Katrina Dodson on Translating Clarice Lispector
The figure of Clarice Lispector (1920-1977) left several mysteries in her wake: the mystery of how her writing hits us so powerfully, and the mystery of how it came to be written by this particular Brazilian-Jewish woman, who was, by turns, a law student, a glamorous journalist, a diplomat’s wife, a mother of sons, and, by the 1970s, perhaps the most treasured writer in Brazil’s literary firmament.
Katrina Dodson has spent the last half-decade grappling with Lispector's mysteries in a very tactile way — as the translator of her short stories, which are by turns mystical, surreal, anguished, cerebral, and absurd. Dodson's sensitive translation of Lispector's Collected Short Stories (New Directions), released to much acclaim in 2015, has helped touch off a full-fledged Lispector revival in the English-speaking world.
In this episode, Dodson reads two Lispector short stories in their entirety — "The Chicken" and "The Smallest Woman in the World" — and reflects on how she tried to render Lispector's very special use of Portuguese in the English language.
Katrina Dodson recently received her PhD in Comparative Literature from UC Berkeley. Her translation of Lispector's Collected Short Stories is a finalist for the prestigious PEN Translation Prize.