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Authors: Clarice Lispector

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BOOK: Agua Viva
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For each one of us and at some lost moment of life—is a
mission announced that we must accomplish? I however refuse any mission. I won’t
accomplish anything: I just live.

It’s so odd and hard to substitute the paintbrush now for
that strangely familiar but always remote thing, the word. The extreme and
intimate beauty is within it. Yet it’s unreachable—and when it’s within reach
that’s when it becomes illusory because once again it remains unreachable. From
my painting and these jostling words of mine a silence rises that is also like
the substratum of the eyes. There is a thing that escapes me the whole time.
When it doesn’t escape, I gain a certitude: life is something else. It has an
underlying style.

Could it be that in the instant of death I shall force
life trying to live more than I can? But I am today.

I write to you in disorder, I well know. But that is how
I live. I only work with the lost and found.

But writing for me is frustrating: when writing I’m
dealing with the impossible. With the enigma of nature. And of the God. Whoever
doesn’t know what God is, will never be able to know. In the past is when the
God was learned of. It’s something already known.

Do I not have a plot to my life? for I am unexpectedly
fragmentary. I am piecemeal. My story is living. And I have no fear of failure.
Let failure annihilate me, I want the glory of falling. My crippled angel who
contorts all elusive, my angel who fell from the heavens to the hell where he
lives savoring evil.

This is not a story because I don’t know any stories like
this but all I know how to do is go along saying and doing: it is the story of
instants that flee like fugitive tracks seen from the window of a train.

We will meet this afternoon. And I won’t even talk
to you about this that I’m writing and which contains what I am and which I give
to you as a present though you won’t read it. You will never read what I’m
writing. And when I’ve noted down my secret of being—I shall throw it away as
if into the sea. I’m writing you because you can’t accept what I am. When I
destroy my notes on the instants, will I return to my nothing from which I
extracted an everything? I must pay the price. The price of someone who has a
past that is only renewed with passion in the strange present. When I think of
what I already lived through it seems to me I was shedding my bodies along the

It’s almost five in the morning. And the light of the
fainting dawn, cold blue steel and with the tang and tart sharp taste of the day
being born from the dark. And that emerges upon on the surface of time, I livid
too, I being born from the shadows, impersonal, I who am

I’ll tell you something: I don’t know how to paint either
better or worse than I do. I paint a “this.” And I write with “this”—that is
all I can do. Restless. The liters of blood that circulate in the veins. The
muscles contracting and relaxing. The full-moon aura of the body. Parambolic—
whatever that word means. Parambolic as I am. I can’t sum myself up because you
can’t add a chair and two apples. I am a chair and two apples. And I cannot be
added up.

Once again I’m full of joyful happy love. Whatever you
are I quickly breathe in lapping up your halo of wonder before it vanishes in
the evaporation of the air. Is my fresh desire to live me and to live you the
very tessitura of life? The nature of beings and of things—is God? So maybe if
I demand a lot of nature, I would stop dying? Can I violate death and clear
within it an opening for life?

I cut the pain of which I write to you and give you
my restless joy.

And in this instant-now I see white statues scattered in
the perspective of faraway distances far off—farther and farther in the desert
where I get lost with empty gaze, I myself a statue to be seen from afar, I who
am always getting lost. I am savoring whatever exists. Hushed, aerial, inside my
great dream. Since I understand nothing—I therefore adhere to the faltering
mobile reality. I reach the real through the dream. I invent you, reality. And
hear you like remote bells deafly drowned in the water pealing palpitating. Am I
in the core of death? And is that why I am alive? The feeling core. And this
exhilarates me. I am alive. Like a wound, flower in the flesh,
the path of sorrowful blood is opened within me. With the direct and for that
very reason innocent eroticism of the Indians of the Holy Pool. I, exposed to
the storms, I, open inscription on the back of a stone, within the large
chronological spaces handed down by the man of prehistory. The hot wind of great
millenary expanses blows and singes my surface.

Today I used red ochre, yellow ochre, black, and a little
white. I sense that I am near springs, pools and waterfalls, all with abundant
and fresh waters for my thirst. And I, a savage at last and at last free of the
dry days of today: I trot forward and backward without frontiers. I carry out
sun rituals on the slopes of high mountains. But I am also taboo for myself,
untouchable because forbidden. Am I the hero that carries with him the burning
torch forever in a race?

Ah Force of whatever Exists, help me, Thou whom they call
the God. Why does the horrible-terrible call me? that I in my horror want?
because my demon is murderous and fears no punishment: but the crime is more
important than the punishment. I enliven all of me in my happy instinct for

Try to understand what I am painting and what I am
writing now. I’ll explain: in painting as in writing I try to see strictly in
the moment in which I see—and not to see through the memory of having seen in
a past instant. The instant is this one. The instant is of an imminence that
takes my breath away. The instant is in itself imminent. At the same time that I
live it, I burst into its passage into another instant.

That was how I saw the church portal that I painted. You
argued there was excessive symmetry. Let me explain: the symmetry was the most
accomplished thing I did. I lost the fear of symmetry, then of the disorder of
inspiration. You need experience or courage to revalue symmetry, when one can
easily imitate the falsely asymmetric, one of the most mundane originalities. My
symmetry in the church portals is concentrated, accomplished, but not dogmatic.
It’s touched by the hope that two asymmetries will meet in symmetry. That as a
third solution: synthesis. Perhaps that’s why the portals look stripped-down,
the delicateness of something lived and then relived, and not a certain
irresponsible boldness of those who do not know. No, it’s not exactly calmness
that you find there. There is a tough fight for the thing that though corroded
remains standing. And in the denser colors there’s the lividity of something
crooked that nonetheless keeps on going. My crosses have been bent crooked by
centuries of mortification. Are the portals already a herald of altars? The
silence of the portals. Their verdigris takes on a hue of something between life
and death, an intensity of dusk.

And in the quiet colors is steel and old bronze—and all
amplified by a silence of things lost and found on the ground of a steep road. I
feel a long road and dust until I reach the resting-place of the painting. Even
though the portals don’t open. Or is the portal of the church already the
church, and when before it you have already arrived?

I struggle not to go beyond the portal. They are walls of
a Christ that is absent, but the walls are there and touchable—for the hands
also look.

I create the material before I paint it, and the wood
becomes as indispensable to my painting as it would be to a sculptor. And the
created material is religious: it has the weight of the beams of a monastery.
Compact, closed like a closed door. But onto the portal openings were flayed,
scratched out by fingernails. And it’s through these openings that you see what
is inside a synthesis, inside the utopian symmetry. Coagulated color, violence,
martyrdom, are the beams that sustain the silence of a religious symmetry.

But now I’m interested in the mystery of the mirror. I’m
looking for a way to paint it or to speak of it with the word. But what is a
mirror? The word mirror does not exist, only mirrors exist, for a single one is
an infinity of mirrors. Somewhere in the world there must be a mine of mirrors.
Mirror is not something created but something born. You don’t need many to have
the sparkling and sleepwalking mine: two are enough, and one reflects the
reflection of what the other reflected, in a trembling that is transmitted in an
intense and mute telegraphic message, insistent, liquidity in which you can
plunge a fascinated hand and pull it out dripping with the reflections of that
hard water that is the mirror. Like the seer’s crystal ball, it drags me toward
the void that for the seer is his field of meditation, and in me the field of
silences and silences. And I can barely speak, with so much silence unfurling
into others.

Mirror? That crystallized void that has in itself
enough space to go ever ceaselessly forward: for mirror is the deepest space
that exists. And it is a magic thing: whoever has a broken piece can go with it
to meditate in the desert. Seeing oneself is extraordinary. Like a cat whose fur
bristles, I bristle when faced with myself. From the desert I would also return
empty, illuminated and translucent, and with the same vibrating silence of a

Its form doesn’t matter: no form manages to circumscribe
and alter it. Mirror is light. A tiny piece of mirror is always the whole

Remove its frame or the lines of its edges, and it grows
like spilling water.

What is a mirror? It’s the only invented material that is
natural. Whoever looks at a mirror, whoever manages to see it without seeing
himself, whoever understands that its depth consists of being empty, whoever
walks inside its transparent space without leaving the trace of his own image
upon it—that somebody has understood its mystery of thing. For that to happen
one must surprise it when it’s alone, when it’s hanging in an empty room,
without forgetting that the finest needle before it can transform it into the
simple image of a needle, so sensitive is the mirror in its quality of lightest
reflection, only image and not the body. Body of the thing.

When painting it I needed my own delicateness in order
not to cross it with my own image, since a mirror in which I see myself is
already I, only an empty mirror is what the living mirror is. Only a very
delicate person can enter the empty room where there is an empty mirror, and
with such lightness, with such absence of self, that his image leaves no mark.
As a prize, that delicate person will then have penetrated one of the inviolable
secrets of things: he saw the mirror itself.

And he discovered the enormous frozen spaces that
it has in itself, only interrupted by an occasional block of ice. Mirror is cold
and ice. But there is the sequence of darknesses inside it—noticing this is a
very rare moment—and one must be on the lookout for days and nights, fasting
from oneself, in order to capture and surprise the sequence of darknesses it has
inside it. With colors of white and black I recaptured on the canvas its
tremulous luminosity. With the same black and white I also recapture, with a
cold shiver, one of its most difficult truths: its frosty silence without color.
One must understand the violent absence of color of a mirror in order to
recreate it, as one would recreate the violent absence of taste of water.

No, I did not describe the mirror—I was the mirror. And
the words are they themselves, without a discursive tone.

I must interrupt to say that “X” is what exists inside
me. “X”—I bathe in that this. It’s unpronounceable. All I do not know is in
“X.” Death? death is “X.” But much life too for life is unpronounceable. “X”
that shakes within me and I fear its pitch: it vibrates like the string of a
cello, a tense string that when plucked emits pure electricity, without melody.
The unpronounceable instant. An other sensibility is what becomes aware of

I hope you live “X” so you experience the kind of
creating sleep that stretches out through the veins. “X” is neither good nor
bad. Always independent. But it only happens to whatever has a body. Though
immaterial, it needs our body and the body of the thing. There are objects that
are this complete mystery of the “X.” Like whatever vibrates mute. The instants
are shards of “X” incessantly exploding. The excess of me starts to hurt and
when I am excessive I must give of myself like the milk that if it cannot flow
will burst the breast. I release the pressure and return to natural size. The
exact elasticity. Elasticity of a supple panther.

A caged black panther. Once I looked a panther
right in the eye and she looked at me right in the eye. We transmuted. That
fear. I left completely darkened inside, the “X” uneasy. Everything had happened
beyond thought. I miss that terror that exchanging glances with the black
panther gave me. I know how to terrorize.

Is “X” the breath of the
? the cold radiating
respiration of
? Is “X” a word? The word only refers to a thing and
is always unreachable by me. Each of us is a symbol that deals with symbols—
everything a point of only reference to the real. We desperately try to find an
identity of our own and the identity of the real. And if we understand ourselves
through the symbol that is because we have the same symbols and the same
experience of the thing itself: but reality has no synonyms.

I am speaking to you in the abstract and wonder: am
I a cantabile aria? No, you cannot sing what I am writing you. Why don’t I
tackle a theme I could easily flush out? but no: I slink along the wall, I
pilfer the flushed-out melody, I walk in the shadow, in that place where so many
things go on. Sometimes I drip down the wall, in a place never reached by the
sun. My maturing of a theme would already be a cantabile aria—so let somebody
else make another song—the song of the maturing of my quartet. This is before
the maturing. The melody would be the fact. But what fact has a night that
happens entirely on a byway while we slept unaware of anything? Where is the
fact? My story is of a calm darkness, of the root asleep in its strength, of the
smell which has no scent. And in none of this does the abstract exist. It is the
figurative of the unnameable. There is almost no flesh in this quartet of mine.
A shame that the word “nerves” is linked to painful vibrations, otherwise it
would be a quartet of nerves. Dark strings that, when plucked, do not speak of
“other things,”they don’t change the topic—they are in and of themselves, they
surrender just as they are, without lie or fantasy.

BOOK: Agua Viva
12.76Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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