““She’d spend days reading; she read. like a painted prostitute. , full of keenness and of a boredom that burned her soul and quickly dried her out.” From The Chandilier.
I first encountered Clarice Lispector in August 2015 when I was given an advance review copy of The Complete Short Stories of Clarice Lispector. I quickly became under her sway. Since then I have posted on 35 of her short stories (out of 85), three of her novels as well as Benjamin Moser’s magnificient biography. I was delighted to find last week that her second novel, The Chandilier, was now available in traslation.
It is December, 1946, the war is at last over. You are enjoying a drink in a bar in The Copacabana Hotel, the premier hotel in Rio. The patrons of the bar include younger sons of disposed Eastern European monarchs, war profiteers from all sides, Hollywood stars, and the elite of Brazilian society. No one asks how you got that scar or what you did in the War as long as you have enough Reals. Suddenly all heads turn as perhaps the most stunningly glamourous woman ever to enter the hotel takes a seat at the bar. Ambrosia Bousweau, there with her uncle Ruffington, thinks, “I wonder if she is a mistress of a Rothchild?” The men are for a time unable to speak. No one would ever dream the woman, just twenty four, has already published two novels that will still be avidly read in seventy years, ranked among the greatest works of the century. She is considered Brazil’s greatest writer. She also was one of the first Brazilian women to graduate from Law School.
Benjamin Moser has said The Chandilier is her most complex and difficult work.
It is certainly strange, mysterious and beautiful. I dont care to retell the action of the work to any degree.
Here is New Directions blurb on the book:
“Fresh from the enormous success of her debut novel Near to the Wild Heart, Hurricane Clarice let loose something stormier with The Chandelier. In a body of work renowned for its potent idiosyncratic genius, The Chandelier in many ways has pride of place.“It stands out,”her biographer Benjamin Moser noted, “in a strange and difficult body of work, as perhaps her strangest and most difficult book.” Of glacial intensity, consisting almost entirely of interior monologues—interrupted by odd and jarring fragments of dialogue and action—the novel moves in slow waves that crest in moments of revelation. As Virginia seeks freedom via creation, the drama of her isolated life is almost entirely internal: from childhood, she sculpts clay figurines with “the best clay one could desire: white, supple, sticky, cold. She got a clear and tender material from which she could shape a world. How, how to explain the miracle …” While on one level simply the story of a woman’s life, The Chandelier’s real drama lies in Lispector’s attempt “to find the nucleus made of a single instant … the tenuous triumph and the defeat, perhaps nothing more than breathing.” The Chandelier pushes Lispector’s lifelong quest for that nucleus into deeper territories than any of her other amazing works.”
If you love Clarice,not everyone does, then I hope you will have the opportity to read this masterpiece. For sure it will benifit from rereading.
I hope to read an additional work by Clarice in May and hopefully June also.