Lispector at home in the 1970s, surrounded by books and scattered manuscripts.(Museo-Arquiva de Literatura Brasileira, Fundação Casa de Rui Barbosa, Rio de Janeiro. Courtesy of Paulo Gurgel Valente.)

Long before the late Brazilian novelist Clarice Lispector became a beloved literary figure there, she was Chaya, the third and last daughter born to a poor family in a Ukrainian shtetl. Her journey from Eastern Europe to South America and from indigent refugee child to celebrated, eccentric author—with a stint along the way as a diplomat’s wife—is the focus of Benjamin Moser’s new book Why This World: A Biography of Clarice Lispector. Moser, the New Books columnist for Harper’s Magazine, spoke to Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry about Lispector’s enduring rage at God over her mother’s death, her fascination with mysticism, math, and Spinoza, and the various myths—that Lispector was a man, for one—that emerged about her and that the writer did little to dispel.

Related: Dizzy With Life [Tablet]

Benjamin Moser will be in conversation with Tablet Magazine’s Gabriel Sanders at New York’s Museum of Jewish Heritage on November 8.