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The Passion According to G. H. by Clarice Lispector

The Passion According to G. H. by Clarice Lispector

an excerpt from The Passion According to G. H. by Clarice Lispector

Then, once again, another thick millimeter of white matter spurted out.

Holy Mary, mother of God, I offer thee my life in exchange for that moment yesterday’s not being true. The roach with the white matter was looking at me. I don’t know if it was seeing me, I don’t know what a roach sees. But we were looking at each other, and also I don’t know what a woman sees. But if its eyes weren’t seeing me, its existence was existing me–in the primary world I had entered, beings exists others as a way of seeing one another. And in that world I was coming to know, there are several ways that mean seeing: one a looking at the other without seeing him, one possessing the other, one eating the other, one just being in a place and the other being there too: all that also means seeing. The roach wasn’t seeing me directly, it was with me. The roach wasn’t seeing me with its eyes but with its body.

And I–I was seeing. There was no way not to see it. No way to deny: my convictions and my wings were quickly drying up and no longer had a point. I could no longer deny it. I don’t know what I could no longer deny, but I no longer could. And I could no longer even rescue myself, as before, with a whole civilization that would help me deny what I was seeing.

I was seeing all of it, the roach.

The roach is an ugly and sparkling being. The roach is the other way around. No, no, it doesn’t have a way around: it is that. Whatever is exposed in it is what I hide in me: from my outside being exposed I made my unheeded inside. It was looking at me. And it wasn’t a face. It was a mask. A diver’s mask. That precious gem of rusted iron. Its two eyes were alive like two ovaries. It was looking at me with the blind fertility of its gaze. It was fertilizing my dead fertility. Would its eyes be salty? If I touched them–since I was gradually getting more and more unclean–if I touched them with my mouth, would they taste salty?

I’d already tasted in my mouth a man’s eyes and, from the salt in my mouth, realized he was crying.

But, thinking about the salt in the roach’s black eyes, suddenly I recoiled again, and my dry lips pulled back to my teeth: the reptiles that move across the earth!  In the halted reverberation of the light of the room, the roach was a small slow crocodile. The dry and vibrating room. The roach and I poised in that dryness as on the dry crust of an extinct volcano. That desert I had entered, and also inside it I was discovering life and its salt.

Once again the white part of the roach spurted out maybe less than a millimeter.

This time I had hardly perceived the minute movement its matter had made. I was looking on engrossed, unmoving.

–Never, until then, had life happened to me by day. Never in sunlight. Only in my nights did the world slowly revolve. Only that, whatever happened in the dark of night itself, would also happen at the same time in my own entrails, and my dark wasn’t differentiated from the dark outside, and in the morning, when I opened my eyes, the world was still a surface: the secret life of the night soon reduced in my mouth to the taste of a nightmare that disappears. But now life was happening by day. Undeniable and to be seen. Unless I averted my eyes.

And I could still avert my eyes.

–But hell had already taken me, my love, the hell of unhealthy curiosity. I was already selling my human soul, because seeing had already begun to consume me in pleasure, I was selling my future, I was selling my salvation, I was selling us.

“I’m asking for help,” I then suddenly shouted to myself with the muteness of those whose mouths gradually filled with quicksand, ” I’m asking for help,” I thought still and seated. Yet not once did it occur to me to get up and go, as if that were already impossible. The roach and i had been buried in a mine.

The scale just had one pan on it now. Upon that pan was my deep refusal of roaches. But now “refusal of roaches” were merely words, and i also knew that in the hour of my death I too would not be translatable by word.

Dying, yes, I knew, since dying was the future and is imaginable, and for imagining I had always had time. But the instant, this instant–the present–that isn’t imaginable, between the present and I there’s no interval: it is now, in me.

–Understand, dying I knew beforehand and dying still wasn’t demanding me. But what I’d never experienced was the crash with the moment called “right now.” Today is demanding me this very day. I had never before known that the time to live also has no word. The time to live, my love, was being so right now that I leaned my mouth on the matter of life. The time to live is a slow uninterrupted creaking of doors continuously opening wide. Two gates were opening and had never stopped opening. But they were continuously opening onto– onto the nothing?

The time to live is so hellishly inexpressive that it is the nothing. What I was calling “nothing” was nevertheless so stuck to me that to me it was … I? and that’s why it was becoming invisible as I was invisible to myself, and it was becoming the nothing. The doors as always kept opening.

Finally, my love, I gave in. And it became a now.


The Passion According to G. H. by Clarice Lispector is now available from New Directions Books.


Richard Chiem

About The Author

Richard Chiem

Richard Chiem is the author of You Private Person. He lives in Seattle, WA.

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