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A remarkable - and difficult - exploration of a breakdown. A highly introspective woman ('G.H.') enters her maid's bedroom and sees a cockroach which triggers an existential crisis.
Everything is in the writing. Life proceeds at a snail's pace with plenty of retrospection, reminiscent of Kafka and Henry James. The highly intelligent, alert and spoilt G.H. 'lived well, really well ... on the top floor of a superstructure ... [where] at least nothing spoke and nobody spoke'. Her days are devoid of virtually any activity, on top of which she is a control freak, obsessed with 'rules and laws', but this is counteracted by her micro-focused imagination.
‘Buried beneath the sentimental and utilitarian construction ... the thing part ... was too powerful and was waiting to reclaim me.’ It is hard to tell how unbalanced G.H. is, because of the lucidity of her musings. She experiences emptiness and joy, talking intimately to the reader, 'my love', before confronting her absolute, girlish horror of the cockroach, and then plunging into its ancient being.
It is hard going, reading such intense intellectualising of a very particular and - on the surface - minor sensory experience: 'its existence was existing [as an] acute calibration of the minutest sensation of me'. But the labour pays off, giving an unflinching sense of the frailty of life, which can as easily turn to horror as to joy.
The work is a bit like a Nordic drama in which the sole actor is stripped so naked that all you can see is the blood coursing through her veins, while her eyes hold you in an intense searchlight.
I'm in something of a Lispector reading phase right now - read 'The Hour of the Star' decades ago, and although it made a lasting impression on me, I wasn't sure why, and with hindsight I somehow don't feel I was wholly 'ready' for now. Recently, I've read Agua Viva as well as The Passion, have The Besieged City on my 'bought and to read' list and am working my way through the Complete Stories. The Passion barely has a conventional plot, it's about - if anything - a transformative experience whose specific circumstances I'm not sure I am able to fully buy into. But this doesn't really matter - I feel Lispector is very explicitly inviting us to step into our own experience in old or (new-very-old) ways and what happens in G.H's maid's bedroom is by any stretch a good enough vehicle for what is essentially intended as a universalist 'message' or lure. At this stage in my life, personally I feel ripe for her work, and unhesitatingly ready to accompany her, or to acknowledge an appeal repeatedly made by the narrator of 'The Passion' to reach out my hand to her. Any comment on the quality of the translation is limited by my lack of knowledge of Portuguese, alas, yet with that massive caveat in place, I can say that nothing jars, and all my intuition is the adverb 'lovingly' would not be inapt.
É uma ótima tradução de "A Paixão Segundo GH" da Clarice Lispector, fica a recomendação. A tradutora realmente se preocupou em trazer todos os elementos do livro original, os simbolismos que surgem no correr da obra, para o equivalente da lingua inglesa, tarefa não muito fácil neste tipo de livro, que usa da técnica do fluxo de consciência como narrativa. O ebook manteve todos os detalhes estruturais da obra original, os elementos estéticos que a autora fez questão de ali colocar. Vale a pena.
Maybe I'm not "high-brow" enough for this, but after reading the reviews was expecting something rather special, and instead read what I felt to be a rather pretentious and drawn out psycholiogical "belly button gaze" by Ms Lispector. Possibly in its age it would stand differently, but I couldn't rate it as an essential work.
In this book, the unnamed narrator, an artist, discovers a roach in the closet of her former maid's room, and for the next 200 pages writes about what is happening to her in this experience. Beautiful writing and very mystical. There is really no one who writes like Clarice Lispector. But if you're looking for a book with a nice plot and a happy ending, look elsewhere.
This book is in the style of Agua Viva, but with a narrative. We see the narrator's interior life, and her dilemmas and reflections. The bent is spiritual. It is a reflection on thinking, like Agua Viva, but more overtly spiritual. There is some reference to Christianity. Overall, Agua Viva was better.
This really is an utterly unique, exciting work. I can completely understand why it would incite extremes of love or hate -- it certainly would not appeal to everyone. Not necessarily something to be read in one sitting, to me it is a philosophical text which, like Nietzsche's Zarathustra, I can enjoy coming back to and exploring the layers of poetic meaning. It is a remarkable meditation on the human condition.