By Lindsay Spratt, Sub Editor
RIO DE JANEIRO – Clarice Lispector (1920-1977) is widely recognized as one of Brazil’s most important twentieth century writers. She was not only a prolific writer of novels and short stories but also a journalist and translator and received international acclaim for her work.
Her style has been compared to that of Dostoevsky and James Joyce for its lucidly-drawn characters and the introspected, abstracted form of narrative.
Lispector was born in Ukraine, and arrived in Recife at two years of age without even so much as shoes on her feet. She moved to Rio as an adolescent and went on to lead the international life of an ambassador’s wife, living in Italy, Switzerland, England and the US before moving back to Rio in the 70s.
She was a famously glamorous and flamboyant figure in society, renowned for what American translator Gregory Rabassa described as “that rare person who looked like Marlene Dietrich and wrote like Virginia Woolf”.
A lesser-known aspect of Lispector’s creative output are her paintings. In an attempt to explore this detail an exhibition of sixteen paintings went on display last week at the Instituto Moreira Salles (IMS) in Gávea entitled ‘Clarice, Pintora’ (Clarice, Painter) and organized with the help of her son, Paulo Valente. The paintings date from 1975, just two years before Lispector died, and offer a fascinating insight into the writer’s last years, which she spent in Rio. The exhibition marks the first time that the paintings have been grouped for public view.
In one of her many talks on writing, Lispector spoke of the ‘pleasure’ she derived from painting. “Literature has not brought me what I wanted, and that’s peace. What takes my mind off things, as incredible as it seems, is painting. It is relaxing and exciting at the same time to mix colors and forms with no agenda to follow. It is the purest thing that I do.”
However, Lispector did not consider painting to be anything more than a hobby, admitting in the same speech that she was “in no way a painter” and had “no technical ability”.
According to the critic Lucia Helena Vianna, who has studied Lispector’s paintings, the works reveal the search for a new kind of language at the time of Lispector’s work on what were to be her last novels.
Entrance to the exhibition is free, and the public will also have access to some of Lispector’s most famous novels and short stories, some of which will be on display in translation in various languages. Manuscripts behind glass will also be on display and the IMS will host a roda de histórias (story circle) on Saturday September 26 where Grupo Mosaics (Mosaic Group) will present some of Lispector’s stories to an audience of children.
Instituto Moreira Salles, Gávea, Rua Marquês de São Vicente 476. Exhibition runs until September 27.