I don’t want the owl to cry, she shouted in a soundlss sob. And the owl immediately cried blackly on the branch. She jumped - or had it cried before her thought? or the exact same time? I don’t want to hear the trees, she was saying to herself, fumbling within herself, moving forward stunned. And the trees upon a sudden wind were rustling in a slow murmur of strange and tall life. Or hadn’t it been a foreboding? she was begging herself. I don’t want Daniel to move. And Daniel was moving. Her breath light, her hearing new and surprised, she seemed to be able to penetrate and flee things in silence like a shadow; weak and blind, she was feeling the color and the sound of whatever was almost happening. She was tremulously moving ahead of herself, flying with her senses ahead crossing the tense and perfumed air of the new night. I don’t want the bird to fly, she was saying to herself now almost a light in her chest despite the terror, and in a tired and difficult perception was presaging the future movements of things an instant before they ring out.
This stunning passage from Clarice Lispector’s The Chandelier (trans. Benjamin Moser) mirrors my own experience of reading Lispector for the first time. I had only briefly heard of her, but the expectations were extraordinary. I couldn’t stop thinking about a blurb: “Lispector had an ability to write as though no one had ever written before.” What would it be like to read writing as though no one had written before? How could anyone write like this?
Seven pages into The Chandelier, I encounter this passage. Page after page I found similarly stunning lines. The novel keeps building like this, burning with a sensitivity that seeks to singe the page. Indeed, I found that Lispector writes as though no one had ever written before.
As I read more about Lispector before reading Lispector, I tremulously moved ahead of myself, feeling the color and the sound of whatever Lispector was almost being read. I don’t want reading Lispector to change me. And reading Lispector immediately changes me. I jump - or has Lispector changed me before reading her? Or at the exact same time?
But why does the narrator in Lispector’s novel not want these things to happen? It implies another question - why is there a desire to be rid of expectations? Could it be that expectations smother one’s sense of freedom? Expectations can be self-fulfilling prophecies, no matter how much one resists. If expectations cannot be escaped, do they need to be molded to fit different…expectations?