‘The Smallest Woman In The World’ by Clarice Lispector

The Smallest Woman In The World by Clarice Lispector, 1960

The magic trick:

Showing dark, depressing aspects of human nature through original storytelling and humor

This is yet another Lispector story that just makes you shake your head, marveling at how good, how original writing can be. I really didn’t have a sense of where the story was going at all for the first three-fourths of the text. There were so many potential themes, so many points to be made. Clarity arrives near the end when the perspective shifts to Little Flower, and we understand what love means to her. This becomes a story about the nature of love; about the nature of possession; about selfish, petty human nature. It’s never didactic, though. It’s always funny. Just brilliant stuff from a unique mind. And that’s quite a trick on Lispector’s part. 

The selection:

It was, therefore, thus, that the explorer discovered, standing there at his feet, the smallest human thing in existence. His heart beat because no emerald is as rare. Neither are the teachings of the sages of India as rare. Neither has the richest man in the world ever laid eyes on so much strange grace. Right there was a woman the gluttony of the most exquisite dream could never have imagined. That was when the explorer declared, shyly and with a delicacy of feeling of which his wife would never have judged him capable:

“You are Little Flower.”

At that moment Little Flower scratched herself where a person doesn’t scratch. The explorer—as if receiving the highest prize for chastity to which a man, who had always been so idealistic, dared aspire—the explorer, seasoned as he was, averted his eyes.


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