Reviews of Why This World


Why This World reviewed in The New York Times Book Review

Why This World chosen as one of's August Best Books of the Month

Why This World reviewed in the New York Times

Why This World reviewed in the Los Angeles Times

Why This World reviewed in Bookforum

Why This World reviewed in the London Sunday Times

Why This World reviewed in the New York Review of Books

Why This World reviewed in the Times Literary Supplement

Why This World reviewed in the Literary Review (page 2)

Why This World featured in American Vogue

Why This World reviewed in The Economist

Why This World reviewed in The Scotsman

Why This World reviewed in The Texas Observer

Why This World reviewed in the Boston Globe

Why This World reviewed in Ha'aretz

Why This World reviewed in Moment

Why This World reviewed in The New Republic

Why This World featured in AnOther Magazine

Why This World reviewed in the Houston Chronicle

Why This World reviewed in The New Leader (pp. 28-29)

Why This World reviewed in the Jewish Daily Forward

Why This World reviewed in World Books Review

Why This World reviewed in The Nation

Why This World reviewed in Publisher's Weekly

Why This World reviewed in the Austin American-Statesman

Why This World reviewed in The Jewish Chronicle

Why This World reviewed in Rain Taxi Review of Books

A STARRED review from Donna Seaman in Booklist (review for subscribers only; see below). In a separate section, Seaman calls WHY THIS WORLD “such a rich and affecting mesh of history, biography, and literary insights.“

Affirming the intensity of her calling, Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector declared, “I think that literature is not literature, it’s life, living.” Born in the Ukraine in 1920 during her traumatized Jewish family’s flight from the pogrom inferno to Brazil, precocious Lispector was profoundly scarred by her mother’s terrible suffering and early death, psychic pain she concealed behind her legendary beauty and sphinx-like demeanor. Lispector studied law, worked in the 1940s as one of Brazil’s few women journalists, and wrote radically internalized, mysterious, and metaphysical fiction. Her debut novel, Near to the Wild Heart, “caused a furor” and inspired comparisons to Virginia Woolf and James Joyce even though the 23-year-old writer had yet to read either. Soon, “hurricane Clarice” crossed the Atlantic with her diplomat husband, landing in Naples, the first of several postings. For two decades, Moser attests in this beautifully rendered biography, Lispector endured acute homesickness behind a dignified and glamorous facade, channeling her secret angst into some of the twentieth century’s most extraordinary books. First-time biographer Moser, book columnist for Harper’s, demonstrates sharp interpretative skills in tracing the influence of the kabbalah, Spinoza, and Kafka on Lispector’s spiritual and artistic quest, and great sensitivity in chronicling her wrenching last years. Moser’s richly contextualized, uniquely insightful, and haunting biography of mystic and writer Lispector resurrects a “penetrating genius.”

A biography worthy of its great subject ... One of the twentieth century's most mysterious writers is finally revealed in all her vibrant colors.

-- Orhan Pamuk

Clarice Lispector is one of the hidden geniuses of twentieth century literature, in the same league as Flann O'Brien, Borges and Pessoa. Her stories and imaginative procedures are utterly original and brilliant, haunting and disturbing. It is impossible, as you read her, to know who she might have been, or where she came from, or what she was like. Now, finally, the plot has been thickened and the problem solved by Benjamin Moser's biography which is rich in detail and original research and filled with sympathy for what must remain hidden and what must be understood. He has written a great book about a Jewish heroine whose family lived through some of the worst episodes of the last century in Europe; he has given also a fascinating account of modern Brazil where Lispector's work is treasured and her genius recognized.

--Colm Tóibín

Everything about Clarice Lispector was unlikely: her great beauty, her early fame, her unique voice, her status as an icon to Brazilians, her passions and masks, and her family history as the daughter of destitute Jews who barely escaped the murderous pogroms of their native Ukraine to settle in Recife. It is also something of a mystery that almost no one in the English-speaking world recognizes her name--a name that is perhaps as important to modern literature as that of Virginia Woolf. But in Benjamin Moser, she has found a gifted young biographer, social historian, and prose stylist who is able to take her elusive measure. This book is enthralling.

-- Judith Thurman

Clarice Lispector is one of the summits of Latin American literature. She continues to be read and respected, studied and admired. Benjamin Moser has written not only a splendid biography but a story that almost reads like fiction. Whether or not you know this delicate and powerful woman, this book deserves to be read. After finishing it, you will be in love with her.

-- Guillermo Arriaga

Clarice Lispector was a highly original novelist born to a Jewish family in Russia and raised in Brazil. She spent many years in the United States. Her fiction is brilliant and unclassifiable, translated and championed by Elizabeth Bishop, who compared her favorably to Borges. Glamorous, cultured, moody, Lispector is an emblematic twentieth-century artist who belongs in the same pantheon as Kafka and Joyce. Benjamin Moser has recreated all the psychological and cultural context needed to understand this great writer, and brought to life her essentially tragic nature in all its complexity.

-- Edmund White

A smart, passionate portrait of a truly remarkable writer. Lispector is a great subject, and Moser is the perfect biographer for her.

-- Jonathan Franzen