Água Viva

by kangcuzzi

“This text that I give you is not to be seen close up: it gains its secret previously invisible roundness when seen from a high-flying plane… Understand me: I write you an onomatopoeia, convulsion of language. I’m not transmitting to you a story but just words that live from sound.”

So go the words that, to a certain degree, wrap up what otherwise is an inexplicable and incredible book. After long afternoons spent wrapped up in the magic of Clarice Lispector’s Água Viva (Living Water), and seventeen double-sided cue-cards littered with beautiful quotes, I am baffled as to how to write what I feel needs to be written.

To begin with the obvious: Água Viva is a complex book. It has no plot or story. It is neither fact nor fiction, impersonal nor personal — similar to a haiku, it is a series of scattered images and thoughts that come together to form an incredible whole. In this case, the ‘whole’ is a meditation on life, time, and art, consisting of streams-of-consciousness that pay great attention to words. (Granted, I read the English translation of the original Portuguese, but in any case the language used in the book is very deliberate and very specific.)

“So writing is the method of using the word as bait: the word fishing for whatever is not word. When this non-word — between the lines — takes the bait, something has been written.”

What I found most beautiful about Água Viva was Lispector’s mastery of throwing convention aside. Although the book was difficult to understand at times (if not for the content than for the language), the way Lispector writes is like the way in which one creates an abstract painting: with no particular order, no set colour scheme, and no set point at which the painting is completely and clearly finished. She just writes and writes and writes, thinks and thinks and thinks. And how liberating it must have been!

“Before I organize myself, I must disorganize myself internally. To experience that first and fleeting primary state of freedom. Of the freedom to err, fall, and get up again.”

In any case, I thought it’d be worthwhile to share the quotes from Água Viva that touched me most. Lispector (who is also an artist) uses the finest word-paint.

On love:

“I am being joyful in this very instant because I refuse to be defeated: so I love. As an answer. Impersonal love, it love, is joy: even the love that doesn’t work out, even the love that ends.”

On the self:

“I went to meet myself. Calm, joyful, fullness without fulmination. Simply I am I. And you are you. It is vast, and will endure.”

“My aura is of the mystery of life. I surpass myself abdicating from my name, and then I am the world.”

On life:

“And this happens: when I think a painting is strange that’s when it’s a painting. And then I think a word is strange that’s where it achieves its meaning. And when I think life is strange that’s where life begins.”

“I’ll speak of what is called the experience. It’s the experience of asking for help and that help being given. Perhaps it was worth being born in order one day to implore mutely and mutely to receive.”

“But what fact has a night that happens entirely on a byway while we slept unaware of anything?”

…and so many other gems which will sporadically come back to me, later on in life.