Five New Clarice Lispector Translations

Benjamin Moser, author of a great biography of Clarice Lispector (Why This World) has gotten New Directions to re-release five Lispector novels in new translations. First up is The Hour of the Star, translated by Moser himself and intro’d by Colm Tóibín. Here’s the deal:

New Directions has been steadily reissuing titles from its storied backlist over the past few years, commissioning new introductions from contemporary writers and hip new covers. When Moser heard that New Directions was preparing to reissue Lispector’s last novel, The Hour of the Star in its original English translation by Giovanni Pontiero with a new introduction by Colm Toibin, he contacted Epler and insisted they do a new translation: “You can’t say no to that guy,” said Epler. “He finally just put a bag over my head and clubbed me and said he’d do the translation himself in two or three weeks.”

Moser had resisted the idea of translating Lispector himself, but finally decided to do it so as not to miss the chance to offer English readers a translation he felt worthy of Lispector’s legacy. According to Epler, the original translation “also has its qualities. Ben’s version is very different. It’s much more smooth in the Pontiero.” Moser insists Lispector is “incredibly difficult to translate, and to read at times. But she has this extremely distinctive voice. She’s inimitable. A translation is at some degree an imitation. You have to find out how to do that,” said Moser.

The resulting book is filled with jagged, jerky odd, and utterly compelling prose, which is how it should be according to Moser. . . .

For more on this book and Lispector, have a look at Leora Skolkin-Smith’s essay on Hour of the Star in The Quarterly Conversation.

As someone who has read–and loved–Lispector’s work in the available translations, I can say that this is great news. And have a look at the cover design for the 4 remaining books:

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A few years back, Anderson Tepper wrote a piece on Lispector that mentioned that title: The Hour of the Star, in fact, manages to compress most of Lispector’s obsessions into one tiny thumbnail of a book. Macabéa, a driftless immigrant from the northeast, shuttles to and from her job as a typist, her boarding house, and a soulless love affair in Rio, while slowly gaining inklings of her own freedom and ultimately finding redemption. In Macabéa, too, one can find perhaps a touch of Jewish symbolism: Does the name refer to the Maccabees, the Jewish warriors who recaptured Jerusalem from the Greeks in 164 BCE? There are few overt references to Judaism in her work—rather, she gives us priests, cathedrals, angels, and the almost divine powers of writing and “the word” itself. In the hallucinatory story “Where Were You at Night,” however, Lispector writes of a “poor Jew” who lives in a “dirt-cheap boarding house” surrounded by prostitutes and cockroaches. But he is just one of the collection’s many characters—teachers, seamstresses, architects, transvestites, erotic dancers—searching for salvation in cities real and imagined.

More here:


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Two long essays of 10,000 words each on sex in—and out of—literature . . .

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5 essays. 2 interviews.

All in all, over 25,000 words of Latin American literary goodness.

3 never-before-published essays, including “The Digression”—a 4,000-word piece on the most important digression in César Aira’s career.

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