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Transactions with Beauty.
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- Shawna

 

 

Reading Clarice Lispector

Reading Clarice Lispector

It began for me many years ago with this sentence:

"It's with such intense joy." 

Which was followed by:

"It's such an hallelujah. "Hallelujah," I shout, an hallelujah that fuses with the darkest human howl of the pain of separation but is a shout of diabolical happiness. Because nobody holds me back anymore." 

This is from the Lowe and Fitz translation of The Stream of Life put out by U of Minnesota Press in 1989. The more recent translation by Stefan Tobler is from the series by New Directions and is Agua Viva. This version is said to keep closer to the rhythm and off-kiltered nuances of the original, and it is beautiful. But I have spent so much time with the first one, that it's simply difficult to let it go. 

There are perhaps two kinds of people in the world. Those who love the work of Clarice Lispector, and those who don't. So I won't say, you must read her, because it's up to you. I take no responsibility in having you read her or not read her. 

If you do, she will give you sentences like this:

I want the vibrancy of joy. I want the sovereignty of Mozart. But I also want inconsequence.
— Clarice Lispector

Or, from Selected Crônicas

"In a state of grace, one sometimes perceives the deep beauty, hitherto unattainable, of another person. And everything acquires a kind of halo which is not imaginary: it comes from the splendour of the almost mathematical light emanating from people and things. One starts to feel that everything in existence - whether people or things - breathes and exhales the subtle light of energy. The world's truth is impalpable." 

Two of my favourite CL quotations come from Soulstorm, a collection of stories. 

"Ah well. Who knows if this book will add anything to my works. Damn my works. I don't know why people attach so much importance to literature. And as for my name? To hell with it, I've got other things to think about."

And:

"I'm not going to call anyone. If someone wants to, they can come look for me. I'm going to play hard to get. From now on, no more fooling around." 

When A Breath of Life was released in the set by New Directions, I was beside myself with joy. I enjoyed reading the reviews on Amazon just now, which vary from "it's alright" to "it was convulsive beauty." I'm, of course, on the side that sees her work as convulsive beauty. I think it would be honest to say that Clarice Lispector's work has saved my life, certainly my heart. Which is why this next quotation from the book means everything:

Sometimes writing a single line is enough to save your own heart.
— Clarice Lispector

The last book by CL I'll mention is The Hour of the Star because it meant so much to me while I was writing Rumi and the Red Handbag. The reviews of this book will range from "masterpiece" to "baffling." Macabea, the protagonist, is described by the narrator thus:

"The girl blew her nose on the hem of her petticoat. She lacked that elusive quality known as charm. I am the only person who finds her charming. As the author, I alone love her. I suffer on her account." 

And if that doesn't make you want to read Lispector, then I would advise you against it. 

Even so, you might enjoy Why This World: A Biography of Clarice Lispector by Benjamin Moser. It really is incredible. 


* If you entered your name in the comments to win a notebook last week please check the original post to see if you've won and to claim your prize! xo S.

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