‘A Sincere Friendship’ by Clarice Lispector

A Sincere Friendship by Clarice Lispector, 1964

The magic trick:

Focusing on one aspect of the narrator’s life over a long period of time

I like a story structure like this. “A Sincere Friendship” covers a lot of time in a very small word count. But it’s extraordinarily focused in what it covers. Yes, we hear about many years in the narrator’s life. But we don’t hear about many things within those years. The story only concerns itself with the friendship in question. So we see the entire arc of this friendship, beginning to end, play out – nothing else. Not only is it an efficient way to tell a story; it also perfectly recreates the intensely claustrophobic nature of this particular friendship. And that’s quite a trick on Lispector’s part.

The selection:

During this crisis, we spent our evenings at home, worn out and animated: we related the day’s achievements and planned our next move. We did not probe very deeply into what was happening, it was sufficient that all this activity should have the seal of friendship. I thought I could now understand why bridge and groom pledge themselves to each other; why the husband insists upon providing for his bride, while she solicitously prepares his meals, and why a mother fusses over her children. It was, moreover, during this crisis, that at some cost I gave a small gold brooch to the woman who was to become my wife. It was only much later that I came to realize that just to be there is also a form of giving.

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