Tuesday, March 29, 2016


Near to the Wild Heart, Clarice Lispector, New Directions Books, 1990, 192 pp (translated from the Portuguese by Giovanni Portiero, first published in 1944.)
Summary from Goodreads: Near to the Wild Heart is Clarice Lispector's first novel, written from March to November 1942 and published around her twenty-third birthday. The novel, written in a stream-of-consciousness style reminiscent of the English-language Modernists, centers around the childhood and early adulthood of a character named Joana, who bears strong resemblance to her author: "Madame Bovary, c'est moi", Lispector said, quoting Flaubert, when asked about the similarities. The book, particularly its revolutionary language, brought its young, unknown creator to great prominence in Brazilian letters and earned her the prestigious Gra├ža Aranha Prize.

Joana, a young woman very much in the mode of existential contemporaries like Camus and Sartre, ponders the meaning of life, the freedom to be one's self, and the purpose of existence. Near to the Wild Heart does not have a conventional narrative plot. It instead recounts flashes from the life of Joana, between her present, as a young woman, and her early childhood. These focus, like most of Lispector's works, on interior, emotional states.
My Review:    
I almost did not post my thoughts about this book. I seem to be the only person on the internet who doesn't think this book is amazing. A collection of Clarice Lispector's short short stories was published in 2015 and got lots of attention as well as praise. I got curious. As usual, I started with her first novel.
It is not fun or easy to read. The style is one of extreme introspection and stream of consciousness. I think many people go through this kind of thing at the cusp of adulthood. She wrote the book when she was nineteen. I think I went through it but I didn't know or understand what it was and I sure didn't talk about it to anyone, except maybe a little with a friend of my parents who was nothing like my parents.
Reading this, I found it true that one person's introspection is not interesting to others. Too personal, certainly not linear. However, though many people on Goodreads disliked Sheila Heti's How Should A Person Be, most of them thought this book was beyond great. I liked Heti's book because I could understand what she wrote.
I got that Joana was often unhappy and happy at the same time; that she was disassociated from other people, that she was having trouble integrating her self with her body, that she had a horror of being trapped and an obsession with freedom. All of that is real to me.
Once in a while she would express these things in ways I could connect with. Mostly she sounded mentally ill. Perhaps we are all mentally ill during puberty.
The last chapter or so reminded me of Renascence by Edna St Vincent Millay; my favorite poem ever when I was in 8th grade.  
(Near to the Wild Heart is available in paperback by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.) 


  1. "Perhaps we are all mentally ill during puberty." There is much truth in that cogent statement. It sounds as if this book were written in the throes of just such an illness.

  2. Hmmm...It seems I won't be reading this one. I have trouble with non-linear plots and existential mumbo jumbo. :-)

    1. Me too! I read for story, for good writing, to learn new things, but mostly for story!

  3. Hmm. I hadn't heard of this book. But reading stream of consciousness /puberty pieces can be tough! I reread Kerouac's On the Road a couple years ago and didn't enjoy it the same as I had the first time. This one sounds somewhat similar in that respect. Perhaps worse. Maybe you have to read it back as a teen?

  4. We are two in this case . I did not like it at all and I did not finish it. ;-)

    1. We do however know what we like! Right?