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Authors: Clarice Lispector

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BOOK: The Stream of Life
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I can now prepare myself for the "he" or "she." The adagio has come to an end. Now I begin. I'm not lying. My truth sparkles like the prism of a crystal chandelier.

But its hidden. I can stand it because I'm strong: I've eaten my own placenta.

Even though everything is so fragile. I feel so lost. I live off secret, radiating, luminous rays that would smother me if I didn't cover them with a heavy cloak of false certainties. God help me: I have no one to guide me and it's dark again.

Will I have to die again in order to be reborn again? I accept.

I'm going to go back to the unknown within myself and when I'm born I'll speak of "him" or "her." For the time being, what sustains me is the 'that' which is an "it." To create a being from oneself is something very serious. I'm creating myself. And walking in complete darkness in search of ourselves is what we do. It hurts. But it's labor pain: something is being born that is. It is itself. It's hard like a dry stone. But the core is "
," soft and alive, perishable, in danger. The life of elementary matter.

Since God does not have a name, I'll give Him the name of Simptar. It doesn't come from any language. I give myself the name of Amptala. As far as I know no such name exists. Perhaps in a language earlier than Sanskrit, an
language. I hear the tick-tock of the clock: so I hurry. The tick-tock is "

I don't think I'll die in the next instant because the doctor who gave me a detailed examination said that I'm in perfect health. There, do you see? the instant passed and I didn't die. I want them to bury me directly into the ground, though inside a coffin. I don't want to be closeted in the wall, as in the St. John the Baptist Cemetery that has no more room in the ground. That's why they invented those damned walls, where one is filed away as in an archive.

Now is an instant. Do you feel it? I do.

The air is "
" and has no perfume. I like it too. But I also like the bridal wreath, leavened with musk because its sweetness is a surrender to the moon. I've eaten jelly made from small, scarlet roses: its taste blesses us at the same time that it assaults us. How to reproduce taste in words? Taste is single and words are many. And as for music, after it's played, where does it go? The only concrete feature of music is the instrument. Well behind thought I have a musical core. But even further back there's the beating heart. The deepest thought is, then, a beating heart.

I want to die with life. I swear I shall only die taking full advantage of the final moment. There's a profound prayer within me that will be born I don't know when. I wanted so much to die of health. Like someone who explodes.
is better:
For the time being, there's dialogue with you. Later, it will be a monologue. Then, silence. I know there will be an order.

Once again the chaos readies itself, like instruments tuning up to play electronic music. I'm improvising and the beauty of what I improvise is a fugue. I feel throbbing within me the prayer as yet unformed. I feel I'm going to ask to have the facts merely trickle down me without getting me wet. I'm ready for the great silence of death. I'm going to sleep.

I'm up again. Ready for the coup de grâce. Because I'm tired of defending myself. I'm innocent. Even ingenuous, because I give myself without guarantees. I was born by Order, I'm completely calm. I breathe by Order. I don't have a life style: I've achieved the impersonal, which is so difficult to do. In a little while the Order is going to command me to go beyond the maximum. To go beyond the maximum is to live the pure element. There are people who cannot stand it: they throw up. But I'm used to blood.

What beautiful music I hear deep within myself. It's made of geometric lines crisscrossing in the air. It's chamber music. Chamber music is melody-less. It's a way of expressing silence. What I'm writing you is chamber music.

And what I'm trying to write is a way of debating with myself. I'm terrified. Why on this Earth were there dinosaurs? how is a race extinguished?

I see that I'm writing as if I were between sleep and


Suddenly I see that there's much I'm not understanding. Is the blade of my knife going dull? It seems to me that most probably I don't understand because what I see now is difficult: I'm entering surreptitiously into contact with a reality new to me that still doesn't have thoughts that correspond, much less a word to signify it: it's a sensation behind thought.

And, behold, my evil dominates me. I'm still the cruel queen of the Medes and the Persians and I'm also a slow evolution that extends itself like a drawbridge toward a future whose milky mists I already breathe. My aura is the mystery of life. Renouncing my name, I go beyond myself, and then I am the world. I follow the voice of the world with my single voice.

What I write you has no beginning: it's a continuation. From the words of this song, a song that's mine and yours, there arises a halo that transcends the lines ... do you feel it? My experience comes from the fact that I've already been able to paint the halo of things. The halo is more important than the things and than the words. The halo is vertiginous. I shove the word into the barren emptiness . . . a word is like a fine, monolithic block that projects a shadow. And it's a heraldic trumpet that proclaims. The halo is the

I need to feel the
of the animals again. It's been a long time since I've come into contact with primitive animal life. I have a need to study animals. I want to capture the
in order to be able to paint not an eagle and a horse but a horse with the open wings of a giant eagle.

I tremble all over when I enter into physical contact with animals or with the mere sight of them. Animals fantasticate me. They're the time that one can't count as it passes by. I seem to have a certain horror of the living creature that is not human and that has my own instincts, although free and indomitable. An animal never substitutes one thing for another.

Animals don't laugh. Although sometimes a dog laughs. Beyond the panting mouth the smile is transmitted by eyes turned brilliant and more sensual as the tail wags in happy anticipation. But a cat never laughs. A "he" I know doesn't want to know anything more about cats. He had his fill of cats forever when a certain she-cat he had went into periodic fits. Its instincts were so overpowering that when it went into heat, after long and plaintive meows, it would throw itself off the roof and lie wounded on the ground.

Sometimes I'm electrified when I see an animal. I'm hearing the ancestral shout within myself now: it seems I no longer know which of us is the animal, I or the creature. And I become completely confused. It seems I become afraid to face the suppressed instincts which I'm forced to assume in the presence of the animal.

I once met a "she" who humanized animals by talking to them and giving them her own characteristics. I don't humanize animals because it's a crime—one has to respect their nature—what I do is I animalize myself. It isn't hard and it comes easily. It's a matter of not fighting it and simply surrendering.

Theres nothing more difficult than to surrender yourself to the instant. This difficulty is human pain. It's ours. I give myself over in words and I give myself over when I paint.

To hold a bird in the half-closed palm of your hand is terrible, it's as if you had the trembling instants in your hand. The terrified bird beats its thousands of wings frantically and suddenly its fine, beating wings are in your partly closed hand and suddenly it becomes intolerable, and so your hand opens quickly to free the fragile prisoner. Or you return it quickly to its owner so he can give it the greater relative freedom of the cage. Birds ... I want them in trees or flying, far away from my hands. Perhaps one day I'll become intimate with them and enjoy their ever so light presence of the instant. "Enjoy their ever so light presence" gives me the sensation of having written a complete sentence by saying exactly what it is: the levitation of birds.

It would never occur to me to keep an owl, although I've painted them in the caves. But in Santa Teresa thicket, a "she" found a baby owl, all alone on the ground and needing its mother. She took it home. She sheltered it. She fed it and cooed to it and finally ended up discovering that it liked raw meat. When it became strong, it seemed natural that it should immediately fly away but it delayed in going to search for its own destiny, which would be to rejoin those of its own wild species: the fact is, that diabolical bird had become crazy about the woman. Until in one rush—as if it were struggling with itself—it freed itself in a flight into the depths of the world.

I've seen horses running free in the pasture where, at night, the white horse—king of nature—would fling into the air its long whinny of glory. I've had perfect relationships with them. I remember myself standing there with the same hauteur as the horse, running my hand along its naked skin. Through its rough mane. And I felt like this: the woman and the horse.

I know history that is past but that also repeats itself. The "he" once told me that he lived for a while with part of his family in a small village high in a valley in the snowy Pyrenees. In the winter the famished wolves would come down from the mountains to the village to forage for prey. All the inhabitants cautiously locked themselves indoors to shelter in their houses the sheep and horses and dogs and goats, human and animal warmth together—all alert to hear the scratching of the wolves' claws on the locked doors. Listening. Listening.

I'm melancholy. It's morning. But I know the secret of pure mornings. And I relax in the melancholy.

I know of the story of a rose. Does it seem strange to you that I speak of a rose when I'm concentrating on animals? But it behaved in a way that reminds one of animal mysteries. Every other day I would buy a rose and put it in water in a vase made especially thin to hold the long stem of a single flower. Every other day the rose would wilt and I would replace it with another. Until one particular rose turned up. Rose-colored but without artificial coloring or grafting, the most vivid rose color in nature. Its beauty filled the heart. It seemed so proud of the swelling-out of its wide-open corolla and of its petals that it proudly held itself almost erect. Because it did not remain totally erect: it bent gracefully over the thin, fragile stem. An intimate and intense relationship was established between myself and the flower: I admired it and it seemed to feel itself admired. And so glorious did that apparition remain and so great was the love with which it was observed that the days went by and still it did not wilt. The corolla remained wide open and swollen out, fresh as a new-born flower. It endured in beauty and in life for an entire week. Only then did it start to show signs of some weariness. Then it died. It was with great reluctance that I exchanged it for another. And I never forgot it. The strange thing is that the maid asked me one day right out of the blue: "and that rose?" I didn't even ask which one. I knew. This rose, long lived through constant love, was remembered because the woman had noticed the way I looked at the flower and in waves transmitted my energy to it. She had blindly intuited that something was happening between me and the rose. It—I felt like calling it the "jewel of life" because I always give names to things—had so much instinct for nature that it and I had been able to live each other profoundly, as only happens between animals and human beings.

Not to have been born an animal is one of my secret nostalgias. Sometimes they call from the distance of many generations and I cannot answer except by becoming uneasy. It's the call.

Through this free air I fall, this wind that hits me on the soul of my face, leaving it anxious and in an imitation of a constantly renewed, anguishing ecstasy, plunging once again and continuously into something bottomless, falling endlessly until I die and finally reach silence. Oh, sirocco wind, I do not pardon you for death, you who bring me a memory battered by things lived which, sadly, always repeat themselves, though under other and different forms. The thing lived frightens me just as the future frightens me. The latter, like what is already past, is intangible, mere supposition.

This instant I'm in a white void, waiting for the next instant. To count time is merely a working hypothesis. But what exists is perishable and that forces one to measure immutable and permanent time. It never began and it will never end. Never.

I learned of a she who died in bed, but shouting, "I'm turning off!" Until she was blessed with a coma in which she was freed of her body and had no fear of dying.

To write you I first cover myself with perfume.

I know you through and through by having lived you completely. Life runs deep in me. The dawns find me pale from having lived the night of deep dreams. Even though at times I skim over an apparent shoal which has beneath it a dark blue, almost black depth. That's why I write you. For the sake of the soft breath of the thick algae and in the nascent tenderness of love.

I'm going to die: there is this tension, like that of a bow ready to release its arrow. I remember the sign of Sagittarius, half man and half animal. The human part, in classical rigidity, holds the bow and arrow. The bow can let fly at any instant and hit the mark. I know that I'm going to hit the mark.

I'm going to write now as my hand moves: I won't interfere with what it writes. This is a way of avoiding any gaps between the instant and myself. I perform in the core of the instant itself. Nevertheless there are some gaps. They begin like this: as love impedes death and I don't know what I'm wanting to say by that. I trust in my incomprehension, which has given me a life free of understanding, I've lost friends, I don't understand death. The terrible duty is that of going all the way to the end. And without relying on anyone. To live oneself. And in order to suffer less, grow a little dull. Because I can't bear any longer the pain of the world. What's there to do when I feel totally what other people are and feel? I live them, but I have no strength beyond that. There are certain things I don't want to tell even to myself. It would betray the
I feel that I know some truths. That I already anticipate them. But truths do not have words. Truths or truth? I'm not going to speak of God, He is my secret. It's a sunny day today. The beach was windblown and free. And I was alone. Without needing anyone. It's hard because I have to share what I feel with you. The calm sea. But on guard and suspicious. As if that calm couldn't last. Something is always about to happen. The improvised and fateful unforeseen fascinates me. I've entered into such strong communication with you that I've stopped existing. You have become an I. It's so hard to speak and say things that cannot be said. It's so silent. How do you translate the silence of the real encounter between the two of us? It's extremely difficult to do: I looked at you fixedly for a few instants. Such moments are my secret. There was what is called perfect communion. I call that an acute state of happiness. I'm terribly lucid and it seems I'm achieving a higher plane of humanity. Or of inhumanity—the

BOOK: The Stream of Life
11.4Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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