Sometimes I wonder if I am reading the same book as other people. I mean, Benjamin Moser's introduction was beautiful and evocative, and it told me many things I did not know, but I just cannot understand how he could characterize Lucrecia in this way or suggest that female objectification is a central theme of the book. Male objectification is just as prevalent as female objectification. And female agency just as prevalent as male in my reading. But not only Moser's introduction, but the New Directions blurb iterates this reading, starting with these words: "Underneath Lispector's inventive, modernist style is a poignant and radical depiction of a young woman navigating a patriarchal society." It is as if the publishers wanted to reduce Lispector's complex and nuanced depiction of female power and powerlessness to a stereotypical narrative of more of the same. How really belittling that is, both to Lispector's vision and to women in general, as if we were that trapped. This seems to be a pattern, and a dangerous one.
What is really in the novel is much more than more of the same. Much more than a depiction of a victim of patriarchy. There is even a whole chapter towards the end when an older woman admires the beauty of one of Lucrecia's former flames, a young man who is barely capable of uttering a simple sentence. Still, he is a "gem"...all because of his beauty. Lucrecia had admired him earlier in the book, saying she doubted she would ever have another chance to have such a beautiful man. Women do make objects of men, too, in and out of literature. Lucrecia, although married by the end of the book, develops a passion for another man and pursues him with quite a lot of agency, despite his attempts to elude her. She also completes her siege of the city which is her alter ego or strange double, noting its progress (due, in her mind, to her own seeing, her own work in constructing it and fostering it). The city develops from a rural outback smelling of stables (with horses) to a modern city of restaurants and street cars (the horses driven out of town). Shall we infer that she too has been civilized, modernized, stripped of her animality and relationship to nature?