Lispector, Clarice (1925–1977)

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Lispector, Clarice (1925–1977)

Clarice Lispector (b. 10 December 1925; d. 9 December 1977), Brazilian writer. After nine novels, six collections of stories, four children's books, translations, interviews, and a wealth of crônicas (newspaper columns), Lispector's literary reputation rests on three features, all of which, from the early years of her career, were a positive influence on Latin American narrative: a lyrical and meta-phoric style conveying her philosophical subject matter; a structure based chiefly on interior monologue and stream of consciousness; and themes concerning anxiety, isolation, and the need for self-realization. A writer of greatly refined poetic prose, but one with a strong social conscience, Lispector is one of Latin America's most original and powerful authors of the post-World War II era.

The youngest of three daughters of Ukrainian immigrants, she read avidly, doing little else in her spare time, whether as a student or journalist. In general, her life seems to have paralleled the content, themes, and style of her works. Existential and mystical in nature, they reveal her innermost self acting upon more than reacting to exterior reality. Never very methodical, she finally learned at least to jot down her ideas and feelings as they came to her and before they were lost forever. Later she could piece them together as she understood them, and, except for A maçã no escuro, all her works were composed in this rather unstructured manner.

Never a popular author in the sense that great numbers of people read her works, she was from the beginning of her career in 1942 an important author, one whose achievements had already attracted a discerning international audience as well as a national one. Lispector was less interested in events than in the repercussions these events produced in the minds of her characters—an approach to fiction writing that put her largely at odds with what was then current in the Brazilian novel and short story. Not surprisingly, then, very little happens in a typical Lispector tale: plot, if defined in terms of the traditional realistic novel, is virtually nonexistent. The conflict of the work is based, almost invariably, in the mind of the character most centrally involved, the character whose hermetic and at times even claustrophobic point of view dominates both the telling and the structuring of the story. More than anything else, Lispector's narratives, her novels and her shorter pieces, are philosophical and poetic exercises that probe the complex and shifting inner realities of modern men and women. Her work has been praised for its brilliant use of language, its structural inventiveness, and its depiction of the alienated and frustrated modern human condition.

As a Brazilian writer, Lispector is best remembered for having opened new roads for Brazilian narrative, for having helped to lead it away from the productive but ultimately limiting kind of regionalism that had dominated the literary scene in Brazil for several decades. Lispector's first novel, Perto do coração selvagem (1942), broke radically with this deeply rooted tradition and established a new set of criteria that would help internationalize Brazilian literature and end its cultural and linguistic isolation.

The storm center of Perto do coração selvagem, and a character who, in her inner verisimilitude and complexity, can be taken as the prototype for later protagonists of Lispector, is a young woman, the first of a series of striking female characters the author would create. Ranging from timid Ermelinda (A maçã no escuro), to the middle-class housewife Ana ("Amor"), to the hopelessly crippled refugee Macabéa (A hora da Estrela), to the existential voice of Um sopro de vida, Lispector's characters, whether female or male, all relate in one way or another to the issues of feminism, fulfillment, courage, freedom, and love.

Although many critics find her stories superior to her novels, because of the striking dramatic intensity that characterizes them, there can be no doubt that Lispector was a major precursor of the "new novel" in Latin America.

See alsoLiterature: Brazil .


Olga De Sá, A escritura de Clarice Lispector (1978).

Earl Fitz, Clarice Lispector (1985).

Benedito Nunes, O mundo de Clarice Lispector (1966), and Leitura de Clarice Lispector (1973).

Additional Bibliography

Feracho, Lesley. Linking the Americas: Race, Hybrid Discourses, and the Reformulation of Feminine Identity. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2005.

Kahn, Daniela Mercedes. A via crucis do outro: Identidade e alteridade em Clarice Lispector. São Paulo: Associação Editorial Humanitas: FAPESP, 2005.

Pontieri, Regina Lúcia. Clarice Lispector: Uma poética do olhar. Cotia: Ateliê Editorial, 1999.

Rosenbaum, Yudith. Metamorfoses do mal: Uma leitura de Clarice Lispector. São Paulo: Edusp: FAPESP, 1999.

Zorzanelli, Rafaela Teixeira. "Esboços não acabados e vacilantes": Despersonalização e experiência subjetiva na obra de Clarice Lispector. São Paulo: Annablume, 2006.

                                        Richard A. Mazzara

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Lispector, Clarice (1925–1977)

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