Such a mesmerizing use of language
★★★★☆ – CALSPIE 8.00
Title: Near to the Wild Heart (Perto do Coração Selvagem)
Author: Clarice Lispector
Translator: Alison Entrekin (from Portuguese)
Genre: Fiction / Modern Classic / South American Literature / Literary Fiction
First published: 1943
Edition: Paperback, published by Penguin Modern Classics in 2014
This novel tells the story of Joana, from her wild, creative childhood, as the ‘little egg’ who writes poems for her father, through her marriage to the faithless Otávio and on to her decision to make her own way in the world. As Joana, endlessly mutable, moves through different emotional states, different inner lives and different truths, this impressionistic, dreamlike and fiercely intelligent novel asks if any of us ever really know who we are.
Language can dance and swirl, drifting in and out of making sense, and that is kind of how I feel about this novel from the 1940s.
I very much enjoyed the kind of dreamlike stream-of-consciousness type narrative and from the first page it was clear that if you need a plot, this is not that kind of book. Instead, the author’s words are lyrical and have this odd dreamlike quality. They almost dance on the page and though they make sense in the overall narrative, paragraph by paragraph they can be a bit baffling. I kind of enjoy that, but sometimes it was a bit much.
Despite being under 200 pages, this not a novel you can read in one sitting. It takes quite a bit of reading and I found spending too much time with Joana a little claustrophobic. Even after almost 200 pages of mostly being in her mind, following her jumbled thoughts, I still don’t feel like I quite understand her. Joana is someone who never quite seems to know what she wants, despite vaguely knowing what she doesn’t want. I understood bits of her and sometimes I liked her, sometimes I could even relate to her, but at other times I thought she was selfish and found her really quite obnoxious. I guess there is beauty in exactly that.
I don’t think I have ever quite read a novel like this. This was the author’s debut novel and I am very curious to dive into some of her other work. I really enjoyed this one. I think. Possibly? It’s complicated, ok!
4 out of 5 stars
- Characters: 8
- Ambience: 8
- Language: 9
- Story: 7.5
- Pacing: 7
- Interest: 8
- Enjoyment: 8.5