A biography can never be intimate. It remains an account after all, a sort of history, a sketch of milestones, dates, events. The person in question is beyond the objectively verifiable veracity of events. A biography is a construct.
Moser's Why This World, an account of Clarice Lispector's life is a sympathetic study, an appreciation. If Lispector's husband faded into distance after years of marriage, writing apologetic letters to her later, it is not possible for the determined reader to get to any proximity to her scheme of things. Lispector was shrouded in mystery when well known, unknown when not really famous.Some thought she was a man. Lispector perhaps did not deliberately create that aura, that mystery. That was partly because of who she was.....an outsider in Brazil, Jewish-Ukrainian, even though she was only one when her family fled pogroms in the Ukraine. Her accent made her stand apart. Then the great danger she presented, the physicality of her charm, her attractiveness, her prose, her dangerous mysterious closed prose.
If Lucio Cardoso, who she loved had not been a homosexual, Lispector's life could have turned away from the voluntary exile associated with being a diplomat's wife. With Lispector, the twin faces of acceptance and rebellion, domesticity versus individuality found flower in her first great novel. Moser sketches her childhood from family and close confidants, their troubles in the Ukraine, their poverty in Brazil, the pain of displacement. She denied standing outside the glittering gloss of Rio. She belonged to Brazil, she insisted. Near to the wild heart leads to the recognition of a conflict but no solution, and later novels heighten the pain and mystery. Her own neuroses lead to psychotherapy, divorce and other loves, they lead to insomnia and a burnt scarred hand.
The acts of love are questioned constantly, she self aids herself with a certain dated mysticism, outright rejection, affirmation in faith, then there is the impossibility of bridging the gap, yes, words are there but words are merely words. Later on it gives us Agua Viva, benzodiazepines, strange and childish insistence on attention, very demanding behaviours too. When the edifice on which we base our lives start to crumble, and loved ones vanish so easily, then words present a certain refuge. Her beauty was intimidating, her intelligence formidable, the questions she asked difficult.
Moser's biography leaves gaps and I felt we really do not know Lispector after a few hundred pages. Her construction is based purely from her novels., which is not satisfactory. The woman who was an insomniac couls sleep as well, that threshold can never be known, that hour between wakefulness and drowsy numbness. However, this book is a good point to start an acquaintance with Lispector. It should be carried on by reading her novels.