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(Writer : 1920 - 1977)
by Rachel Gutierrez
Translated by Carla Sherman
Carlos Drummond de Andrade
TO THE SOUND OF CLARICE
Clarice Lispector publishes A maçã no escuro [The Apple in the Dark].
Clarice was Brazilian and it was
by sheer luck that she was born in a small village in the Ukraine. She
knew English and French well, but she wrote only in Portuguese, her native
language. And as far as we know, she never spoke Yiddish or Hebrew. Once
she learned how to read and write, she became an avid reader.
career starts with Perto
do coração selvagem [Close to the Wild Heart]. This title is
reaffirmed throughout her novels, short stories, stories for children and
all her other texts. With her catlike eyes, slantingly open upon the world,
Clarice Lispector always remained close to the heart of life, as wild as
nature in the rural area of her childhood in Pernambuco. She was different,
inaugural, transgressing. She was always recreating herself, devouring
herself. Like a sun that illuminates as it burns itself up. A sun that
provides heat because it consumes itself.
As Clarice herself stated,
the compulsion to write made her feel dead when she was not writing.
writing is illuminating, without totally revealing itself. As in poetry,
silence -- all that she does
not clarify -- is present in the author’s incantatory prose, as though
when speaking of existence, she wished to cover it with yet other veils.
Maybe this is why the sortilege of her language is so seductive.
not tell stories, she writes life itself. She writes the act of writing
intensity and a density never before attained and that never fade, Clarice
Lispector achieves the improbable balance of walking on a razor’s edge
without tearing up the veils of reality and showing what was until then
unspeakable: the unsaid of the thinking impulses, of consciousness and the
pulsations of writing. When her character Martin is getting ready to write,
this process is evoked:
Around him, an emptiness blew, in which a man finds himself
when he is going to create. Desolated, he provoked the great
solitude. (...) And, like an old man who has not learned to read, he
measured the distance that separated him from the word. [A maçã no
escuro - The Apple in the Dark]
writing occupies this unlikely space, the immeasurable: the distance that
separates us from the words. It’s the measure of a void, of an abyss
that opens itself in the infinitesimal instant in which the words acquire
sense. That’s why it feels as if she is writing right in front of us, in
order to reveal to us, in its total nakedness, in its pungent abandonment,
the act of writing itself.
beating in solitude. [A
maçã no escuro - The
Apple in the Dark]
writes in the present, from within the beingness of being, as if she had
made of the delirium of Molly Bloom a method – not in order to remember
vicissitudes or adventures, but in order to think with us the life of us
all. Hers is a constant questioning. This need to question, to inquire
about life, about death, about love, is present in all of Clarice’s
texts, from the simple magazine chronicles to the most dense and
metaphysically dramatic texts such as A
maçã no escuro [The
Apple in the Dark] and A paixão segundo G.H. [The Passion According to G.H.] This questioning is
metaphysical: Why does the world exist instead of nothing? What is it to
be alive? What does it mean to live, to love, to die? In her writing,
there is a certain touch of Socrates, an irony and a maieutical approach.
It all happens as if she had preserved her childhood questioning and
developed it aesthetically. As if she had not forgotten what it is to be a
child in the world, in the fact that a child possesses a philosophy. And
when she focuses on the experience of love, as she does in Uma
aprendizagem ou O livro dos prazeres [An Apprenticeship or The Book of Pleasures], the
result is the report of an initiation or an ascetic path.
morning opened itself in a vacillating light. For Lori, the atmosphere was
that of a miracle. She had reached the impossible of herself. Because she
felt that Ulysses was again attached to the pain of existence, she said:
- My love, you
don’t believe in the God, because we made a mistake when we humanized
Him. We humanized Him because we did not understand Him, then it didn’t
work out. I’m certain that He is not human. But although He’s not
human, He sometimes makes us divine. Do you think --
- I think, the
man interrupted and his voice was slow and muffled, because he was
suffering from life and love; here’s what I think:
novel, that inserts itself in the possible, begins with a comma and does
not end; it is simply interrupted with a colon, in this way suggesting a
painting in which the master lines had cut themselves off the great
mystery that contains everything. The experts say that the Talmud is
characterized by having more questions than answers, or better yet, for
always leaving an open space for doubt and questioning. In this sense,
Clarice would be taking the very spirit, the essence of Judaism itself, in
order to insert it, with absolute adequateness, into the contemporary
world. In several parts of her work, it’s possible to identify an
undeniable affinity with Kabala texts, as shown in the essay A
ética cabalística de Clarice Lispector [The Kabalistic Ethics of
She did not
come to reveal the mystery, she came to reaffirm it. (Ester Schwartz).
choice of titles for her books is very expressive and significant, in that
they evoke the steps of the kabalistic path, which passes through the
spheres of the body and sensations, of love, passion and pleasure, of
initiation, darkness, perplexity or strangeness, splendor, etc.
Some examples: The Way of the Cross of the Body,
Close to the Wild Heart, The Passion According to G.H., The Apple in the
Dark, An Apprenticeship or The Book of Pleasures, The Foreign Legion,
Vision of the Splendor.
face of the originality of Clarice Lispector’s writing, it’s not hard
to understand the assertion made by scholars who say that in the 20th
century, literature ceased to be the writing of adventure to become the
adventure of writing, an initiation and a learning process. The act of
writing itself is lived and revealed in a state of exalted and exacerbated
consciousness, which evokes a unique and lonely mystical experience.
when her two sons were young, Clarice got in the habit of writing seated
on the couch in her living room, so she would not be apart from them.
To take care of the world
demands also a lot of patience: I have to wait for the day in which an ant
will show up.
Água Viva (Live Water)
I know what I’m doing
here: I count the instants that drop and are thick with blood. (...)
Lispector: this woman, our contemporary, a Brazilian woman (…)
it is not books that she gives us, but the act of living saved by books,
narratives, constructions that make us step back. And then, through her
window-writing, we enter into the frightening beauty of learning how to
read: and we pass, through the body, to the other side of the I. To love
the truth of what is alive, that which seems ungrateful to Narcissus eyes,
(…) to love the origin, to be personally interested in the impersonal,
in the animal, in the thing.
inherited from me the desire to write and paint. And if she inherited this
part of me, it’s because I cannot imagine a life without the art of
writing or painting or making music.
Um sopro de vida (A Breath of Life)
Macabéa is the
face of Brazil. She is what everybody is. She’s a feminine version of
Macunaíma (T.N. a popular
character from Mário de Andrade’s novel, Macunaíma, o herói do Brasil), an anti-heroine from Brazil, but possessing a huge universality.
Cixious, in: The
Hour of Clarice Lispector)
the philosophical thinking that expresses itself through feminine and
Socratic irony, there is an ethic in Clarice’s writing: an authentic
charity and a profound respect for her fellow creatures, for the child and
the beggar, for the mismatched family ties, for unhappy love stories, for
But don’t let
yourself be tricked. She also wrote stories. A rich young woman meets a
beggar. In six pages, it’s the Gospel, or the Genesis. No, I’m not
I, who live
sidewise, I’m to the left of whoever comes in. And in me the world
Oh! My love,
don’t be afraid of neediness: it is our greatest destiny.
|HER FRIENDS, READERS AND SPECIALISTS TAKE THE FLOOR|
fascinates me and frightens me, because she seems to know more about me
It was Clarice playing
Des femmes, Paris, 1986
A Hora de Clarice Lispector,
Exodus, Rio, 1999 , Bilingual edition, translated by Rachel Gutiérrez
Clarice, Uma vida que se conta, Editora Ática,
São Paulo, 1995