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Clarice Lispector: Água viva (The Stream of Life)

This is a very short book but it is not a very easy one. It consists of a monologue, written by a Brazilian painter, to someone, identified only as you but whom the writer states that she loves. The opening reminds me of another woman who writes in Portuguese – Teolinda Gersão. The writer here is a painter and knows how to express herself in painting but struggles to express herself in words. As with Gersão, she recognises the limits of language for an ordinary person but, more so in her case, as painting is her main means of communication. But Lispector’s painter takes us beyond Gersão’s silent woman as she is looking for nothing less than life. Gradually, we see her identification with nature, with God, with love (and her lover) and her gradual movement towards her full awareness of life, in all its aspects. As I said, it is not easy and it is not always clear where she is going but it is fascinating following her journey.

Publishing history

First published 1973 by Rocco
First published in English 1989 by University of Minnesota Press