An Apprenticeship, or the Book of Pleasures

Clarice Lispector, trans. from Portuguese by Stefan Tobler. New Directions, $22.95 (176p) ISBN 978-0-8112-3061-2
Lispector’s dense and singular romance (after The Besieged City), first published in Brazil in 1969, arrives in a rich new translation from Tobler and illuminating afterword by Sheila Heti. Lóri, a primary school teacher leading a solitary existence in Rio de Janeiro and unable to stomach her “bourgeois middle class” milieu, becomes captivated by the elusive Ulisses, a philosophy professor and self-described excellent teacher (“basically I like to hear myself talk about things that interest me,” he explains). The two speak on the phone, meet for drinks, and visit a local swimming pool, but Ulisses tells Lóri she’s not ready for the relationship he wants, a claim that drives the bulk of Lori’s stream-of-consciousness analysis (“she was bound to him because she wanted to be desired”). Ulisses speaks often of his “apprenticeship” to something only aspired to—he’s “in the middle” of it, he says, but Lóri feels he’s “infinitely further along” than she is. The purpose of their apprenticeship is never expressed, though one of Lóri’s goals is to feel “alive through pleasure” instead of pain, and Heti’s revealing afterword leaves the reader with much to chew on. This deep immersion into the vicissitudes of love will delight Lispector devotees. (Apr.)
Reviewed on : 01/15/2021
Release date: 04/06/2021
Genre: Fiction
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