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Authors: Clarice Lispector

The Stream of Life

BOOK: The Stream of Life
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Clarice Lispector












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It's with such intense joy. It's such an hallelujah. "Hallelujah," I shout, an hallelujah that fuses with the darkest human howl of the pain of separation but is a shout of diabolical happiness. Because nobody holds me back anymore. I still have the ability to reason—I've studied mathematics, which is the madness of reason—but now I want plasma, I want to feed directly from the placenta. I'm a little frightened, still afraid to give myself over since the next instant is the unknown. Do I make the coming instant? Or does it make itself? We make it together with our breathing. And with the ease of a bullfighter in the ring.

Let me tell you . . . I'm trying to capture the fourth dimension of the now-instant, which is so fleeting it no longer is because it has already become a new now-instant, which also is no longer. Each thing has an instant in which it is. I want to take possession of the thing's
Those instants that elapse in the air I breathe: in fireworks exploding silently in space. I want to possess the atoms of time. And I want to capture the present which, by its very nature, is forbidden me: the present flees from me, the moment escapes me, the present is myself forever in the now. Only in the act of love—by the clear, starlike abstraction of what one feels—do we capture the unknown quality of the instant, which is hard and crystalline and vibrant in the air, and life is that incalculable instant, greater than the event itself: in love, the instant, an impersonal jewel, glitters in the air, a strange bodily glory, matter sensitized by the shiver of seconds—and what one feels is at the same time immaterial and so objective that it happens as if it were outside the body, sparkling on high, happiness, happiness is the matter of time and the instant par excellence. And in the instant resides its own
I want to capture my
And I sing an hallelujah to the air, just as a bird does. And my song is no one's. But there's no passion suffered in pain and in love that's not followed by an hallelujah.

Is my theme the instant? my life theme. I try to keep up with it, I divide myself thousands of times, into as many times as the seconds that pass, fragmentary as I am and precarious the moments—I pledge myself only to a life that is born with time and grows with it: only in time is there space for me.

I write you completely whole and I feel a pleasure in being and my pleasure of you is abstract, like the instant. And it's with my entire body that I paint my pictures and on the canvas fix the incorporeal—me, body-to-body with myself. One doesn't understand music, one hears it. Hear me, then, with your whole body. When you come to read me you'll ask why I don't stick to painting and exhibiting my pictures, since my writing is coarse and orderless. It's just that now I feel the need for words—and what I write is new to me because my true word has remained untouched until now. The word is my fourth dimension.

Today I finished the canvas I told you about: round lines that penetrate each other in thin, black strokes, and you, who are in the habit of wanting to know why—and because it doesn't interest me, the cause is matter of the past— you'll ask why the thin, black strokes? It's because of the same secret that makes me write this now as if to you, for what I write is round, complicated, and tepid, but sometimes frigid like fresh instants, stream water trembling always on its own. Can what I've painted on this canvas be phrased in words? Just as much as the mute word can be implicit in musical sound.

I see that I've never told you how I listen to music— I rest my hand lightly on the turntable and my hand vibrates, spreading waves through my whole body: that's how I hear the electricity of the vibration, the ultimate substratum in the domain of reality, and the world trembles in my hands.

And so I realize that I want for myself the vibrant substratum of the word repeated in a Gregorian chant. I'm aware that everything I know I cannot say, I know only by painting or pronouncing syllables blind of meaning. And if here I have to use words for you, they must create an almost exclusively bodily meaning. I'm battling with the ultimate vibration. To tell you my substratum I make a sentence of words composed only of the now-instants. Read, then, my invention of pure vibration, without meaning except that of each bubbling syllable, read now what follows: "With the flow of the centuries I have lost the secret of Egypt, as I moved in longitude, latitude, and altitude with the energetic action of electrons, protons, neutrons, in the fascination which is the word and its shadow." What I just wrote you is an electronic design and has no past or future: it is simply now.

I also have to write you because your domain is that of discursive words and not the directness of my painting. I know that my sentences are primary, I write with too much love for them and this love fills in their gaps, but too much love harms a work. This isn't a book because this isn't how one writes. Is what I write a single climax? My days are a single climax: I live on the edge.

When I write I can't create as I do in painting, when, as an artisan, I create a color. But I'm trying to write you with my whole body, shooting an arrow that firmly pierces the tender nerve ends of the word. My incognito body tells you: "Dinosaurus, icthiosaurus, and plesiosaurus," words with a merely auditory sense, without turning into dry straw but staying moist. I don't paint ideas, I paint the more intangible "forever." Or "for never," it's the same. Above all else, I paint painting. And above all else I write you hard writing. I want to discover how I can grasp the word with my hand. Is the word an object? And as instants pass, I take the juice from their fruit. I have to disown myself to reach the kernel and seed of life. The instant is the live seed.

The secret harmony of disharmony: I don't want what is already made but what is tortuously in the making. My unbalanced words are the luxury of my silence. I write in acrobatic, aerial pirouettes—I write because I passionately want to speak. Even though writing is only giving me the great measure of silence.

And if I say "I," it's because I don't dare say "you," or "we," or "a person." I'm limited to the humble act of self- personalization through reducing myself, but I am the "you-are."

Yes, I want the last word, which is also so first that its already confused with the intangible part of the real. I'm still afraid to depart from logic because I fall into the instinctive and the direct, and into the future: the invention of today is my only way of establishing the future. From now on is future, and any hour is an appointed hour. Anyway, what harm is there in my departing from logic? I'm dealing with primal matter. I'm after what's behind thought. It's useless to try to classify me: I simply slip away not leaving, categories pin me down no longer. I'm in a very new and true state, one curious about itself, so attractive and personal that it defies my ability either to paint it or write it. It's like certain moments I had with you, when I loved you, moments beyond which I could never go since I plumbed the depths of moments. It's a state of contact with the surrounding energy, and I tremble. A kind of crazy, crazy harmony. I know that my look must be the look of a primitive person who surrenders completely to the world, primitive like the gods who only broadly accept good and evil and aren't interested in the good that's wound into evil like into hair, the evil that is the good.

I capture sudden instants that bring their own death with them and others are born—I capture the instants of metamorphosis, and their sequence and concomitance have a terrible beauty.

Now it's growing light and dawn is a white mist on the sands of the beach. Everything is mine, then. I hardly touch food, I don't want to awaken myself beyond the waking of the day. I grow with the day which, in growing, kills in me a certain vague hope and forces me to look at the harsh sun face to face. A gust of wind blows and scatters my papers. I hear that shouting wind, rattle of birds in slanted flight. And here I force myself into the severity of a tense language, I force myself into the nudity of a white skeleton free of humors. But the skeleton is free of life, and while I'm alive I tremble all over. I will not reach the final nudity. And I seemingly do not yet want it.

This is life seen by life. I may not have a sense, but it's the very lack of sense that a pulsing vein has.

I want to write you as one who is learning. I photograph each instant. I delve into words as if I were painting not just an object but its shadow. I don't want to ask why, one can eternally ask why and remain eternally without an answer: will I be able to deliver myself over to the expectant silence that comes after an answerless question? Even though I may guess that somewhere or sometime the great answer exists for me.

And then I'll know how to paint and write, after the strange but intimate answer. Listen to me, listen to the silence. What I tell you is never what I tell you but something else. Capture this thing that escapes me, and I nonetheless live off it and am on the surface of brilliant darkness. One instant takes me unthinkingly to the next, and the athematic theme keeps unfolding without a plan yet geometrically, like the successive figures in a kaleidoscope.

I slowly enter into my gift to myself, splendor dilacerated by the last song which seems to be the first. I slowly enter writing, just as I have entered painting. It's a tangled world of vines, syllables, honeysuckle, colors, and words— the threshold of an ancestral cavern which is the uterus of the world, and from it shall I be born.

And if many times I paint caves it's because they are my submersion into the earth, dark but clouded with clarity, and I, nature's blood—extravagant and dangerous caves, Earth's talisman, where stalactites, fossils, and stones come together and where creatures crazy through their own evil nature seek refuge. Caves are my hell. Caves, dreamlike always with their mists, memory or longing? Frightening, frightening, esoteric, greenish with the ooze of time. Rats, with the crosslike wings of bats, hang glimmering in the dark cavern. I see black, hairy spiders. Rats and mice run frightened on the ground and along the walls. Among the stones the scorpion. Crabs, unchanged since prehistoric times, through countless births and deaths, would seem threatening beasts if they were human-sized. Ancient cockroaches drag themselves along in the half light. And all this am I. Everything is heavy with dreams when I paint a cave or write to you about one—out of it comes the clatter of dozens of unfettered horses to trample the shadows with dry hooves, and from the friction of the hooves the rejoicing liberates itself in sparks: here I am, the cave and I, in the time that will rot us.

I want to put into words, but without description, the existence of the cave I painted some time ago—and I don't know how. Just repeating its sweet horror, a cavern of both terror and wonder, a place of anguished souls, winter and hell, an unforeseeable substratum of evil inside a sterile earth. I call the cave by its name and it begins to live with its miasma. Then I'm afraid of myself because I know how to paint horror, I, creature of echoing caverns that I am, and I suffocate because I am the word and also its echo.

But the now-instant is a firefly that turns on and off, on and off. The present is the instant in which the wheel of an automobile going at high speed barely touches the ground. And the part of the wheel that has not yet made contact will touch in an immediacy that absorbs the present and turns it into past. I, alive and flickering like the instants, turn myself on and off, on and off, on and off. Only what I capture in myself, when, as it is now, it's being transposed into writing, has the despair of words occupying more instants than a glance. More than an instant, I want its flowing.

Mine is a new era, and it ushers me to the present. Do I have the courage? For the time being I do: because I come from long suffering, I come from the hell of love, but now I'm free of you. I come from far away—from a weighty ancestry. I, who come from the pain of living. And don't want it anymore. I want the vibrancy of joy. I want the sovereignty of Mozart. But I also want inconsequence. Freedom? It's my final refuge, I have forced myself toward freedom and I bear it not like a gift but with heroism; I am heroically free. And I want the flowing.

What I write you is not comfortable. I'm not sharing confidences. First, I steel myself. And I am not you and I'm comfortable as myself; my word shatters in the space of the day. What you will know of me is the shadow of the arrow that has pierced its target. I will only uselessly grasp a shadow which does not occupy a place in space, and the only thing that matters is the dart. I construct something missing in you as well as in me—here is my freedom which leads to death.

In this now-instant I'm enveloped by a drifting desire, diffuse with wonder and thousands of sun reflections in the water, which runs from a spigot in the grass of a garden fully ripe with perfume, a garden and shadows which I invent right now and which are the concrete means of speaking in this, my now-instant of life. My state is that of a garden with running water. In describing it, I try to blend words so that time will come into being. What I tell you should be read quickly, as when one takes a glance.

BOOK: The Stream of Life
6.46Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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