G.H., a well-to-do Rio sculptress, enters the room of her maid, which is as clear and white ‘as in an insane asylum from which dangerous objects have been removed’. There she sees a cockroach – black, dusty, prehistoric – crawling out of the wardrobe and, panicking, slams the door on it. Her irresistible fascination with the dying insect provokes a spiritual crisis, in which she questions her place in the universe and her very identity, propelling her towards an act of shocking transgression. Clarice Lispector’s spare, deeply disturbing yet luminous novel transforms language into something otherworldly, and is one of her most unsettling and compelling works.
Clarice Lispector was a Brazilian novelist and short story writer. Her innovation in fiction brought her international renown. References to her literary work pervade the music and literature of Brazil and Latin America. She was born in the Ukraine in 1920, but in the aftermath of World War I and the Russian Civil War, the family fled to Romania and eventually sailed to Brazil. She published her first novel, Near to the Wildheart in 1943 when she was just twenty-three, and the next year was awarded the Graca Aranha Prize for the best first novel. Many felt she had given Brazillian literature a unique voice in the larger context of Portuguese literature. After living variously in Italy, the UK, Switzerland and the US, in 1959, Lispector with her children returned to Brazil where she wrote her most influential novels including The Passion According to G.H. She died in 1977, shortly after the publication of her final novel, The Hour of the Star.