Clarice Lispector (leh-SPEHKT-ur) was born in a tiny village in Ukraine, then a part of the Soviet Union. Pedro and Marian Lispector left Ukraine with their family as soon as possible after her birth and settled in northeastern Brazil, where they lived for eleven years. Although the family was more or less impoverished, Pedro Lispector being first a farm laborer and then a sales representative, Clarice was undiscouraged by hardships and directed her lively intelligence toward story-making. The future writer disguised her sorrows in merriness. She created, with a friend, a long story before they could read or write. At a young age, she wrote children’s stories and sent them out to publishers who took children’s work, but perhaps because even then she was an experimentalist, they were not published. In 1932, the Lispector family moved to Rio de Janeiro, and the city provided food for the young writer’s intellectual development. Here she read major fiction writers Fyodor Dostoevski, Hermann Hesse, and Katherine Mansfield, as well as current Latin American writers. She decided to become a professional writer but she allowed herself to be persuaded to obtain a law degree at the National Faculty of Law, probably because her defenses of student rights made it clear to many that she would be an excellent lawyer. She did not, however, practice law, but instead worked for a newspaper, A Noite, and did editing work. Her first novel, Perto do coração selvagem (1944; Near to the Wild Heart, 1990), was published by the newspaper with the agreement that the newspaper would keep the profits.
This first novel, a richly symbolic psychological portrait of a woman whose inner life contrasts drastically with her outer life, gained critical success for its daring violation of novel form. However, Lispector did not become known outside Brazil until her first collection of short stories, Laços de familia, was published in 1960. It was translated as Family Ties in 1972. These stories of flashes of insight into...
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