By Harold Emert

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The London Review Bookshop, a traditional and well-esteemed British bookshop, has chosen as its “Author of the Month” Brazil’s Clarice Lispector (1920-1977).

As a child, Clarice and her immigrant family fled Podolia to Brazil from persecution against Jews during the Russian Civil War.
As a child, Clarice and her immigrant family fled Podolia to Brazil from persecution against Jews during the Russian Civil War.

Clarice, a short story writer, and novelist resided in Leme where she was often seen walking her beloved dog Ulysses or sunbathing on the beach.

Edgar Duvivier immortalized her and Ulysses in a statue, located above the Fort of Leme, not far from where she resided.

As a child, Clarice and her immigrant family fled Podolia (in what is today Ukraine) to Brazil from persecution against Jews during the Russian Civil War. Her mother Maria was paralyzed after being raped by invading Russian soldiers.

The Lispector family initially settled in northeastern Maceio, Alagoas, where Maria had relatives. At an early age, Clarice displayed literary talents, writing mini-plays, short stories, and sketches for novels.

The Lispector family then moved to Recife, where her ill mother died, and eventually Rio, residing in São Cristovao and Tijuca.

In 1937, Clarice entered law school where the authoress met her future husband diplomat Maury Gurgel.

Her father Pinkhas (who re-named himself Pedro in Brazil) Lispector, died at 55 years of age due to a botched gall bladder operation.

Clarice worked as a journalist early in her career for a government news agency and under assumed names like Tereza Quadros among others, she wrote for newspapers and magazines, advice columns for women about cooking, etiquette, how to be good housewives.

In contrast to her role as a model diplomat’s wife, accompanying her husband as a Foreign Officer to Italy, Switzerland, England, the United States and other parts of the world, Clarice was also a fiercely independent woman before the international advent of women’s rights movements.

Returning to her beloved adopted nation of Brazil, Clarice suddenly decided to divorce her husband, who adored her and live alone in Leme.

Clarice’s writing talents attracted and continue to attract admirers all over the world, with numerous translations, films, and TV adaptations of her fiction.

American author Benjamin Mosley wrote perhaps the best biography of Clarice in his lengthy article on “CL” in the New Yorker magazine which suddenly made her a “hit” on the US and international literary market.

Bronze Sculpture in Rio de Janeiro commemorating Clarice Lispector. (Photo Alamy)

Among this reader’s favorite works of Clarice is the Essay/poem “Without Warning (“Sem aviso”) which poetically warns about the unexpected pitfalls of life.

The author currently being celebrated in London almost perished, suffering severe burns in a fire ignited by a cigarette she forgot to put out before going to sleep in her Leme apartment. She died at 57 years of age of ovarian cancer in a Rio de Janeiro hospital.

Her last masterpiece  “Hora da Estrela” (Hour of the Star), which became a 1985 movie by Suzana Amaral (winning a Berlin film festival award) involves the ill-fated northeasterner Macabea, 19, consulting a medium, Madame Carlota.

The medium tells her that her miserable, boring, and unfair life will undergo an “enormous” change as soon as she departs the medium’s home.

“You will meet a foreigner who will change your life,” predicts the soothsayer.
As soon as Macabea steps out on the street, she is run over by a yellow Mercedes automobile driven by a German!

Clarice Lispector major novels translated to English (and other languages) include:

Near to the Wild Heart (Perto do Coracao Selvagem, 1943)
The Passion According to G.H. (A Paixão segundo G.H., 1964)
The Stream of Life (Água Viva, 1973)
The Hour of the Star (A hora da Estrela, 1977)

Short stories:
Family Ties (Laços de família, 1960)

The “London Review Bookshop” is located at 14 Bury Place, London.


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