cover image The Chandelier

The Chandelier

Clarice Lispector, trans. from the Portuguese by Benjamin Moser and Magdalena Edwards. New Directions, $26.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-8112-2313-3

Never before translated into English, Lispector’s mysterious second novel tells the story of two siblings and the secrets that bind them together. As children, sensitive Daniel and precocious Virginia live at the parochial Quiet Farm in the principality of Upper Marsh; Daniel keeps a collection of spiders, and Virginia spends her time making clay figurines. They witness a drowning and form the Society of Shadows to explore the forest around their home and spy on their sister Esmeralda. As a young adult, Virginia leaves the farm and attempts to fit in with a ravishing crew of aesthetes led by the vain Vicente, who becomes her lover—but her thoughts are always turning back to Daniel, whose engagement breaks Virginia’s heart, leading her to question her identity; she wonders if she isn’t like the family’s chandelier, above everything and swinging first one way, then the other. Told mainly through Virginia’s associative, stream-of-consciousness thoughts, which are occasionally interrupted by dialogue and plot developments, the novel clearly precedes Lispector’s artistic breakthrough with books like 1964’s The Passion According to G.H. This is a haunting family fable, and will fascinate those seeking a glimpse at Lispector’s genius in development. (Mar.)