Review of Clarice Lispector, Near to the Wild Heart trans. Alison Entrekin;
The Passion According to G.H. trans. Idra Novey; Água Viva trans. Stefan Tobler;
A Breath of Life trans. Johnny Lorenz (New Directions, 2012).
Towards the end of Clarice Lispector’s first novel Near to the Wild Heart (Perto do coração selvagem, 1943), there is an exchange between Joanna, the heroine, and her bemused husband Otávio, that seven decades on has the capacity to shock:
‘It’ll only be over when I have a child, she repeated, vague, obstinate.
Otávio opened his eyes at her. ‘A little contrived this idea, don’t you think?’ he asked ironically.
‘What has been between us isn’t enough in itself. Whereas after a child there will be nothing left for us but separation.’
‘And what about the child?’, he asked. ‘What will the poor thing’s role be in this whole wise arrangement?’
‘Oh, he’ll live,’ she answered.
‘Is that all?’ he said, trying sarcasm.
‘What else can you do besides that?’
Otávio, thinking she was waiting, despite his shyness and anger at obeying her, concluded hesitantly:
‘Be happy, for example.’
Joana raised her eyes and looked at him from afar with surprise and a certain glee – why? – Otávio wondered frightened. He blushed as if he had made a ridiculous joke.
Otávio has been caught out expressing a hope. In Joana’s world of introspection and impulse, where there are no ideals or obligations, just freedom from such illusions, he has spoken like a child. Momentarily, though she quickly recovers, she loves him for it.Read More