Clarice Lispector’s Agua Viva

Agua Viva, by Clarice Lispector. 1973. Translation 2012

Yes, it’s even better than The Passion. Why? Because the aphorisms here do not push for a certain resolution. They are what they are. More at ease with themselves. They are it, as she says repeatedly. It being something so essential, so real, so basic, that it defies naming beyond it. It just is.

The work is short. Too short. Just 88 pages. Edited posthumously by Olga Borelli and newly translated by Stefan Tobler. But it can and should be read over and over again. It’s thick with bright language gems and shockingly obvious surprises. As in, I read her, noted with wonder her startlingly original conceptions, but then said, yeah. Of course. That makes sense in a surreal way. One Brazilian singer, the late Cazuza, was said to have read Agua Viva 111 times. I understand why.

A novel as meditation. Surreal meditation on life, on the instant, the moment, the now. Everything that pops into Clarice’s head. Seemingly released into total spontaneity, while, in reality, she took years to finish it and never really did.

Now I’m afraid. Because I’m going to tell you something. Wait until the fear passes.

It’s passed. It’s this: dissonance is harmonious to me. Melody sometimes wears me out. And also the so-called “leitmotif.” I want in music and in what I write to you and in what I paint, I want geometric streaks that cross in the air and form a disharmony that I understand. Pure it. My being is completely absorbed and grows slightly intoxicated. What I’m telling you is very important. And I work while I sleep: because that is when I move inside the mystery.

Today is Sunday morning. On this Sunday of sun and Jupiter I am alone in the house. I suddenly doubled over as if in the deep pain of childbirth — and saw that the girl in me was dying. I shall never forget that bloody Sunday. It will take time for the wound to heal. And here I am tough and silent and heroic. Without a girl inside me. All lives are heroic lives.

Creation escapes me. And I don’t even want to know so much. That my heart beats in my breast is enough. The impossible living of the it is enough.

A fairly representative section, from page 59. She deserves a far wider public in the English speaking world.


Clarice Lispector’s Agua Viva
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