Posted 20 hours ago

Near to the Wild Heart (Penguin Modern Classics)

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She was born in the Ukraine in 1920, but in the aftermath of World War I and the Russian Civil War, the family fled to Romania and eventually Brazil. From a young age, Joana demonstrates a capacity for free thinking and for dazzling those who come into contact with her. All of me swims, floats, crosses what exists with my nerves, I am nothing but a desire, anger, vagueness, as impalpable as energy.

This would be hard enough to follow in the original Portuguese, let alone when translated into English. Narrative epiphanies and interior monologue frame the life of Joana, from her middle-class childhood through her unhappy marriage and its dissolution to transcendence, when she proclaims: “I shall arise as strong and comely as a young colt.

And Joana knows that, instinctively, rejecting the idea of one truth, one path to a happiness that symbolises a stasis she can’t embrace.

I remember Stefanie at So Many Books loving her, and I came across her first as a go-to girl of Helene Cixous’. The book, particularly its revolutionary language, brought its young, unknown creator to great prominence in Brazilian letters and earned her the prestigious Graça Aranha Prize.This became the book’s epigraph, which, together with the occasional use of the stream-of-consciousness method, led certain critics to describe the book as “ Joycean. She commits transgressive acts—as a child she throws a book at an old man's head, for example, and as a married woman she leaves her husband, Otávio, and greets the news of his adultery—he has made another woman, his old friend Lídia, pregnant—with utter indifference. While in law school in Rio she began publishing her first journalistic work and short stories, catapulting to fame at age 23 with the publication of her first novel, 'Near to the Wild Heart' (Perto do Coração Selvagem), written as an interior monologue in a style and language that was considered revolutionary in Brazil. Clarice Lispector (1920-1977) was born in Ukraine to Jewish parents who emigrated to Brazil in 1922. And she could smell as if it were right beneath her nose the warm, hard-packed earth, so fragrant and dry, where she just knew, she just knew a worm or two was having a stretch before being eaten by the hen that the people were going to eat.

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