Category Archives: Lispector

I don’t know

And I must not forget, at the start of the work, to be prepared to make mistakes. Not forget that mistakes had often proved to be my path. Every time what I thought or felt didn’t work out … a space would somehow open up, and if I had had the courage before I would have gone in through it. But I had always been afraid of delirium and error. My error, however, had to be the path of truth: for only when I err do I get away from what I know and what I understand. If ‘truth’ were what I can understand … it would end up being but a small truth, my-sized.

Truth must reside precisely in what I shall never understand. And would I then be able to understand myself afterward? I don’t know. Will the man of the future be able to understand us as we are today? He, with distracted tenderness, will distractedly pat our heads like we do with a dog who comes up to us and looks at us from within its darkness, with silent, stricken eyes. He, the future man, would pat us, remotely comprehending us, just as I would remotely understand myself afterward, with the memory of the memory of the long-lost-lost memory of a time of pain, but knowing that our time of pain would pass, just as a child is not a static child but a growing being.

— Lispector, The Passion According G.H. (tr. Sousa)


‘See here, my precious, see how I am organising for fear, see how I cannot touch those primary laboratory elements without immediately trying to put a hope together. So as of yet my inner metamorphosis makes no sense. In such a metamorphosis, I lose everything I have had, and what I have had has been myself – all that I have is what I am. And what am I now? I am: a standing in the presence of fear. I am: what I have seen. I don’t understand and I am afraid to understand, the matter of the world frightens me, with its planets and its cockroaches.’

— Lispector, The Passion According to G.H. (tr. Sousa)

Once when attending a conference featuring her work with fellow Brazilian novelist Nélida Piñon, she left the room, beckoning Piñon to follow her: ‘Tell them,’ Clarice [Lispector] said to her friend, ‘that if I had understood a single word of all that, I wouldn’t have written a single line of any of my books.’

Jenny McPhee

Life-giving death

Will I have to have the courage to use an undefended heart and go on speaking to nothing and no one? as when a child thinks about nothingness. And to run the risk of being crushed by chance. I don’t understand what I saw. I don’t even know if I saw it, since my eyes ended up not being separate from what I saw. Only in an unexpected rippling of the lines, only in an anomaly of in the uninterrupted continuity of my culture did I for an instant experience life-giving death. That purified death that made me sort through the forbidden weft of life. Saying the name of life is forbidden. And I almost said it. I almost couldn’t disentangle myself from its weft, which would have been the destruction of my age inside me.

— Lispector, The Passion According to G.H. (tr. Sousa)

It’s hard to lose oneself

Am I disorganised because I have lost something I didn’t even need? In this new cowardice of mine – cowardice is what has happened to me most recently, my greatest adventure, it is so wide a field that only great courage enables me to accept it – in my new cowardice, which is like waking up in the morning in a stranger’s house, I don’t know if I’ll have the courage simply to set out. It’s hard to lose oneself. So hard that I’ll probably soon work out a way to find myself, even if finding myself is again the lie that I live on.

— Lispector, The Passion According to G.H. (tr. Sousa)


I keep looking, looking. Trying to understand. Trying to give what I have gone through to someone else, and I don’t know who, but I don’t want to be alone with that experience. I don’t know what to do with it. I’m terrified of that profound disorganisation. I’m not sure I even believe in what happened to me. Did something happen, and did I, because I didn’t know how to experience it, end up experiencing something else instead? It’s that something that I’d like to call disorganisation, and then I’d have the confidence to venture forth because I would know where to come back to: to the prior organisation. I prefer to call it disorganisation because I don’t want to ground myself in what I experienced – in that grounding I would lose the world as it was for me before, and I know that I don’t have the capacity for another one.

— Lispector, The Passion According to G.H. (tr. Sousa)

I can see that my story lacks depth. I find it exhausting to have to describe things.

— Lispector, The Hour of the Star (tr. G. Pontiero)

No technique

Perhaps I could enhance this story if I were to introduce some difficult terms? But that is the problem: this story has no technique, even in matters of style. It has been written at random. Nothing would persuade me to contaminate with brilliant mendacious words a life as frugal as that of my typist. During the day, like everyone else, I make gestures that are unobserved even by me. One of my most unobserved gestures is this story, which comes out as it will, independent of me.

— Lispector, The Hour of the Star (tr. G. Pontiero)

Little to say

She could speak, of course, but had little to say. No sooner do I succeed in persuading her to speak than she slips through my fingers.
I get the impression that her life was one long meditation about nothingness.

— Lispector, The Hour of the Star (tr. G. Pontiero)

For only when I err do I get away from what I know and what I understand. If ‘truth’ were what I can understand, it would end up being but a small truth, my-sized. Truth must reside precisely in what I shall never understand.

— Clarice Lispector


It’s only when I say that everything is incomprehensible that I come as close as possible to understanding the only thing it is given to us to understand.

— Ionesco

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