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Authors: Clarice Lispector

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BOOK: The Stream of Life
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The day is now advanced and suddenly Sunday again in abrupt eruption. Sunday is a day of echoes—hot, dry, everywhere the hum of bees and wasps, the cries of birds, rhythmic hammering in the distance—where do the echoes of Sunday come from? I, who detest Sunday because it's hollow. I, who want the most basic thing because it's the source of generation—I, who aspire to drink water at the fountainhead—I, who am all this, must, because of fate and tragic destiny, know and experience only the echoes of myself, for I do not capture my real self, I'm in stupefying expectation, trembling, marveling, my back to the world, and somewhere an innocent squirrel scampers away. Plants, plants. I doze on in Sunday's summer heat that has flies circling around the sugar bowl. Sunday's flaunting of colors, its ripe splendor. And all this I painted some time ago, and on another Sunday. And behold that once virgin canvas, now covered with ripe colors. Blue flies sparkle in front of my window, opened into the air of the torpid street. The day is like the taut, smooth skin of a piece of fruit that undergoes a small catastrophe when bitten, draining its juice away. I'm afraid of this accursed Sunday that liquifies me.

To restore you and myself, I return to my state of garden and shade, cool reality, I hardly exist and if I do exist it's with delicate care. Surrounding the shade is a teeming, sweaty heat, I'm alive. But I feel I've not yet reached my limits, bordering on what? Without limits, the adventure of a dangerous freedom. But I take the risk, I live taking it. I'm full of acacias swaying yellow, and I, who have barely begun my journey, begin it with a sense of tragedy, guessing what lost ocean my life steps will take me to. And crazily I latch onto the corners of myself, my hallucinations suffocate me with their beauty. I am before, I am almost, I am never. And all this I gained when I stopped loving you.

I write you as a rough sketch before painting. I see words. What I speak is pure present, and this book is a straight line in space. It's always present time, and the shutter of a camera opens and immediately closes, but keeping the flash inside it. Even if I say "I have lived" or "I shall live," its present because I'm saying it now.

I also started these pages with the purpose of preparing to paint. But now I'm caught up with the joy of the words, and I almost free myself from the realm of paint; I feel a voluptuousness in creating what to tell you. I live the initiation ceremony of the word and my gestures are hieratic and triangular.

Yes, this is life seen by life itself. But suddenly I forget how to capture what happens, I don't know how to capture what exists except by living here each thing that may come, no matter what it is: I'm almost free of my mistakes. I let the freed horse run wildly. I, who trot on nervously, delimited only by reality.

And when the day comes to an end, I hear the crickets, and become full and unintelligible. Then I live the blue dawn that arrives with its gullet full of little birds—could it be that I'm giving you an idea of what a person experiences in life? I take note of everything that happens to me, to fix it. Because I want to feel the quivering, vital nerve of the present in my hands and have that nerve of life interact with me like a pulsating vein. May it rebel, that nerve of life, may it twist and throb. And let sapphires, amethysts, and emeralds spill into the obscure eroticism of full life: because in my darkness the great topaz finally shimmers, a word that has its own light.

I'm now listening to savage music, distantly beating, rhythms reaching me from a nearby house where drugged-out youngsters are living out the present. One more instant of ceaseless rhythm, ceaseless, and something terrible will happen to me.

Because of the rhythm's paroxysm, I shall cross over—cross over to the other side of life. How can I make it clear to you? It's terrible and it's threatening to me. I sense that I cannot stop anymore, and I'm afraid. I try to distract myself from fear. But the real hammering stopped a long time ago: I am the incessant hammering within myself. And I have to free myself from it. But I'm not succeeding: the other side of me is calling. The footsteps I hear are my own.

I'm writing you as if I were tearing the snarled roots of a colossal tree from the depths of the earth, and those roots were like powerful tentacles, like the voluminous nude bodies of strong women wrapped in serpents and carnal desires of realization, and all this is a Black Mass prayer and a groveling plea for amen: because what is bad is unprotected and needs the acquiescence of God: behold, creation.

Is it possible that without noticing it I've slipped over to the other side? The other side is a throbbingly infernal life. But there too is the transfiguration of my terror: I then deliver myself to a heavy life of heavy symbols, like ripe fruit. I choose the wrong similes, but they pull me along in their web. A minimal part of the memory of my past's good sense still keeps me in touch with this side. Help me, because something is approaching and its laughing at me. Quickly, save me!

But nobody can give me their hand so that I can escape: I have to use great strength—and in the nightmare I finally in a sudden convulsion fall prostrate back onto this side. I allow myself to remain splayed on the rough ground, exhausted, my heart still beats wildly, I take in air in huge gulps. Am I safe? I wipe my wet brow. I stand up slowly, I try to take the first steps of a faltering recovery. I'm beginning to steady myself.

No, all this is not happening in real facts but rather in the domain of... of an art? Yes, of an artifice through which there arises a very delicate reality that comes to exist within me: that transfiguration has happened to me.

But the other side, from which I barely escaped, has become sacred, and to no one shall I tell my secret. It seems to me that on the other side I made a vow in a dream, a blood pact. No one will know anything about it: what I know is so volatile and almost nonexistent that it remains between myself and me.

Am I one of the weak ones? a weakling who was caught up in the ceaseless, crazy rhythm? If I were solid and strong wouldn't I at least have heard the rhythm? I don't find answers: I am. This is all that comes to me from life. But what am I? The only answer is, I'm the
what
. Although sometimes I cry: "I don't want to be me anymore!!" But I affix myself to myself and inextricably a tessitura of life is formed.

Whoever wishes may accompany me: the road is long, it's painful but it's lived. Because now I speak to you in earnest: I'm not playing with words. I embody myself in voluptuous and unintelligible phrases that spiral outward beyond words. And a silence arises subtly from the clash of sentences.

Writing, then, is the way followed by someone who uses words like bait: a word fishing for what is not a word. When that non-word—the whatever's between the lines— bites the bait, something's been written. Once the between the lines has been hooked, you can throw the word away with relief. But there the analogy ends: the non- word, in biting the bait, incorporates it. What saves you, then, is to write absent-mindedly.

I don't want to have the terrible limitation of the person who lives only by what can be made to make sense. Not I, no: what I want is an invented truth.

What shall I tell you about? I shall tell you about the instants. I exceed my limits and only then do I exist and then in a feverish way. I'm very feverish . . . will I ever be able to stop living? God help me, I die so much. I follow the tortuous path of roots breaking through the earth, for passion is my talent, in the burning of a dry tree I twist in the flames. To the duration of my existence I give a hidden meaning which surpasses me. I'm a concomitant being: I unite in myself past, present, and future time, the time that throbs in the tick-tock of clocks.

To interpret and shape myself I need new signs and new articulations in forms which are found both on this side of my human history and on the other. I transfigure reality, and then another reality, dreamy and somnambulant, creates me in turn. And I, whole again, roll on the ground and as I roll I pick up leaves, I, anonymous creation of an anonymous reality justified only as long as my life lasts. And afterward? . . . afterward, all I have lived will amount to the experiences of a poor, superfluous being.

But as for now I'm in the center of something that shouts and surges forth. And it's subtle, like the most intangible reality. As for now, time is how long a thought lasts.

It's that pure, this contact with the invisible nucleus of reality.

I know what I'm doing here: I'm counting the instants that drip and are thick with blood.

I know what I'm doing here . . . I'm improvising. But what's wrong with that? I improvise in the same way they improvise in jazz, frenzied jazz, I improvise in front of the audience.

It's so curious to have exchanged paints for this strange thing that is the word. Words ... I move carefully among them, for they can turn menacing; I can have the freedom to write such as the following: "Pilgrims, merchants and shepherds led their caravans toward Tibet, and the roads were hard and primitive." With this sentence, I give birth to a scene, as in the flash of a camera.

What does this improvised jazz bespeak? It bespeaks arms entangled in legs and flames rising and I passive like a piece of flesh that's devoured by the sharp hooked beak of an eagle that stops its blind flight. I express to myself and to you my most secret desires and with the words achieve a confused, orgiastic beauty. I shiver with pleasure in the midst of the innovation of using words that form intense underbrush! I struggle to conquer more fully the freedom that I have of sensations and thoughts without any utilitarian meaning: I'm alone, I and my freedom. My freedom is of such proportions that it could scandalize a savage, but I know you aren't scandalized with the plenitude that I achieve and that is without any perceptible frontiers. This capacity of mine to live what is round and full—I surround myself with carnivorous plants and legendary creatures, all bathed in the coarse, awkward light of a mythical sex. I go ahead intuitively, and without looking for an idea: I'm organic. And I don't question myself about my motives. I immerse myself in the near pain of an intense happiness—and to adorn me leaves and branches are born from out of my hair.

I don't know what I'm writing about: I'm obscure even to myself. Initially I had only a lunar, lucid vision, and then I clasped that instant to myself before it died and perpetually dies. I transmit to you not a message of ideas but rather an instinctive voluptuousness of what is hidden in nature and that I sense. And this is a feast of words. I write in signs that are more gesture than voice. All this is what I used to paint, probing into the intimate nature of things. But now the time has come to stop painting in order for me to remake myself, I remake myself in these lines. I have a voice. Just as when I throw myself into the outline of my sketch, this is an exercise in life without planning. The world has no visible order, and I have only the order of my breathing. I let myself happen.

I'm in the great dreams of the night: because the now-instant is night. And I sing the passage of time . . . I'm still the queen of the Medes and the Persians and I am also my own slow evolution which thrusts itself out like a drawbridge into a future whose milky fogs I already breathe today. My aura is life mystery. I exceed myself by abdicating myself and then I am the world: I follow the voice of the world, I myself, suddenly, with a single voice.

The world ... a tangle of bristling telegraph wires. And the luminosity, albeit obscure: this I am before the world.

A dangerous balance, mine, the danger of my soul's death. Today's night looks at me with torpor, verdigris and enticement. I want inside this night which is longer than life, I want, inside this night, raw, bloody life full of saliva. I want the following word: splendor, splendor is fruit in all its succulence, fruit without sadness. I want vast distances. My savage intuition of myself. But my essence is always hidden. I am implicit. And when I begin to make myself explicit I lose my moist intimacy. What color is the infinity of space? It's the color of air.

Us . . . facing the scandal of death.

Listen only superficially to what I say and from the lack of meaning will be born a meaning, as from me light, ethereal life is inexplicably born. The dense jungle of words wraps itself thickly around what I feel and live, and transforms everything I am into something of my own that remains beyond me. Nature is all-encompassing: it coils around me and is sexually alive, just that and nothing more: just alive. I too am savagely alive—and I lick my snout like the tiger after it has devoured the deer.

I write you in the very core of the instant. I unfold myself only in the present. I speak today—not yesterday or tomorrow but today—and in this very perishable instant.

My small, fenced-in freedom ties me to the freedom of the world-but what is a window other than air framed by a molding? I'm harshly alive. "I'm leaving," says death, without adding that its taking me along. And I tremble, gasping for air, at having to go with death. I am death. It comes within my very being—how can I say it? It's a sensual death. Like a dead woman I walk the fields in the tall grass, stalks of green light: I am Diana, the Huntress of gold, and I find only boneyards: I live in a stratum underlying feeling: I'm barely living.

But these high summer days of damnation blow over me the necessity of renunciation. I renounce having a meaning, and then sweet, painful exhaustion takes me over. Forms round and round intersect in the air. It's hot like summer. I navigate in my galley that defies the winds of an enchanted summer. Crushed leaves remind me of the ground of childhood. The green hand and the golden breasts . . . that is how I paint the mark of Satan. Those who fear us and our alchemy stripped witches and magicians seeking the secret sign that was almost always found even though it could be known only by a glance, since the sign was indescribable and unutterable even in the blackness of a Middle Age . . . Middle Ages, you are my dark underlying, and by the light of the bonfires the branded ones dance in circles, riding branches and leafy boughs which are the phallic symbol of fertility: even in the White Masses blood is used, and drunk.

BOOK: The Stream of Life
12.66Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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