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Authors: Clarice Lispector

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To continue on the "I continue." As already said, one cannot interrupt this text. The last three pages are indicative of this. We read: "What I write you is a
this.
It won't stop: it continues on. Look at me and love me. No: look at yourself and love yourself. That's what's right. What I write you continues on and I am bewitched." The text stops saying "I continue" just as to die is only the pulse of life, the passage of my pleasure to your pleasure. But if we read

the last lines: "What I write to you is a
this"
"This' is between quotation marks. "It won't stop:" colon, I stop, "continues." This is exactly the
mise en scène
of the sliding between a stop and continuity. You must have noticed that the text is strewn with colons. There are also dashes. What is the use of the colon? What is a colon? Generally, it opens onto an explanation, but it is always done with the help of an interruption. It can be said that the colon is not the period, it is the period of the period, the canceling of the period. It is a moment mute and marked; it is the most delicate tattoo of the text. It is also in place of, instead of, everything that would be causal. For example, when we read: "It's simply that: secret." "Secret," is a sentence, it is the shortest sentence perhaps. But it is a sentence in one word. It is a sentence that is secret and that at the same time says its name. One could invert and say: "Secret: it is simply that." This is secret, the secret is the secret of the
this
, it is a word which makes infinite sense all by itself, it is a sentence which performs the secret itself. It is the greatest economy, waiting is once again deceived. Clarice makes massive use of "this" throughout the text. For example: "This isn't a story." "I paint a
this
." "I write with
this,
it's all I can do." "This" is often taken between quotation marks and in those instances becomes a substantive. There is an interminable substitution between demonstrative and substantive, between verb and substantive. They are substitutions of grammatical categories, a disturbance of grammatical categories in such a way that there is a continuity which is being produced in the ensemble of sentences at the grammatical level and this incessantly doubles the value of the present tense.

Let us come back to the question of reading, to the question of bordering. We are told, repeatedly, that the text continues whatever may happen. It is we who stop. One

must say that life has an underlying style that does not depend on the human rhythm: "I'm unexpectedly fragmentary." Let us point out the paradox and comical effect of the juxtaposition of these words "inopinadamente fragmentaria." The length of the word undoes the meaning. To read it, one must be "unexpectedly fragmentary." True, one cannot do anything else but surrender to the flow of the text, accept its play of continuities. If we want to become aware of it with an instrument other than writing, that is to say with speech, we may indeed feel out of breath or anguished. The text has its punctuation at the level of themes. Instead of a plot or a narration which would formalize something of an interruption, of cutting, of pure cutting, one has the most simple thing in the world, therefore barely visible: the paragraph.

There is the story of the chair and two apples. Chairs and apples can never be added. This is exactly like the text itself that never amounts to a sum, to a whole. What can be found everywhere, like a series of callings, new beginnings, are little words. For example, toward the end, there is a rhythmic precipitation and Clarice writes: "Ah, this flash of instants never ends. Will my song of the
it
never end? I'm going to end it deliberately, with a voluntary act. But it continues on in constant improvisation, creating always and forever the present which is the future: This improvisation
is.
Do you want to see how it continues on?" What has to be noted is: "but it continues." Oh, living is so uncomfortable." "This improvisation
is
," is the law of the text. "My song of the it never ends," I must stop it somewhere, so I stop it deliberately, but it stops in constant improvisation, period, onto the next line. "This improvisation
is
," signifies the presentation of the present. It is a sentence which leaves us hungry. It is a sentence which has a finality without end, be it affirmative on the mode of the

Bible, or of the most classical form in Clarice, on the mode of subversion of the classical sentence, the basic sentence, with subject, verb, and predicate. One would expect: "this improvisation is beautiful or tiring," but we have: "this improvisation
is."
We have a construction that is so condensed, interrupted and still complete, with only the subject and the verb "to be" that is the predicate. It qualifies itself. It insists on the theme. It could be both at once. There are repetitions which give the feeling of a
déjà vu.
There is a massive recourse to the verb on this complex mode which doubles the effects of the present. In addition, there is recourse to demonstratives, to a deictic usage that points and underlines.

Here is another example of Clarice's syntax: "Oh, living is so uncomfortable. Everything presses in: the body demands, the spirit never ceases, living is like being weary but being unable to sleep—living is upsetting. You can't walk around naked, either in body or in spirit. Didn't I tell you life presses in?" There is a repetition of the verbal system of nouns as subject. The verb functions as noun. There is a double activity. These are pseudo-definitions. One has this strange expression: "living presses in" or "constricts." There is no subject. "Constrict" has a strong verbal value, as if to live did not depend on a self, on a subject. To live has become a noun. There is a passage to the nominal, as if the ordinary mass of words were attracted to the nouns, and as if there were an ascension from the banalized common toward the proper. In the absence, in the effacement of the personal subject of enunciation, everything in the
énoncé
becomes subject. One has great masses of subjects: to live is subject, apple is subject, so is tiger. Never have there been fewer personal subjects .There are subjects said to be impersonal but attracted toward the personal through such grammatical play. If one followed those

grammatical systems, one would be led to the question of: who writes? who speaks? but at the most refined level since the question of the author is still here, though obviously reversed into that of without-author. Clarice can leave from elsewhere, as she says toward the end: "Now I am free." The text continues; it is like the story of the man Joao and the plant. "This improvisation
is
." The source of the improvisation is cut at the end.

At one point, there is an element of plot: "The ring you gave me was made of glass and it broke and love ended. But sometimes in its place there comes the beautiful hatred of those who loved each other and who devoured each other. The chair in front is an object for me." One is caught in a long pseudo-narrative, which starts with an interruption, with the breaking of the glass ring. The ring is the link; it links; then comes the chair: "The chair in front is an object for me. Useless while fm looking at it." The work on objects is very important. There one of the major messages of the text disengages itself. It is the displacement of the value from subject onto object: "The object-chair interests me. I love objects insofar as they do not love me. But if I don't understand what I write the fault isn't mine. I have to speak because speaking saves. But I have no word to say." "But it would be salvation." The series of conjunctions, "but," comes instead of the broken ring. "What would a person say to himself in the madness of candor? "but..."

A little further on, Clarice writes: "Who could have invented the chair," "Behind my own thought is the truth that is the worlds. The illogic of nature." Illogical is what is without logos, which is silence. " 'God' is such an enormous silence that it terrifies me. Who could have invented the chair? You need courage to write what comes to me: one never knows what could come and frighten. The sacred monster has died. In its place was born a girl orphaned of

her mother. I know full well that I must stop." One must look at the braiding between interruption and non-interruption, which, in addition, has at stake the creation of a world without subject, without author. It began earlier, at a moment when there was no more subjectivity because the latter had been interrupted. The ring broke; there was no more love; then, given Clarice's writing, when one arrives at the one who has invented the chair, one is effectively projected toward the chair: "The record player is broken." I look at the chair and this time it's as if it too had looked and seen," instead of the scene of love, there is a scene of love with the chair, that is not announced. It is inscribed as it produces itself: "This time it's as if it too had looked and seen. The future is mine—while I am living. I see. . . ." Now one begins to take off in a new relation between subject and object, in a nonsubjective world. Here one finds all the themes of
The Passion According to
G.
H.

Agua viva
is not calculated in mathematical fashion. It is, as Clarice constantly reminds us, a text that follows itself, which lets itself be led, which takes risks with the acacias and which is not afraid to let itself go. It is not an unconscious populated with Freudian scenes. True, it always takes place "behind something," as Clarice says. It is pre-logical, pre-discursive. It happens because there is, because there takes place. This place is largely that which would be delimited by the range of the body: within reach of hand, ear, or the senses. It always goes through something concrete. There is a propagation that does not allow for the imaginary or phantasm. A reading that works on themes must work on big, large themes. For example, on all that turns, takes root, is source of the act of writing. These are acts, always. They all led toward the final episodes, because there is a progression. It is not by chance that the final scenes are scenes of grace, because, as Clarice says, grace is without object, without subject. Those scenes are the most naked. In this strange
corps-à-corps,
one does not know if it is one of love or struggle; she stops at the end and the text continues. Something disengages itself and even if there is no story, there will have been a movement, a movement of liberation, of interminable propulsion, which effectuates itself, which insists, and which performs at the end.

When Clarice writes: "What I write you is a this," to whom does she address herself? To the reader, to you to whom she spoke in permanence, to whom she did write this letter. The "this" orders, orders the reader, shows a direction. 'Do not stop, continue'; do not stop; it is no longer she but a you, transparent, that continues; it may be the text. Then, this extraordinary sentence: "Look at me and love me. No: look at yourself and love yourself." What does one hear? "Look at me and love me" is an imperative, an order given, an injunction spoken. One has in return: "No: look at yourself and love yourself." It inscribes something that the grammar would perhaps negate, but the order has been executed. In other words: you look at me and love me, no: interruption, substitution, while you look at me and love me, in fact in the act of writing, the truth let us say, of the first sentence is in the second: "look at yourself and love yourself." That is to say you think you read me, but what you do is look at yourself and love yourself. Once again, there is a relay of you. It is caught in a general problematic of the
not
I—and there is no more humble way of saying I. But in the meantime, there has been all the work on effacing the subject I, as in
The Passion According to
G.H.
and given the fact that there are only objects, now "I" is an object among objects.

 

 

About the Author,  translator etc.

Clarice Lispector (1925-1977) was one of the most significant twentieth-century Brazilian writers. Her works range from essays to novelistic fiction, short stories, and children's literature. Lispector is best known in Latin America and Europe; only recently have some of her works been translated from Portuguese into English. Other English translations include
The Passion According to G. H.
(Minnesota, 1988),
Family Ties, An Apprenticeship or the Book of Delights, The Apple in the Dark
, and
The Hour of the Star.

Earl Fitz is a professor of Portuguese, Spanish, and comparative literature at the Pennsylvania State University. He received an M.A. in Spanish from the University of Iowa, an M.A. in Portuguese and Luso-Brazilian literature from Queens College, and a Ph.D. in comparative literature from the City University of New York. Fitz has taught at the University of Iowa, the University of Michigan, and Dickinson College.; He is author of
Clarice Lispector
(1985) and
Machado de Àssis
(1989) and contributes to
The Luso Brazilian Review, Hispania, World Literature Today
, and
Comparative Literature Studies.

Elizabeth Lowe teaches in the Department of Romance Languages at the University of Florida and is currently the executive director of the Florida-Brazil Institute. She received her Ph.D. in comparative literature and Portuguese from the City University of New York and was a professor of comparative literature at Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogota, Colombia, managing editor of
Caribbean Review
, and an assistant professor of Portuguese at Mi- ami-Dade Community College. She is author of
The City in Brazilian Literature
(1982) and translator of Antonio Lobo Antunes's
South of Nowhere
(1984) and
Love Stories: A Brazilian Collection
(1979). Her articles and translations have appeared in
Hispania, Mundus Artium, Fiction, Translation, World Literature Today, Luso-Brazilian Review,
and
Caribbean Review.

Hélène Cixous, born in Algeria in 1937, is head of the Center of Research in Feminine Studies at the University of Paris VIII. Since the publication of
La jeune née
in France in 1975, Cixous has become one of the major writers and theoreticians to come out of the French feminist intellectual movement. She received the Prix Medicis in 1969 for her first novel,
Dedans
. Her latest novel,
Manne
(about the Mandelas and Mandelstams), appeared in 1988. Many of her books have been translated into Danish, German, and English, including
The Newly Born Woman
(Minnesota, 1986). She has also written several plays; her two latest— one about Cambodia, the other
(The Indiad
) about the partition of India—were perfomed by the Théâtre du Soleil.

BOOK: The Stream of Life
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