Clarice Lispector Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Clarice Lispector achieved almost equal success in the short story and the novel. Her novels include Perto do coração selvagem (1944; Near to the Wild Heart, 1990), O lustre (1946; the chandelier), A cidade sitiada (1949; the besieged city), A maçã no escuro (1961; The Apple in the Dark, 1967), Água viva (1973; The Stream of Life, 1989), and A hora da estrela (1977; The Hour of the Star, 1986). Lispector also wrote a limited number of works for children, the most famous of these being O mistério do coelho pensante (1967; the mystery of the thinking rabbit) and A mulher que matou os peixes (1968; the woman who killed the fish). She also wrote nonfiction prose pieces.


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

It is no exaggeration to suggest that Clarice Lispector was one of the most original and singular voices to be found in twentieth century Western literature. In a career that spanned more than thirty years, Lispector produced a series of novels and short stories that not only helped lead a generation of Brazilian writers away from the limitations of literary regionalism but also gave Western literature a unique body of narrative work characterized by a highly personal lyrical style, an intense focus on the subconscious, and an almost desperate concern for the individual’s need to achieve self-awareness. Though her works earned for her numerous literary awards during her lifetime (including an award she received in 1976 from the Tenth National Literary Competition for her contributions to Brazilian literature), Lispector is only beginning to receive the attention she deserves from critics and readers alike as her spellbinding narratives attract a growing international audience.

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Clarice Lispector (leh-SPEHKT-ur) was a prominent short-story writer as well as a novelist; among her collections of stories are Alguns contos (1952; some stories) and Laços de família (1960; Family Ties, 1972). A legião estrangeira (1964; The Foreign Legion, 1986) is a collection of stories and brief miscellaneous prose pieces.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Clarice Lispector is regarded as one of the most influential and important Brazilian fiction writers of the twentieth century. A member of the revisionist school of writers that emerged in the period following World War II, she was a force in the move, in Brazilian fiction, from the regionalism and sociological orientation of the 1930’s to an intense interest in subjective experience.

She first achieved general acclaim with Family Ties, a collection of inward-looking short stories. The Apple in the Dark marked Lispector’s major artistic breakthrough. Lengthy and complex, symbolic and mythic, the novel employs an intense, lyrical style that recalls the works of Djuna Barnes, Virginia Woolf, and Katherine Mansfield.

Lispector was the recipient of many literary prizes. In 1944, the publication of Near to the Wild Heart won for her the Graça Aranha Prize. She received the Cármen Dolores Barbosa Prize for The Apple in the Dark in 1961, a prize from the Campanha Nacional da Criança for a children’s story, “O mistério do coelho pensante” (the mystery of the thinking rabbit) in 1967, and the Golfinho de Ouro Prize for An Apprenticeship in 1969, and she was awarded first prize in the tenth Concurso Literário Nacional for her overall contribution to Brazilian literature in 1976, one year before her death.

Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Do Clarice Lispector’s early children’s stories suggest that an experimental writer can communicate well with young readers?

How do women’s existential dilemmas differ from those conveyed by writers such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus?

Does Lispector’s failure to observe a consistent point of view confuse readers or stimulate them to a more challenging literary experience?

Does an imaginative writer like Lispector have a better chance of overcoming “otherizing”—making a person into a thing—than, say, a philosopher or clergy member addressing the same issue?

Does Lispector convince the reader that two apprentices, like Lori and Ulysses in An Apprenticeship: Or, The Book of Delights, can help each other learn to accept freedom?

What sort of reader can benefit most from Lispector’s challenge to “reinvent reading”?


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Barbosa, Maria José Somerlate. Clarice Lispector: Spinning the Webs of Passion. New Orleans: University Press of the South, 1997. A good study of Lispector’s works. Includes bibliographical references and an index.

Cixous, Hélène. “Reaching the Point of Wheat: Or, A Portrait of the Artist as a Maturing Woman,” New Literary History 19 (1987). A comparison of James Joyce and Lispector written by one of Lispector’s foremost European critics.

Cixous, Hélène. Reading with Clarice Lispector. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1990. Chapters on The Stream of Life, The Apple in the Dark, “The Egg and the Chicken,” and The Hour of the Star. The book includes an introduction by Verena Andermatt Conley, carefully explaining Cixous’s playfully profound deconstructionist reading of Lispector. Recommended for advanced students.

Fitz, Earl E. Clarice Lispector. New York: Twayne, 1985. An excellent, book-length study of Lispector’s writings. Chapters include “Biography and Background,” “The Place of Clarice Lispector in the History of Brazilian Literature,” “Some Intrinsic Considerations: Style, Structure, and Point of View,” “Novels and Stories,” and “The Nonfiction Work.” Both descriptive and analytical. This insightful and extremely readable book is written by the foremost authority on Lispector’s works. A must-read for serious readers of the Brazilian writer’s fiction or for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of both Lispector and her works.

Lindstrom, Naomi. “Clarice Lispector: Articulating Woman’s Experience.” Chasqui 8 (November, 1978): 43-52. Lindstrom examines the narrative voice employed in the short story “Love” (from Family Ties) and said voice’s relationship to the emerging (and then fading) self-awareness of the protagonist, Ana. Lindstrom shows how the narrator first dominates the story, then allows Ana to speak more, before retaking the narrative in the end as the protagonist “finds no supportive response.” An interesting slant...

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