Saturday 19 August 2023

Clarice Lispector, Água Viva (1973)

It took me a while to decide if I was enjoying Água Viva and until half way, I was ambivalent - the experience of reading it oscillates between poetry that you let wash over you and stream of consciousness, abstract storytelling. I wasn't sure if this stream of consciousness and free flow felt like you were reading someone's journal (with permission), if it was written for you, if you yourself are the journal inhabited. Some passages were extremely compelling and spoke right to me while others felt like unedited thoughts written in haste at once too private and personal while also too mundane to merit being shared outwardly.  

(I chose this photo because it reminds me of my maternal grandmother, but also how I imagine she could have been if she'd been different.)

Reading Água Viva didn't necessarily feel voyeuristic, only that at times it wasn't quite interesting or coherent enough to get invested and command your attention. In these moments, I questioned if it was a rather self-indulgent book, almost annoying, but then something in Lispector's prose creeped up on me and compelled me to keep reading. Sometimes these moments were the most pedestrian - finishing one section with something like I have to go now. and starting the next with I'm back. It was almost a 'stay tuned' moment, but one not meant for you as life had interrupted the line from writer to reader. I pictured and wondered where Lispector when in between those two paragraphs, what she'd encounter that wasn't written down, what had happened in the real world, a moment or time that I'd never be a part of? And so, I kept reading, sparks appearing just when I wondered what I was gaining - an interdependent dance of lull and pierce. 

There is something urgent about the book with its improvised progression, language funnelled through intuition to capture the present somehow, the instant. Lispector also reveals a great deal of fear and existential dread, and you feel she is trying to learn (anew? continuously?) how to be alive while fearing and trying to understand the meaning of death. 

A poignant passage:

“I’m sad. An uneasiness that comes because the ecstasy doesn’t fit into the life of the days. Sleep should follow the ecstasy to attenuate its vibration if echoing crystal. The ecstasy must be forgotten.”

Some more: