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Saturday 23 June 2012

Clarice Lispector: The Archer (A Part of the Future)

File:Messier 54 HST.jpg
The object shown in this beautiful Hubble image, dubbed Messier 54, could be just another globular cluster, but this dense and faint group of stars was in fact the first globular cluster found that is outside our galaxy. Discovered by the famous astronomer Charles Messier in 1778, Messier 54 belongs to a satellite of the Milky Way called the Sagittarius Dwarf Elliptical Galaxy. Messier had no idea of the significance of his discovery at the time, and it wasn’t until over two centuries later, in 1994, that astronomers found Messier 54 to be part of the miniature galaxy and not our own. Current estimates indicate that the Sagittarius dwarf, and hence the cluster, is situated almost 90,000 light-years away -- more than three times as far from the centre of our galaxy than the Solar System. Ironically, even though this globular cluster is now understood to lie outside the Milky Way, it will actually become part of it in the future. The strong gravitational pull of our galaxy is slowly engulfing the Sagittarius dwarf, which will eventually merge with the Milky Way creating one much larger galaxy. This picture is a composite created by combining images taken with the Wide Field Channel of Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys. Light that passed through a yellow-orange (F606W) was coloured blue and light passing through a near-infrared filter (F814W) was coloured red. The total exposure times were 3460 s and 3560 s, respectively and the field of view is approximately 3.4 by 3.4 arcminutes: image by ESA/Hubble & NASA, 7 November 2011

Not having been born an animal is a secret nostalgia of mine. They sometimes clamor for many generations from afar and I can't respond except by growing restless. It's the call.

This free air, this wind that strikes me in the soul of the face leaving it troubled in an imitation of an anguished ever-new ecstasy, anew and always, every time the plunge into a bottomless thing from which I fall always ceaselessly falling until I die and achieve at last silence. Oh sirocco wind, I do not forgive thee for death, thou who bringest me a damaged memory of things lived that, alas for me, always repeat themselves, even in other and different forms. The living thing scares me as the future scares me. That, like things that have passed, is intangible, mere supposition.

I am at this instant in a white void awaiting the next instant. Measuring time is just a working hypothesis. But whatever exists is perishable and this forces us to measure immutable and permanent time. It never began and will never end. Never.

I heard about a she who died in bed but screaming: my light's going out! Until there was the favor of a coma inside which she freed herself from her body and had no fear of death.

Before writing to you I perfume myself all over.

I know you all over because I have lived you all over. In me life is profound. The early hours find me pale from having lived the night of deep dreams. Though sometimes I float on a visible shoal that has beneath it dark blue almost black depths. That is why I write to you. On a waft of thick seaweed and in the tender wellspring of love.

I'm going to die: there's that tension like that of a bow about to loose an 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 could shoot at any instant and hit the target. I know that I shall hit the target.

Now I'm going to write wherever my hand leads: I won't fiddle with whatever it writes. This is a way to have no lag between the instant and I: I act in the core of the instant. But there's still some lag. It starts like this: as love impedes death, and I don't know what I mean by that. I trust in my own incomprehension that gives me life free of understanding, I lost friends, I don't understand death. The horrible duty is to go to the end. And counting on no one. To live your life yourself. And to suffer as much to dull myself a bit. Because I can no longer carry the sorrows of the world. What can I do when I feel totally what other people are and feel? I live them but no longer have the strength. I don't want to tell even myself certain things. It would be to betray the is-itself. I feel that I know some truths. But truths have no words.

Clarice Lispector (1920-1977): from Água Viva (1973), translated by Stefan Tobler, New Directions, 2012
File:Bundesarchiv Bild 135-S-18-07-16, Tibetexpedition, Volksfest, Bogenschütze.jpg

Archer, folk festival, Gyantse, Tibet: photo by Ernst Schäfer, 21 June 1938 (Deutsches Bundesarchiv)


Jonathan Chant said...

Good to be reminded that I can hit the target. Sometimes I forget...

Conrad DiDiodato said...

"The horrible duty is to go to the end."

This is why there are really so few good poets: most can't carry it to the 'end'. But in the case of the few who do, it'll look like colliding galaxies.

Susan Kay Anderson said...

Lispector sparkles widely. Death is lights out --what it seems to be. Like shutting your eyes. That quick. I like this tale of hits and misses. What is aimed at is not really the thing but it is beside or aside of what seems the target. Poetry is the result, what is left over.



". . . memory of things lived that . . . always repeat themselves, even in other and different forms . . ."

"The human part in classical rigidity holds the bow and arrow. The bow could shoot at any instant and hit the target."


light coming into sky above still black
ridge, crow calling from cypress branch
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

period in seconds of motion,
potential relation of

point to curve in the first
place, which, follows

grey white fog against invisible ridge,
cormorant flapping across toward point

Anonymous said...

"truths have no words"...!!!

TC said...

And from the fields and forests of the valley of the Umpqua echoes the voice of the Oracle.

"What is aimed at is not really the thing but it is beside or aside of what seems the target. Poetry is the result, what is left over."

When the galaxies collide, we can dine on the leftovers, like bears on raspberries. (Well, realistically... beans on paper plates?)

TC said...

For those who might be curious about the historical facts of Clarice Lispector's collision with the galaxies, there's this.

TC said...

came from a mystery.
And left for another.
We remain in ignorance
of the essence of the mystery.
Or the mystery was not essential,
it was Clarice traveling in it.

-- Carlos Drummond de Andrade

Nin Andrews said...

I love Clarice L and de Andrade. I go to both of them at times for inspiration. I am not sure what it is about Lispector that so moves me. A lot of times I don't follow her, but I adore her.

TC said...

Being thrown off the traces (so to speak), whether by accident or by design -- probably a bit of each with Lispector -- can be unsettling... and stimulating.

Susan Kay Anderson said...

It is time to make red currant and raspberry jam.

TC said...

"Lord it is time
To make red currant and raspberry jam"

-- Didn't Rilke say that?

One small yet not so small correction has been made in this post: the translation was done by Stefan Tobler, not by Benjamin Moser. Moser wrote the intro, edited the new translations of the four new Lispectors in this series from from New Directions, and has also done a Clarice Lispector biography. His advocacy has played no small part in the recent revival of interest in her work.

Água Viva came late in Lispector's writing life, and reflects, in its oblique, abstract, sometimes baffling way, the experience of time and suffering -- though the prevailing sense of a drifting atemporality makes little more contact with history or autobiography than it does with plot or story. These are concessions the writer disdained.

For an epigraph Lispector chose a comment by the Belgian writer Michel Seuphor: "There must be a kind of painting totally free from dependence on the figure -- or object -- which, like music, illustrates nothing, tells no story, and launches no myth. Such painting would simply evoke the incommunicable kingdoms where dream becomes thought, where line becomes existence."

A reviewer, Scott Esposito, proposed an analogy to the effect achieved by the work of the painter Mark Rothko: "...this book strains to bring into literature the very momentary revelation evoked when, say, a Rothko suddenly begins to shimmer with life before one's eyes."

Though the text suggests this writer eschewed revision, that, like much of what the mysterious Lispector chose to reveal about her writing and her life, may be a bit deceptive.

"Água Viva affects the impression that it was scattered off in one mad night, but Lispector actually labored over it for years, frightened that it was too free, too un-novelistic to work."

Three years of labour -- "drying-out" work, as Lispector called it -- actually went into the construction of this text.