Why This World

by Benjamin Moser

‘A biography worthy of its great subject. . . . One of the twentieth century’s most mysterious writers is finally revealed in all her  vibrant colours.’
Orhan Pamuk

‘A smart, passionate portrait of a truly remarkable writer.’
Jonathan Franzen

‘Clarice Lispector is one of the hidden geniuses of twentieth-century literature. . . .Utterly original and brilliant, haunting and disturbing. . . Benjamin Moser’s biography is a great book about a Jewish heroine, filled with sympathy for what must remain hidden and what must be understood.’
Colm Tóibín

‘Everything about Clarice Lispector was unlikely: her great beauty, her early fame, her unique voice, her status as an icon to Brazilians. . . . In Benjamin Moser, she has found a gifted young biographer, social historian, and prose stylist who is able to take her elusive measure. This book is enthralling.’
Judith Thurman

‘Clarice Lispector is one of the summits of Latin American literature. . . . Whether or not you know this delicate and powerful woman, this splendid biography deserves to be read. After finishing it, you will be in love with her.’
Guillermo Arriaga

‘Glamorous, cultured, moody, Lispector is an emblematic twentieth-century artist who belongs in the same pantheon as Kafka and Joyce. Benjamin Moser has recreated all the psychological and cultural context needed to understand this great writer, and brought to life her essentially tragic nature in all its complexity.’
Edmund White



‘Lively, ardent and intellectually rigorous … His energetically researched, finely argued biography will surely win Lispector the English-language readership she deserves.’
The New York Times Book Review

‘This is rich biographical material that gets only richer as Mr. Moser, a translator and a book critic for Harper’s Magazine, begins to unpeel the layers of her complicated life. Why This World sucks you … into its subject’s strange vortex … [Moser] is a lucid and very learned tour guide, and his book is a fascinating and welcome introduction to a writer whose best work should be better known in this country.’
New York Times

‘Impressively researched… Well-written and remarkable … He discusses her work in great detail, book after book, with sympathy and insight, and admirably eschews jargon’
London Review of Books

‘Fascinating and intricate … The mystery of what turned a pedlar’s daughter from Recife into such an original writer is never dispelled by Moser’s book. This would please her.’
London Review of Books

‘The pivotal contribution of Moser’s biography is to illuminate Lispector’s roots in Eastern European Jewish culture … By establishing this backgrounf in persuasive detail, Moser is able to decipher Lispector’s more impenetrable fictions at Jewish allegories.’
Times Literary Supplement

‘It is one of the strengths of his biography that he attempts both to interpret her writing and to present extensive translated passages, so that the strange flavour of Clarice is present on the page.’
Literary Review

‘An absorbing and perceptive biography of a fascinating writer.’
The Economist

‘Since she died in 1977, she has been one of those writers who is revered rather than read. A grave injustice, Moser aruges persuasively in this absorbing life.’
The Scotsman

‘Moser’s combination of biography and literary criticism nimbly questions the relationship between life and literature, and ultimately reveals the immense complexity of Lispector’s works.’
World Books Review

‘This pioneering biography of Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector (1920-1977) – a genius of character as much as a literary magician – captures the luminescent and singular author for an English-speaking audience that may not be familiar with her.’
Publishers Weekly

‘Comprehensive, inspired, respectful of necessary silences – it does what Lispector set as a goal for her own writing: to leave unexplained what cannot be explained.’
Jewish Daily Forward

‘One upshot, hopefully, of Moser’s globe-trotting biography is that more of her work will end up being translated or reprinted in this country.’
Houston Chronicle

Born in 1920, in the nightmarish landscape of post-World War I Ukraine, her family driven to a distant country by the fearsome pogroms that killed her mother and ruined her father, Clarice Lispector triumphed over her origins to become, virtually from adolescence, a person whose beauty, genius, and eccentricity intrigued all of Brazil’s writers and artists. Why This World tells how this precocious girl, through long exile abroad and difficult personal struggles, matured into a great writer and demonstrates, for the first time, the deep roots in the Jewish mystical tradition that make her the true heir to Kafka. Against a sweeping historical panorama, from the Ukraine to Brazil, from Naples and Berne and Washington to Rio de Janeiro, Why This World is an essential introduction to the work of one of the 20th century’s most important writers, indispensable for students of Jewish, Latin American, and women’s literature.

BENJAMIN MOSER is a finalist for the National Book Critics’ Circle Award and his work bringing Clarice Lispector to international prominence was recognised with Brazil’s State Prize for Cultural Diplomacy. He has published translations from several languages, received a Guggenheim Fellowship, and worked as a books columnist for Harper’s magazine and The New York Times Book Review. His latest book, Sontag: Her Life and Work, won a Pulitzer Prize in biography. He lives in the Netherlands and France.

Find Benjamin on Twitter @BenjaminFMoser

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