literature in Brazil, and her stories are all closely linked to her own personal life. Her family fled the Ukraine when jews were persecuted and they fled to Brazil. Clarice's husband worked for the foreign service, and she followed him around the world. Her voice is one of feminism, one of an intelligent woman locked into an environment which is too small for her, yet she stays there. With precision and authenticity, she describes the lives of the people around her, including herself, with smart insights and a sharp pen. Her style is often eliptic, she does not share everything, creating in this way a kind of hazy picture of reality, in which the characters have to find their way as through fog. Both characters and the writer try to get some logic and coherence into this world, yet they fail.

Her world is one of mysteriousness and suffocation at the same time, yet all delivered with an incredible sense of words and composition.

It is great that all her stories have been compiled in one book, but you shouldn't make the mistake I made, to actually read it as one book. Eighty-eight stories is problably too much. It is best to keep it as a book to go back to occasionally, and to read it further so as to savour the stories better.

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