Clarice Lispector (Brazil, 1920)
"Perto do Coracao Selvagem/ Near the Wild Heart" (1944)
"A Maca no Escuro/ The Apple in the Dark" (1961) +
"A Paixao Segundo G.H./ The Passion According to G.H." (1964), which on the surface is merely the
stream of consciousness of a woman's nervous breakdown, is both a novel of
linguistic experimentation and a clever philosophical meditation.
The protagonist, G.H., recounts how yesterday began to exist as she walked
from the living room into the maid's room. She is telling the story as if
talking to past lovers. Her maid Janair had just quit her services.
Until that moment
G.H.'s life was a pointless wealthy life, "an abyss of nothingness", a "nonbeing", surrounded
by vain artistic people at her top-floor apartment.
Yesterday she entered the room left vacant by the maid Janair and she "began to exist".
She found an impeccably clean room except for a mural scribbled with charcoal.
That mural depicted a naked couple and a dog. G.H. took it as a display of
contempt and hatred by the maid towards the liberal lifestyle of G.H.
G.H., so used to be judged only by friends that she had chosen, felt for
the first time a judgment by someone outside that circle.
And this already caused her a nervous breakdown. Worse: she spotted a cockroach, an animal
that terrorized her, if nothing else because it brought back memories of her poor childhood.
This Kafka-esque encounter frightened her to the point that she fell
and felt trapped into the room that had been meticulously disinfected precisely
to keep cockroaches away.
She clumsily tried to kill the animal but had to try again until she succeeded,
and then she remained devastated by the view of the pulp flowing out of the dead
animal. Now that she had killed, she remembered her previous killing: the abortion.
When she woke up the following morning (which is the morning of the day in which
she is having these memories and thoughts), still haunted by the cockroach,
she stared outside her window to her own city and
she entered a delirious state in which her mind traveled in space and time,
from the Sahara desert to the Middle East, and from prehistory to the distant future;
a "visual meditation" in which she becomes aware that she is living in the
"prehistory of the future". Past and future gets mixed up and she wonders if she is "escavating the future".
Her free associations and self-psychoanalysis acquire religious overtones as
she, who sounds rather atheist, starts meditating about her relationship to God.
Her frequent detours into ancient history leave the impression that she is
impersonating the whole history of humankind: "my millenary trajectory of
orgy and death and glory and thirst". But then she's again the spoiled snobbish
woman as she self-psychoanalyzes her "love of tedium".
Her account is sometimes addressed to men, presumably lovers, although one is
"the oldest person i ever met".
Her realization that she needed to become a different person led her to
eat the cockroach in order to approach the divine.
This is an act that she equates to kissing a leper, a saintly act.
This act is comparable to the "passion" of Jesus: a terrible torture that
is required to achieve joy.
She rationally underwent a process of depersonalization and deheroization
by performing "the lowest of all acts" (a process of self-humiliation and self-annihilation that has Zen overtones).
"Uma Aprendizagem ou O Livro dos Prazeres/ An Apprenticeship or the Book of Pleasures" (1969)
"A Hora da Estrela/ Hour of the Stars" (1977)
"Agua Viva/ The Stream of Life" (1973) +