Geometric streaks that cross in the air

Lispector

 

 

She wrote with such urgency while convinced the unsayable, the  ungrasped and impossible would remain that way. The most interesting essay on  Clarice Lispector I have read in ages, Rachel Kushner of The Flame Throwers writing in bookforum:

 

In all of her work, she seems to write in service to neither tradition nor vanguardism. Her prose reads like something closer to philosophy, but it’s not philosophy. She isn’t a scholar. She knows things from sun-bright intuition. What writer is her kindred? It’s surprisingly difficult to find a suitable example. Ingeborg Bachmann comes at the same problem of time, but from a different direction, when she writes in Malina that “today” is a word that “only suicides ought to be allowed to use,” because it has no meaning for other people. Kafka is often mentioned, and Lispector appreciated his work, but their writing seems nothing alike. Kafka is a storyteller, no matter how unusual or abstracted the setting and events. Lispector is not. Kafka’s characters are actors in life, who inhabit the world. Lispector’s are not; they do not go here and there, encounter other people, have convincing spoken exchanges that result in effects on the main character and others.

The oft-mentioned Virginia Woolf is also a misleading comparison, given that Lispector is not stream-of-consciousness. “I want every sentence of this book to be a climax,” she says in A Breath of Life, and even that self-reflexive admission is itself a kind of climax. In terms of midcentury currents and her own contemporaries, I don’t believe Lispector was consciously experimental. There is no Oedipal break being put into play, as with the New Novelists, no Oulipian limitation created in order to unlock something. If anything, there might be a link between her and the great Brazilian artists of her generation, Lygia Clark, Lygia Pape, and Hélio Oiticica. As she says in Água Viva, “I want geometric streaks that cross in the air and form a disharmony that I understand. Pure it.”

 

 

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