Brazilian Profile: Clarice Lispector Posted by on Aug 13, 2009 in Brazilian Profile, Literature

Clarice Lispector is one of Brazil’s most famous and accomplished female writers, who is finally making headlines in the United States after becoming an icon in Brazil.

Clarice was born Chaya Pinkhasovna Lispector, the daughter of Jewish Ukrainian parents, in 1920. When she was a baby, her family emigrated to Brazil, fleeing religious persecution, and lived in Recife for several years. Clarice went to a Jewish school, where she learned Hebrew, Yiddish, and Portuguese, and was later accepted into the best elementary school in Pernambuco. But her mother died when she was nine, and Clarice’s father took his children to live in Rio de Janeiro several years later.

Clarice was accepted into the law school at the Universidade do Brasil, the best college in the country at the time. She began writing, and was first published in 1940. She also began working as a journalist for several newspapers. Sadly, her father died when he was 55 of a botched operation, leaving her orphaned at age 20.

1943 was a big year for Clarice. She became a Brazilian citizen, and married Brazilian diplomat Maury Gurgel Valente shortly after. She published her first novel, Perto do coração selvagem (Near to the Wild Heart) that year as well, receiving rave reviews. It was said that the book was “the greatest novel a woman has ever written in the Portuguese language.” Her writing style, revolutionary in Brazil at the time, was likened to Virginia Woolf and James Joyce.

Clarice’s husband was a diplomat, so she spent the next several decades bouncing around the world: Belem, Naples, Torquay, and Washington. She wrote three more novels while abroad. Then, in 1959, she divorced her husband and moved back to Rio de Janeiro with her sons. She spent the rest of her life in Brazil, writing more novels, short stories, children’s books, and newspaper columns.

She died of cancer the day before her 57th birthday, of ovarian cancer, and is buried in the Jewish cemetery in the Caju neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro.

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  1. Emilia:

    She is a great of my favorite books is Ahora da estrela.