December 8, 2023 | Rome, Italy

The Passion According to G.H.

By |2018-03-21T18:45:38+01:00August 10th, 2011|Recent Reviews|

By Clarice Lispector, translated from the Portuguese by Ronald W. Sousa

University of Minnesota Press, (1964) 1989. 174 pages.


razilian author Lispector (1920-1977) was a woman on a cliff. Or perhaps a cliff was Lispector in another guise, she its natural embodiment, and the act of falling necessary to prove the “abyss of unending heights…”

This rapturous text, a journey through a “collapsed mine,” is a linguistic Babylon that reads as a paper cut might feel. It is the “despoliation of the constructed human being,” a ravenous search for the why of all craving. The story plays out in one room, on one day in Rio, the artist narrator’s only companion a benign but dying cockroach (“… made of tubes and antennae and soft cement…”). But the roach isn’t Kafka’s. It’s moister and more female. Its primordial oozing — “G.H.” has crushed it in a wardrobe door — gives G.H. pause to ponder humanness with a unique ferocity.

A “novel” of challenging ideas? Yes. Of metaphysics? That, too. Of spiritual mysticism and Christian love? Also. In it, womb and tomb meet and argue, scheming and reminiscing, with Lispector’s ruminative G.H. taking notes on the “prehistory of the future” while decanting a hymn to God and the “Hellish immensity of life…” Everywhere is fertility: “The desert has a humidity that must be found again.” and “…there are so many children in the womb that it seems like a prayer…”

She writes like an overwrought Egyptologist overwhelmed by new hieroglyphics. Neutrality comes before sentiment, inhumanity incorporates wholeness, and only putting aside heroism and disgust can lead to loving even what you loathe, which is life’s basic handwriting, Christian to the core. Her passion is hungry, ambitious and riveting.

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