Clarice Lispector has been called the greatest Brazilian writer of the twentieth century. She is often compared to Borges or Kafka, though I think her most similar to Chekhov.

I am steadily making my way through the recently released The Complete Stories. Eight-six short stories in all, arranged chronologically. I first read Lispector twenty years ago, a collection of short stories entitled family ties, translated by Giovanni Pontiero. I found them beautifully rendered works, the prose sparking.

And then I read this new translation (by Katrina Dodson). Here I found the same stories, but the language was jarring, staccato, at times seemingly ungrammatical. Dodson addresses the issue of translating Lispector in the Translator's Note which follows the final story. I've read several reviews of Lispector's work--specifically, this translation--which criticize the odd prose.

Yet Dodson's translation is quite faithful to Lispector's original Portuguese.

As an example, take the following lines from the story, "Love," first in Pontiero's translation:

Beside her sat a woman in blue with an expression which made Anna avert her gaze rapidly. On the pavement a mother shook her little boy.

Now, Dodson's new translation:

Next to her was a lady in blue, with a face. She averted her gaze, quickly. On the sidewalk, a woman shoved her son!

The first flows serenely. The second is short, almost frantic. Which is correct? One need only look at the original Portuguese:

Junto dela havia uma senhora de azul, com un rosto. Desviou o olhar, depressa. Na calcada, uma mulher deu um empurrao no filho!

Dodson's translation clearly is more faithful to Lispector's original Portuguese. Not only the words she has chosen, but the very syntax itself.

The frantic style is appropriate for it mirrors what is happening to the main character: Anna had observed a blind man chewing gum; a blind man shouldn't chew gum, she thought (how dare he! he should be obsessed with being blind!) and it turned her entire world upside down, leaving everything out of order, leaving her questioning everything.

The entire book is like that: brilliant. Where the characters emotions are conveyed by the very form of the language itself.