Seven decades after its original publication, Clarice Lispector’s third novel—the story of a girl and the city her gaze reveals—is in English at last
Seven decades after its original publication, Clarice Lispector’s third novel—the story of a girl and the city her gaze reveals—is in English at last. Lucrécia Neves is ready to marry. Her suitors—soldierly Felipe, pensive Perseu, dependable Mateus—are attracted to her tawdry not-quite-beauty, which is of a piece with Sao Geraldo, the rough-and-ready township she inhabits. Civilization is on its way to this place, where wild horses still roam. As Lucrécia is tamed by marriage, Sao Geraldo gradually expels its horses; and as the town strives for the highest attainment it can conceive—a viaduct—it takes on the progressively more metropolitan manners that Lucrécia, with her vulgar ambitions, desires too. Yet it is precisely through this woman’s superficiality—her identification with the porcelain knickknacks in her mother’s parlor—that Clarice Lispector creates a profound and enigmatic meditation on “the mystery of the thing.” Written in Europe shortly after Clarice Lispector’s own marriage, The Besieged City is a proving ground for the intricate language and the radical ideas that characterize one of her century’s greatest writers—and an ironic ode to the magnetism of the material.