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Authors: Clarice Lispector

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BOOK: The Stream of Life
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Listen ... I let you be, so let me be in turn.

But "eternally" is a very hard word: it has a granite "t" in its middle. "Eternity": for everything that is had no beginning. My little head, so limited, bursts at thinking about something which has no beginning and no end—because the eternal is like that. Happily, this feeling lasts only a short time because I cannot bear for it to continue, and if it persisted it would drive me mad. But my head also bursts at imagining the opposite, something that had a beginning: but where would it begin? And something that was over: but what would happen after it was over? As you see, it's impossible for me to delve deeper into life and possess it, it's aerial, it's my light breathing. But I know full well what I want here: I want the unconcluded. I want the profound organic disorder that nonetheless triggers the intuiting of an underlying order. The great power of potentiality. These, my stammered sentences, are made the very moment they're being written and they crackle they're so new and still so green. They are the now. I want the experience of a lack of structure. Although my text is transversed from beginning to end by a fragile conductive line—what is it? the submersion into matter of the word? passion? An exuberant line, a breath warming the flow of syllables. Life barely eludes me, although I get the conviction that life is other and has a secret style all its own.

This text that I'm giving you is not to be looked at up close: it takes on its secret, previously invisible totality only when it is seen from a high-flying airplane. Then it's possible to discern the interplay of islands, see canals and lakes. Understand me: I'm writing you an onomatopoeia, a convulsion of language. I'm transmitting to you not a story but only words which live off of sound. Thus, I say to you:

"Exuberant trunk."

And I bathe in it. It's linked to the root which penetrates through us down into the earth. Everything I write you is tense. I use loose words that in themselves are free- flying darts—"savages, barbarians, ignoble decadents, marginal figures. " Does this say anything to you? It speaks to me.

But the most important word in the Portuguese language has but a single letter,"é," 'is'. It
is.

I'm in its marrow.

I still am.

I'm in the soft, living center. Still.

It flickers and is elastic. Like the gait of a sleek black panther I once saw which paced softly, slowly, dangerously. But not caged—because I don't want it that way. As for the unforeseeable—the next sentence is unforeseeable for me. In the core where I am, in the core of the
Is,
I don't ask questions. Because when it is—it is. I'm limited only by my identity. I, an elastic entity separated from other bodies.

Truthfully, I still cannot completely discern the thread from the skein of what I'm writing you. I don't think I'll ever see it—but I welcome the darkness where the two eyes of that soft panther glow. The darkness is my cultural broth. The enchanted darkness. I go on speaking to you, risking disconnection: I'm subterraneously unattainable because of what I know.

I write you because I do not understand myself.

But I continue following after myself. Elastically. This forest where I survive in order to exist is so great a mystery. But now I think it's really going to happen. That is, I'm going to go in. I mean, into the mystery. I, myself mysterious, and inside the core where I move by swimming, protozoan-like. One day I childishly said: "I can do anything." It was the foresight that one day I would be able to let myself go and fall into the abandonment of all laws. Elastically. The profound happiness: secret ecstasy. I know how to invent a thought. I feel the tumult of newness. But I'm well aware that what I write is only a tone.

In this core I have the strange impression that I don't belong to the human race.

There are many things to say that I don't know how to say. The words aren't there. But I refuse to invent new ones: the ones that already exist should say what can be said and what is forbidden. And what is forbidden I can divine. If I have the strength. Behind the thought there are no words: it-itself is. My painting has no words: it stays there behind thought. In this territory of the it-itself, I'm pure crystalline ecstasy.
It
is itself. I am myself. You are yourself.

And I'm startled by my apparitions, by what is mythical, fantastic, and gigantic: life is supernatural. And I walk holding an open umbrella on a tightrope. I walk to the limit of my great dream. I see the fury of visceral impulses: tortured visceras guide me. I don't like what I've just written—but I'm forced to accept the whole passage because it happened to me. And I respect very much what I cause to happen to myself. My essence is unconscious of itself, and it's for that reason I blindly obey myself.

I'm being antimelodic. I delight in the difficult harmony of harsh contrasts. Where am I going? and the answer simply is: I'm going.

When I die I will then never have been born or have lived: death erases the traces of seafoam on the sand.

Now is an instant.

And now, already, is another one.

And another. My intent: to bring the future into the present. I move within my deepest instincts which carry themselves out blindly. I feel then that I'm close to fountains, lakes, and waterfalls, all of overflowing waters. And I'm free.

Hear me, hear my silence. What I speak is never what I speak but something else. When I say "overflowing waters" I'm talking about bodily strength within the waters of the world. Capture this something else of which I truly speak because I myself cannot. Read the energy that is there in my silence. Ah, I'm fearful of God and of His silence.

I am myself.

But there's also the mystery of the impersonal that is the "it": I have the impersonal within me and its not rotten and corruptible by the personal that sometimes drenches me: but I dry myself in the sun and I'm impersonal, made of a dry, germinating seed. My personal is humus on the earth and lives off what has rotted. My "it" is hard like a pebble.

The transcendent in me is the living, soft "if," and it has the thoughts an oyster has. Is it possible that the oyster, when its torn from its root, feels anxiety? It becomes uneasy in its eyeless life. I used to be in the habit of squeezing lemon juice on live oysters and seeing with horror and fascination how they would recoil. And I was eating the living
it.
The living
it
is God.

I'm going to stop for a while because I know that God is the world. He is what exists. Do I pray for what exists? It isn't dangerous to approach what exists. Deep prayer is a meditation on the void. It's the dry, electric contact with self, an impersonal self.

What I don't like is when they squeeze lemon on what's deepest in me and make me recoil. Are the facts of life the lemon on the oyster? Does the oyster sleep?

What is the primal element? soon there had to be two to create the secret, intimate motion from which milk pours forth.

I'm told that after a cat gives birth it eats its own placenta and for four days doesn't eat anything more. Only after that will it drink milk. Let me speak just about nursing. They talk of the milk letting down. What does that mean? It wouldn't do any good for me to explain because the explanation requires another explanation which would lead to another explanation and which would arrive again at the mystery. But I know about the
it
things of nursing children.

I'm breathing. In and out. In and out. How does the naked oyster breathe? If it breathes, I don't see it. Does what I don't see not exist? What moves me most is that what I don't see exists nonetheless. Because then I have at my feet a whole unknown world that fully exists brimming with rich saliva. The truth is somewhere: but it's useless to think about it. I won't discover it and yet I live off it.

What I'm writing you does not come softly, rising little by little to a climax, then to die softly afterward. No: what I write you is made of fire, eyes glowing like coals.

There's a full moon tonight. Through the window the moon covers my bed and leaves everything a milky blue- white. The moonlight is awkward. It stays on the left side of whoever comes in. Then I flee, my eyes closed. Because the full moon is of a light insomnia: it's torpid and sleepy like after making love. And I had decided that I was going to go to sleep so I could dream ... I was yearning for the novelty of dreams.

Then I dreamed something that I'm going to try to reproduce. It's about a film I was watching. In it there was a man who was imitating a movie actor. And everything this man did was in turn imitated by others and then others. Every move. And there were ads for a drink called Zerbino. The man would take a bottle of Zerbino and raise it to his mouth. Then everyone would take a bottle of Zerbino and raise it to their mouths. In the middle the man who was imitating a movie actor would say: "This film is an advertisement for Zerbino, and Zerbino really isn't any good." But that wasn't the end. The man took the bottle again and drank and drank. And all the others did the same ... it was awful. Zerbino was an institution stronger than man. The women at that time all looked like airline stewardesses. Airline stewardesses are dehydrated—you have to add enough water to their powder to make them into milk. It's a film about automatic people acutely and solemnly aware that they are automatic and that there's no escape. God is not automatic: for Him, every instant
is.
He is
it.

But there are questions I asked as a child that were never answered, they remained, plaintively echoing: "did the world make itself? but where was it made? in what place? And if it was through the energy of God—how did it begin? Could it have been like now, when I'm being and making myself at the same time?" It's because of that lack of answers that I'm so lost.

But 9 and 7 and 8 are my secret numbers. I'm a novice without a cult. Avid for the mystery. My passion for the essence of numbers, in which I divine the essence of their rigid and fatal destiny. And I dream of teeming grandeurs submerged in shadows: I become excited at the abundance in which the velvety carnivorous plants are we who have just sprouted, sharp love—slow swoon.

Could it be that what I'm writing you is behind thinking? What it definitely is not is rationality. Anyone who can stop reasoning—which is a terribly difficult thing to do—should come with me. But at least I'm not imitating a movie actor and nobody needs to raise me to their mouth or become an airline stewardess.

I'm going to confess something to you; I'm a little frightened. It's just that I don't know where this freedom of mine will take me. It's not arbitrary or libertine. But I am free.

Once in a while I'll give you a light story—a melodic aria and cantabile to interrupt this string quartet of mine: a figurative passage to open a clearing in my life- giving jungle.

Am I free? There's something that still restrains me. Or am I fastening myself to it? Either way, it's like this: I'm not completely free because I'm tied to everything. In fact, a person is everything. It's not a heavy burden to carry by yourself because it isn't simply carried: one is everything.

It seems to me that for the first time I'm gaining in understanding about things. The impression is that I don't try anymore to come closer to things so I won't go beyond myself. I have a certain fear of myself, I'm not to be trusted and I distrust my false power.

This is the word of someone who cannot.

I don't control anything. Not even my own words. But it isn't sad: it's humble happiness. I, who live to the side, I'm to the left of whoever comes in. And within me trembles the world.

Does my language seem promiscuous to you? I would like it not to be, I'm not promiscuous. But I am kaleidoscopic: my sparkling mutations, which here I kaleidoscopically register, fascinate me.

I'm going to stop for a while now so I can delve deeper into myself. I shall return later.

I'm back. I was existing. I received a letter from Säo Paulo from someone I don't know. A suicide note. I called Säo Paulo. There was no answer . . . the phone rang and rang and rang as in a silent apartment. Did he die or didn't he? This morning I called again: still no answer. Yes, he died. I'll never forget it.

I'm not frightened any more. Let me speak, all right? I was born like this: tearing from my mother's uterus a life that always was eternal. Wait for me, will you? At the moment of painting or writing I'm anonymous. My deep anonymity, that no one has ever touched.

I have something important to tell you. I'm not joking:
it
is pure element. It's the material of an instant of time. I'm not objectifying anything: I'm in true birth-labor with the
it.
I feel dizzy like someone who's going to be born.

To be born: I've seen a cat giving birth. The kitten comes out enclosed in a water sac and all shriveled inside. The mother licks the water sac so many times that it finally breaks and then, behold, an almost-free cat, held only by the umbilical cord. Then the cat-mother-creator breaks the cord with her teeth and one more fact appears in the world. This process is
it.
I'm not joking. I'm serious. Because I'm free. I'm so simple.

I'm giving you freedom. First, I break the water sac. Then, I cut the umbilical cord. And you are alive, on your own.

And when I'm born I'm free. That's the root of my tragedy.

No. It isn't easy. But
it is.
I ate my own placenta so I wouldn't have to eat for four days. To have milk to give you. The milk is a
this.
And no one is me. No one is you. This is solitude.

I'm waiting for the next sentence. It's a matter of seconds. Speaking of seconds, I ask if you can stand it that time is today and now and this very instant. I can stand it because I ate my own placenta.

At 3:30 this morning I woke up and, immediately elastic, I jumped out of bed. I came to write you. That is: to be. Now it's 5:30 in the morning. I don't feel like doing anything: I'm pure. I don't wish this solitude on you. But I myself am in the creative darkness. Lucid darkness, luminous foolishness.

There are many things I can't tell you. I'm not going to be autobiographical. I want to be "bio."

BOOK: The Stream of Life
3.46Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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