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Why This World: A Biography of Clarice Lispectorby Benjamin Moser
Dying was seductive, a direct confrontation with an unknown so enormous it could never be captured in words. In one of her last interviews, given a year before she died, a television journalist asked if she felt "born and refreshed" each time she wrote a new work. The reporter must have wanted her to provide a cheerful narrative about her writing process, but her response was impassive and casually nonsensical. She never could commit to this kind of tale. 'For now I'm dead. We'll see if I can be born again. For now I'm dead," she repeated. "I'm speaking from my tomb.'" Rachel Aviv, The Nation (read the entire Nation review)
Synopses & Reviews
"That rare person who looked like Marlene Dietrich and wrote like Virginia Woolf," Clarice Lispector is one of the most popular but least understood of Latin American writers.
Now, after years of research on three continents, drawing on previously unknown manuscripts and dozens of interviews, Benjamin Moser demonstrates how Lispector's art was directly connected to her turbulent life. Born amidst the horrors of post-World War I Ukraine, Clarice's beauty, genius, and eccentricity intrigued Brazil virtually from her adolescence. Why This World tells how this precocious girl, through long exile abroad and difficult personal struggles, matured into a great writer, and asserts, for the first time, the deep roots in the Jewish mystical tradition that make her both the heir to Kafka and the unlikely author of "perhaps the greatest spiritual autobiography of the twentieth century."
From Ukraine to Recife, from Naples and Berne to Washington and Rio de Janeiro, Why This World shows how Clarice Lispector transformed one woman's struggles into a universally resonant art.
"This pioneering biography of Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector (1920 — 1977) — a genius of character as much as a literary magician — captures the luminescent and singular author for an English-speaking audience that may not be familiar with her. She was born Chaya Pinkhasovna in 1921; soon after, her family left pogrom-torn Ukraine, arriving in Brazil in 1922. She became a law student seeking justice for prisoners and then a journalist, and in 1943, around the time of her marriage to a career diplomat, Lispector published her first book, the critically esteemed Near to the Wild Heart. The life of the roving diplomatic wife took its toll on the visionary and strikingly beautiful Lispector, who also had a longtime love for the homosexual poet Lcio Cardoso among others. One of her sons was diagnosed as schizophrenic, which further fostered Lispector's sense of isolation. Among her champions was Elizabeth Bishop, but Lispector remains under the Anglo-American literary radar. This well-researched biography by Moser, New Books columnist for Harper's, should send readers in search of this indescribable author, whose work in many ways is closer to cabalistic writing than to more contemporary modernists like Woolf, Kafka or Joyce. 37 b&w photos." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
Benjamin Moser is a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books, Harper's, and Conde Nast Traveler. He lives in the Netherlands.
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