Near to the Wild Heart is one of them special books, something original that you remember much later after you read it. Written in Brazilian Portuguese originally, the modernist style made famous by the likes of Joyce and Woolf helped create a book with a unique style.
Disclaimer of sorts before I go any further, I am a big fan of this writer’s work, I’ve read almost everything she’s written (watch this space for more on Clarice) that’s been translated in English so I will try to be as balanced as I honestly can about this book. I have already done a post on Why This World the Clarice biography by Benjamin Moser which like everything else I try to do here I more of a recommendation than a review..
I love it of course I do. It was Clarice Lispector’s first released novel and was a success in Brazil when it first came out.
The book is influenced by some of the philosophical writings of Spinoza, mainly Spinoza’s thoughts on good and evil and people’s subjective understanding of it. As a result we get an interesting look at the protagonist Joana. Her views on the world and especially how other people perceive her probably says more about the people than they do about Joana. We also get to look and see Joana’s way of thinking.
I want you to read the book so I won’t give a lot of the plot of the book away. We meet Joana through her childhood and her life as a young woman. We see her interactions with others and who have been important people in her life also get to find out what thy think of Joana. Joana is compared to animals. A snake being one of them.
Despite being less than 200 pages long this book is very rewarding. I’ve read books over 600 pages long and haven’t read anything with as much expression and substance as this book. Clarice would later go on to experiment with different ways of storytelling from her short stories to her longer ones. Now I know this is a translation by Alison Entrekin (I will quote translators from now on, they deserve credit) so we naturally will not get an exact literal translation of Clarice’s intentions at least in the English language, not a single word is wasted however, there is no rambling or sections that aren’t needed.
Clarice was 23 when this book was first published and she showed a maturity which was wise beyond her years. If you’ve read about Clarice’s life and upbringing you would not be surprised by this at all. Whilst Clarice’s next two books, The Chandelier and The Besieged City have more detail in them in the way the characters look at the world, Near to the Wild Heart is probably my favourite of her first three. As much as I loved her subsequent books, this one has