Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Friday, May 8, 2015

"The Smallest Woman in the World" by Clarice Lispector (1960)

The Complete Short Stories of Clarice Lipsector, to be published August, 2015, translated by Katrina Dodson, edited and introduced by Benjamin Moser

16 of 85

"The Smallest Woman in the World" is the first Lispector story which ventures beyond concrete reality, beyond the confines of the affluent side of Brazlian society.  It is a strange fable like story centering on a legendary explorer of Africa encounter with what the story tells us is "the smallest woman in the world".  The woman is 44 centimeters (just over 17 inches), she is pregnant and black.  Brazil has its own very complicated history of race relations in a once slave based economy and it would take some pondering how one should take this, I think. I do know that in Brazilian society in 1960, the lighter one was the higher your social status tended to be, especially for women in the marriage market.   The woman is described as leaving mostly in the trees and coming from an endangered tribe which is pursued by cannibals.  

The story line then returns to the slightly claustrophobic domestic scenes of Lispector when a picture of the woman appears in the Sunday Paper and a people begin to talk about her.  Part of the deeper themes of Lispector I see emerging is the need for people, women in particular, to hide from the true nature of their lives.  The small woman may be possibly taken as a symbol for the reduction in spirit women must seemingly take on to be accepted by society.  These lines get at the core of Lispector, so far:

"This is what the mother recalled in the bathroom, and she lowered her pendulous hands, full of hairpins. And considered the cruel necessity of loving. She considered the malignity of our desire to be happy. Considered the ferocity with which we want to play. And how many times we will kill out of love. Then she looked at her clever son as if looking at a dangerous stranger. And she felt horror at her own soul that, more than her body, had engendered that being fit for life and happiness."

Life is a double bind trap, a cruel joke on those who understand the masks they must wear and a reduction of us all to a much smaller person than we could be.  Love is a trap, but one we cannot escape while remaining human.

If you look, you can find this story online.  My first guess is that this is a violation of copyright but I don't  know how it came to be posted.  

Clarice Lispector (1920–1977) was Brazilian journalist, translator and author of fiction. Born in Western Ukraine into a Jewish family who suffered greatly during the pogroms of the Russian Civil War, she was still an infant when her family fled the disastrous post-World War I situation for Rio de Janiero. At twenty-three, she became famous for her novel, Near to the Wild Heart, and married a Brazilian diplomat. She spent much of the forties and fifties in Europe and the United States, helping soldiers in a military hospital in Naples during World War II and writing, before leaving her husband and returning to Rio in 1959. Back home, she completed several novels including The Passion According to G.H. and The Hour of the Star before her death in 1977 from ovarian cancer.  - from New Directions Publishing web

Ambrosia Bousweau 

Mel u

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