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Soulstorm Paperback – July 17, 1989
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About the Author
Clarice Lispector (1920-1977) has come to be considered the most important woman writer in contemporary Brazilian letters. The author of seven novels and short-story collections as well as children's books, her translated work—into Czech, Spanish, French, German and English—has gained her a strong international reputation.
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discovered by way of Carole Maso's work). A creative chain of very
independent women writers. Hallelujiah!
Anyhow, all I can say is --- I am very happy to have discovered
this writer, and I find the stories surprising, fascinating and
though they were written some time ago, they feel very new!
Lovers of literature will enjoy this collection!
To label this edition "Stories by Clarice Lispector" has to be disingenuous on the part of the publishers. There are two sheaves of pieces -- originally published separately as "A Via Crucis do Corpo" and "Onde Estivestes de Noite" in 1974 -- that show as many differences as similarities. The first collection consists of fourteen short pieces, three to eight pages long, that might be called stories but that are anything but "plot-driven". They are strange non-narratives of the non-events in the lives of people almost too ordinary to be called "ordinary." Nearly all of them live without much satisfaction and then ... they die. Their deaths are as uneventful as their lives. It's hard to care about any of them, and that's the point. It's hard to care about anyone, even oneself ... and then you die. If that doesn't sound like fun to read, well, eureka! But I doubt whether Clarice Lispector gave a damn for your enjoyment.
The sixteen pieces of the second collection are mostly longer, subtler, more allusive and more evasive emotionally. They're obviously quite personal, all the more so when they masquerade as impersonal. Some of them are deliberately coy declarations of the author's frustration about: 1)having to write, 2)having nothing to write. Not fun to read? Okay, but honestly I wouldn't be giving this book a five-star review if I didn't find something extremely interesting in Lispector's detached despair.
As far as I know, Lispector was never diagnosed as mentally unstable or unsound, yet her writing in this collection reminds me a lot of the works of the Swiss writer Robert Walser, who was in fact institutionalized for roughly twenty-seven years. Both Walser and Lispector strove diligently to avoid the "trap" of writing well. In these two collections, Lispector matched Walser in giving the impression of writing "automatically" -- off the top of her head, without revision. That impression was utterly accurate regarding Walser; I'm less certain about Lispector, whether she was artfully artless or artlessly artful.
I like Walser. I like the man Walser, if I understand him fairly, as well as the writings of that man. Several of Walser's sketches are "diaries" of walks he took, composed as if written precisely while he walked. I like walking. Walser's walks seem utterly plausible to me; they could be my walks, though I couldn't "take" them in words as kinaesthetically as Walser does. No writer has ever revealed his failures as cheerfully as Robert Walser.
Lispector's sketches of her momentary states-of-selfhood are typically "sits" more than "walks." I don't so much like sitting, and I don't feel the same kindred state-of-being with Lispector that I feel with Walser. I'd never risk feeling "affection" for the woman Lispector as I feel for poor Walser every time I read him, but I do feel immense admiration for her self-exposure in words.