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Clarice Lispector: sphinx, sorceress, sacred monster

Several decades after its original publication, Clarice Lispector’s third novel—the story of a girl and the city her gaze reveals—is in English at last.

“Brilliant, demanding, tempestuous, relentless, exultant.” -Martin Riker, The New York Times

Several decades after its original publication, Clarice Lispector’s third novel—the story of a girl and the city her gaze reveals—is in English at last.

“In The Besieged City, the acclaimed Brazilian luminary Lispector merges the personal with the mythopoetic. Lucrécia Neves lives with her widowed mother in São Geraldo, a place ‘already mingling some progress with the smell of the table….Her modest function was: to look.’ Seeing, she creates the city. Dreamlike, dense, original, this challenging novel has a cumulative power. Highly recommended.”—Kirkus (starred review)

Written in Europe shortly after Clarice Lispector’s marriage, The Besieged City is a proving ground for the intricate language and the radical ideas that characterize one of her century’s greatest writers—and an ironic ode to the magnetism of the material.

Read Benjamin Moser’s introduction to The Besieged City in Lithub.

The Besieged City by Clarice Lispector; translated by Johnny Lorenzo; Edited by Benjamin Moser

Lucrécia Neves is ready to marry. Her suitors—soldierly Felipe, pensive Perseu, dependable Mateus—are attracted to her tawdry not-quite-beauty, which is of a piece with São Geraldo, the rough-and-ready township she inhabits.

Civilization is on its way to this place, where wild horses still roam. As Lucrécia is tamed by marriage, São Geraldo gradually expels its horses; and as the town strives for the highest attainment it can conceive—a viaduct—it takes on the progressively more metropolitan manners that Lucrécia, with her vulgar ambitions, desires too. Yet it is precisely through this woman’s superficiality—her identification with the porcelain knickknacks in her mother’s parlor—that Clarice Lispector creates a profound and enigmatic meditation on “the mystery of the thing.”

“Sphinx, sorceress, sacred monster, the revival of the hypnotic Clarice Lispector has been one of the true literary events of the twenty-first century. Glittering and savage.
Parul Sehgal, The New York Times

Then she changed clothes and lay down. A gentle joy was already starting to circulate in her blood with the first warmth, her teeth were once again sharpening and her nails hardening, her heart finally becoming precise in beats hard and curt. She, succumbing to an extreme fatigue that no man would love. Fatigue and remorse and horror, insomnia that the lighthouse was haunting in silence.

Read an excerpt from The Besieged City in Harper’s.

The Chandelier by Clarice Lispector; translated by Magdalena Edwards and Benjamin Moser

Virgínia and her cruel, beautiful brother, Daniel, grow up in a decaying country mansion. They leave for the city, but the change of locale leaves Virgínia’s internal life unperturbed.

In intensely poetic language, Lispector conducts a stratigraphic excavation of Virgínia’s thoughts, revealing the drama of Clarice’s lifelong quest to discover “the nucleus made of a single instant”—and displaying a new face of this great writer, blazing with the vitality of youth.

“The first English translation of The Chandelier is a major event, offering the Anglophone world explosive strangeness: a breathless, dizzying, and multisensory dive into the mind.”—TLS

“The energy level of The Chandelier is so high it’s close to unsustainable. Every page vibrates with feeling. It’s not enough to say that Lispector bends language or uses words in new ways. Plenty of modernists do that. No one else writes prose this rich.”—NPR

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