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Authors: Clarice Lispector

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BOOK: Agua Viva
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I know that after you read me it’s hard to
reproduce my song by ear, it’s not possible to sing it without having learned it
by heart. And how can you learn something by heart if it has no story?

But you will recall something that also happened in the
shadow. You will have shared this first mute existence, you will have, as in the
calm dream of a calm night, have run with the resin down the tree trunk.
Afterwards you will say: I dreamt nothing. Will that be enough? It will. And
especially in that primary existence there is a lack of error, and a tone of
emotion of someone who could lie but doesn’t. Is that enough? It is.

But I also want to paint a theme, I want to create an
object. And that object will be—a wardrobe, for what is more concrete? I must
study the wardrobe before painting it. What do I see? I see that the wardrobe
looks penetrable because it has a door. But when I open it, I see that
penetration has been put off: since inside is also a wooden surface, like a
closed door. Function of the wardrobe: to keep drag and disguises hidden.
Nature: that of the inviolability of things. Relation to people: we look at
ourselves in the mirror on the inside of the door, we always look at ourselves
in an inconvenient light because the wardrobe is never in the right place:
awkward, it stands wherever it fits, always huge, hunchbacked, shy and clumsy,
unaware how to be more discreet, for it has too much presence. A wardrobe is
enormous, intrusive, sad, kind.

But suddenly the door-mirror opens—and suddenly, in the
movement the door makes, and in the new composition of the room in shadow, into
that composition enter flask after flask of glass of fleeting brightness.

Then I can paint the essence of a wardrobe. The essence
that is never cantabile. But I want to have the freedom to say unconnected
things as a deep way of touching you. Only the erring attracts me, and I love
the sin, the flower of the sin.

But what can I do if you are not touched by my defects,
whereas I loved yours. My candour was crushed underfoot by you. You didn’t love
me, only I know that. I was alone. Yours alone. I write to no one and a riff is
being made that doesn’t exist. I unglued myself from me.

And I want disarticulation, only then am I in the world.
Only then do I feel right.

Do feel right. I in my loneliness am ready to explode.
Dying must be a mute internal explosion. The body can no longer stand being a
body. And what if dying had the taste of food when you’re very hungry? And what
if dying were a pleasure, selfish pleasure?

Yesterday I was drinking coffee and heard the maid
in the laundry room hanging up clothes and singing a melody without words. A
kind of extremely mournful dirge. I asked her whose song it was, and she
replied: it’s just my own nonsense, it’s nobody’s.

Yes, what I’m writing you is nobody’s. And this
nobody’s freedom is very dangerous. It is like the infinite that has the color
of air.

All this that I’m writing is as hot as a hot egg that you
quickly toss from one hand to the other and then back to the first in order not
to get burned—I once painted an egg. And now as in painting I just say: egg
and that is enough.

No, I was never modern. And this happens: when I
think a painting is strange that’s when it’s a painting. And when I think a word
is strange that’s where it achieves the meaning. And when I think life is
strange that’s where life begins. I take care not to surpass myself. In all of
this is great restraint. And then I get sad just to rest. I even cry gently out
of sadness. Then I get up and start again. I just won’t tell you a story now is
because in that case it would be prostitution. And I’m not writing to please
you. Mainly myself. I have to follow the pure line and keep my
it
uncontaminated.

Now I shall write you everything that comes into my mind
with the least possible amount of policing. Because I feel attracted to the
unknown. But as long as I have myself I won’t be alone. It’s going to start: I’m
going to grab the present in every phrase that dies. Now:

Ah if I had known that it were like that I wouldn’t
have been born. Ah if I had known I wouldn’t have been born. Madness borders the
cruellest good sense. This is a brain tempest and one sentence barely has
anything to do with the next. I swallow the madness that is no madness—it’s
something else. Do you understand me? But I’ll have to stop because I’m so and
so tired that only dying would release me from this fatigue. I’m leaving.

I’m back. Now I’ll try once more to bring myself up to
date with whatever occurs to me in the moment—and this is how I’ll create
myself. It’s like this:

The ring that you gave me was glass and it broke
and the love ended. But sometimes in its place comes the beautiful hate of those
who loved and devoured one another. The chair there in front of me is an object
to me. Useless while I look at it. Please tell me what time it is so I can know
that I am living in that time. I am finding myself: it’s deadly because only
death concludes me. But I bear it until the end. I’ll tell you a secret: life is
deadly. I’ll have to interrupt everything to tell you this: death is the
impossible and intangible. Death is just future to such an extent that there are
those who cannot bear it and commit suicide. It’s as if life said the following:
and there simply was no following. Only the waiting colon. We keep this secret
mutely to conceal that every instant is deadly. The chair object interests me. I
love objects to the degree that they do not love me. But if I don’t understand
what I’m writing it’s not my fault. I must speak because speaking saves. But I
have no word to say. What would a person say to himself in the madness of
sincerity? But it would be salvation. Though the terror of sincerity comes from
the part of the shadows that connect me to the world and to the creating
unconscious of the world. Today is a night with many stars in the sky. It
stopped raining. I am blinded. I open my eyes wide and only see. But the secret
—that I neither see nor feel. Could I be making here a true orgy of what’s
behind thought? orgy of words? The record player is broken. I look at the chair
and this time it’s as if it too looked and saw. The future is mine—as long as
I live. I see the flowers in the vase. They are wild flowers and were born
without being planted. They are yellow. But my cook said: what ugly flowers.
Just because it’s hard to love Franciscan things. In the beyond of my thought is
the truth that is that of the world. The illogicality of nature. What silence.
“God” is of such an enormous silence that it terrifies me. Who invented the
chair? It takes courage to write what comes to me: you never know what could
come up and scare you. The sacred monster died. In its place was born a girl who
lost her mother. I am very well aware I’ll have to stop. Not for a lack of words
but because those things and especially those I only thought and didn’t write—
cannot be said. I’ll speak of what is called the experience. It’s the experience
of asking for help and that help being given. Perhaps it was worth being born in
order one day to implore mutely and mutely to receive. I asked for help and it
was not refused. I then felt like a tiger with a deadly arrow buried in its
flesh and who was slowly circling the fearful people to find out who would have
the courage to come up and free it from its pain. And then there is the person
who knows that a wounded tiger is only as dangerous as a child. And coming up to
the beast, unafraid to touch it, pulls out the embedded arrow.

And the tiger? Can’t say thank you. So I sluggishly walk
back and forth in front of the person and hesitate. I lick one of my paws and
then, since it’s not the word that then matters, I silently move off.

What am I in this instant? I am a typewriter making the
dry keys echo in the dark and humid early hours. For a long time I haven’t been
people. They wanted me to be an object. I’m an object. An object dirty with
blood. That creates other objects and the typewriter creates all of us. It
demands. The mechanism demands and demands my life. But I don’t obey totally: if
I must be an object let it be an object that screams. There’s a thing inside me
that hurts. Ah how it hurts and how it screams for help. But tears are missing
in the typewriter that I am. I’m an object without destiny. I am an object in
whose hands? such is my human destiny. What saves me is the scream. I protest in
the name of whatever is inside the object beyond the beyond the thought-feeling.
I am an urgent object.

Now—silence and slight amazement.

Because at five in the morning, today July 25th, I fell
into a state of grace.

It was a sudden sensation, but so gentle. The luminosity
was smiling in the air: exactly that. It was a sigh of the world. I don’t know
how to explain just as you can’t describe the dawn to a blind man. It is
unutterable what happened to me in the form of feeling: I quickly need your
empathy. Feel with me. It was a supreme happiness.

But if you have known the state of grace you’ll recognise
what I’m going to say. I’m not referring to inspiration, which is a special
grace that so often happens to those who deal with art.

The state of grace of which I’m speaking is not
used for anything. It’s as if it came only for us to know that we really exist
and the world exists. In this state, beyond the calm happiness that irradiates
from people and things, there is a lucidity that I only call weightless because
everything in grace is so light. It’s a lucidity of one who no longer needs to
guess: without effort, he knows. Just that: knows. Don’t ask me what, because I
can only reply in the same way: he knows.

And there’s a physical bliss to which nothing else
compares. The body is transformed into a gift. And you feel that it’s a gift
because you experience, right at the source, the suddenly indubitable present of
existing miraculously and materially.

Everything gains a kind of halo that is not imaginary: it
comes from the splendor of the mathematical irradiation of things and of the
memory of people. You start to feel that all that exists breathes and exhales a
most fine resplendence of energy. The truth of the world, however, is
impalpable.

It’s not even close to what I can barely imagine must be
the state of grace of the saints. I have never known that state and cannot even
guess at it. It is instead just the grace of a common person turning suddenly
real because he is common and human and recognizable.

The discoveries in this sense are unutterable and
incommunicable. And unthinkable. That is why in grace I stayed seated, quiet,
silent. It’s like in an annunciation. Not being however preceded by angels. But
it’s as if the angel of life came to announce the world to me.

Then I slowly emerged. Not as if I had been in a trance—
there’s no trance—you emerge slowly, with the sigh of one who had everything
just as the everything is. It’s also already a sigh of longing. Since having
experienced gaining a body and a soul, you want more and more. No use wanting:
it only comes when it wants and spontaneously.

I wanted to make that happiness eternal through the
intermediary of the objectification of the word. Right afterwards I went to look
up in the dictionary the word beatitude which I hate as a word and saw that it
means spasm of the soul. It speaks of calm happiness—I would however call it
transport or levitation. Nor do I like how the dictionary continues: “of one
absorbed in mystical contemplation.” That’s not true: I wasn’t meditating in any
way, there was no religiosity in me. I’d just had breakfast and was simply
living sitting there with a cigarette burning in the ashtray.

I saw when it started and took me. And I saw when it
started growing faint and ended. I’m not lying. I hadn’t taken any drug and it
wasn’t a hallucination. I knew who I was and who others were.

But now I want to see if I can capture what happened to
me by using words. As I use them I’ll be destroying to some extent what I felt—
but that’s inevitable. I’m going to call what follows “On the edge of
beatitude.” It starts like this, nice and slow:

When you see, the act of seeing has no form—what
you see sometimes has form and sometimes doesn’t. The act of seeing is
ineffable. And sometimes what is seen is also ineffable. And that’s how it is
with a certain kind of thinking-feeling that I’ll call “freedom,” just to give
it a name. Real freedom—as an act of perception—has no form. And as the true
thought thinks to itself, this kind of thought reaches its objective in the very
act of thinking. By that I don’t mean that it either vaguely or gratuitously is.
It so happens that the primary thought—as an act of thought—already has a
form and is more easily transmitted to itself, or rather, to the very person who
is thinking it; and that is why—because it has a form—it has a limited
reach. Whereas the thought called “freedom” is free as an act of thought. It’s
so free that even to its thinker it seems to have no author.

The true thought seems to have no author.

And beatitude has that same quality. Beatitude
starts in the moment when the act of thinking has freed itself from the
necessity of form. Beatitude starts at the moment when the thinking-feeling has
surpassed the author’s need to think—he no longer needs to think and now finds
himself close to the grandeur of the nothing. I could say of the “everything.”
But “everything” is a quantity, and quantity has a limit in its very beginning.
The true incommensurability is the nothing, which has no barriers and where a
person can scatter their thinking-feeling.

This beatitude is not in itself religious or secular. And
none of this necessarily has any bearing on the issue of the existence or
non-existence of a God. What I’m saying is that the thought of the man and the
way this thinking-feeling can reach an extreme degree of incommunicability—
that, without sophism or paradox, is at the same time, for that man, the point
of greatest communication. He communicates with himself.

BOOK: Agua Viva
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