Sunday, June 26, 2016

Literary Force Named Clarice

Clarice Lispector is a force to be reckoned with. I had first heard about her several years ago while searching for another author. I'd never heard of her and at the time, did not want to read her work. I finally decided to take the chance and read her first book, Near to the Wild Heart (a line taken from Joyce's book A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man). I will freely admit that it took me several pages to get "comfortable" to her style of writing. I had read that she was considered to be a Modernist author - as much as I love Virginia Woolf, it still takes me time to fully immerse myself in her words. Such was the same for Lispector yet once I did, I found myself rereading passages just to hear her words in my mind. When I finished the book, I knew that I was hooked.

Lispector was born on 10 December 1920 in what is now known as Ukraine yet her family moved to Brazil when she was barely a year old. When her family arrived in Brazil, they changed their names - her original name was Chaya. When she was 23 years old and a law student, she published her first book, Near to the Wild Heart, causing quite the sensation in Brazil. For the most post, no one had ever heard of this woman, yet her words made such an impact that the public only wanted more.

(taken from the website

The story is thus: we are witness to the life and mind of Joana, a woman who appears to be a mild and reserved woman yet she carries a fierce storm inside of her. As a child, she was restless and her mind took on many thoughts too complex for a child; her family, especially her aunt, saw her as evil and vile. Her father was aloof to his daughter and placated her when she pestered him too much. When she is older, she eventually gets married yet the marriage is completely a sham. Joana seeks something different than what is expected of her. She yearns to answer questions not yet asked. She is a wild thing that refuses to be tamed. The novel is not written in a linear style, but more like vignettes of her life, flashing back and forth between distinct points in her life. I especially loved the sections regarding her and "the man" who is both obsessed and fearful of her. When she finally breaks free of that which has held her back for so long, we see her transform into something else, something that she must become - "I will rise up as strong and beautiful as a young horse". 

As I read this book, I kept thinking of Sylvia Plath's book The Bell Jar - the woman whose mind is lit with a desire that couldn't be put into words, yet succumbs to their power and is rendered broken. We see Joana on that same pathway yet she is strong enough to not become a victim of her circumstances, unlike the other characters such as her husband Otavio or Lidia, his mistress. Their thoughts and feelings limit them to what they immediately need in their life and that satisfies them.

To read Lispector is to read poetry; her witting comes at you like waves in the ocean that are relentless. I will freely admit that I developed a Literary Crush; I look forward to reading more of her work and even her biography. I like it when an author takes me by the hand, tells me to "hold on" with a grin, and then we dive into the sea of words and emotions. Lispector is a storm, one that I am willing to embrace over and over again, like Margaret Atwood, Iris Murdoch, Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman, Toni Morrison, Ian McEwan, Isak Dinesen, and many others. Rather than drown, I shall swim.

Obrigada, Clarice.


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