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Benjamin Moser: Nescio

23 May 2013
Amsterdam Stories 
by Nescio, translated by Damion Searls.
NYRB, 161 pp., £7.99, May 2012, 978 1 59017 492 0
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... After publishing a handful of stories around the time of the First World War, Fritz Grönloh, an Amsterdam businessman, wrote almost nothing until his death in 1961. His small body of work is about artistic abortion and the frivolity of writerly dreams. And his pseudonym with its built-in negative contained this resignation. Nescio is Latin for ‘I don’t know’; and in his stories not-knowing, not-doing approaches a metaphysical ideal ...

Her Anti-Aircraft Guns

Lorna Scott Fox: Clarice Lispector

8 April 2010
Why This World: A Biography of Clarice Lispector 
by Benjamin Moser.
Haus, 479 pp., £20, September 2009, 978 1 906598 42 6
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The Apple in the Dark 
by Clarice Lispector, translated by Gregory Rabassa.
Haus, 445 pp., £12.99, September 2009, 978 1 906598 45 7
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... her to live more like a slightly petulant Lídia, even after their separation. By the end of Benjamin Moser’s biography, one feels that the intensity of the annihilation and rebirth traced in her novels and stories was matched in her life only when, in middle age, she was badly burned in a fire caused by smoking in bed. ‘I vaguely felt ...

All That Gab

James Wolcott: The Upsides of Sontag’s Downsides

24 October 2019
Sontag: Her Life 
by Benjamin Moser.
Allen Lane, 832 pp., £30, September 2019, 978 0 241 00348 0
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... BenjaminMoser begins his biography with a bang: ‘Susan Sontag was America’s last great literary star.’ In my gaudier moments I prefer to think of Sontag as American literature’s first and last great screen star. Transcending staid text, she was projected into the avid imaginations of legions of onlookers who didn’t know Walter Benjamin from Walter Brennan ...

Her Big Horse Face

Rivka Galchen: Clarice Lispector

2 April 2020
The Besieged City 
by Clarice Lispector, translated by Johnny Lorenz.
Penguin, 224 pp., £8.99, August 2019, 978 0 241 37137 4
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The Chandelier 
by Clarice Lispector, translated by Benjamin Moser and Magdalena Edwards.
Penguin, 320 pp., £9.99, November 2019, 978 0 241 37134 3
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... Clarice Lispector​ was born in 1920 to Jewish parents, in the small town of Chechelnik in Ukraine. It was hoped that the pregnancy would cure her mother’s syphilis, contracted when she was raped by a gang of Russian soldiers. The attempted cure failed. In 1921, the family made their way to Romania and eventually to Brazil. There, her father pushed a cart through the poorest parts of Recife, buying and selling used clothing ...

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