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Authors: Clarice Lispector

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BOOK: The Stream of Life
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I write as the words flow.

Before the mirror was invented, people did not know their own faces except when they were reflected in the waters of a lake. After a certain time everyone's responsible for the face he or she has. I'm going to look at mine right now. It's a naked face. And when I think that there's no equal to mine in the world, I'm happily frightened. Nor will there ever be. Never is the impossible. I like never. I also like always. What is there between never and always that links them so indirectly and so intimately?

At the root of everything there's the hallelujah.

This instant
You who read me

It's hard for me to believe that I will die. Because I'm bubbling in a frigid freshness. My life is going to be very long because each instant
The impression is that I'm still to be born and I can't quite manage it.

I'm a heart beating in the world.

You who read me, help me to be born.

Wait: it's getting dark. Darker.

And darker.

The instant is total darkness.

It continues on.

Wait: I'm beginning to get a glimpse of something. A luminescent form. A milky belly with a navel? Wait—for I shall get out of this darkness where I'm afraid, darkness and ecstasy. I'm the heart of the shadows.

The problem is that there's a defect in the curtain in the window of my room. It doesn't draw and so it doesn't close, either. So the full moon comes in, and the room becomes phosphorescent with silence: it's horrible.

Now the shadows are dissipating.

I was born.


Marvelous scandal... I am born.

My eyes are closed. I'm pure unconsciousness. They've already cut the umbilical cord: I'm loose in the universe. I don't think but I feel the
With eyes closed I search blindly for the breast: I want thick milk. Nobody taught me to want. But now I want. I remain lying down with eyes open, looking at the ceiling. Inside is the darkness. A pulsating I is taking shape. There are sunflowers. There is tall wheat. I

I hear the hollow rumble of time. It's the world deafly taking shape. If I hear it's because I exist before the formation of time. "I am" is the world. World without time. My consciousness now is light and is air. The air has neither place nor time. The air is the non-place where everything will exist. What I'm writing is music of the air. The formation of the world. Little by little what will be approaches. What will be already is. The future is ahead and behind and on the sides. The future is what has always existed and always will exist. Even if Time is abolished? What I'm writing you is not to be read—it's to be. The trumpets of angel-beings echo in the timelessness. The first flower is born in the air. The ground that is earth is formed. The rest is air and the rest is slow fire in perpetual mutation. Does the word "perpetual" not exist because time does not exist? But the rumble exists. And my existence begins to exist. Does time then begin?

It suddenly occurred to me that it's not necessary to have order to five. There's no pattern to follow and there's not even pattern itself: I am born.

I'm still not ready to speak of "him" or "her." I point to "that."
is universal law. Birth and death. Birth. Death. Birth and . . . like the world breathing.

I'm pure
that was rhythmically pulsating. But I feel that soon I'll be ready to speak of "him" or "her." I don't promise you a story here. But it has
Who can endure this?
is soft and is an oyster and is a placenta. I'm not joking because I'm not a synonym—I'm a proper noun.

There's a line of steel traversing all of this that I'm writing you. There's the future. Which is today.

My vast night takes place in a primary state of latency. My hand rests upon the earth and listens hotly to the beating of a heart. I see the large white slug with a woman's breasts: is it a human entity? I burn it in an inquisitional fire. I possess the mysticism of the shadows of a remote past. And I leave these tortures of a victim with the indescribable mark that symbolizes life. Elementary creatures surround me, dwarfs, goblins, gnomes, and genies. I sacrifice animals to take from them the blood I need for my occult ceremonies. In my fury I offer up the soul in its own blackness. The Mass terrifies me—I who perform it. And the turbid mind dominates all matter. The beast bares its teeth, and horses of allegorical chariots gallop through the distant air.

In my night I idolize the secret meaning of the world. Mouth and tongue. And a loose horse, running free. I keep his hoof as a loving fetish. In the depth of my night there blows a crazed wind that brings me threads of cries.

I'm feeling the martyrdom of an inopportune sensuality. I wake at dawn full of fruit. Who will come to gather the fruits of my life? If not you and I myself? Why is it that an instant before things happen they seem to have already happened? It's a question of time's simultaneity. That's why I ask you questions and why there will be so many of them. Because I am a question.

And in my night I feel the evil that dominates me. What they usually call a beautiful landscape only wearies me. I like landscapes of parched, dry earth with twisted trees, and mountains made of rock, and a dull, motionless light. Yes, that's where the hidden beauty lies. I also know that you don't like art. I was born hard, heroic, solitary, and on my feet. And I found my counterpoint in a landscape lacking all that is picturesque or beautiful. Ugliness is my battle standard. I love the ugly with the passion of equal for equal. And I defy death. I—I am my own death. And no one can go further than that. What is barbaric within me seeks the cruel barbarism beyond me. I see in shades of light and dark the faces of people who twist and sway in the flames of the bonfire. I am a tree that burns with hard pleasure. A single sweetness possesses me: collusion with the world. I love my cross, which I painfully bear. It's the least I can do with my life: accept compassionately the sacrifice of the night.

The strange overtakes me: then I open the black umbrella and become agitated at a gala ball where stars shine brilliantly. The furious nerve within me that makes me writhe. Until the dead of night comes to find me bloodless. The deep night is vast and it devours me. The wind beckons. I follow it and break apart. If I don't join the game that unfolds as life, I'll lose my own life in a suicide of my species. I protect with fire my life game. When my own existence and the world's become no longer tenable through reason, then I'll free myself and pursue a latent truth. Would I even recognize the truth if it revealed itself to me?

I'm making myself. I'll make myself until I reach the core.

About me in the world I want to tell you of the force that guides me and brings me the world, of the vital sensuality of clear-cut structures and of the curves that are organically linked to other curved forms. My graphicness and my circumvolutions are powerful and the freedom that blows in the summer bears its own fatedness. The eroticism inherent in living things is scattered through the air, in the sea, in the plants, in us, scattered in the vehemence of my voice, I'm writing you with my voice. And there's the vigor of a robust trunk, of roots buried in the living earth that responds by giving them abundant food. At night I breathe in the energy. And all this in the fantastic. Fantastic: the world for one instant is exactly what my heart requires, I'm ready to die and form new compositions. I'm expressing myself very badly and the right words escape me. My internal form is finely distilled and yet my connection with the world has the naked rawness of free dreams and great realities. I know no limits. And my own strength frees me, that full life that overflows from within me. And I plan nothing in the intuitive labor that is my living: I labor with the indirect, the informal, and the unforeseen.

Now, at dawn, I'm pale and panting and my mouth is dry in the face of what I achieve. Nature in a choral canticle and me dying. What does nature sing? the final word itself which is not I never more. The centuries will fall upon me. But for the time being a truculence of body and soul manifests itself in the rich avalanche of heavy words that knock each other over—and something savage, primary, and angry rises up from out of my swamps, the accursed plant which is about to deliver itself to God. The more accursed, the closer to God. I've looked into myself and discovered that I want raw, bloody life, and the occult meaning is so intense that it has light. It's the secret light of a knowledge of destiny: the bedrock of earth. It's more a presentiment of life than life itself. I exorcise it, excluding all that is profane. In my world little freedom of action is granted me. I'm free only to carry out fateful gestures. My anarchy subterraneously obeys a law where I deal clandestinely with astronomy, mathematics, and mechanics. The liturgy of dissonant swarms of insects that rise from cloudy and pestilent bogs. Insects, frogs, lice, flies, fleas, and crabs— everything born of a corrupt, noxious gestation of larvae. And my hunger feeds on those putrid, decomposing creatures. My rite purifies my strength. But malignancy lurks in the jungle. I take a draught of blood that satiates me. I hear cymbals and trumpets and drums that fill the air with noises and tumult, muffling then the silence of the sun disc and its prodigy. I want a cloak woven with threads of solar gold. The sun is the magical tension of silence. In my trek to the mysteries I hear the carnivorous plant that laments times immemorial: and I have obscene nightmares buffeted by sickly winds. I am enchanted, seduced, tossed by furtive voices. The almost unintelligible cuneiform inscriptions speak of how to conceive and give formulas for feeding on the strength of the darkness. They speak of naked and groveling females. And the eclipse of the sun causes secret terror that nonetheless proclaims a splendor of the heart. I place the bronze diadem over my hair.

Behind the thought—back even further—is the ceiling I looked at as an infant. Suddenly, I was crying. It was already love. Or maybe I wasn't crying. I was keeping watch. Scrutinizing the ceiling. The instant is the vast egg of warm viscera.

Now it's dawn again.

But at sunrise I think we're contemporaries of the next day. God help me: I'm lost. I need you terribly. We have to be two. So that the wheat can be tall, I'm so solemn that I'm going to stop.

I was born a few moments ago and I'm dazed.

The crystals tinkle and sparkle. The wheat is ripe: the bread is broken. But broken softly? It's important to know. I don't think, just as the diamond doesn't think. I shine, totally clear. I'm neither hungry nor thirsty: I am. I have two eyes that are open. Open to the void. To the ceiling.

I'm going to make an adagio. Read slowly and peacefully. It's a large fresco.

To be born is like this:

The sunflowers slowly turn their corollas to the sun. The wheat is ripe. The bread has a softness that devours itself. My impulse merges with that of the roots of the trees.

Birth: the poor have a prayer in Sanskrit. They do not ask: they are poor in spirit. Birth . . . the Africans have a skin that's black and opaque. Many are the children of the Queen of Sheba with King Solomon. To lull me, recently born, to sleep, the Africans intone a simple chant, monotonously singing about a mother-in-law who, as soon as they leave, comes and steals a bunch of bananas.

There is a love song of theirs that tells, also monotonously, the lament that I make my own: why do I love you if you don't requite? I send messengers in vain; when I compliment you, you hide your face; why do I love you if you don't even notice me? There is also the lullaby for elephants on their way to bathe in the river. I am African: a sad and long and savage fibre of lament is in this voice of mine that sings to you. The whites used to beat the blacks with whips. But just as the swan secretes an oil that waterproofs its skin, so the blacks' pain cannot penetrate and hurt. It's possible to transform pain into pleasure—one "click" is enough. A black swan?

But there are those who are dying of hunger and all I can do is be born. My long, monotonous narrative is: what can I do for them? My answer is: paint a fresco in adagio. I could suffer the hunger of others in silence, but a contralto voice makes me sing—a dusky, black song. It's just my message as a person. A person eats another from hunger. But I have fed on my own placenta. And I'll not bite my nails because this is a peaceful adagio.

I stopped to drink a glass of cool water: the glass in this now-instant is of thick, faceted crystal with thousands of sparkles of instants. Are objects time stopped?

The moon is still full. Clocks have stopped and a hoarse chime slides down the wall. I want to be buried with a watch on my wrist so that something can pulsate time under the earth.

I'm so vast. I'm coherent: my canticle is profound. Slow. But growing. It's growing still more. If it grows enough, it turns into a full moon and silence. . . and a phantasmagoric lunar surface. Witness to the stopping of time. What I write you is serious. It will turn into a hard, imperishable object. What comes is unforeseen. To be uselessly sincere, I must now say that its six fifteen in the morning.

The risk—I'm risking the discovery of new territory. Where human feet have never trod. First, I have to pass through the perfumed vegetation. I was given a bridal wreath, which now sits on my terrace. I shall begin to make my own perfume: I'll buy the right kind of alcohol and the essence of what has been dissolved, and above all the fixative, which has to have a purely animal origin. Heavy musk. That's the last austere chord of the adagio. My number is 9. It's 7. It's 8. All behind thought. If all that exists, then I am. But why this uneasiness? Because I'm not living the only way that there is for a person to live and I don't even know what it is. Uncomfortable. I don't feel well. I don't know what the matter is. But something's wrong and it makes me anxious. Nevertheless, I'm being frank and my game is clean. I begin the game. Only I don't tell the facts of my life: I'm secretive by nature. What is it, then? I only know that I don't want deception. I refuse. I've looked into myself but I don't believe in myself because my thought is invented.

BOOK: The Stream of Life
2.84Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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