Friday, November 23, 2007

Clarice Lispector

     Ah, had I but known, I wouldn’t have come into this world, ah, had I but known, I wouldn’t have come into this world. Madness is neighbor to the cruelest prudence. I swallow madness because it calmly leads me to hallucinations. Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water, Jack fell down, Jill kissed his crown, and they lived happy-unhappy ever after. The chair is an object to me. It is useless while I look at it. Tell me, please, what time it is, so I’ll know I’m alive at that time. Creativity is unleashed by a germ and I don’t have that germ today, but I do have an incipient madness which in itself is a valid creation. I have nothing more to do with the validity of things. I am free or lost. I’m going to tell you a secret: life is lethal. We maintain the secret because in utter silence, each of us, as we face ourselves, because to do so is convenient and doing otherwise would make each moment lethal. The object chair has always interested me. I look at this one, which is old, bought at an antique shop, and empire chair; one couldn’t imagine a greater simplicity of line contrasting with the seat of red felt. I love objects in proportion to how little they love me. But if I don’t understand what I’m writing, the fault isn’t mine. I have to speak, for speaking saves. But I don’t have a single word to say. I am gagged by words already spoken. What does one person say to another? How about “how’s it going?” If the madness of honesty worked, what would people say to one another? The worst of it is what a person would say to himself, yet that would be his salvation, even if honesty is determined on a conscious level while the terror of honesty comes from the part it plays in the vast unconscious that links me to the world and to the creative unconscious of the world. Today is a day for starry sky, at least so promises this sad afternoon that a human word could save.
     I open my eyes wide, but it does no good: I merely see. But the secret, that I neither see nor feel. The record player is broken, and to live without music is to betray the human condition, which is surrounded by music. Besides, music is an abstraction of thought, I’m speaking of Bach, Vivaldi, Handel. I can only write if I am free, uncensored, otherwise I succumb. I look at the Empire chair, and this time it is as if it too had looked and seen me. The future is mine as long as I live. In the future there will be more time to live and, higgledy-piggledy, to write. In the future one will say: had I but known, I wouldn’t have come into this world. Marli de Oliveira, I don’t write to you because I only know how to be intimate. In fact, all I can do, whatever the circumstances, is be intimate: that’s why I’m even more silent. Everything that never got done, will it one day get done? The future technology threatens to destroy all that is human in man, but technology does not touch madness; and it is there that the human in man takes refuge. I see the flowers in the vase: they are beautiful and yellow. But my cook says: what ugly flowers. Just because it is difficult to understand and love what is spontaneous and Franciscan. To understand the difficult is no advantage, but to love what is easy to love is a great step upward on the human ladder. How many lies I am forced to tell. But with myself I don’t want to be forced to lie. Otherwise what remains to me? Truth is the final residue of all things, and in my unconscious is the same truth as that of the world. The moon, as Paul Eluard would say, is éclatante de silence. I don’t know if the Moon will show at all today, since it is already late and I don’t see it anywhere in the sky. Once I looked up at the night sky, circumscribing it with my head tilted back, and I become dizzy from the many stars that appear in the county, for the country sky is clear. There is no logic, if one were to think a bit about it, in the perfectly balanced illogicity of nature. Nor in that of human nature either. What would the world be like, the cosmos, if man did not exist? If I could always write as I am writing now, I would be in the midst of a tempestade de cerebro, a “brainstorm” Who might have invented the chair? Someone who loved himself? He therefore invented a greater comfort for his body. Then centuries passed and no one really paid attention any more to a chair, for using it is simply automatic. You have to have courage to stir up a brainstorm: you never know what may come to frighten us. The sacred monster died: in its place a solitary girl was born. I understand, of course, that I will have to stop, not for lack of words, but because such things, and above all those things I’ve only thought and not written down, usually don’t make it into print.

(from Where You Were at Night, 1974. Translated by Alexis Levitin)

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