I discovered the work of Clarice Lispector rather late in life. When a reader is young, a constant stream of discovery flows through one‘s reading life, but after one has “read everything” (an utter impossibility, but nonetheless a persistent literary feeling) the authors that constitute a major discovery flood one with a special kind of hopefulness I cannot explain; who believes they will find a new best friend after fifty? But it happens. 

When I first read the stories in Soulstorm, they shocked me. And in the “explanation” that precedes the stories, Clarice Lispector says “I was shocked by reality.” This by a woman already famous for writing fantastical stories such as “The Smallest Woman in the World,” the tale of a lady 17 3/4 inches high, which I had read years earlier in an anthology and marked as a wonder, without paying much attention to who the author was. I was shocked by reality. This statement is an artistic one. It brings the world to a standstill, which is very often what art does; it does this despite the fact it is impossible.

When I think of Clarice Lispector, I think of her years as a diplomat’s wife in Washington, D.C., and the endless round of cocktail and dinner parties that are a necessary part of that life, and how her existence as a writer must have been relegated to a place so inner it was in danger of disappearing; at the very least, no one sitting next to her could see it. But this place—the inner life—is the one thing that can never vanish, or if it were ever to vanish, literature itself would vanish with it.


To read Mary Ruefle's entire essay on Clarice Lispector, purchase your copy of Music & Literature no. 4 . . .