The Paris Review

The Tenuous Nonfiction of Clarice Lispector’s Crônicas

Clarice Lispector

“I can feel the charlatan in me, haunting me,” Clarice Lispector wrote in one of the crônicas, or newspaper columns, she composed each week from 1967 to 1973 for the Jornal do Brasil. She was writing in Leme, a neighbourhood in Rio de Janeiro named for a vast rock that resembled the rudder of a ship. “I am almost sickened by my basic honesty,” she continued. Later in the column, she suggested that “bad taste” and bad writing were similar, and that bad writing essentially meant telling the simple, unadorned, too-sincere truth. In writing, she declared, “the dividing line between bad taste and truth is almost imperceptible. In writing, moreover, there is an accepted standard of good taste which is actually much worse than bad taste. Just to amuse myself, I sometimes walk that thin line between the two”—between, that is, being a “charlatan,” as that column was titled, and writing the bland truth.

A uniquely Brazilian form, offered readers free-form writing from writers of all kinds, including poets and novelists. Lispector’s adoring editor at the paper, Alberto Dines, simply published almost everything exactly as she submitted it. Although many of her appeared autobiographical, many also seemed to bend the truth; Lispector, who rarely kept even her birthday consistent,

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