Hilda Hilst (April 21, 1930—February 4th, 2004) was a Brazilian poet, novelist, and playwright. She is lauded as one of the most important Portuguese-language authors of the twentieth century. Her work touches on the themes of mysticism, insanity, the body, eroticism, and female sexual liberation. Hilst greatly revered the work of James Joyce and Samuel Beckett and the influence of their styles like stream of consciousness and fractured reality in her own work.
Hilda de Almeida Prado Hilst was the only daughter of Apolônio de Almeida Prado Hilst and Bedecilda Vaz Cardoso. Her father owned a coffee plantation and also worked as a journalist, poet, and essayist. He struggled with Schizophrenia throughout his life. Her mother came from a conservative Portuguese immigrant family. Her parents conditions suffering from mental health and oppressive conservative social standards greatly influenced Hilst’s writing. Her parents separated in 1932 while she was still an infant, and it was only three years later when her father received the diagnosis of
Hilst grew up in
After graduating from Mackenzie Presbyterian, Hilst began studying for her second degree with the faculty of law at the
Hilst published her first book of poetry in 1950, Presságio (Omen), which received great acclaim from her contemporaries like
Upon her return to São Paulo, Hilst remained a constant fixture on the city’s nightlife scene for several years. However, after reading Report to Greco, an autobiography by
She ordered the construction of a new house on the same property, Casa do Sol (Sun House), which she personally designed in order to be an artistic space for inspiration and creativity. When it was completed in 1966, she moved into the house with sculptor Dante Casarini. In September of the same year, her father passed away.
Hilst married Casarini in 1968. Although the marriage only lasted twelve years, the two continued to live together in Casa do Sol. Hilst lived somewhat secluded in Campinas for the rest of her life, accompanied by her hundred dogs and other artists. She made Casa do Sol into a sort of artists’ hub, inviting writers to spend time there and enjoy the creative atmosphere. Two of the most important Brazilian authors to do so were
Hilst wrote for fifty years with great success. The different periods of her life are reflected in the phases of her work. Beginning with her first book in 1950 through the time before she moved into Casa do Sol, Hilst primarily published poetry. Around the death of her father and her marriage in 1967, Hilst began writing and staging plays. After her divorce and through the rest of her life, Hilst’s work was mostly fiction.
Author Hilda Hilst died on February 4th, 2004, in Campinas at the age of 73. She spent her final days in the hospital following surgery for a fractured femur. Due to a chronic heart and pulmonary condition, Hilst was unable to recover.
Following her death, Hilst’s friend Mora Fuentes created the Hilda Hilst Institute in her honor, an organization whose mission is to uphold Casa do Sol as a space for artistic creation and serves as a library and cultural center.
Hilst has recently garnered more fame among English language readership as several of her novels were translated and became available in English, such as With My Dog Eyes, The Obscene Madame D., and Letters from a Seducer.