Book Reviews

Benjamin Moser

Benjamin Moser is the author of Why This World: A Biography of Clarice Lispector and one of the finalist of the National Book Critics’ circle Award . At New Directions where he edits the translation that he has made of Clarice Lispector’s writings that includes The Apprenticeship, or The Book of Pleasures is the eleventh volume. To promote her work throughout the globe and for her work in Brazil, the Brazilian government gave him the first State Prize in Cultural Diplomacy. Sontag’s latest publication, Sontag: Her Life and Her Work was given with the Pulitzer Prize.

Near to the Wild Heart

Near to the Wild Heart, published in Rio de Janeiro in 1943, introduced Brazil to what one writer called “Hurricane Clarice”: a twenty-three-year-old girl who wrote her first book in a tiny rented room and then baptized it with a title taken from Joyce: “He was alone, unheeded, near to the wild heart of life.”

The novel was an unimaginable sensation, a revelation of the genius of. Narrative epiphanies as well as inner monologues frame the story of Joana starting from her early years in a middle-class family to her unhappy marriage and end in transcendence, as she declares: “I shall arise as strong and comely as a young colt.”

Now we finally have a translation that is in Benjamin Moser Benjamin Moser’sinimitable style. Get it today.

After having read “Near to the Wild Heart, one thing becomes clear Lispector’s name wasn’t “Hurricane Clarice due to her entrance into the literary world, however, her words rip into your thoughts and create a path of destruction.

One of Brazil’s 20th-century’s most fascinating and intriguing writers.


Her pictures are captivating even when the meaning is unclear, and when she writes about the things she hates, she’s the definition of lucidity.

This kind of writing could only result from an extraordinary creative purge an unfathomable, involuntary flowing-out response to the raw experience of being human and all that exists and is.


Benjamin Moser novels provide a striking contrast to modern society’s emphasis on fame and individual success.

The fact that Lispector could create an enthralling and complete coming-of-age story at age 23 was proof if any more needed that she always was ahead of the curve.

After having read “Near to the Wild Heart, one thing becomes clear Lispector’s name isn’t ‘Hurricane Clarice for her entrance into the literary world, instead, because her words cut into your thoughts and create a path of destruction.

A truly amazing writer.

Joana’s life isn’t an easy one. When her parents pass away, she is taken in by her uncle and aunt. As a child, Joana demonstrates a capacity for improvisation and delighting those who come in close contact with her. Her aunt is still wary of the little girl, whom she describes as an “little beast.’

“…She’s an animal. She’s a cold viper Alberto isn’t a person of sentiment of love or appreciation for her. There’s no reason to like her, there’s no sense in doing the right thing for herself …” (pg. 43)

Otavio recognizes the steeliness in Joana’s personality. However, there’s something attractive about her which he likes even though he isn’t able to determine why.

There was a tough and crystalline look to her that both attracted and dispelled him simultaneously He observed. […] She was not pretty and was too thin. Her sensuality could be different from his, luminous, overly bright. (pg. 82)

Otavio isn’t to be particularly keen on establishing an intimate relationship with Joana. In a way, Otavio believes that a relationship to her as a way of transcending self and past. Otavio hopes that she can teach him to never be afraid.

At an early point in the story, it is evident that Joana is lonely in her relationship with Otavio (perhaps even from her life as a whole). Joana struggles to form the connection between her husband and his wife:

However, Otavio was not particularly engaging, he did provide some interesting insights. The alternative was to get involved with what had already occurred. However, in the midst of the “spare me, spare me” eyes she would raise her hands from time to moment and let a tiny bird fly out. At times, however, possibly because of her words there was no bridge built between them, but instead an interval was formed. (pg. 25)

In the end, his presence even knowing that he exists, is an obstacle from her liberation.

Although The novel touches on important events in Joana’s story, it’s not a story-driven book. The focus is on self-reflection the inner thoughts of Joana are revealed. She appears to be experiencing life with a remarkable amount of emotion. There is a time that her mood can change between a deep feeling of happiness , to suffering and pain. Additionally, there is an impression that she is seeking to discover the meaning of her life. Perhaps she is hoping it will aid her in understanding the meaning of life:

I try to eject everything that has a life form. I try to shut myself off to discover the life within me.

 […] As soon as I shut my door my mind lets go of everything immediately. Everything I was holding back distances itself from me, disappearing into the deep waters of my mind. I can hear it, the falling. Afraid and content, I sit and wait for myself to be happy I am waiting for my body to slowly rise to really appear before my eyes. Instead of reaching myself by leaving, I find myself abandoned, alone, and being thrown into a cubicle of no dimension in which shadows and light are merely ghosts. Inside my head, I discover the quiet I desire. However, in this silence I become so secluded from all memories of another human being, and even of myself that I transform my impression to be a physical silence.

The novel’s style is impressionistic and Lispector uses a combination of descriptive passages and stream-of-consciousness to convey a feel for Joanna’s existence. The last line will give you an idea of the “stream” style which isn’t typically my preferred type of writing, yet it does work extremely well in this case. This is a excerpt in one of the descriptions. Joana remembers the moment immediately following the passing of her father.

She lay on her belly in the sand with her hands covering her face, leaving an air bubble. The sand became dark and dark, spots of red and circular blotches large, tremulous spots slowly started to appear, increasing and shrinking. Sand grains gripped her skinand getting buried in it. While her eyes were closed, she felt at the beach, the waves were being sucked back by the ocean quickly even with her eyes closed. Then they returned calmly with their palms open, letting loose the body. It was nice to hear their voice.

The novel also includes several philosophical lines: Joana’s reflections regarding the concept of time, the feeling of immortality and. the certainty that you’ll be dead.

Overall I found the novel Near to the Wild Heart an interesting, but difficult novel.

The writing is fantastic and at times poetic.  It was a novel that I appreciated more than liked.

Although I read most of 200 pages in the company of Joana I struggled to grasp her (which is why this article reads like fragments). Joana is often calm, confident, and independent However, I’m not sure that’s all she is.

Finally I ended up with a picture of a lifetime lived in stark fragments. With every section separating from the previous. The woman who is struggling make connections throughout her life.


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