on 16 October 2010
A personal note from a woman who is a world traveler, visual artist and art educator:
My encounter with Clarice Lispector's work happened years back, via Helene Cixous'comments on "feminine writing" (ecriture feminine). Once I started reading Clarice's works translated in English, I fell in love with her writing that seems to breathe rather than "read". I bought this biography to reconnect with her works and I am thrilled to see many of my raw intuitions masterfully articulated and expanded. I am thrilled to discover new aspects of Clarice's work, to understand it in the historical and cultural context of both Brazil and Jewish spirituality and lived experience. Furthermore, such detailed background affords the reader a panoramic view of Lispectorian strangeness.
This biography reads like a best-seller, yet provides exhaustive, in depth analysis of the Lispectorian work, without use of academic jargon. I take this book as the best companion to CLarice Lispector's texts. It is also a book that stands on its own. Above all, it is an open invitation...to go back to the source, to (re)discover Clarice Lispector's work, and to rediscover writing in general.
on 30 January 2013
Clarice Lispector is one of those difficult writers whose books are put on the shelves for display rather than read, in my experience.
She has a high reputation in intellectual circles and is a part of the Brazilian school curriculum so many people have "read" her, just as students of English have "read" Chaucer, Shakespeare and Joyce.
However, whether these readers - in Brazil or abroad - have understood or, dare I say, "enjoyed" Lispector's books is another matter.
She even claimed herself not to understand some of her own work.
This book is unlikely to encourage people to try Lispector as about half of it reads like a rather dull academic dissertation in which plots are outlined, characters described and the work dissected.
The writer seems to be bedazzled by the photogenic Lispector, who in her younger days had a strange beauty, and he comes over as a fan rather than a biographer.
His approach is unbalanced. For example, he devotes far too much space to her family background in the Ukraine, where Lispector was born even though she left when she was a baby and never returned.
He stresses her Jewish background and constantly points out who is and who is not a Jew to such an extent that he almost lost this (non-Jewish) reader's patience.
Lispector appears as Jewish first and Brazilian second rather than the other way round which I think is more likely the case.
The fact that she married a Catholic is barely addressed at all.
If Moser had intended this work to be a study of Lispector's Jewish origins or for a Jewish audience, he should have made it clear in the title.
He is keen to single out anti-Semitism wherever he can but glosses over the fact that Lispector's "journalistic" work included writing propaganda for the official news agency of the Getulio Vargas dictatorship which he claims was anti-Semitic.
He has done little original research as far as I can see even though he lists dozens of people in his Acknowledgements.
There must be hundreds of people still living who knew Lispector but he settles for mainly old quotes from publications and makes little of other possible sources, such as journalist Alberto Dines*, Lispector's surviving relatives or even people like Chico Buarque, Maria Bethania and Caetano Veloso.
In concluding, I would like to say that it is refreshing to see a Brazilian writer as the subject of a biography in English and I welcome this book despite the above criticism.
*Who is Jewish according to the writer although this is something I had never been aware of or even regarded as important in a tolerant country like Brazil.