‘Amor’ (‘Love’) by Clarice Lispector, translated by Katrina Dodson

I’ve only ever read Clarice Lispector’s novels in moments of absolute joy or despair: her work sits on a spectrum that slips between those extremes without hesitation. This does mean, though, that while her novels continue to take me years to complete, her short stories are a wonderful alternative. ‘Amor’ is a very troubling, tempestuous story about a woman named Ana, who finds herself crumbling at the very limits of the world she knows—one that involves looking after her family and children—one afternoon on a train. Ana’s character has resonances with the wretched loneliness of the narrator in Elena Ferrante’s novel Days of Abandonment, but Lispector’s story is, as ever, more surreal and dissonant. I simultaneously find several bits of the story distressing, including how the blind man becomes the figure who incites her upheaval, but I am also swept by the chilling accuracy of Ana’s alienation. There’s a forest. A spider. A knit mesh bag stuck with broken egg yolks. How “her heart had filled with the worst desire to live.”

First published in Laços de Família, Francisco Alves Editóra, 1960. Collected in English in The Complete Stories, New Directions, 2015. It can be read online here

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