Why This World by Benjamin Moser
A Biography of Clarice Lispector

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Synopsis

"That rare person who looked like Marlene Dietrich and wrote like Virginia Woolf," Clarice Lispector is one of the most popular but least understood of Latin American writers. Now, after years of research on three continents, drawing on previously unknown manuscripts and dozens of interviews, Benjamin Moser demonstrates how Lispector's development as a writer was directly connected to the story of her turbulent life. Born in the nightmarish landscape of post-World War I Ukraine, Clarice became, virtually from adolescence, a person whose beauty, genius, and eccentricity intrigued Brazil. Why This World tells how this precocious girl, through long exile abroad and difficult personal struggles, matured into a great writer. It also asserts, for the first time, the deep roots in the Jewish mystical tradition that make her the true heir to Kafka as well as the unlikely author of "perhaps the greatest spiritual autobiography of the twentieth century." From Chechelnik to Recife, from Naples and Berne to Washington and Rio de Janeiro, Why This World strips away the mythology surrounding this extraordinary figure and shows how Clarice Lispector transformed one woman's struggles into a universally resonant art.
 

About Benjamin Moser

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Benjamin Moser is a contributing editor at Harper's Magazine and a contributor to the New York Review of Books and Cond� Nast Traveler. His translation of The Hour of the Star inaugurated New Directions' Clarice Lispector series, of which he is the Editor. He lives in the Netherlands.
 
Published July 1, 2009 by Oxford University Press. 496 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Literature & Fiction, Action & Adventure. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Why This World

The New York Times

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The avant-garde Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector (1920-77) is little known in America, where only a handful of her many books have been issued in translation, but back home she is literary royalty — she burns in the collective memory like a slightly sinister eternal flame.

Aug 11 2009 | Read Full Review of Why This World: A Biography o...

The New York Times

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The story is simple — a man torn between a homebody mistress and a wild-animal wife — and chillingly amoral, but Lispector uses it to address with brutal lucidity what will prove the central question of her work: What is the nature of God’s presence in the world?

Aug 19 2009 | Read Full Review of Why This World: A Biography o...

Publishers Weekly

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This pioneering biography of Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector (1920–1977)—a genius of character as much as a literary magician—captures the luminescent and singular author for an English-speaking audience that may not be familiar with her.

Jun 08 2009 | Read Full Review of Why This World: A Biography o...

London Review of Books

And to this day that guilt weighs on me.’ Ten years later the child tried, consciously now, to save her mother by writing little plays and stories which she hoped would have a healing magic.

Apr 08 2010 | Read Full Review of Why This World: A Biography o...

The New Yorker

For the Elizabeth Bishop of today, the one who has been more insistently mythologized than perhaps any American poet of her generation, a tactful realization that she, too, sometimes had to earn a living, is not enough. Her beliefs must be recast in the mold of her readers’, and turned into a pol...

Dec 05 2012 | Read Full Review of Why This World: A Biography o...

Project MUSE

Moser points out that, even in a city as small as Recife, Clarice had available to her all the resources needed to sustain Jewish life, and her father took pains to pass on the Jewish intellectual tradition to his Brazilian daughters.

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Project MUSE

Scrupulously researched and clearly written, Moser's presentation of Clarice's difficult, often tragic personal life offers new insights into her work and is sure to foment much more interest in Clarice Lispector in the United States and elsewhere in the English-speaking world.

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The Jewish Chronicle

If this world is only an arena of snatched joys amid predominant sorrows which we are enjoined to visit for a brief (in Clarice’s case) 57 years, surviving as best we can while speculating with genius about what lies beyond may not be such an ignoble way through it.

Sep 02 2009 | Read Full Review of Why This World: A Biography o...

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