Beauty and the Beast: A modernist transformation by Clarice Lispector

‘Beauty and the Beast’ seems to me to be a rather important fairy tale. It’s the architext of paranormal romance, the story whose narrative form and themes lies at the heart of all those romantic encounters between human and other, of civilisation and wilderness, that constitute that genre. It is also the binding story of all the different perspectives on humanity and animality that form Angela Carter’s seminal set of variations, The Bloody Chamber (which, in many ways, prefigures paranormal romance).

The brilliant Brazilian modernist writer Clarice Lispector reworks this story in a very oblique way. The otherness explored here is that of class (though gender is important too). This is a powerful version of the transformation that the encounter between woman and beast initiates in the traditional tale. Lispector’s tale, available here, is ‘Beauty and the Beast or the Enormous Wound’; the second half of the title itself suggests a marvellous tale. Her writing often involves moments of extreme disturbance that engender some kind of radical revelation; here, a beautiful and rich woman, passive and unaware, experiences a momentary epiphany of social and material  reality through her encounter with a wounded beggar.

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2 Responses to Beauty and the Beast: A modernist transformation by Clarice Lispector

  1. firekrank says:

    This was magical. The language was so beautiful. Thank you for sharing. I’m also the opinion that ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is very important. I think it’s interesting that Carter wrote a number of variations on the theme of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ as well as ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ drawing attention to the power of both – especially around themes of animality and what makes us human.

    • William the Bloody says:

      I’m glad you liked it, Kaja. Lispector is a wonderful writer, not nearly as well known as she should be (she was a fascinating person, too). I’d been meaning to read her for many years, and finally got round to reading The Hour of the Star last year and then, recently, The Passion According to G.H., which is astonishing (but not for the squeamish). Check it out–I think you’d love it. A short novel, but very very powerful.

      I agree about the importance of ‘Beauty and the Beast’; I think it’s the ur-text of paranormal romance in a way, and it’s the story that binds together The Bloody Chamber (more than ‘Red Riding Hood’, I think, though all the tales are woven together so skilfully).

      And you’ve reminded me that I should be finishing this paper on The Bloody Chamber–I have to present it on Monday!

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