Women Writers You Should Know About #15 Clarice Lispector
“So long as I have questions to which there are no answers, I shall go on writing.”
― Clarice Lispector,
Clarice Lispector was a Ukrainian-born Brazilian writer, described as the best Jewish writer since Franz Kafka. Fleeing the pogroms of the Russian Civil War, her family moved to Brazil in 1922 when Clarice was just over a year old.
Lispector began writing whilst at law school in Rio De Janiero and at 23, she found herself in the spotlight with the publication of her revolutionary debut novel, Perto do Coração Selvagem (Trans. Near to the Wild Heart), written entirely as an inner monologue.
She married young and left Brazil in 1944 with her diplomat husband to spend the next few months in the US and Europe. In Italy, she completed her second novel, O Lustre (The Chandelier), met the poet Ungaretti and had her portrait painted by De Chirico. However, stationed in Bern, she found Switzerland dull and succumbed to frequent bouts of depression. She wrote to her sister that Switzerland was ‘a cemetery of sensations.’ Having given birth to her son, Pedro, in the city, she managed to complete her third novel, A cidade sitiada (Trans. The Besieged City) which, perhaps due to Lispector’s own lack of inspiration at that time, was the most poorly received of her novels.
Returning to Brazil in 1952 seemed to reignite Lispector’s love of writing and she published a collection of short stories and began to write a column under an assumed name for a women’s journal. Moving to Washington D.C. in 1952, she gave birth to a second son and performed as the dutiful wife, hosting politicians and their wives but soon became disillusioned with the amoral world of politics. She left her husband and returned with her sons to Brazil, having experienced appalling homesickness and having missed her sisters terribly. She never left Brazil again.
Clarice Lispector’s legacy is her wide collection of work: her novels, her children’s stories and her correspondence. Her innovative style of writing brought her awards and praise and comparisons to writers such as Wolff and Joyce.