Understanding Is The Proof of Error by Katrina Dodson, The Believer Magazine, June/July

Katrina Dodson is a writer and translator. She was tasked with a new translation of the author Clarice Lispector. By Dodson’s own admission, when her Complete Stories translation came out it made a splash in the small corner of the literary world that appreciates difficult and strange authors. I can’t claim to be particularly fond of either of these–though, I dare say, some people might deem my interest strange. Yet I had never heard about Lispector until this reading.

119-coverLispector is considered now, a Brazilian author, though she was also a Jewish Ukrainian who fled to Brazil in the 1920s due to the prosecution of the time.

She was known as a mystic, a guru (perhaps) and mostly a writer of extraordinary gifts and bizarre tales. The difficulty in translating her work is that she commonly dissolved conventional grammar and punctuation and adopted her own. Dodson gives multiple examples.

I’ve never had much use for mysticism. I typically think people see what they want to see–which means they see connections in the world where there would not be any if we were not here to imbue them with meaning. While I don’t doubt the literary prowess of those who enjoyed Lispector, Dodson’s essay on the subject of her translations of an idol, feel more akin to hero worship than any time interesting story or lesson. While I typically do enjoy learning about extraordinary people, this piece feels more like a eulogy. But whether it’s a eulogy for Lispector or just the act of finishing a work that took many years for Dodson, I don’t know. (C-)

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