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Why This World: A Biography of Clarice Lispector Hardcover – August 4, 2009

13 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195385564 ISBN-10: 019538556X Edition: 1st

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best of the Month, August 2009: What the legendary soccer player Pelé is to sport in Brazil, the author "Clarice" is to that country's literary culture. Stunningly brilliant, beautiful and enigmatic, the daughter of Russian-Jewish émigrés achieved instant celebrity at the age of 23 with the publication of her debut novel Near to the Wild Heart. From that auspicious beginning in 1943, she emerged during the post-war decades as one of Latin America's greatest modernist writers and ambassadors of Brazilian culture and avant-garde thought. But, with only a few of her works available in translation, Clarice Lispector (1920-1977) has remained unknown to most English readers until now. Benjamin Moser's Why This World makes up for this long drought by offering a detailed and dramatic biography of Lispector's incredible life and times. Based on new interviews with family and friends, recovered manuscripts, and other fresh sources, Moser crafts a moving and tangible portrait of the famously inscrutable Clarice. --Lauren Nemroff

Book Description
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.  --Lauren Nemroff

Take a Look at Photographs of Clarice Lispector

These portraits from Why This World give readers an intimate look into the public and private life of a writer who was at once famous and enigmatic. (Click on any image to enlarge)



An early photograph
(undated)

Following her marriage to a diplomat,
Lispector attends an embassy reception
in Washington, DC (1953)

On the beach in Rio de Janeiro
with her sons (1959)

At home in Brazil
(circa 1960)



From Publishers Weekly

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 Lúcio 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. (Aug.)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (August 4, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019538556X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195385564
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1.5 x 6.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #693,705 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 42 people found the following review helpful By C. Hutton on August 22, 2009
Format: Hardcover
At nearly 500 pages, this biography of Brazil's greatest female author will be the definitive account of the Ukrainian Jew who emigrated to Brazil as a baby. Her family of origin's history was horrific and her own life was painful -- so it was no surprise that her novels explore the meaning of life. Mr. Moser's storytelling is well-done and he has has done exhaustive research. Once the reader starts this book, you will not be able to put it down.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By R. Sellers on January 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As one of Clarice's most adoring admirers, having read most of her novels in my native Portuguese, I was captivated by the way Mr. Mosher uncovered the journey of this amazing artist, giving a historical perspective of the world she grew up in, her experiences, her insecurities, her love for writing, her passions, and her everyday life. Masterfully written! Hard to put it down. Clarice's world and words live on.
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29 of 35 people found the following review helpful By A. Tabor on July 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover
A masterful biography of one of the 20th century's most fascinating writers, too long unknown outside her native Brazil. This engaging, authoritative work should change that!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Riane Gruss on March 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book was fascinating because it included so much of the history of Brazil in the first half of the 20th century as well as the history of Ukraine during the same period. Both were instrumental in forming Clarice Lispector's character and personality. Mr. Moser did a remarkable amount of research for the background of this biography. The quote which was powerful for me, since I was in a similar situation in Brazil having survived WWII in Europe, is:"Surviving means not to know what to do with oneself." So true!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on December 12, 2009
Format: Hardcover
WHY THIS WORLD: A BIOGRAPHY OF CLARICE LISPECTOR will appeal to college-level collections who have works of the Brazilian writer on hand. It tells of her life, her traumatic family experiences, her studies of law and work in the 1940s as one of Brazil's few women journalists, and her works of radical fiction. Libraries offering Latin authors and analysis will find this biography key to understanding Lispector's works and influences.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By John Fitzpatrick on January 30, 2013
Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm Brazilian and I had already read and owned the Portuguese Brazilian version of this book,
It was just a matter of curiosity and willing to own and read the original book, since I'm a Portuguese and English teacher in addition to being a Clarice Lispector fun.
Anyway It happened to meet my expectation upmost!

All the best!
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