‘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.