Sunday, 12 February 2017


The Passion According to G.H. by Clarice Lispector    {Reviewed by THOMAS}
“A note exists between two notes of music, between two facts exists a fact, between two grains of sand no matter how close together there exists an interval of space, a sense that exists between senses.” Upon entering the room of her apartment that had been inhabited by her maid, the narrator is frightened by a large cockroach emerging from the wardrobe and shuts the door upon it. This act of violence creates a bond of association between the two, a bond which language-based thought is not able to withstand, and, as the narrator looks into the face of the cockroach and at the white paste that oozes from its fatal wound, she becomes indistinguishable from the cockroach and indeed from all life, she becomes what she terms 'neutral', not individuated by the spurious but 'useful' concepts of identity and time. "Until the moment of seeing the roach I'd always had some name for what I was living, otherwise I wouldn't get away. To escape the neutral, I had long since forsaken the being for the persona." Her mental disintegration is both a symptom of and an escape from life traumas that are barely hinted at (an abortion, a lost lover), and her experience with the cockroach entails a relinquishment of everything she had thought of as herself. The ecstatic and the horrific cannot be distinguished from one another. Only thinking and the use of language can keep this reality at bay. "I was abandoning my human organisation - to enter that monstrous thing that is my living neutrality." But, of course, the relation of her experience is in itself a feat of language: perhaps it is through the failure of language to reach further that the edges of experience that the shape of experience may be conveyed. "Reality is the raw material, language is the way I go in search of it - and the way I do not find it. ... The unsayable can only be given to me through the failure of my language."  After slowing time down with great austerity in the first two thirds of the novel, Lispector has her narrator progress into a delirium of religious and metaphorical ravings, which, for me, demonstrates how 'profundity' (as so precisely and compellingly delineated in the first part) has no certain point of delineation from madness (though I am not entirely sure that this was the author's intention (and I must say that the novel lost my unreserved admiration at this point)). The novel, and the narrator's identification with the cockroach, culminates in the narrator taking into her mouth, as a kind of communion, some of the crushed insect's innards.

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