‘The Hen’ by Clarice Lispector, translated by Elizabeth Bishop

While you’re there you might as well read ‘The Smallest Woman in the World’ too. In both stories, Lispector writes female figures who become the instrument of a turn against narrative – as though to be female were to overturn the rules of form.

First published in The Kenyon Review, 1964. Collected in The Complete Stories, New Directions/Penguin Modern Classics, 2015. Read it online here

‘A Hope’ by Clarice Lispector, translated by Katrina Dodson

Part of what I enjoy about Kafka and Can Xue is that I don’t get a sense from within their work that it desires to be read in a certain way. It’s wide open. To a certain extent, it doesn’t care. Clarice Lispector’s stories have something of this as well. ‘A Hope’ is a pithy little pun of a tale, playing on the fact that, in Portuguese, ‘uma esperança’ means both ‘a hope’ and ‘a cricket’, as in the spindly green creature. Lispector’s playfulness and Katrina Dodson’s artful translation bring to life all kinds of ideas, without ever losing sight of what it is to be a person among these theoretical shapes. If this were a desert island anthology, I think I’d be glad of that.

This translation was first published in The Complete Stories, London: Penguin Classics, 2015.

‘Report on the Thing’ by Clarice Lispector

For Lispector, any everyday object can be the start of meditations on time, the universe, God, as well as her own domestic routines. In this instance we’re dealing with an alarm clock which serves as the pretext for a wild, incantatory resistance to any notion of categorisation or predication. The story is littered with what is and what isn’t this or that: “The Sun is, not the Moon. My face is. Probably yours is too.” Philosophical ideas are combined with intensely physical description, making this a typical Lispector piece where any and all assumptions are reclaimed through the medium of the body, the body which writes.

(1974; in Complete Stories, Penguin. Translated by Katrina Dodson. Online here