Read Agua Viva Online

Authors: Clarice Lispector

Agua Viva (2 page)

BOOK: Agua Viva
13.95Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub



Água Viva

There must be a kind of painting totally free of
the dependence on the figure—or object—which, like music, illustrates nothing,
tells no story, and launches no myth. Such painting would simply evoke the
incommunicable kingdoms of the spirit, where dream becomes thought, where line
becomes existence.

— Michel Seuphor

It’s with such profound happiness. Such a hallelujah.
Hallelujah, I shout, hallelujah merging with the darkest human howl of the pain
of separation but a shout of diabolic joy. Because no one can hold me back now.
I can still reason—I studied mathematics, which is the madness of reason—but
now I want the plasma—I want to eat straight from the placenta. I am a little
scared: scared of surrendering completely because the next instant is the
unknown. The next instant, do I make it? or does it make itself? We make it
together with our breath. And with the flair of the bullfighter in the ring.

Let me tell you: I’m trying to seize the fourth dimension
of this instant-now so fleeting that it’s already gone because it’s already
become a new instant-now that’s also already gone. Every thing has an instant in
which it is. I want to grab hold of the
of the thing. These instants
passing through the air I breathe: in fireworks they explode silently in space.
I want to possess the atoms of time. And to capture the present, forbidden by
its very nature: the present slips away and the instant too, I am this very
second forever in the now. Only the act of love—the limpid star-like
abstraction of feeling—captures the unknown moment, the instant hard as
crystal and vibrating in the air and life is this untellable instant, larger
than the event itself: during love the impersonal jewel of the moment shines in
the air, the strange glory of the body, matter made feeling in the trembling of
the instants—and the feeling is both immaterial and so objective that it seems
to happen outside your body, sparkling on high, joy, joy is time’s material and
the essence of the instant. And in the instant is the
of the
instant. I want to seize my
. And like a bird I sing hallelujah into
the air. And my song belongs to no one. But no passion suffered in pain and love
is not followed by a hallelujah.

Is my theme the instant? the theme of my life. I try to
keep up with it, I divide thousands of times into as many times as the number of
instants running by, fragmented as I am and the moments so fragile—my only vow
is to life born with time and growing along with it: only in time itself is
there room enough for me.

All of me is writing to you and I feel the taste of being
and the taste-of-you is as abstract as the instant. I also use my whole body
when I paint and set the bodiless upon the canvas, my whole body wrestling with
myself. You don’t understand music: you hear it. So hear me with your whole
body. When you come to read me you will ask why I don’t keep to painting and my
exhibitions, since I write so rough and disorderly. It’s because now I feel the
need for words—and what I’m writing is new to me because until now my true
word has never been touched. The word is my fourth dimension.

Today I finished the canvas I told you about: curves that
intersect in fine black lines, and you, with your habit of wanting to know why—
I’m not interested in that, the cause is past matter—will ask me why the fine
black lines? because of the same secret that now makes me write as if to you,
writing something round and rolled up and warm, but sometimes cold as the fresh
instants, the water of an ever-trembling stream. Can what I painted on this
canvas be put into words? Just as the silent word can be suggested by a musical

I see that I’ve never told you how I listen to music—I
gently rest my hand on the record player and my hand vibrates, sending waves
through my whole body: and so I listen to the electricity of the vibrations, the
last substratum of reality’s realm, and the world trembles inside my hands.

And so I realize that I want the vibrating substratum of
the repeated word sung in Gregorian chant. I’m aware that I can’t say everything
I know, I only know when painting or pronouncing, syllables blind of meaning.
And if here I must use words, they must bear an almost merely bodily meaning.
I’m struggling with the last vibration. To tell you of my substratum I make a
sentence of words made only from instants-now. Read, therefore, my invention as
pure vibration with no meaning beyond each whistling syllable, read this: “with
the passing of the centuries I lost the secret of Egypt, when I moved in
longitudes, latitudes, and altitudes with the energetic action of electrons,
protons, and neutrons, under the spell of the word and its shadow.” What I wrote
you here is an electronic drawing without past or future: it is simply now.

I must also write to you because you harvest
discursive words and not the directness of my painting. I know that my phrases
are crude, I write them with too much love, and that love makes up for their
faults, but too much love is bad for the work. This isn’t a book because this
isn’t how anyone writes. Is what I write a single climax? My days are a single
climax: I live on the edge.

In writing I can’t manufacture something as in painting,
when I use my craft to mix a color. But I’m trying to write to you with my whole
body, loosing an arrow that will sink into the tender and neuralgic centre of
the word. My secret body tells you: dinosaurs, ichthyosaurs, and plesiosaurs,
meaning nothing but their sound, though this doesn’t dry them out like straw but
moistens them instead. I don’t paint ideas, I paint the unattainable “forever.”
Or “for never,” it amounts to the same. More than anything else, I paint
painting. And more than anything else, I write you hard writing. I want to grab
the word in my hand. Is the word an object? And from the instants I extract the
juice of their fruits. I must deprive myself to reach the core and seed of life.
The instant is living seed.

The secret harmony of disharmony: I don’t want something
already made but something still being tortuously made. My unbalanced words are
the wealth of my silence. I write in acrobatics and pirouettes in the air—I
write because I so deeply want to speak. Though writing only gives me the full
measure of silence.

And if I say “I” it’s because I dare not say “you,” or
“we” or “one.” I’m forced to the humility of personalizing myself belittling
myself but I am the are-you.

Yes, I want the last word which is also so primary
that it gets tangled up with the unattainable part of the real. I’m still afraid
to move away from logic because I fall into instinct and directness, and into
the future: the invention of today is the only way to usher in the future. Then
it’s the future, and any hour is your allotted hour. So what’s the harm of
moving away from logic? I deal in raw materials. I’m after whatever is lurking
beyond thought. No use trying to pin me down: I simply slip away and won’t allow
it, no label will stick. I’m entering a very new and genuine chapter, curious
about itself, so appealing and personal that I can’t paint it or write it. It’s
like moments I had with you, when I would love you, moments I couldn’t go past
because I descended into their depths. It’s a state of touching the surrounding
energy and I shudder. Some mad, mad harmony. I know that my gaze must be that of
a primitive person surrendered completely to the world, primitive like the gods
who only allow the broad strokes of good and evil and don’t want to know about
good tangled up like hair in evil, evil that is good.

I pin down sudden instants that carry within them their
own death and others are born—I pin down the instants of metamorphosis and
there’s a terrible beauty to their sequence and concurrence.

Now day is breaking, a dawn of white mist on the sands of
the beach. Everything is mine, then. I barely touch food, I don’t want to awaken
beyond the day’s awakening. I’m growing with the day that as it grows kills in
me a certain vague hope and forces me to look the hard sun straight in the face.
The gale blows and scatters my papers. I hear that wind of cries, the death
rattle of a bird open in oblique flight. And I here impose upon myself the
severity of a taut language, I impose upon myself the nakedness of a white
skeleton free of humours. But the skeleton is free of life and while I live I
shudder all over. I won’t reach the final nakedness. And I still don’t want it,

This is life seen by life. I may not have meaning but it
is the same lack of meaning that the pulsing vein has.

I want to write to you like someone learning. I
photograph each instant. I deepen the words as if I were painting, more than an
object, its shadow. I don’t want to ask why, you can always ask why and always
get no answer—could I manage to surrender to the expectant silence that
follows a question without an answer? Though I sense that some place or time the
great answer for me does exist.

And then I shall know how to paint and write, after the
strange but intimate answer. Listen to me, listen to the silence. What I say to
you is never what I say to you but something else instead. It captures the thing
that escapes me and yet I live from it and am above a shining darkness. One
instant leads me numbly to the next and the athematic theme unfurls without a
plan but geometric like the successive shapes in a kaleidoscope.

I slowly enter my gift to myself, splendor ripped
open by the final song that seems to be the first. I enter the writing slowly as
I once entered painting. It is a world tangled up in creepers, syllables,
woodbine, colors and words—threshold of an ancestral cavern that is the womb
of the world and from it I shall be born.

And if I often paint caves that is because they are my
plunge into the earth, dark but haloed with brightness, and I, blood of nature—
extravagant and dangerous caves, talisman of the Earth, where stalactites,
fossils and rocks come together, and where the animals mad by their own malign
nature seek refuge. The caves are my hell. Forever dreaming cave with its fogs,
memory or longing? eerie, eerie, esoteric, greenish with the slime of time.
Inside the dark cave glimmer the hanging rats with the cruciform wings of bats.
I see downy and black spiders. Mice and rats run frightened along the ground and
up the walls. Between the rocks the scorpion. Crabs, just like themselves since
prehistory, through deaths and births, would look like threatening beasts if
they were the size of a man. Old cockroaches crawl in the murky light. And all
of this is me. All is weighted with sleep when I paint a cave or write to you
about it—from outside it comes the clatter of dozens of wild horses stamping
with dry hoofs the darkness, and from the friction of the hoofs the rejoicing is
freed in sparks: here I am, I and the cave, in the very time that will rot

I want to put into words but without description the
existence of the cave that some time ago I painted—and I don’t know how. Only
by repeating its sweet horror, cavern of terror and wonders, place of afflicted
souls, winter and hell, unpredictable substratum of the evil that is inside an
earth that is not fertile. I call the cave by its name and it begins to live
with its miasma. I then fear myself who knows how to paint the horror, I,
creature of echoing caverns that I am, and I suffocate because I am word and
also its echo.

But the instant-now is a firefly that sparks and goes
out, sparks and goes out. The present is the instant in which the wheel of the
speeding car just barely touches the ground. And the part of the wheel that
still hasn’t touched, will touch in that immediacy that absorbs the present
instant and turns it into the past. I, alive and glimmering like the instants,
spark and go out, alight and go out, spark and go out. It’s just that whatever I
capture in me has, when it’s now being transposed into writing, the despair that
words take up more instants than the flash of a glance. More than the instant, I
want its flow.

A new era, this my own, and it announces me right away.
Am I brave enough? For now I am: because I come from the suffering afar, I come
from the hell of love but now I am free of you. I come from afar—from a
weighty ancestry. I who come from the pain of living. And I no longer want it. I
want the vibration of happiness. I want the impartiality of Mozart. But I also
want inconsistency. Freedom? it’s my final refuge, I forced myself to freedom
and I bear it not like a talent but with heroism: I’m heroically free. And I
want the flow.

What I write to you is not comfortable. I don’t impart
confidences. Instead I metallize myself. And I’m not comfortable for you and for
me; my word bursts into the space of the day. What you will know of me is the
shadow of the arrow that has hit its target. I shall only vainly grasp a shadow
that takes up no room in space, and what barely matters is the dart. I construct
something free of me and of you—this is my freedom that leads to death.

In this instant-now I’m enveloped by a wandering
diffuse desire for marvelling and millions of reflections of the sun in the
water that runs from the faucet onto the lawn of a garden all ripe with
perfumes, garden and shadows that I invent right here and now and that are the
concrete means of speaking in this my instant of life. My state is that of a
garden with running water. In describing it I try to mix words that time can
make itself. What I tell you should be read quickly like when you look.

Now it’s day and suddenly again Sunday in an unexpected
eruption. Sunday is a day of echoes—hot, dry, and everywhere buzzings of bees
and wasps, cries of birds and the distance of paced hammer blows—where do the
echoes of Sunday come from? I who loathe Sunday because it’s hollow. I, who want
the most primary thing because it’s the source of generation—I who long to
drink water at the source of the spring—I who am all of this, must by fate and
tragic destiny only know and taste the echoes of me, because I cannot capture
the me itself. I am in a stupefying, trembling, marvel expectation, my back
turned to the world, and somewhere the innocent squirrel escapes. Plants,
plants. I snooze in the summer heat of the Sunday that has flies circling the
sugar-bowl. A boast of colors, that of Sunday, and ripe splendor. And all this I
painted some time ago and on another Sunday. And here is that once-virgin
canvas, now covered by ripe colors. Bluebottle flies glitter in front of my
window open to the air of the torpid street. The day seems like the smooth
stretched skin of a fruit that in a small catastrophe the teeth tear, its liquor
drains. I’m afraid of the accursed Sunday that liquidifies me.

BOOK: Agua Viva
13.95Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

A Murder in Mayfair by Robert Barnard
Cat Scratched! by Joy, Dara
Torn Asunder by Ann Cristy
This Perfect World by Suzanne Bugler
The Frog Earl by Carola Dunn
Gemini by Sonya Mukherjee
Caught Up In Him by Lauren Blakely