cover image Selected Cronicas: Essays

Selected Cronicas: Essays

Clarice Lispector. New Directions Publishing Corporation, $12.95 (296pp) ISBN 978-0-8112-1340-0

In 1967, Brazil's leading newspaper asked the avant-garde writer Lispector to write a weekly column on any topic she wished. For almost seven years, Lispector showed Brazilian readers just how vast and passionate her interests were. This beautifully translated collection of selected columns, or cronicas, is just as immediately stimulating today and ably reinforces her reputation as one of Brazil's greatest writers. Indeed, these columns should establish her as being among the era's most brilliant essayists. She is masterful, even reminiscent of Montaigne, in her ability to spin the mundane events of life into moments of clarity that reveal greater truths. Collections of columns often tend to be choppy, but her honesty creates an overall narrative that holds all the incidents, memories, anecdotes and observations together. The effect is novelistic, a blend of insight, poetic detail and craftsmanship. A number of themes pervade the book. Chief among them is her attempt to describe the state of grace. For her, it is ""only a tiny aperture which allows us to glimpse a sort of tranquil Paradise"" as well as ""the lucidity of those who are no longer surmising."" She is just as adept with the humorous, particularly her encounters with taxi drivers and the horrors of killing cockroaches that ""crawl up the pipes while weary humans dream."" Love, too, is examined and compared to the flamenco dance, in which ""the rivalry between a man and a woman becomes so naked."" This is a superb collection, wonderfully obsessed with exuberance and what it unlocks and reveals. (Nov.)