The Woman Who Killed the Fish by Clarice Lispector, translated from the Portuguese by Benjamin Moser / ISBN 9780811229609 / 62-page hardback from New Directions, published 2022
Four beguiling tales for children of all ages.
A surprising new facet of Clarice Lispector’s genius
“That woman who killed the fish unfortunately is me,” begins the title story, but “if it were my fault, I’d own up to you, since I don’t lie to boys and girls. I only lie sometimes to a certain type of grownup because there’s no other way.” Enumerating all the animals she’s loved―cats, dogs, lizards, chickens, monkeys―Clarice finally asks: “Do you forgive me?”
“The Mystery of the Thinking Rabbit” is a detective story which explains that bunnies think with their noses: for a single idea a bunny might “scrunch up his nose fifteen thousand times” (he may not be too bright, but “he’s not foolish at all when it comes to making babies”). The third tale, “Almost True,” is a shaggy dog yarn narrated by a pooch who is very worried about a wicked witch: “I am a dog named Ulisses and my owner is Clarice.” The wonderful last story, “Laura’s Intimate Life” stars “the nicest hen I’ve ever seen.” Laura is “quite dumb,” but she has her “little thoughts and feelings. Not a lot, but she’s definitely got them. Just knowing she’s not completely dumb makes her feel all chatty and giddy. She thinks that she thinks.” A one-eyed visitor from Jupiter arrives and vows Laura will never be eaten: she’s been worrying, because “humans are a weird sort of person” who can love hens and eat them, too. Such throwaway wisdom abounds: “Don’t even get me started.” These delightful, high-hearted stories, written for her own boys, have charm to burn―and are a treat for every Lispector reader.
"Readers will delight in this short collection of luminous, laugh-out-loud stories from the late Brazilian cult writer Lispector…Though the author wrote these stories for her son when he was a child, and they often contain magic and lack in explanations, their small delights nonetheless rank high among Lispector’s impressive body of work. In between the lines of these spellbinding worlds, she offers indelible glimpses of the way people live and dream. Even amid the silliest of scenarios are glimmers of the beauty of the everyday: 'That’s how life went on. Gently, gently.' This is one to savor."
Clarice Lispector (1920–1977), the greatest Brazilian writer of the twentieth century, has been called “astounding” (Rachel Kushner), “a penetrating genius” (Donna Seaman, Booklist), and “one of the twentieth century’s most mysterious writers” (Orhan Pamuk).