Clarice Lispector was born in the Ukraine in 1925, and was brought up in Receife, Brazil and then Rio de Janeiro. After graduating from the Faculty of Law she married and then published her first novel, Near to the Wild Heart. Her husband's diplomatic career took them to Europe and to the United States. Lispector's gifts as a Portuguese language writer were early recognised in The Hour of the Star, Family Ties (stories), The Foreign Legion (miscellany) and her journalistic essays Discovering the World. She died of cancer in 1977.
The narrative material of this short, almost weightless tale by the late Brazilian writer (19251977) is reminiscent of old-fashioned naturalism, but the intention is far from that. Macabea, a young woman from the backwoods, arrives in bewildering Rio. Homely, ignorant, without skills or experience, she lodges in a shabby tenement in a squalid red-light district. Her transient boyfriend, a strutting lout and sham, soon abandons her. After a time, Macabea is struck down by a Mercedes and killed: an obscure life, a banal death. The author's presence is continuously feltthe narrator-of-record is a mere front for itand it is here that the work goes awry. The nagging voice attempts to elevate Macabea's little life to nobility and religious significancebut to no avail. And the modish commentary on novelistic method amounts to little more than affectation. (April 10)
'Macabea is one of the great antiheroines of modern fiction... the literary discovery of the decade.' - Vogue'Clarice Lispector is a Brazilian writer, and for me she is thegreatest writer of the twentieth century. I rank her with Kafka...her work will become a model of "feminine writing".' - Helene Cixous'Her recurring theme is the fragility of peace and order, and the swarming of temptations in unlikely places. She would have understood (and perhaps did) Brecht's phrase about the terrible temptation of goodness'. - Arthur Marwick, London Review of Books
As Lispector was dying in 1977, she and her secretary constructed this novel from notes, which partially explains its fragmentary nature. The detached male narrator, Rodrigo S.M., tells the story of Macabea, a rickety, Coca-Cola-drinking virgin from the poor region of Alagoas, who moves to Rio's urban jungle. She lands a job as a typist and becomes enamored of the self-seeking Olimpico. After he dumps her for the worldlier Gloria, Macabea requests the advice of a fortune teller. No sooner is she buoyed by the seer's optimistic predictions than she is run over by a car. The joy of this novel is that we experience both Rodrigo's indulgent introspection as well as Macabea's woeful life. This new translation begs comparison with Giovanni Pontiero's 1986 version; many phrases are identical, but some wording is slightly different or has been contemporized. The translator, author of the Lispector biography Why This World, understands the nuances of Lispector's often-hermetic style. VERDICT For readers who passed it up the first time, now would be the chance to become acquainted with the last and perhaps finest work of one of the foremost authors of 20th-century Brazilian literature.-Lawrence Olszewski, OCLC Lib., Dublin, OH (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.