The 1940s debut novel of Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector (1920 – 1977), “Perto do Coração Selvagem” (“Near to the Wild Heart”), is described as the “reflections of a young female protagonist determined to live freely in a world ordered by men.”
This informative tribute to her shows how hard it can be for a female artist to fight free of the male gaze.
In a newspaper review, the poet Lêdo Ivo called the book “the greatest novel a woman has ever written in the Portuguese language.” “Hurricane Clarice,” declared the writer Francisco de Assis Barbosa on reading the book.
We’re told that many of her male critics and admirers echoed translator Gregory Rabassa’s remark that Lispector “looked like Marlene Dietrich and wrote like Virginia Woolf,” a comment which Lispector herself rebuffed.
“I don’t like when they say that I have an affinity with Virginia Woolf,” Lispector wrote in one column, adding that she had encountered Woolf’s work only after her own first novel was published. “I don’t want to forgive her for committing suicide. The terrible duty is to go to the end.”
The statue of a solitary woman on a Rio beach (“I belong to Brazil,” she wrote) pouring her “mystery” into her writings is an appealing memorial to a woman who kept her cool intact.
(Lucas Iberico Lozada, “Overlooked No More: Novelist Who Captivated Brazil,” NYTimes, 12-18-20)
(c) 2020 JMN