Why This World

“That rare person who looked like Marlene Dietrich and wrote like Virginia Woolf,”  Clarice Lispector is one of the most popular but least understood of modern Latin American writers. Now, after years of research on three continents, drawing on previously unknown manuscripts and dozens of interviews, including with many witnesses who have never before been heard, Benjamin Moser demonstrates how Clarice Lispector’s development as a writer was directly connected to the story of her turbulent life.

Born in 1920, in the nightmarish landscape of post-World War I Ukraine, her family driven to a distant country by the fearsome pogroms that killed her mother and ruined her father, Clarice triumphed over her origins to become, virtually from adolescence, a person whose beauty, genius, and eccentricity intrigued all of Brazil’s writers and artists. Why This World tells how this precocious girl, through long exile abroad and difficult personal struggles, matured into a great writer—and demonstrates, for the first time, the deep roots in the Jewish mystical tradition that make her the true heir to Kafka.

Against a sweeping historical panorama, from the Ukraine to Brazil, from Naples and Berne and Washington to Rio de Janeiro—Why This World is an essential introduction to the work of one of the twentieth century’s most important writers, indispensible for students of Jewish, Latin American, and women’s literature. Stripping away the mythology that has accreted around her extraordinary figure and restoring her essential humanity behind the reputation of the “sacred monster,” it shows, above all, how Clarice Lispector transformed the personal struggles of a single woman into works of universal resonance. As she said: “I am all of yourselves.”