‘The Dinner’ by Clarice Lispector

The Dinner by Clarice Lispector, 1946

The magic trick:

Observing the mundane with a new perspective

This is an excellent example of generating a story out of the mundane. It really is just a detailed observation of a man eating his dinner in a restaurant. It is what gets observed that makes it interesting. Or, rather, how what is observed affects the narrator. It becomes a story of class, of gender, and of the fundamental revoltingness of human existence. And that’s quite a trick on Lispector’s part.

The selection:

A second later, however, he’s recomposed and hardened, he spears a forkful of salad with his whole body and eats hunched over, his chin active, the oil moistening his lips. He breaks off for a second, wipes his eyes again, shakes his head briefly – and another forkful of lettuce with meat is snatched in mid-air. He says to the passing “garcon”:

“This isn’t the wine I told you to bring.”

The very voice I’d been expecting of him: a voice that allows no possibility for rebuttal by which I saw that no one could ever do anything for him. Except obey.

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