cover image A Breath of Life

A Breath of Life

Clarice Lispector, trans. from the Portuguese by Johnny Lorenz. New Directions, $14.95 (184p) ISBN 978-0-8112-1962-4

One in a series of four new translations, this is the first time this posthumous book from one of Brazil's most renowned writers has been translated into English. The novel is a lyrical and expertly rendered schizoid duet comprising the exchanges between the "Author" (a male approximation of Lispector) and Angela Pralini, a textual manifestation of his "dark" "interior dialogue" whom he loves yet simultaneously wants to destroy. Because the Author cannot clearly define Angela, or separate her from himself%E2%80%94much like Lispector (%C3%81gua Viva) cannot separate herself from the Author%E2%80%94the novel does not progress in a traditional sense. Rather, the Author admits that "What this book is missing is a bang. A scandal%E2%80%94" something to put Angela on a trajectory other than that of her creator. As the two wrestle with the conditions of their relationship, they each offer transcendent insights into the writing process, the artifice of character creation, the morbid, and the absurd, as when the Author laments being "objectif[ied]" as a writer, and Angela asks entreatingly, "But does anyone hear me?" While the innovative nature of the work will likely appeal to fans of Beckett, Lispector's intoxicating prose makes this experimental dialogue special. (June)