a taste of the world's best short stories


Clarice Lispector (1925-1977) - Biography

Clarice Lispector (1925-1977)
Commentary by Karen Bernardo

Clarice Lispector's quirky stories demonstrate her fascination with the creative process, rather than the actual act of storytelling.

Born in the Ukraine in 1925, Lispector moved to Brazil as an infant. She began writing as a teenager, and read voraciously, not only from Brazilian literature but from the works of contemporary authors of Europe and the United States. She was particularly influenced by the French existentialist philosophers Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre.
After graduating from the National Faculty of Law, she became a journalist. One might expect that her journalistic career would have produced a tendency to write straightforward, sequential prose, but instead she quickly established herself as a master of the odd, the surreal, the mystical. Both of the stories we've chosen to discuss, 'The Chicken' and 'The Fifth Story,' feature animals in them, as Lispector seems to have seen animals as perfect canvases for the unfolding of life's epiphanies. Never content to 'just tell the story,' her prose experiments with -- and often transgress -- the boundaries of language and traditional narrative structure. Thematically, her work often contrasts the inborn urge to survive with the cynical knowledge that we are all, someday, bound to die; this sense of being inexorably dragged, kicking and screaming, toward one's doom pervades both stories we read today. 

Lispector herself did not live a long life, dying at the age of 52 from cancer. Yet her legacy is contained in her unique glimpses into facets of life which often go unnoticed by those of us who don't have eyes to see.

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