Complete Novels by Clarice Lispector (translated by Katrina Dixon)

I have looked at Clarice’s previous works most notably her novels and now I will be looking at her short stories. With Clarice’s novels, Clarice wants your undivided attention when you read them, she wants to suck you into the worlds she creates. In her short stories, we go straight to the point of the stories for want of a better word with her use of language and imagery. As mentioned by Benjamin Moser in his autobiography of Clarice people such as the poet Elizabeth Bishop preferred her short stories saying;

‘Her 2 or 3 novels I don’t think are so good but her short stories are almost like the stories I’ve always thought should be written about Brazil – Tcheckovian, slightly sinister and fantastic’

If you want to introduce people to the works of Clarice Lispector I would usually recommend Near to the Wild Heart but I would also introduce you ti her short stories as they can slowly break you in to Clarice’s style and what she is all about.

Penguin Edition of the Complete Stories

I will be using the Penguin edition of Complete Stories (2015) when looking at her short stories, the edition contains 85 of them. We will be looking at the stories written from her early years and the stories written throughout her life. Throughout these stories we will see Clarice playing with ideas and we will see stories that had an influence on her novels also. The majority of the stories look at the role of women in Brazil. These characters are just people you would meet in your own lives, housewives children, office workers for example.

As I like at the stories I will write in more detail at these stories individually and I would also like to look at if there is anything else we can learn or understand from each of them.

I will also be starting with the first short story in the Complete Stories edition with The Triumph.

Lord Timothy Dexter and  A Pickle For The Knowing Ones Or Plain Truths in Homespun Dress.

Ok firstly, I do apologise for this but I wanted to show you what reading Lord Timothy Dexter’s work was like which is why everything is written in the way it is. You’re the lucky one I somehow managed to read the whole thing, I don’t think I’m losing it just yet….

Lord Timothy Dexter wos a rich ecantric man from the younited States in Newburyport masachoosis

The legasy of Lord Timothy Dexter can be fond in his col lection of wrytings in A Pickle For The Knowing Ones Or Plain Truths In Homespun Dress This peecooliar collaction off wrytings are peecooliar for a number of resons Its riddled with spalling and grammer mustakes and there is no respact for punctuation The copey I have is only 36 pages however as you woud expect it is hard to reed

I honastly thourt at first that Lord Timothy Dexter was a made up character by the pooblisher but if you go to Newburyport in the Yoonited stated where he was from you can acksually find the cemetery where he was bereed along with his wife and his son (I’ll add where I found that in the comments) Incidentally what the date of death said by the editor and what is said on Dexter’s head stone do not match needing off bi a few dayss

Dexter

We reed of a man who maid a lot of monee from what wood first seem like ridiculus trades but turned out to be profitable and maed him rich We read about his thots in general we leen abot who is family were and his thoughts on the self and his local area of Newbury Lord Timothy Dexter didnt live in the modern age if he did he would have just written a blog insted he obtayned the services of a printer publisher of which he does reference in his wryting We are maid aware that he had no fourmal educaycion

Fortoonately for the reeder for enything that is not clear such as the bad spalling has foot notes by the aditor teling you what it is ment to say as well as a brief introoduction betwen each saction abot wat Dexter is going on abot

I was also amoosed bi the fact that in his 1st edition of this wryting he didnt includ any punctuation so in the reprint he aded an appendix and added all the stops there and that the reeder may peper and solt the work as they plese

The hole tex is sumthin of note that if enyfing is amoosing and bizarre

——–

In honor of the man I thot I wud do the same with the stops and punctooation so you can peper and salt the text as you see fit see below

,,,,,,,,,,,,……..,………….::::::::::::::::::;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;””””””::::::::::::::::::::::::::!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!????????????

My top ten list of 2020

Here has been the favourite books I’ve read this year. Some of the books I have read would be on here but I have not included because I have read them previously years before. I am only looking at the books I read then made a post on. Infinite Jest for example I read cover to cover years ago only skimming through it after that so I will not be including it here but I will give it an honourable mention.

So here are the books that I have loved not necessarily in the exact order of number one being the best but here they are:

Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones

Here was a story about a family of werewolves who travel round the southern part of the United States doing what they can to survive and no be as exposed as werewolves. At the same time we also here about their folk history.

Near to the Wild Heart by Clarice Lispector

A story on a young Joana and her look at life as well as how people view her. Here we look at how we perceive what is right and wrong especially when it comes to relationships

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

Ruiz’s facinating work of non fiction, a guide to life and how to keep your mind at ease.

The Trial by Franz Kafka

The famous Kafka tale of a man who has been charged for something he does not know what he has been charged for. Despite what the protagonist goes through there is a constant feel that he does not really have control over anything.

Solaris by Stanislaw Lem

A tale of a discovered planet where we can’t assume anything and the memories of anyone who appears on this planet are manifested, in particular previous loved ones.

Wondago by Melina Cuela

In this story a young girl goes to visit her great auntie and in doing so helps resolves a mystery by drawing what she can remember, the mixture of images and writing add to the atmosphere to the story.

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

A comedy of a man trying out different types of jobs in New Orleans meeting a range of peculiar characters on the way. We also look at a number of social issues as well as seeing what use a man can with a particular education can have in the real world.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

The story of a young Merricat who comes across a crisis of sorts when she realises her family are under an external threat. We also learn of the consequences of the family’s dark past.

Nadja by Andre Breton

A surreal story in the literal sense of a man’s fascination of a young woman. The more he learns of her the more we realises all is not what it seems with her.

I am Legend by Richard Matheson.

The story of fear, a man trying to survive fighting monsters which also looks at if this man’s action make him a monster also.

These were the books that stuck with me this year as ones I will likely never forget and want to read again. These are only brief summaries as I have written about them previously. I will continue to look at more book throughout next year all being good. I also want to look at more short stories as well.

A general sum up of 2020

Ok this one isn’t really about books this is just me reflecting. I was going to write about authors and writers and some of their odd quirks and odd facts about them they had but looking it up this has has actually been looked at by many before me and done well though I might look at I eventually myself. I will mention though that Charles Dickens was found to have had an affair after separating from his wife and it was William Makepeace Thackery who told everyone it was a young actress. It’s over a century since that happened and I’m still fascinated by that turn of events. So until I can get that ready I’ll just sum up the year as I’ve seen it instead.

At first I wanted to avoid writing about this as much as possible when doing my blog. I wanted to give myself and you as the reader a distraction from the world around you, to give you something good to read. I haven’t even just discussed books but other forms of media also. 2020 however ,has been different to any other year we have had in recent times at least (post war in Britain). When we have heard of previous incidents in the past they have never affected us directly like they do now. When I say directly I mean right in the moment, immediate. When Brexit was decided it did not affect us directly in the moment. Things may have felt different and uncomfortable for some (especially if you weren’t British or white) but we were still allowed to live our lives as normal (whatever that is) for the most part, terrorist attacks happened around the world and although some were tragically affected, the rest of us were still able to work, meet with our loved ones, come together. Climate change is a pressing issue but the panic has not been as high as some may argue should it be because again the affects of it has not been immediate (though some would say it is and we should find a way of nipping the changes we do see in the bud before they get worse).

I won’t be the first to say that this has been a tough year. The Covid pandemic has not only affected those who have been infected by it, but also many that haven’t. Global responses to the pandemic, has affected our previous everyday lives in the moment. People’s reactions have also been different and somewhat divisive. Expectations and how we live our lives have been knocked off-kilter. The pandemic for want of a better way of describing it has also raised the volume on other issues as many of us globally have been advised to remain indoors and has made us use the Internet for almost all our communications with the world. It has also made us aware of the loneliness out there and of course mental health issues and divisions in society. The Covid pandemic has affected us in the moment and although a vaccine has (as of typing) been made available, this could potentially be the end of one chapter and the beginning of new one instead of the end of the Covid saga..

My life has definitely changed more so towards the end of this year. I’ve had my problems just as many have and I have shall we say… suffered from my own dark moments starting at least a good year before the pandemic became global. This is in a weird kind of way made me prepared for things to come if albeit to a point. This is why I made this blog in the first place. To give me a focus. I prefer writing blogs to posting on social media. I do of course use some of them, some I like, some I have either deactivated or avoided . Blogs give you more time to think before you post. I worry people are forgetting how to think.

2021 will be another tough year and the 20s will be a tough decade, if not then definitely different. Hopefully we will come to a time where people will be brought together to not only disagree but to agree to disagree, to show people respect even after having different opinions and not to chastise people for having them views in the first place, this definitely isn’t happening now.

Germans at Meat by Katherine Mansfield

[From In A German Pension – 1911]

I said in my last post on A Breath of Life by Lispector that I will go on to look at her short stories. I thought I would do the same with other writers also and it will be quicker for me to post something on here, I am currently going through some longer books and they are going to take me a while to get through so here goes.

Germans at Meat is about a British narrator having dinner with a number of German guests.

Katherine Mansfield does not write about the German dinner guests in a positive light. The German guests in question are from a time when Germany’s place in the world was ever rising after unifying as one nation. A very different Germany to what we know now.

The German guests pass comment on the British diet and the English breakfast. At the same time we get to witness their table manners such as ‘He turned up his eyes and his moustache, wiping the soup drippings from his coat and waistcoat’ and the British narrator interrupts one of the guests before he goes on about the effects of the amount of sauerkraut he has eaten. We also read about the German guest’s bemusement by the narrator choosing to be a vegetarian and even more surprised about not knowing what her husband’s favourite meat is.

Among other topics discussed is how Munich is described as being what Germany is (I assume none-Bavarians would disagree with this) and asking the British guest if they are scared of a German invasion saying ‘You have no army at all – a few little boys with their veins full of nicotine poisoning’ (of course history has showed us what really would happen… twice but that’s neither hear nor there).

We also hear about the thoughts on the family. It appears German women like to produce big families. It ends with the British dinner guest leaving.

Although a British person is used in contrast to the German dinner guests, it is really about people with different cultures and ideologies meeting face to face and not quite understanding each other as opposed to Britain and Germany themselves. You could argue in today’s world there are more similarities than differences.

The British narrator observes their table manners and holds back from saying anything that may be deemed to offensive as the German guests reveal their thoughts and attitudes. The British narrator does not appear to have any form of the Edwardian British stereotype. She can speak German to her guests, she is a vegetarian, she does not behave like the classic housewife who knows what her husband like to eat all the time. Despite all this the German guests almost treat her like (as far as they are concerned) that she is the embodiment of what the English are.

What I learnt from this short story is that despite where we are from, we are actually all individuals and we have to choose to act as such. I could be wrong on that but that is what I got out of it.

[From Katherine Mansfield, The Complete Collection, Kindle Edition]

A Breath of Life by Clarice Lispector (translated by Johnny Lorenz)

This novel was published posthumously having been found with the writings she left behind and is is very different from the novels.

A Breath of Life is about a narrator and his relationship with a character he has created. There are actually three characters in the Breath of Life. The narrator himself, his creation Angela Pralini and Clarice Lisepctor herself who although has no lines herself permeates the whole feel of the novel.

Our narrator writes about his thoughts on life, on writing, on the concept of god. The narrator is trying to discover more about himself. In doing so he creates Angela, he gives her a history, a life as if she was real Brazilian woman, instils her with her own personality. She also contemplates her own thoughts and who God is. In this case her god is the narrator. As we go through the novel who is meant to be speaking can merge as if it is clearly the narrator talking as Angela. The narrator becomes captivated by his creation. He falls for her and he also questions her mortality within the life he has given her. Both characters look at how they view the world. The Narrator wants absolute control over Angela’s fate but in doing so is writing about himself more so than he his writing about Angela among all of it is Clarice who is pulling the strings from behind the scenes.

As far as I’m aware there is some Eastern European influence to this book (according to a friend a I leant it to) and there is that philosophical sense of trying to understand a way of thinking that is recognisable in almost all of Clarice’s work. As you would expect from Clarice this is a book that is not long yet at the same time you feel like you are taking in a lot. Written towards the end of Clarice’s life it also shows us if only through a prism, Clarice’s thinking at this time. Although not exactly like it, this book made me think of Agua Viva more than any of the others and I like this book as it is regardless of who the author is. It looks at our own thoughts and how we represent them and appears the most ‘meta’ of Clarice’s works.

I have looked at all of Clarice’s longer works (as far as I am aware that have been translated into English) and after this one I will be looking at Clarice’s short stories (I have a copy of the whole collection) looking at each on individually.

[Penguin Edition Published 2014]

The Opposing Shore by Julien Gracq (translated by Richard Howard)

If you want a world described in such a way that you can feel it and see it with such clarity in your own mind’s eye then look no further than the Opposing Shore by Julien Grecq.

The Opposing Shore is a remarkable book in the way in describes the world around you in such a way that you can almost see and feel it as it is written in such a poetic way.

The story itself is about Aldo an aristocrat who gets a commission to work for the Admiralty where he has been posted to the coastal town of Syrtes to observe the borders of the sea for any sight or report of a rival nation who though technically at war with, they have not seen any form of violence with this nation for hundreds of years due to an old ceasefire that is till being upheld.

Among Aldo’s time on duty we see what he sees and thinks in the first person and he has a good way in describing not only the world around him, mainly where the Admiralty have sent him but what has been said to him with his interactions with others and most impressively, Aldo is good at describing what has not been said with respect to certain gestures and glances.

The style of the book and the way Aldo speaks has the feel of a 19th Century pastiche. The kingdom of Orsenna of which Aldo is a member of has the feel of a southern European Mediterranean nation maybe of the renaissance era. The rival nation of Farghestan which is relatively unknown to us but has the suffix of -stan suggesting it is an eastern nation very different to Orsenna.

Social class is a topic in this book. Aldo among some other characters are of the aristocracy and when we get to here about their views on their worlds and how they view their own traditions. We also get to witness their relationship with characters from other classes (mainly Fabrizio).

The main theme however, tends to be about Aldo’s boredom with his post and how far he would go to defeat such boredom possibly at the cost of breaking the ceasefire that lasted so long between the two nations. We also get the trope of a lady (Vanessa in this case) leading Aldo astray to do something he possibly should not.

I can see The Opposing Shore being a book that is possibly not for everyone especially with respect to the old style prose however, it did flow quite well and the more you read about Aldo’s world and his story, the more you want to stay in it. Aldo has such away of describing tension and atmosphere that makes it feel real and not contrived in anyway or make me want to roll my eyes. The more you read of it the more you become aware of what affect Aldo’s actions will affect his world.

This mostly what I have thought after just finished reading it and eventually I would like to go back to it again to reflect on it. I am aware that there is getting to be a longer list of books I have already read to look back at again, I can’t promise anything but it something I would like to do.

[First published in French in 1951, this edition Harvill (Harper Collins) 1993]

Harmsworth Popular Science (1913)

If you ever go to a university library (or sometimes a public library) you will find collected bound editions of editorials and magazines on a number of subjects. Now of course we go on the internet and either through the public domain or some private enterprise we can gain access to a wide array of information. An example of such bound editorials was Harmsworth Popular Science. A British magazine that stopped publishing in 1913 of which I have a number of bound editions in shall we say, certain states of condition. These encyclopedias of knowledge don’t just look at physics, chemistry and biology as it was known at the time but it also looks at technological advances and the social sciences also. They look at such topics as you would expect from a 1913 science publication during the reign of George V. These volumes are fascinating in that it shows how (and in particular the British academic) saw the world before the world would change forever only a year after its last publication. Alfred Harmsworth who this is named after was major newspaper tycoon, the pre runner to the likes of William Randolph Hearst and Rupert Murdoch who had significant control in what people read.

From what I’ve looked at in the volumes there are some fascinating articles that would hold merit today, biographies on great minds and inventors along with an interesting look at technology, how it was seen and what it could become. There are some articles however, that would almost definitely be dismissed in our modern era. The volumes show a support for eugenics and and the knowledge of the universe is limited along with theories which have now been proven not to be true (for example how galaxies are formed)

There is a confidence with the United Kingdom’s place in the world (again this is written before the world would be changed significantly in science, though and most definitely politics). There are articles informing us of how much coal is produced in the UK. There are also a number of articles that look at the economics of the UK and how laws are made. It even looks at the rights of women although judging on the editorial team, not a single woman wrote any articles (women did not even have the vote when this was written). There is of course a look at a woman’s place in the world and praises the works of Swedish suffragist Ellen Kay.

A fascination for eugenics though with good is seen throughout the volumes. Little did the writers know if the appalling consequences such thoughts would have later in the 20th Century.

Harmsworth Popular science arrived at a time when great technological advances were coming to the forefront. Advancements in transport as well as a look at relatively new inventions such as the the airplane. It is also interesting to read on how what we would consider historical figures are now perceived. The likes of Thomas Edison, Gulielmo Marconi and Ernest Shackleton are described with high praise written in a time when they were still alive.

If Harmsworth Popular Science continued to day it would be interesting to know how their writers would view their predecessors. In the last volume written by the head editor Arthur Mee, he acknowledges that ‘-that we end, in this volume with our eyes on the horizon’. Mee acknowledges that there is so much more to learn and that everything that has been written is a book of information, ideas, hope and faith and holds no narrow view of life.

There is praise for a certain Thomas Edison

Despite what has since been disproven and ascertained since the publications of these volumes there is an honesty to them and good intentions in a century that would see a significant number of changes. Britain would be at war a year later. Many lives would be lost and irrevocably changed not just in Britain but the rest of the world. We would see these advancements in technology would be destructive as well as have his benefits. We would see how global politics would cause a lot of harm. We do see however, that we as a species can do some remarkable things. What we probably have learnt since is that we have a lot of responsibilities also.

No matter what we learn, we must not be afraid to change our views and reasoning based on the evidence that is available to us and not to be so cruel to those we perceive to be ignorant or wrong. Be kind.

[Educational Book Co Ltd 1913]

Night Film by Marisha Pessl

A few months back I wrote a post on how I thought writers could write their books in different and unique ways in that they could make us rely on more than just the written word or the odd picture. An example of such a work is Night Film. Night Film however, is a thriller. I am not a big fan of thrillers myself. For me they’re the book equivalent of reality shows or lower league football matches when you have no connection to either team. Something is going on but you’ll forget about them and the characters never leave any legacy on your mind.

Night Film is a thriller novel about the apparent death of Ashley Cordova, daughter of a mysterious film director. The film director’s films have a cult following and his movies are not readily available, underground clubs have been made to watch his film that have have repulsed and inspired people in a number of ways. As our main protagonist Scott McGrath investigates what has happened and gets help on the way, he gets to know more about the Cordova family.

If I’m being honest I was not a big fan of the whole story itself, I didn’t hate it. Scott McGrath the main narrator of this tale isn’t the most likeable of protagonists. We know he had a broken marriage and a daughter who sees from time to time. We also discover his attitudes shall we say, are definitely not what many on the American left would call ‘progressive’ but at the same time he is not an awful or detestable and he definitely has a drive to see things through. He also gets the help from two other characters. Nora who I found to be a bit flat and forgettable and Hopper who I didn’t like at first but would turn out to be more interesting later on.

One of the many articles that appear throughout the book.

I thought the story was too long I think some bits here and there could have been taken out and there is no sleuthing or detective work in Scott’s investigations. For example he goes to a hospital where Ashley Cordova was once at, never discovers anything and then someone out of nowhere says, go talk to this person, this person will tell them to go somewhere else. It was like going dot to dot until we could see the whole image of what we would later discover. I was also under the opinion that if the director Mr Cordova existed in our world that he would not be deemed as anything unusual in our world. His films don’t as unique as say.. James Incandenza’s films do in David Foster Wallace’s infinite Jest.

Despite being a thriller, with a plot I did not like that much including characters I will forget about, so why did I like this book as much as I did? It is if anything because of the presentation. There are articles from newspapers, the internet and magazines and cut outs that are presented to us. I liked this I though it really added to the world being described but that’s not all. Throughout the book there are certain pages that if you have the app (as of November 2020 you can find them on a website https://marishapessl.com/night-film-app/ ) add more to the story. You can hear music being described, audio of interviews of characters and additional notes to consider. I am big of fan of anything like this that can help shape a story and I would love to see more people doing this. I say this of course when I have yet to do anything as such myself.

Night Film was not wholly to my taste but there was enough there to keep me interested. The fact that we read and see what the characters see and with respect to music etc hear what they hear. Imagine it other genres, fantasy that can give us the illusion of actual fantasy or historical fiction that can make is actually feel it.