Why This World: A Biography of Clarice Lispector

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9780199895823: Why This World: A Biography of Clarice Lispector

"That rare person who looked like Marlene Dietrich and wrote like Virginia Woolf," Clarice Lispector is one of the most popular but least understood of Latin American writers. Now, after years of research on three continents, drawing on previously unknown manuscripts and dozens of interviews, Benjamin Moser demonstrates how Lispector's development as a writer was directly connected to the story of her turbulent life. Born in the nightmarish landscape of post-World War I Ukraine, Clarice became, virtually from adolescence, a person whose beauty, genius, and eccentricity intrigued Brazil. Why This World tells how this precocious girl, through long exile abroad and difficult personal struggles, matured into a great writer. It also asserts, for the first time, the deep roots in the Jewish mystical tradition that make her the true heir to Kafka as well as the unlikely author of "perhaps the greatest spiritual autobiography of the twentieth century." From Chechelnik to Recife, from Naples and Berne to Washington and Rio de Janeiro, Why This World strips away the mythology surrounding this extraordinary figure and shows how Clarice Lispector transformed one woman's struggles into a universally resonant art.

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Review:

Amazon Best of the Month, August 2009: What the legendary soccer player Pelé is to sport in Brazil, the author "Clarice" is to that country's literary culture. Stunningly brilliant, beautiful and enigmatic, the daughter of Russian-Jewish émigrés achieved instant celebrity at the age of 23 with the publication of her debut novel Near to the Wild Heart. From that auspicious beginning in 1943, she emerged during the post-war decades as one of Latin America's greatest modernist writers and ambassadors of Brazilian culture and avant-garde thought. But, with only a few of her works available in translation, Clarice Lispector (1920-1977) has remained unknown to most English readers until now. Benjamin Moser's Why This World makes up for this long drought by offering a detailed and dramatic biography of Lispector's incredible life and times. Based on new interviews with family and friends, recovered manuscripts, and other fresh sources, Moser crafts a moving and tangible portrait of the famously inscrutable Clarice. --Lauren Nemroff

Book Description
That rare person who looked like Marlene Dietrich and wrote like Virginia Woolf, Clarice Lispector is one of the most popular but least understood of Latin American writers. Now, after years of research on three continents, drawing on previously unknown manuscripts and dozens of interviews, Benjamin Moser demonstrates how Lispector's art was directly connected to her turbulent life. Born amidst the horrors of post-World War I Ukraine, Clarice's beauty, genius, and eccentricity intrigued Brazil virtually from her adolescence. Why This World tells how this precocious girl, through long exile abroad and difficult personal struggles, matured into a great writer, and asserts, for the first time, the deep roots in the Jewish mystical tradition that make her both the heir to Kafka and the unlikely author of "perhaps the greatest spiritual autobiography of the twentieth century." From Ukraine to Recife, from Naples and Berne to Washington and Rio de Janeiro, Why This World shows how Clarice Lispector transformed one woman's struggles into a universally resonant art.  --Lauren Nemroff

Take a Look at Photographs of Clarice Lispector

These portraits from Why This World give readers an intimate look into the public and private life of a writer who was at once famous and enigmatic. (Click on any image to enlarge)



An early photograph
(undated)

Following her marriage to a diplomat,
Lispector attends an embassy reception
in Washington, DC (1953)

On the beach in Rio de Janeiro
with her sons (1959)

At home in Brazil
(circa 1960)


About the Author:


Benjamin Moser is a contributing editor at Harper's Magazine and a contributor to the New York Review of Books and Condé Nast Traveler. His translation of The Hour of the Star inaugurated New Directions' Clarice Lispector series, of which he is the Editor. He lives in the Netherlands.

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