Cerca del corazón salvaje. Clarice Lispector. Buenos Aires: Corregidor. 2020. 192 pages.
Clarice Lispector’s literature started appearing in Spanish-language libraries in the 1970s. Soon, the publishing house Sudamericana began to publish works by this writer, who is unclassifiable both in her writings and her personality. This Argentine press represents the group of writers from the so-called “boom” in Latin American literature, including Lispector in the catalog as a gesture, perhaps, of giving a feminine touch to the pantheon that had long been established with works written by men. Soon after, Clarice was invited to the Buenos Aires International Book Fair in 1976, where she discussed her elusive and synthetic style with journalists, who sometimes classified her work under commonly known categories—such as work written by a woman—instead of by her content. With novelists like Martha Lynch and many others, she had conversations about the marvellous realism that could be read in works by Julio Cortázar.
Clarice’s literature, however, was not re-published right after its entrance into the Latin American market. Besides some single editions, most of her books can only be found in “used” (or “already read”) parts of the bookstores. It was not until the 2000s that Clarice’s works were published again by the Spanish publishing house Siruela, in hardcovers with an image of the writer on each copy, as if her writings were biographical. The number of readers of Clarice’s works began to increase again, but because of the price of the books, access to her works was not easy for the Latin American population. A few years later, her books began to appear again from Argentine publishers such as Adriana Hidalgo and Cuenco del Plata. Her re-publications streamed back into Latin American readers’ libraries. The Argentine publishers re-published the 1970s edition, which contains some editorial surprises, like the two-volume compilation of her chronicles.
The publisher which approached Clarice’s works step-by-step was the Argentine publisher Corregidor, which had already accomplished a fundamental step in Brazilian literary history by bringing these stories into Hispanic publishers’ market in the collection Vereda Brasil. This collection, compiled by Brazilian literature advocates Gonzalo Aguilar and Florencia Garramuño, included thirty-six titles of Brazilian literature, ten of them by Clarice. Since 2010, Corregidor has been attempting to acquire the Spanish copyrights for Clarice’s complete fiction. For the first time, they tried to put together all her works into one collection. This project, until now, was set to publish thirteen titles by the author. Since then, a new milestone for the author’s works became relevant to its reputation in Latin America. For the first time, her texts began to form, not so much a corpus, but to use a Barthesian term, “a body”—a fundamental step to bring attention to a body of work in which the book-object, more than a product, is part of a process that is written and rewritten, and echoes under various titles.
Adding to the value of these re-publications by the publishing house directed by Manuel Pampín, one of the most important independent publishing houses of Latin America, this collection brought Clarice’s works together and highlighted the feature of attaching the main content to criticism from scholars who are not just from Argentina, such as the main editors of the collection themselves. Apart from that, the collection also included scholars from Brazil and the United States, such as Vilma Arêas, Ítalo Moriconi, and Benjamin Moser. On the other hand, the translations were completed by the same group of researchers. The fact that contexts abide by the proper rules of verb construction in Claricean language, or the particular usage of punctuation, marks out how in other translations, such as the first edition of La pasión según GH, these features were not taken into consideration but simply replaced with something else. There are seven hyphens at the beginning of the novel, but in some Spanish versions, they appeared as three ellipses. Putting this translation in the hands of specialists means that Clarice’s language is treated in its materiality without the need to retrace the author’s compelling explanation to the Linotypist that can be read in chronicles: “Don’t correct me. The punctuation marks are the breath of the sentence, and my sentences breathe like this. And if they seem strange to you, respect me as well. Even I myself was forced to respect myself.”
The latest book from Corregidor’s series of re-publications and re-translations, in this new phase of this author’s work in the Latin Americna book market, is her first novel Cerca del corazón salvaje [Close to the wild heart], which Clarice first published in 1944, when she was only 24. Florencia Garramuño was in charge of the translation and the initial study that acts as a prologue. She managed to maintain, in her translation to Spanish, the feature that drew most attention for this work, which she defined as an act that consists of, “Starting to make literature say what it seems unable to narrate with the structures it has inherited.” The story of Joana, the book’s protagonist, unfolds in the narrative, hoping to finger the pulse of the wild heart presented in this re-edition, in a translation deeply sensitive to the undulations that flow through this character’s life with language as their main setting.
Cerca del corazón salvaje is Joana’s story, told with a narrative flow that winds like the viper. with which the protagonist identifies herself in various chronological moments of her life, due to several events and, especially, internal states of mind, goals, and minor situations; with supporting characters and others characters that are more central, which lends an unusual texture to this text that marks a new moment in Brazilian literature. The story of this woman, drawn from the unexplored space of language and subjectivity, is assembled from the early intuition of the inexistence of good and evil, with a Spinozian echo that reveals the author’s interest in the philosopher. Cerca del corazón salvaje is the story of a woman whose morality is not weighted down by her gender. That is, it is the story not of a woman who takes actions with a set of assigned rules, values, and actions, but instead of someone who sustains her own existence from an ethic that has to do with the internal choices she carries out, attempting not to strictly adhere to those systems. The question that guides the existence of this protagonist and the way each word comes together in the book is not how I should live (and speak), but what life I want to live (and speak). It is a question that even today, and especially during this time, is worth continuing to discuss. This new translation of Clarice’s first published book echoes, once again, a hundred years after her birth, the contemporaneity of her literary works, which beats like a heart in the very way she narrates.
Translated by Jenna Tang
Lucía Tennina leads classes on Brazilian literature in the Department of Philosophy and Letters of the Universidad de Buenos Aires and is an Assistant Researcher with CONICET. She is the author, among other books, of ¡Cuidado con los poetas! Literatura y periferia en la ciudad de San Pablo (Beatriz Viterbo, 2018) and organizer of the books Saraus: Movimiento/Literatura/Periferia/São Paulo (Tinta Limón, 2014) and Quilombo: Cartografía de la autoría negra de Brasil (Tinta Limón, 2020), among others.
Jenna Tang works as a literary translator and she is fluent in four languages. She was born and raised in Taoyuan City, Taiwan. She received her MFA in Fiction from The New School in New York City. Her translation from the Mandarin Chinese has been published in Restless Books’ international anthology And We Came Outside and Saw the Stars Again.