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Authors: Clarice Lispector

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BOOK: Agua Viva
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This text that I give you is not to be seen close
up: it gains its secret previously invisible roundness when seen from a
high-flying plane. Then you can divine the play of islands and see the channels
and seas. Understand me: I write you an onomatopoeia, convulsion of language.
I’m not transmitting to you a story but just words that live from sound. I speak
to you thus:

“Lustful trunk.”

And I bathe within it. It is linked to the root that
penetrates inside us into the earth. All that I write you is taut. I use stray
words that are in themselves a free dart: savages, barbarians, decadent noblemen
and gangsters. Does that mean anything to you? It speaks to me.

But the most important word in the language has but two
letters: is. Is.

I am at its core.

I still am.

I am at the living and soft centre.


It sparkles and is elastic. Like the gait of a glossy
black panther that I saw and that walked softly, slowly and dangerously. But not
caged—because I don’t want that. As for the unforeseeable—the next phrase is
unforeseeable to me. In the core where I am, in the core of the Is, I ask no
questions. Because when it is—it is. I am only limited by my identity. I,
elastic being and separated from other bodies.

In truth I’m still not quite seeing properly the thread
of what I’m writing you. I think I never shall—but I acknowledge the dark in
which the two eyes of the soft panther shine. Darkness is my hothouse. Enchanted
darkness. I’ll keep talking to you and taking the risk of disconnection: I am
subterraneously unreachable by my knowledge.

I write to you because I don’t understand myself.

But I’ll keep following myself. Elastic. This
forest where I survive in order to be is such a mystery. But now I think things
are happening. That is: I’m going in. I mean: into the mystery. I myself
mysterious and inside the core in which I move swimming, protozoan. One day I
childishly said: I can do everything. It was the pre-viewing of one day being
able to cast myself off and fall into the abandon of every law. Elastic. The
profound joy: the secret ecstasy. I know how to invent a thought. I feel the
commotion of novelty. But I am well aware that what I write is only a tone.

In my core I have the strange impression that I don’t
belong to the human species.

There is much to say that I don’t know how to say.
The words are lacking. But I refuse to invent new ones: those that already exist
must say what can be said and what is forbidden. And I can sense whatever is
forbidden. If I have the strength. Beyond thought there are no words: it is
itself. My painting has no words: it is beyond thought. In this land of the
is-itself I am pure crystalline ecstasy. It is itself. I am myself. You are

And I am haunted by my ghosts, by all that is mythic,
fantastic and gigantic: life is supernatural. I walk holding an open umbrella
upon a tightrope. I walk to the limit of my great dream. I see the fury of the
visceral impulses: tortured viscera guide me. I don’t like what I just wrote—
but I’m duty-bound to accept the whole section because it happened to me. And I
have much respect for what I happen to myself. My essence is unconscious of
itself and that’s why I obey myself blindly.

I’m being antimelodic. I take pleasure in the difficult
harmony of the harsh opposites. Where am I going? and the answer is: I’m

And so when I die, I’ll never have been born and lived:
death washes away the traces of the sea-foam on the beach.

Now it is an instant.

Here is another now.

And another. My effort: to bring now the future to here.
I move inside my deep instincts which carry themselves out blindly. I feel then
that I’m near springs, pools and waterfalls, all with abundant waters. And I

Hear me, hear my silence. What I say is never what I say
but instead something else. When I say “abundant waters” I’m speaking of the
force of body in the waters of the world. It captures that other thing that I’m
really saying because I myself cannot. Read the energy that is in my silence. Ah
I fear God and his silence.

I’m myself.

But there’s also the mystery of the impersonal that is
the “it”: I have the impersonal inside me and isn’t something the personal that
sometimes floods me can corrupt or rot by the personal that sometimes floods me:
but I dry myself in the sun and am an impersonal of the dry and germinative pit
of a fruit. My personal is humus in the earth and lives from rotting. My “it” is
hard like a pebble.

The transcendence inside me is the living and soft “it”
and has the thought that an oyster has. Could the oyster when torn from its root
feel anxiety? It is disturbed in its life without eyes. I used to drip lemon
juice onto the living oyster and watched in horror and fascination as it
contorted all over. And I was eating the living
. The living
is the God.

I’ll stop for a bit because I know that the God is the
world. He is whatever exists. I pray to whatever exists? It’s not dangerous to
approach whatever exists. Profound prayer is a meditation upon the nothing. It’s
the dry and electrical contact with oneself, an impersonal oneself.

I don’t like when they drip lemon upon my depths and make
me contort all over. Are the facts of life lemon on the oyster? Does the oyster

What is the first element? immediately there must have
been two to have the secret intimate movement from which milk gushes.

I have been told that the cat after giving birth eats her
own placenta and for four days eats nothing else. Only then does she drink milk.
Let me speak strictly of breast-feeding. People talk about the milk rising. How?
And it wouldn’t help to explain because the explanation demands another
explanation which would demand another explanation and which would open again
onto the mystery. But I know
things about breast-feeding a

I am breathing. Up and down. Up and down. How does the
naked oyster breathe? If it breathes I can’t see it. Does what I cannot see not
exist? What moves me the most is that what I cannot see nonetheless exists. For
then I have at my feet a whole unknown world that exists entire and full of rich
saliva. The truth is somewhere: but no use thinking. I shall not discover it and
yet I live from it.

What I write to you does not come gently, slowly rising
to a peak before dying away gently. No: what I write you is aflame like fiery

Tonight the moon is full. Through the window the moon
covers my bed and turns everything a milky bluish white. The moon is gauche.
It’s to your left as you go in. So I escape by closing my eyes. Because the full
moon is light insomnia: numb and drowsy like after love. And I had decided to go
to sleep so I could dream, I was missing the news that comes in the dream.

So I dreamed something I’ll try to reproduce. It was
about a film I was watching. There was a man imitating a movie star. And
everything this man did was in turn imitated by others and others. The slightest
gesture. And there was the advert for a drink called Zerbino. The man took the
bottle of Zerbino and lifted it to his lips. So everyone took a bottle of
Zerbino and lifted it to their lips. In the centre the man who was imitating a
movie star said: this is a film advertising Zerbino and Zerbino is actually
rubbish. But that wasn’t the end. The man picked up the drink again and drank.
And so did the others: it was inevitable. Zerbino was an institution stronger
than the man. The women at this point looked like stewardesses. Stewardesses are
dehydrated—a lot of water needs to be added to their powder to turn them into
milk. It’s a film about automatic people who are acutely and gravely aware that
they are automatic and that there’s no escape. The God is not automatic: for Him
every instant is. He is

But there are questions I asked myself as a child and
that were never answered, they still echo mournfully: did the world make itself?
But where did it make itself? in what place? And if it was by the energy of God
—how did it begin? could it be like now when I am being and at the same time
making myself? It’s because of the absence of an answer that I get so

But 9 and 7 and 8 are my secret numbers. I am an
initiate without a sect. Avid for the mystery. My passion for the crux of
numbers, in which I divine the core of their own rigid and fatal destiny. And I
dream of luxuriant grandeurs deepened in the darkness: whirl of abundance, where
the velvety and carnivorous plants are we who have just sprouted, sharp love—
slow faint.

Could it be that what I am writing to you is beyond
thought? Reasoning is what it is not. Whoever can stop reasoning—which is
terribly difficult—let them come along with me. But at least I’m not imitating
a movie star and nobody needs to lift me to their lips or become a

I’ve got a confession to make: I’m a little frightened.
For I don’t know where my freedom will lead me. It is neither arbitrary nor
libertine. But I am unbound.

Every once in a while I’ll give you a light story—
melodic and cantabile area to break up this string quartet of mine: a figurative
interval to open a clearing in my nourishing jungle.

Am I free? There is some thing still holding me. Or
am I holding it? It’s also this: I’m not entirely unbound because I am in union
with everything. Moreover one person is everything. It’s not heavy to carry
because it simply isn’t carried: it is everything.

It seems to me that for the first time I’m knowing about
things. My impression is that I only don’t go more toward things to not surpass
myself. I have a certain fear of myself, I’m not to be trusted and mistrust my
false power.

This is the word of someone who cannot.

I direct nothing. Not even my own words. But it’s not
sad: it’s happy humility. I, who live sideways, am to your left as you come in.
And the world trembles within me.

Is this word to you promiscuous? I would like it not to
be, I am not promiscuous. But I am kaleidoscopic: I’m fascinated by my sparkling
mutations that I here kaleidoscopically record.

Now I am going to stop for a while to deepen myself more.
Then I’ll be back.

I’m back. I was existing. I received a letter from São
Paulo from a person I don’t know. A final suicide note. I called São Paulo. No
one answered, it rang and rang and echoed as if in a silent apartment. Did he
die or not die. This morning I called again: still no answer. He died, yes. I’ll
never forget.

I’m no longer frightened. Let me talk, all right? I was
born like this: drawing from my mother’s uterus the life that was always
eternal. Wait for me—all right? When I paint or write I’m anonymous. My
profound anonymity which no one ever touched.

I have an important thing to tell you. Because I’m not
is the pure element. Material of the instant of time. I am
not objectivizing anything: I am having the real birth of
. I feel
faint like someone about to be born.

To be born: I’ve watched a cat give birth. The kitten
emerges wrapped in a sack of fluid and all huddled inside. The mother licks the
sack of fluid so many times that it finally breaks and there a kitten almost
free, only attached by its umbilical cord. Then the mother-creator-cat breaks
that cord with her teeth and another fact appears in the world. That process is
. I am not joking. I am earnest. Because I am free. I am so

I am giving freedom to you. First I rip the sack of
fluid. Then I cut the umbilical cord. And you are alive on your own account.

And when I am born, I become free. That is the foundation
of my tragedy.

No. It’s not easy. But it “is.” I ate my own placenta so
as not to have to eat for four days. To have milk to give you. Milk is a “this.”
And no one is I. No one is you. That is what solitude is.

I’m waiting for the next phrase. It’s a matter of
seconds. Speaking of seconds I ask if you can stand for time to be today and now
and right away. I can stand it because I ate my own placenta.

At half past three in the morning I woke up. And
immediately elastic I jumped out of bed. I came to write you. I mean: be. Now
it’s half past five. I want nothing: I am pure. I don’t wish this solitude on
you. But I myself am in the creating fog. Lucid darkness, luminous

There is much I cannot tell you. I am not going to be
autobiographical. I want to be “bio.”

I write with the flow of the words.

Before the appearance of the mirror, the person didn’t
know his own face except reflected in the waters of a lake. After a certain
point everyone is responsible for the face he has. I’ll now look at mine. It is
a naked face. And when I think that no other like it exists in the world, I get
a happy shock. Nor will there ever be. Never is the impossible. I like never. I
also like ever. What is there between never and ever that links them so
indirectly and intimately?

At the bottom of everything there is the hallelujah.

This instant is. You who read me are.

I find it hard to believe that I shall die. Because I’m
bubbling in cold freshness. My life will be very long because each instant is. I
get the feeling I’m about to be born and can’t.

I am a heart beating in the world.

You who are reading me please help me to be born.

Wait: it’s getting dark. Darker.

And darker.

The instant is of total darkness.

It goes on.

Wait: I begin to glimpse a thing. A luminescent shape. A
milky belly with a navel? Wait—because I shall emerge from this darkness where
I am afraid, darkness and ecstasy. I am the heart of the shadow.

The problem is that the curtain over the window of my
room is defective. It is stuck and so it doesn’t close. So the whole full moon
enters and phosphoresces the room with silences: it’s horrible.

BOOK: Agua Viva
6.42Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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