This is the continuation of my review of this book from HERE.
Complete Stories of Clarice Lispector
My comments will continue in the comment stream below as and when I read the stories….
IN SEARCH OF A DIGNITY
“Yet that little destiny of hers had wanted her to be lost in the labyrinth.”
A destiny as a conscious force ‘wanting’ something for someone is probably what this book is all about? Meanwhile, this substantive ‘story’ represents, for me, a tortured monologue of a seventy year old woman as goals cloud or her mind clouds about those goals, a frightening, almost senile, search for that conscious destiny, an appointment with something or someone forgotten, or a past relationship, firstly in a stadium, then with the help of a taxi, while changing her mind between paragraphs. It is a parallel experience to that of reading this book’s own labyrinth, as if the author simply knew that this book would exist and NOW was the time to plant this story in the flow of its previously staccato short shorts that I was reviewing yesterday. It is, for me, a parallel experience to my still seeking my own goal in the whole labyrinth of hyper-imaginative literature that I am exploring, with changing memories of the original purpose, by the uncertain means of my Dreamcatcher real-time reviews. A search for a dignity as well as a destiny for their reader as well as for their story’s protagonist.
THE DEPARTURE OF THE TRAIN
“When I was a girl I was such a little liar. I’d lie for no reason.”
Another substantive story featuring a seventy something woman.
For their own separate personal reasons, two women, one 37, the other 77, happen to find themselves travelling together in the same carriage of a train. We receive a rich unbroken pair of internal monologues running in parallel, but the younger one claims that her dog being called Ulisses does not prevent her from finding Joyce boring…,
Death always a surprise, and some connection with the number seven, one finds them almost in an unspoken relationship with each other after the younger one initially offers to change seats with the older one, and it is poignant therefore at the ‘dying fall’ ending with the younger reaching her stop and leaving the train while the older one is dozing,…
DRY SKETCH OF HORSES
“Should I then conclude that the horse exists above all to be sensed by me? Does the horse represent the beautiful and liberated animality of the human being?”
This is a rich series of titled sketches about horses with a DH Lawrencian feel, ending with the striking concept of murder being the stealing of someone’s death. The essence of Lispector.
WHERE WERE YOU AT NIGHT
“But they sprinkled pepper on their own genital organs and writhed in ardor.”
For me, an esoteric paean to theosophy or to Alice A. Bailey or to Ouspensky, a she-he or he-she version of Lispector – an almost religious ceremony of patchwork poetic prose at the foot of this book’s mountain of images with which its reader has already been imbued – interspersed with domestic items and references of popular literature as well as being a blend of DH Lawrence and Max Ernst epiphanised by James Joyce.
But what does it all mean?
“‘I don’t know’ is a fine answer.”
REPORT ON THE THING
“It is like inside us: we wake up from the inside out. It seems its electronic-God communicates with our electronic-God brain:”
The preterite of the preinternet.
This is an automatic writing exercise that makes a hypnotically word-association sense, a multi-mentioning extrapolation from a clock called Sveglia and and an anonymously named God. A wake-up call from the past to the future where we are all stuck in a worse machine than even the state of being trapped in the workings of Elizabeth Bowen’s Inherited Clock…
Everything that is and is not – depending where on the spectrum of time you’re looking.
MANIFESTO OF THE CITY
I imagine this might have been written by Joel Lane whence he is now. A short short about a city and a love that is rhapsodised by the experience of death. Just replace the name Recife with Birmingham.
THE CONJURINGS OF DONA FROZINA
A portrait of a widow. I can’t resist quoting this whole passage…
“‘Dona Frozina, how awful, dozing off halfway through your prayers and leaving the saints on their own!’
She answered with a dismissive wave:
‘Ah, my child, it’s every man for himself.’
She had the oddest dream: she dreamed she saw the Christ on Corcovado — and where were his outstretched arms? They were tightly crossed, and Christ looked fed up as if to say: deal with it yourselves. I’ve had it. It was a sin, that dream.”
THAT’S WHERE I’M GOING
“At the tip of the word is the word.”
A masterpiece of tantalisation where we all live at the tip or edge of something. A classic that needs to be learned by heart in English as if it is…A New Nonsense verse by Carroll or Lear…
Remarkable, too, in that I just this minute finished reading the second chapter of Salman Rushdie’s new novel where Mr Geronimo walks with his feet at a paper thin distance from the surface he otherwise appears to be walking on. (My broadbrush review of that book has just been started HERE.)
THE DEAD MAN IN THE SEA AT URCA
A two page theme and variations on the ‘you’ narrator trying on a dress – and a man drowning at sea.
So she ends up stunned in her dress, not stunning?
“You cannot say to anyone as you say about snow: did you feel the silence last night.”
This is the apotheosis of a prose poem upon silence. It should be read by everyone interested in such literary apotheoses – in silence.
A FULL AFTERNOON
“That woman was, moreover, a bit silent…”
A strange contrast because silence cannot be a BIT silent, nor can a marmoset BE a rat but merely resemble it.
Another of this book’s theme and variations – here on a bus – of a human being being a bit like an animal and vice versa.
“But if I don’t understand what I write the fault is not my own.”
That statement is staggeringly true.
A fascinating brainstorming on life as fatal, a chair and brainstorming itself.
A brainstorm developed into a soulstorm?
“You need courage for a brainstorm: you never know what might come frighten us.”
“The harmony of the world with whatever it was she didn’t even realize she needed as in a hunger.”
Fatal life in a stoked log? (The actress who played the log lady died a day or so ago.)
That brief page ends the section entitled WHERE WERE YOU AT NIGHT.
The next section of stories is entitled THE VIA CRUCIS OF THE BODY….
“I only beg God that no one commissions anything else from me. Because, apparently, I just might rebelliously obey, I the unfree.”
And here is a woman’s innocence, having a bath on her own with her underclothes still on, denying all sex, ashamed of having been born from sex…
Then a visitation from “I am an I” who turns out to be Ixtlan from Saturn – initiating her in the continuing onset of carnal lust.
Two polarities. Of free and unfree, explaining the Explanation? But which is free, which not?
“And he ate a whole chicken all by himself. The two women ate the other chicken. The chickens were stuffed with raisins and prunes tossed in manioc flour, all moist and good.”
An absurdistly meaningful deadpan story of a ménage a trois – “There really wasn’t anything to say.” Hope that’s not a spoiler.
A woman is pregnant without having sex, and she and her impotent husband prepare for the Coming.
The strongly stoical ending sort of morphs into the ending of the next story whose conversational encounter of a story is first told by its title …
THE MAN WHO SHOWED UP
“How can I be a mother to this man? I ask myself and there’s no answer.”
A Ligottian möbius section.
HE DRANK ME UP
“She got the feeling that he was erasing her features: empty, a face made only of flesh. Dark flesh.”
A sense of being erased as a chance ménage a trois develops and the third made into an Elizabeth-Bowenesque ‘shadowy third’… With not a ‘dying fall’ ending but a ‘being born fall’ instead —
leading to someone going for a pee and hitting a similar ‘zero’ in…
FOR THE TIME BEING
“Death would be too much for me today.”
A dying fall, without any reprieve.
DAY AFTER DAY
“I told him my first story was called ‘Miss Algrave’. He said ‘grave’ means tomb in English.”
Day after day, too, I make this review of the current clutch of short short fictions. I say, fiction, but I sense them autobiographical, autonomously biographical as all lives are. This one is a diurnal tedium spiced with speculating on the pros and cons of writing pornography, as she probably was at the time…
Which brings us to the next one where an 81 year old woman is complaining that her desire for ‘pleasure’ still nags at her until she hears the approach of…
THE SOUND OF FOOTSTEPS.
BEFORE THE RIO-NITEROI BRIDGE
“I apologise because besides recounting the facts I’m also guessing and whatever I guess I write down here, scribe that I am by fate. I guess at reality.”
A bit jumbled, what can she do? Is this in exercise an automatic writing or senile dementia? What can I do but pass on to…
Another ‘dying fall’, of a woman Erotica worker and her male transvestite platonic friend – her understanding husband and the stars in the sky. Rough trade, and later as a cheap whore. A deadpan tale, goes nowhere, but that’s OK by me as I have nowhere better to go.
Three short short stories about female sexual desire, often reluctantly so, but implacably so…human-animal behaviour that graces this whole book as a philosophy of fiction.
A telling tale with a definite punch line. It should, be anthologised regularly as a fable with the moral of follow your desires, and save the next girl along.
Read the messages however garbled.
BETTER THAN TO BURN
She even bites the priest’s communion hand out of lust.
Follow your desires, quench them with happiness.
BUT IT’S GOING TO RAIN
A sixty year old woman entices a young man, becomes besotted, damaging his emotional health, with a deadpan non sequitur at the end, that somehow typifies this whole book. A non sequitur if it weren’t for the title that began it. Like life itself.
That ends the section of this book entitled THE VIA CRUCIS OF THE BODY.
The next section is entitled VISION OF SPLENDOR.
This substantively kaleidoscopic tour de force continuously hypnotises the reader with a blend of seeming automatic-writing (with deadpan repetitions of BRASILIA IS – followed by non-sequiturs that often later turn out to be sequiturs) and authorially autonomous autobiography of impressions of this then ‘new’ city from different timelines and places (including BRASILIA itself). A wonderful companion to the previous stories, combining themes from them with a sort of madness to which one grows accustomed as the image of the writer has of herself: one that I have grown to know throughout this whole book.
Here below are just a few moments, out of many, in this ‘novelette’ of what I have long called ‘the synchronised shards of random truth and fiction’ –
“But my insomnia is neither pretty or ugly, my insomnia is me myself, it is lived, it is my astonishment. It is a semicolon.”
“I adore Brasilia. Is that contradictory? But what isn’t contradictory?”
“In the year 2000 there will be a celebration there. If I am still alive, I want to join in the revelry.”
“Remember how I mentioned the tennis court with blood?” (Monty Python?)
“He is a thing Brasilia is not. He is: an animal. I am an animal. I really want to repeat myself, just to annoy people.”
“I have three bison in my life.”
“…and does it have a zoo? It needs them, because people cannot live on man alone.” (She also says she didn’t dream in Brasilia, so Brasilia really does need a zoo, just as in Nemonymous Night.)
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST or THE ENORMOUS WOUND
“Beauty can lead to the kind of madness that is passion.”
A 35 year old woman, one who had chosen her two husbands respectively for money and prestige, accidentally encounters a beggar with a huge wound, and offers, in panic, a huge amount of the money, an incident that leads to an interface as fable, with home truths and self searching ensuing for her.
…and from that previous story where I now interpret that the beggar and the wound represented this book in interface with its author, we reach the final story…
ONE DAY LESS
…and now that thirty-something woman, if a more financially downbeat version of her, talks to a random caller on the phone that happens to be the constancy of the author of this book at the age of 80… It is perfect.
Flute and guitar. A musical dying fall, a non sequitur that becomes the ultimate sequitur…
From the Appendix of this book:
“It is not easy to remember how and why I wrote a story or a novel. Once they detach from me, I too find them unfamiliar. It’s not a ‘trance,’ but the concentration during the writing seems to take away the awareness of whatever isn’t writing itself.”
— Clarice Lispector
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