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  • Writer's pictureP D Dawson

Água Viva by Clarice Lispector (Book Review)

'What I write to you does not come gently, slowly rising to a peak before dying away gently. No: what I write you is aflame like fiery eyes.'

Água Viva seems to have not only a stream of consciousness running through it, but rather a living river of words, and to analogise it further, one would have to say that the torrent and flow of words and the morphing of their meaning, lend it a quality which is a little overwhelming to begin with. One feels the need to draw breath, to pull back from the river and dry a little on the riverbank before heading back into the river's wild and unpredictable flow. Yet I eventually realised that this book is best enjoyed if you stop fighting against the torrent, let go of meaning, and instead just enjoy the words and let them wash over you. Take what you can from it, of course, but do not fight against the occasional illogical and often erudite meaning, or the phrase spun in ambiguity. A book as complex and intentionally convoluted as this demands repeated reading, for the complexity of a symphony by Bruckner for example, hints of its qualities on a first listen, but can only be truly understood and appreciated through repetition and familiarity, and perhaps it's no coincidence that in this book, Lispector often borrows phrases and terms used in classical music, and so maybe she would like to have this book thought about in that way, and I'm sure she would have loved the idea of words becoming music.

So I got some idea on this read, of a consciousness trying to battle with meaning and looking at life from different angles, and through mirrors, and the study of philosophical thought and rationale, but I would be lying if I said I understand all of the intricacies and depths of this book, for I don't think one can on the first reading. However, I can say that on this first read I certainly got the feeling, as I do from a good symphony, that there is much pleasure and hidden meaning in its depths, and so I will endeavour to read this again at some point, and hope to be able to comment further on its meaning and my understanding of it then. As for recommending it to others, well I certainly wouldn't recommend it to anyone who is primarily interested in plot and a fast overall pace, but I do highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a challenging and philosophical read.


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