[Text forthcoming . . .]
I have been reading, studying, and writing about Clarice Lispector’s work for more than 15 years. My introduction to Clarice first came in Santiago, Chile, in 2000 when I was teaching ESL at the Nido de Aguilas International School and my students were reading her final novel The Hour of the Star (originally published in Portuguese in 1977) as translated by Giovanni Pontiero. After a year of teaching and working as a journalist in Chile, I went back to school to pursue a PhD in Comparative Literature. My first year I enrolled in an intensive Portuguese class to learn the language (my teacher was then a graduate student — her name is Alessandro Santos). By the spring semester I found myself taking a seminar at UCLA with Elizabeth Marchant that was devoted entirely to Clarice and her work in Portuguese. I went to Brazil for the first time that summer, which is winter in South America. I returned with focused energy and a sense of what would become my dissertation project.
In October 2002, I gave my first academic paper on Clarice’s work at a graduate student conference at UCLA. The keynote speaker at the “Crime & Punishment in Literature and the Arts” conference was Hélène Cixous, whose 1979 book Vivre l’orange centers on Clarice and her oeuvre.
My paper for the conference was titled “Silence, or the Translator’s Inevitable Treason: Elizabeth Bishop’s Translations of Three Stories by Clarice Lispector.”
I went on to write about Clarice — in particular the “Three Stories” translated by Elizabeth Bishop and published in The Kenyon Review in 1964 — in my doctoral dissertation, and I have continued to write about her work in my published essays, which you can find below.
As the translator of Clarice’s second novel O LUSTRE/THE CHANDELIER — which has never before been published in English — I feel a deep and long-standing connection to her legacy — specifically as seen in her published works and in her influence upon scores of artists and writers within and beyond Brazil.
SELECTED PUBLICATIONS & PRESENTATIONS
Special Guest. ABC RN in Australia. Book and Art’s Latin American Book Club. On The Hour of the Star by Clarice Lispector, translated by Benjamin Moser (New Directions 2012). I also had a chance to talk about my translation of THE CHANDELIER. June 28, 2017. Podcast here.
Special Guest. Los Angeles Review of Books’ LARB Radio Hour on KPFK-FM. On Clarice Lispector’s Complete Stories(New Directions 2015) translated by Katrina Dodson. October 29, 2015. Podcast here.
Speaker/Interviewer. A conversation with translator Katrina Dodson about Clarice Lispector’s Complete Stories. Skylight Books, Los Angeles. October 14, 2015. Podcast here.
“A Horribly Marvelous and Delicate Abyss: The Complete Stories by Clarice Lispector.” The Millions. August 10, 2015.
“‘The House We Live In’: Elizabeth Bishop on the Big Screen.” The Paris Review Daily. November 7, 2013. There is a quote in this essay about Benjamin Moser’s biography of Clarice: “[Bishop’s] engagement with local writers while she lived in Brazil bears study, and one hopes for more chapters like the one titled “Better than Borges” in Benjamin Moser’s Why This World (OUP 2009), the biography of the Brazilian fiction writer Clarice Lispector, who was Bishop’s neighbor in Rio and whose trio of stories as translated by Bishop appeared in The Kenyon Review in 1964.”
Special Guest. I gave a short lecture and then had a conversation with Mona Simpson as a special guest for her “Emerging Writers Series.” UCLA’s English Department and UCLA Friends of English. October 21, 2013.
“Clarice Lispector’s The Hour of the Star As Translated by Benjamin Moser.” The Millions. January 11, 2012.
The artist Lenka Clayton has created an amazing opportunity for mothers who are artists. It’s an open source residency called Artist Residency in Motherhood. Mine begins to today and goes through October 10, 2017. I have ambitious plans for my work. I must complete my translation of Clarice Lispector’s novel THE CHANDELIER for New Directions. I am working on a first draft of my literary memoir IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD: Traveling with Elizabeth Bishop, Clarice Lispector, and Raúl Zurita. I am also working on a one-woman show called I WANNA BE ROBERT DE NIRO, which I will perform under my stage name Magdalena Emar. One of the things I am most interested in exploring as I do all of this work is how we must all mother ourselves; we must all — girls, boys, men, women, trans, queer, non-gender identifying, humanoid, sentient creatures — become the child we would most like to parent. In this regard we are all mothers. Though I do recognize that I am the specific mother of three specific children I grew inside my body and gave birth to on this earth, I also know very deeply that mothering as we understand it is neither merely nor exclusively biological. More on all of this soon. For now, back to work. #artistresidencyinmotherhood
My great-grand-uncle, my great-grandmother’s brother, the surrealist writer Juan Emar (1893-1964).
We have begun our own correspondence, across the ether…
And I see him in my children, the blood line is strong.
I’ve just returned from four days in New York, where I attended a writing conference called BinderCon, went to see Sarah Ruhl‘s play Dear Elizabeth at Women’s Project Theater, and started reading Maggie Nelson‘s The Argonauts. A provocative trio of pursuits.
I am not the most skilled at Twitter, and I have my reservations about participating in a sport that feels like high school all over again, but the concision of a tweet appeals to my lyrical sensibilities. A challenge, like a haiku.
I felt the impulse to tweet the evening of Sarah Ruhl’s play Dear Elizabeth, which I attended with Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts in hand — to read before each act began. I wanted to highlight the triangulation of two texts coursing through the mind of one reader/listener/viewer (me). We do this kind of triangulation all the time.
Here is a draft, a draft of my tweet with bluets:
And, with the above draft in mind, a ménage-à-3 of voices:
“the romance of letting an individual experience of desire take precedence over a categorical one”
— Maggie Nelson, The Argonauts (Graywolf Press 2015)
Lowell: I seem to spend my life missing you!
Bishop: I love my poem–and you, too, of course…
–Sarah Ruhl, Dear Elizabeth (Faber and Faber 2014)
“I don’t even want to talk about ‘female sexuality’ until there is a control group. And there never will be.”
— Maggie Nelson, The Argonauts (Graywolf Press 2015)
I invite you to read Maggie Nelson’s book alongside Sarah Ruhl’s play if you can, and remember that I was the one to make the suggestion.
You won’t regret it.