"A dangerous book to read quickly or casually because it’s so consistently delirious. Her
Complete Stories is a remarkable book, proof that she is one of the true originals of Latin American literature."
The New York Times Book Review - Terrence Rafferty
"Utterly original and brilliant, haunting and disturbing."
"Reading Lispector is like being handed a world on fire. "
Since her death in 1977, Lispector's literary reputation has grown enormously, thanks to her nine unsettling novels…This collection…is of a piece with the novels, and makes clear that she also had a mastery of short fiction. Whatever the form, Lispector is enigmatic, mystical, confounding and philosophical. She may start in familiar territoryon the streets of a big city, aboard a bus or a train, at a dinner partybut quickly veers off into a realm in which the sounds seem to become discordant, and the landscape wavers, its colors taking on odd tones…It is impossible to convey fully [the] vertiginous sensation of her Portuguese in another language, but the translator of this book, Katrina Dodson, has wrestled mightily with that problem and performed commendably, inducing in English many of the dizzying effects that characterize Lispector's texts…
The Complete Stories…[tracks] Lispector's career from start to finish, in all its multiple, disquieting manifestations.
The New York Times - Larry Rohter
Reviewed by Valeria LuiselliIn the only footage that exists of Clarice, as fellow Brazilians affectionately refer to her, she looks at her interviewer with a bewildering combination of innocence, rage, and nonchalance and tells him: "I insist on not being a professional. To keep my freedom." Like so many of her thoughts and statements, this one overflows beyond its apparent simplicity. It is at once a deeply personal position taking in how Clarice Lispector (1920-1977) envisages her craft and an overt social critique directed at a world that had just discovered the market value of the author. It must be remembered that Lispector's publishing life ran parallel to but was always independent of the Latin American Boom, which was, in many ways, a literary brand, as well as the first internationally visible map of professional writers in Latin America. But Lispector cannot be circled into that, or any map. Her ravishing freedom will always just spill out from the restraints of any conceptual boundaries. Lispector's work never engaged explicitly with the political debates of her time. When asked in the same interview what the duty of Brazilian authors is, she replied: "To speak as little as possible." The answer is, of course, political, directed at the perceived duty of the writer to be an enlightened public intellectual, but in many ways it is also a declaration of her ars poetica. Lispector--like Beckett, or, to a degree, Kafka's--strips language to the bone, in search of some kind of metaphysical core or nucleus. The way she composes a sentence has more to do with subtracting layers from the world she observes than with adding commentary to it. In the devastating story "Love," for example, the protagonist notices people in the street: "Next to her was a lady in blue, with a face." Lispector's laconic, almost aphoristic syntax is, at times, full of a brutal sense of humor and at times disquieting. In the classic "A Chicken," a family chases a hen that, standing on a roof far from their reach, looks like "an out-of-place ornament, hesitating on one foot, then the other." In "Report of a Thing," about an alarm clock, the narrator notices "its infernal tranquil soul." In "Love," dried pits scattered on the ground, with their "circumvolutions," look like "little rotting brains." Lispector is the master of magnifying small, everyday details into epiphanies.The Complete Stories — more than 80 short stories, covering her entire writing life chronologically — seems to both restitute the form's most essential characteristics and open it up to boundless possibilities. Lispector writes, in the most simple and straightforward sense of the term, stories to be told. They are not concepts disguised as narratives, as are those of J.L. Borges. They are not investigations into form and structure, as are Julio Cortazar's. They are not developments of situations, as are many of Raymond Carver's. Lispector is one of those rare writers who can simply tell a story. She observes the lives of passing strangers — a girl who boards a train, a woman who attends a lecture on a hot day, a man who drowns, an old lady who visits the gynecologist — and, in doing so, confronts us with our own loneliness, our fragility, our humanity. Published by New Directions and translated beautifully and with a vigorous pulse by Katrina Dodson, The Complete Stories is bound to become a kind of bedside Bible or I Ching for readers of Lispector, both old and new. Wherever one opens the book, there is a slice of life to confront. In one of her later stories Lispector recalls the writer Sergio Porto, her friend, who was once asked by a stewardess on a plane if he wanted coffee. To which he replied: "I'll take everything I have a right to." We can approach this volume in a similar spirit: take everything. (Aug.) Valeria Luiselli is the award-winning author of Faces in the Crowd and Sidewalks. Her novel The Story of My Teeth is forthcoming from Coffee House Press in September 2015.
"Lispector reads with lively intelligence and is terrifically funny. Language, for her, was the self's light."
"To fans, Lispector is simply 'Clarice,' like Cher or Madonna or her countryman, Pele."
The Wall Street Journal - Brenda Cronin
"Clarice Lispector had a diamond-hard intelligence, a visionary instinct, and a sense of humor that veered from a naïf wonder to wicked comedy."
"Writing to prolong a life at its end, Lispector increasingly writes in the creases of time."
"One of the hidden geniuses of the twentieth century."
"A genius on the level of Nabokov."
Slate Magazine - Jeff VanderMeer
"Clarice Lispector is the premier Latin American prose writer of the century."
New York Times Books Review
"Her long-awaited arrival — of which this is only the beginning — might be compared to the translation and publication of Kafka’s work in early 1940s."
"For readers who worship at the altar of Lispector, the appearance of new work in translation is an event...Calling the release of Lispector’s Complete Stories in English an ''epiphany'' in its promotional copy may sound like hyperbole. It’s not."
"A gorgeous, exhausting,
sui generis collection."
3:AM - Dustin Illingworth
Vanity Fair - Elissa Shappel
Complete Stories is an enchanting compilation marked by Lispector’s sharp and stylistically playful use of language."
"The elusive genius who dramatized a fractured interior world in rich, synesthetic prose."
Because as a writer she was indifferent to plot and because she happened to be very beautiful, Lispector (1920–77) in her lifetime was more talked about than read. Since her death, however, she has been rediscovered and hailed as a female Franz Kafka. As a child, Lispector told stories to her dying mother in hopes of keeping her alive. She felt a kinship with the muteness of animals, but as she watches through the railings at the zoo in "The Buffalo," it is their being "trapped in this mutual murder" that is her epiphany. In another story a woman with a broken tooth opts for suicide over a visit to the dentist. "The Fifth Story" exists in five phases or versions, the first being the most literal (the task of killing a cockroach) and the final one, "Leibnitz and the Transcendence of Love in Polynesia," dissociating itself from the cockroach theme entirely. VERDICT Lispector has a mystic's regard for transcendent perception. Her fiction, while difficult, can illuminate on many levels, and certain intrepid readers will delight in the labyrinths she constructs for them.—Jack Shreve, Chicago
"Freedom is only what can be conquered": a welcome, long overdue omnibus collection of the short stories of the great Brazilian literata. Chaya Pinkhasovna Lispector, later Clarice Lispector (Soulstorm, 1989, etc.), has been called the most important Jewish writer since Franz Kafka and certainly one of the most important shapers of late-20th-century Brazilian literature. Those familiar with novels such as The Stream of Life will not need convincing, but those new to Lispector's work would fruitfully begin with this collection, which shows both the evolution of her style and her early mastery of the story form. Often in her stories there is a vaguely discontented woman who has settled into her fate early on but nurses misgivings. In a story that begins, arrestingly, "Now that the affair is behind me, I can recollect it more serenely," the narrator remarks on the damnable complacency of those around her, who can barely be budged into action except by such climactic events as birth and death "and their attendant conditions." "I can recollect it more serenely," of course, isn't quite idiomatic, and the collection is marked by a highly literal rendering that at times verges into translatorese: no speaker of American English, in the heat of anger or some other passion, would yell, "I feel tied down. Tied down by your fussing, your caresses, your excessive zeal, by you yourself!" Excessive zeal? There are plenty of perfect moments, though, as when Lispector describes a young lady to whom things are about to happen: "She sat combing her hair languorously before the three-way vanity, her white, strong arms bristling in the slight afternoon chill." For much of the collection, Lispector favors a kind of elegant realism, though with odd turns: contemplating chicken and egg, literally, she waxes post-Wittgensteinian: "Seeing an egg never remains in the present: as soon as I see an egg it already becomes having seen an egg three millennia ago." Essential and sure to turn up soon on reading lists in courses in women's studies and Jewish diaspora literature as well as Latin American writing.