Critical Overview

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Last Updated on May 11, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 673

The short story ‘‘Family Ties’’ was first published in 1952 in a collection of Lispector's stories called Alguns contos (Stories), but it did not receive much notice. Eight years later, in 1960, Lispector re-published the story in Lacos de familia (Family Ties), along with other pieces, some already published and some new, all about family relationships. This time, her collection was reviewed favorably. In Luso-Brazilian Review, Rita Herman called Lacos de familia "a personal interpretation of some of the most pressing psychological problems of man in the contemporary western world. Liberty, despair, solitude, the incapacity to communicate, are the main themes that unite the separate stories into a definite configuration of the author's pessimistic perception of life.’’ However, since the book, like all of Lispector's original writings, was written in Portuguese, her audience was quite limited. A new translation into English by Giovanni Pontiero, Family Ties (1972), launched the collection into a wider literary market, where it was appraised highly. Bruce Cook of Review noted the work's ‘‘intense concentration,’’ and Lispector's book was cited, along with Guimarares Rosa, as a landmark of Brazilian literature in Contemporary Latin American Literature (1973). In general, the seventies found many of Lispector's works being translated into English as well as French, German, Spanish, and Czechoslovakian. With her work in the hands of a worldwide audience eager for texts with a feminist slant, Lispector's writing gained positive attention.

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Lispector's writing career as a whole had taken off with the publication of her first novel, Close to the Savage Heart, in 1944, when she was just twenty-four. That semi-autobiographical novel won the Graca Aranha Prize and showed how Brazilian literature, according to Earl Fitz, ‘‘could benefit from such staples of modern fiction as the interior monologue; temporal dislocation; rejection of external orientation; structural fragmentation; and an emphasis on the ebb and flow of psychological, rather than chronological, time.’’ However, it would be another twenty-two years before the appearance of a book-length study of her, by Benedito Nunes (1966). He and other early critics noticed the metaphysical focus of Lispector's writing, especially the influence of Sartre and Camus. In 1979, with the publication of Vivre l'orange, feminist French critic Helene Cixous began a decade of promoting Lispector as a paradigm for ‘‘l'ecriture feminine.’’ Cixous found in her writing a feminine kind of ‘‘effacement of the subject,’’ which has to do with the power of tolerance and acceptance that she finds in Lispector's female characters. Cixous presented her poetic musings about Lispector in a series of lectures that introduced Lispector to a wide, international audience; the lectures have been transcribed in her book Readings with Clarice Lispector (1990). The first English biography of Lispector, by Earl Fitz, was published in 1985. At that time, issues of narrative structure joined issues of gender in criticism of Lispector's fiction. Raymond Williams classified her as a feminist writer whose female characters search for ‘‘self-realization and freedom,’’ and whose ‘‘constant focus is nordestinas, women from the Northeast of Brazil who are characterized as faceless beings who are disenfranchised." Others have discussed her narrative strategies, such as Maria Nunes, who notes Lispector's creative use of the interior monologue: ‘‘Lispector's originality lies precisely in the fact that her stylistic control and coherence are used to create influential chaos in the consciousness of her characters.’’ On the other hand, irritation with her stream-of-con-sciousness style of writing has also been registered. Philip Swanson, in his 1995 book The New Novel in Latin America, asks, ‘‘Is Clarice's revolutionary new language little more than just vagueness after all?’’

Upon the occasion of Lispector's death in 1977, Earl E. Fitz wrote in the Luso-Brazilian Review, "Given the vigor and innovativeness of what we see here, one must wonder about the wonderful stories we could have expected from Clarice Lispector had she not died so prematurely. With her untimely passing, one of Latin America's most original and powerful voices has been stilled.’’ Lispector continues to gain credence for her stylistic innovations in narrative. Her writing is now being appreciated for its craft, as well as its dramatic and disturbing portrayal of the human condition.

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