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

Thursday, December 10, 2015

"Miss Alvarez" by Clarice Lispector. 1974 The Complete Short Stories of Clarice Lispector August, 2015, translated by Katrina Dodson, edited-and introduced by Benjamin Moser)

"Miss Alvarez" is a story about a red headed Irish virgin working in London who is proud of her large breasts, she is a typist in London who is seduced by an invisible being from Saturn.  It is weird, wonderful and will leave first time readers loving being stunned by Clarice.  It was written in about three hours. 

Clarice wrote all of the thirteen short stories in the 1974 collection, The Via Crucis of the Body over the course of a single weekend. (My source for this and most all I know of the life and literary career of Clarice comes from the essential biography by Bernard Moser, Why this World:  A Biography of Clarice Lispector).  By this time she was more than thirty years into her literary career and did not care what the critics said of her work.   Some contemporary Brazilian critics called these stories "near pornogrsphy".  In one of them two women freely share the bed of one man then murder him and cut up his body to use to mulch their roses.  In a terrifying story I have posted upon, "Pig Latin" a woman avoids being raped on a Rio commuter train by acting as if she were a mentally deranged prostitute.  She knew the men wanted a virgin,  which she in fact was, thinking rightfully that would make them look for another woman The train conductor turned her into the police who kept her in jail for several days.  She learns a woman was raped and murdered on the train.  The story I posted on yesterday, "Via Crucis" is about a recreation of the birth of Jesus in Rio.

Miss Alvarez finds the very idea of sex repulsive.  Couples embracing in the Piccadilly Park disgust her, she cannot imagine her parents having sex, during her weekly bath she keeps on her underwear so as not to see her naked body.  In her free time she likes to write letters to the newspaper venting her feelings about the corruption and vice of London.  She is plagued by terrible loneliness.  One night she hears something.  

"“I am an I.” “Who are you?” she asked trembling. “I came from Saturn to love you.” “But I don’t see anyone!” she cried. “What matters is that you can sense me.” And indeed she sensed him. She felt an electric frisson. “What’s your name?” she asked fearfully. “It doesn’t really matter.” “But I want to call your name!” “Call me Ixtlan.” They understood one another in Sanskrit. His touch felt cold like a lizard’s, he made her shiver. On his head Ixtlan had a crown of intertwining snakes, tame from the terror of possible death. The cloak that covered his body was the most agonizing shade of violet,"

After this night her mind set radically alters.  Unlike before, she relishes eating steak, seeing the blood.  Being overwhelmed with sexual desire, she picks up a man on tne streets and takes him home. He gives her money even though she to,d him it was not needed.  She becomes a street walker honing her sexual skills while she waits for Ixtlan to return.  

As I read this I wondered is this a story of the impact of repression on a good Irish girl, is it a fantasy created to explain her sexual desires or is it real?  Is Ixtlan a figure from the collective unconsciousness or is he real.  Nothing in her life experiences would have planted this figure in her mind.

Mel u

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