cover image The Apple in the Dark

The Apple in the Dark

Clarice Lispector, trans. from the Portuguese by Benjamin Moser. New Directions, $19.95 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-0-8112-2675-2

New Directions completes its series of 15 new Lispector translations with this existential epic of a desperate criminal. Martim flees the scene of his unspecified crime and ventures deep into the Brazilian jungle, coming at last upon a secluded ranch. There, he meets two women: the ranch’s imperious owner, Vitoria, and her younger cousin, the impressionable Ermalina. Vitoria puts Martim to work as a handyman while Ermalina spies on and gradually falls for the stranger, who wishes not only to conceal his past and identity but, from this new vantage, to “reconstruct the world.” A philosophically charged love triangle develops, as Ermalina, largely dependent on tranquilizers, sees in Martim a means to awaken to the realities that Vitoria would rather shield her from. When another stranger arrives at the plantation, he brings with him the details of Martim’s crime, which come as a surprise to Martim as well as the reader. Lispector (1920–1977) expertly sustains tension as she plumbs Martim’s dark heart to explore the consequences of isolation. Complemented by a bracing translation from Moser, this stands among Lispector’s finest and most enigmatic achievements. (Nov.)