THE COMPLETE STORIES by Clarice Lispector
Kirkus Star

THE COMPLETE STORIES

by , translated by , edited by
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

“Freedom is only what can be conquered”: a welcome, long overdue omnibus collection of the short stories of the great Brazilian literata.

Chaya Pinkhasovna Lispector, later Clarice Lispector (Soulstorm, 1989, etc.), has been called the most important Jewish writer since Franz Kafka and certainly one of the most important shapers of late-20th-century Brazilian literature. Those familiar with novels such as The Stream of Life will not need convincing, but those new to Lispector’s work would fruitfully begin with this collection, which shows both the evolution of her style and her early mastery of the story form. Often in her stories there is a vaguely discontented woman who has settled into her fate early on but nurses misgivings. In a story that begins, arrestingly, “Now that the affair is behind me, I can recollect it more serenely,” the narrator remarks on the damnable complacency of those around her, who can barely be budged into action except by such climactic events as birth and death “and their attendant conditions.” “I can recollect it more serenely,” of course, isn’t quite idiomatic, and the collection is marked by a highly literal rendering that at times verges into translatorese: no speaker of American English, in the heat of anger or some other passion, would yell, “I feel tied down. Tied down by your fussing, your caresses, your excessive zeal, by you yourself!” Excessive zeal? There are plenty of perfect moments, though, as when Lispector describes a young lady to whom things are about to happen: “She sat combing her hair languorously before the three-way vanity, her white, strong arms bristling in the slight afternoon chill.” For much of the collection, Lispector favors a kind of elegant realism, though with odd turns: contemplating chicken and egg, literally, she waxes post-Wittgensteinian: “Seeing an egg never remains in the present: as soon as I see an egg it already becomes having seen an egg three millennia ago.”

Essential and sure to turn up soon on reading lists in courses in women’s studies and Jewish diaspora literature as well as Latin American writing.

Pub Date: Aug. 4th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-8112-1963-1
Page count: 640pp
Publisher: New Directions
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2015




BEST STORY COLLECTIONS OF 2015:

FictionGET IN TROUBLE by Kelly Link
by Kelly Link
Sci-FiTHREE MOMENTS OF AN EXPLOSION by China Miéville
by China Miéville
FictionVOICES IN THE NIGHT by Steven Millhauser
by Steven Millhauser
FictionTHE COMPLETE STORIES by Clarice Lispector
by Clarice Lispector

MORE BY BENJAMIN MOSER

FictionBLACKOUT by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza
by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza
FictionA WINDOW IN COPACABANA by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza
by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza
FictionSOUTHWESTERLY WIND by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza
by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza

SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS:

FictionONE OF US IS SLEEPING by Josefine Klougart
by Josefine Klougart
FictionMAYA'S NOTEBOOK by Isabel Allende
by Isabel Allende
FictionTHE DOOR  by Magda Szabó
by Magda Szabo