New York; Clarice Lispector ‘Selected Crônicas’

by Venetia Kapernekas

‘I only achieve simplicity with enormous effort’,
‘so long as I have questions to which there are no answers, I shall go on writing’,
Clarice Lispector 

 

One of my favourite  visits in New York is the 192 Bookstore in Chelsea.  A lovely afternoon  my eyes came on the  “Selected Crônicas’ (translated by Giovanni Pontiero, published by New Directions Publishing Corporation, New York).  Clarice Lispector (December 10, 1920 – December 9, 1977)  is widely recognised as the most original and innovative Brazilian woman writer of this century.

photo (source;WikiCommons)

The ‘Crônicas’ or Chronicles presents about two-thirds of the chronicles contained in “Descoberta do Mundo); in 1984, seven years after she died of cancer, Lispector’s son edited those chronicles which she published in the Saturday edition of the Journal do Brazil from August 1967 until December 1973. It is arranged in a chronological order, and is a miscellaneous collection of aphorisms, diary entries, reminiscences, travel notes, interviews, serialized stories and essays.

Varied and unpredictable, the chronicles allow us to piece together the life and career of this singular personality.  The chronicles register contrasting moods, one moment whimsical, the next grave and questioning, but whatever the theme, disarmingly frank. (Giovanni Pontiero’s note,  translator & publisher)

photo (source;WikiCommons)

The intimate revelations of the crônicas takes us through the various stages of womanhood from innocence to awakening perceptions of good and evil. The transition from adolescence to maturity is one of solemn rites, at once delicate and vulnerable.  One of the stories I love ‘Miraculous Leaves’ (written Jan 11, 1969)

No miracles never happen to me. I sometimes hear people discuss them and that give me hope. But it also makes me rebel: why do they never happen to me? Why  do I only hear about them? For I have heard conversations about miracles such as the following: ‘He told me that if such and such a word were to be spoken, some valuable object would smash into pieces.’ The objects in my house are broken in much more humdrum fashion, usually by one of the maids. I have even come to the conclusion that I am one of those people who roll stones throughout the centuries. I mean bought stones, not the smooth polished kind. Although I do have fleeting vision before falling asleep – could those be miraculous? But it has already been patiently explained to me that the phenomenon even has a name: cidetismo, which means been able to protect unconscious images into the sphere of hallucination. (Clarice Inspector, Jan 11, 1969, Crônicas, page 56) 

Brazil’s other great writer of this century, João Guimarães Rosa, once told her” ‘ ‘Clarice, I don’t read you just for the literature, but in order to learn about life.’ Her dramatic isights can surprise and shock, amuse and distress. Such is the intensity and vehemence of her prose that it unleashes everything which is gentled violent in this world of ours.  And as herself confided: ‘Everything affects me.. I see too much, heart too much, everything demands too much of me.’

‘The elusive genius who dramatised a fractured interior world in rich synthetic prose’ (Megan O’Grady, Vogue)

At the request of Clarice Inspector,  this interview, which was granted on January 1, 1977, to TV Cultura’s Panorama program, only aired ten months later, at the time of her death. (source: Obviousmagazine)

photo@ Claudia Andujar, 1961
Testimony of the photographer Claudia Andujar, recounting how she portrayed the writer in 1961. The photo illustrated the cover of the biography “Clarice”, by Benjamin Moser, released in 2009 by Editora Cosac Naify. This photo (in detail illustrates as well the Crônicas)

‘I went to the house of Clarice Lispector to photograph it at the request of the magazine Claudia, who wrote a report about the writer in 1961. I do not remember that day lost in time, but there are details that I keep forever. I wanted to make her comfortable for the photo, and I asked her how she would like to stand.  If I’m not mistaken, the idea of sitting before the picture Typewriter and start working on some text was from Clarice.And then she let herself be absorbed by the act of writing, completely delivered, without hardly noticing my presence. “ (Source: Obvious)

Clarice Lispector (December 10, 1920 – December 9, 1977),born to a Jewish  family in Podolia  in Western Ukraine, she was brought to Brazil as an infant, amidst the disasters engulfing her native land following the First World War…She left Brazil in 1944, following her marriage to a Brazilian diplomat, and spent the next decade and a half in Europe and the United States. After returning to Rio de Janeiro in 1959, she began producing her most famous works, including the stories of ‘Family Ties’ (Laços de Família), the great mystic novel ‘The Passion According to G.H’.(A Paixão Segundo G.H.), and what is arguably her masterpiece, Água Viva. Injured in an accident in 1966, she spent the last decade of her life in frequent pain, steadily writing and publishing novels and stories until her premature death in 1977.

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