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The Passion According to G.H. by Clarice…
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The Passion According to G.H. (1964)

by Clarice Lispector

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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» See also 40 mentions

Showing 5 of 5
https://msarki.tumblr.com/post/50494424282/lispector-cockroaches-and-bang

My reviews are being removed from goodreads for some reason. Instead, please read them on my blog. ( )
  MSarki | Jan 7, 2018 |
Often inscrutable. Gorgeous. ( )
  beckydj | Jan 20, 2016 |
Literally flowed into my dreams the next night. How do you make the tautology of truth both passionate and beautiful? Here you go. ( )
  DavidCLDriedger | Apr 22, 2015 |

3.784G59H3B2568X11@1107/5

My issue with philosophy as fiction is that I often find the story suffers at the expense of the author meandering too far off into the weeds for my taste. In these cases, the integrity of a story, its inherent ability to carry a reader such as myself along in its wake, wilts under the weight of too much philosophical vagulating (see p. 7 , 2nd paragraph of Virginia Woolf: Lexicographer). One interpretation of this particular work is that the narrator, the woman known as G.H., reinvents herself with each new section of the book. That may be true, but if so, I was not interested in all the versions. I was enjoying it for about the first two-thirds or so, but then some of the tangents went in directions I didn't feel like following. I will also admit that reading this book required a level of concentration that I perhaps was not in the right mood to muster (for one, the air in my not air-conditioned house threatened to suffocate me). I recently read Maurice Blanchot's The One Who Was Standing Apart from Me and encountered the same need for close reading, but Blanchot did not veer off as randomly as Lispector does here, and so I could move ahead in a relatively straight line of steady comprehension.

I think it's worth noting that the translator, Ronald W. Sousa, basically admits in the introduction that the Portuguese original is much better than the English translation:

Imagine a Portuguese text that transmits a much greater sense of potential language chaos than does the translation.

Language Chaos: now that sounds like something I would be into. He also describes the original as "more ambiguous and idiosyncratic." Maybe that is what I was missing here. Maybe the precision of wording required by the translation into English stripped away the extremes of Lispector's language manipulation, which it seems is what she was primarily concerned with.

All of this being said, I still found much to interest me in the text and wrote down lengthy notes for such a short book. Some of Lispector's literary devices were also clever; for one, her asides to the unseen, imagined being whose hand she clings to out of fear during parts of the book:

Give me your anonymous hand, for life is giving me pain and I don't know how to go on talking—reality is too delicate, only reality is delicate, my unreality and my imagination are more substantial.

A few favorite quotes:

If "truth" were what I can understand...it would end up being but a small truth, my-sized.

I contort myself to be able to touch the present time that surrounds me, but I remain remote in reaction to this very instant itself.

I had never before realized that the moment of living too has no words.

The moment of living is so Hellishly inexpressive that it is nothingness.


These last two called to my mind a quote from one of Kafka's journal entries:

The alarm trumpets of nothingness.

To me, these all imply a triumphant aspect of nothingness, not something to avoid but rather to examine, promoting the recognition of 'life as nothingness' as a valid subject to consider, for we cannot, in fact, adequately describe a single moment of living, and so does stringing all of these inexpressible moments together not indeed result in one long band of nothingness...on this I think Lispector might be willing to engage with me. Certainly she writes a lot about the inexpressive:

An inexpressive face fascinated me; the moment that was not climactic attracted me. Nature, what I liked in nature, was its vibrant inexpressiveness.

Lispector introduces the book with an odd sort of disclaimer, in which she says she "would be happy if it were read only by people whose outlook is fully formed." She goes on to elaborate a little, but again the translation issue raises its Medusa-like head, for what does she really mean by "fully formed," anyway. Is anyone's outlook ever fully formed...is not our outlook what all these moments of nothingness are constantly refining in their inexpressive manner. I don't know. Perhaps I will try rereading the book on my deathbed...
( )
  S.D. | Apr 5, 2014 |
Note of laughable interest: My article I had linked here to hubpages was flagged for violations regarding mature adult content. That is ridiculous so I am republishing the review here again, I will also be looking for a new home for all my reviews and articles if you know of anybody needing a somewhat irreverent, but consistent, point of view:

Clarice Lispector's narrator G.H. claims at the end of this book that she does not understand what she is saying and it hits a note that for me was a constantly present thread throughout the bulk of my entire reading of The Passion According to G.H. Oh yes, there were many sentences I did enjoy and I knew exactly what she was saying to me. But for the most part I felt all along that she was simply hearing herself talk and wondering if she could eventually get out of the corner she had painted herself into. For six days I slowly read the pages of this accounting and it seemed I was literally stuck in that room with the bed and the frame, the door, and an oozing cockroach. I am not sure that the roach ever died, and I am really not sure if roaches ever do. I get it that I was dealing in essence here with something primordial even if it felt crepuscular instead.

Giorgio Agamben once said, "God wants gods." I used that brave quote back in 2000 to introduce my first book of poetry Zimble Zamble Zumble. It was my feeling throughout the reading of this Passion of G.H. that she herself was playing God, and I liked it, and for that reason kept myself engaged. Of course, it always helps to string good sentences along with your reader. And Clarice Lispector was very adept at doing this. She certainly wasn't a stupid girl as the proof present in her big ideas about the world we live in as well as the ones we don't. Somebody dumb would have lost too many of us with this type of thinking too much out loud. In fact, I kept swimming in her sea of doubts, lies, and wonder, thinking I might drown in her pool at some time but willing to take the exercise anyway. Again, it was similar to the indulging of my medicine every morning in order to help me keep alive. But her words a bit more pleasurable to me in a perverted sort of way.

There were many moments in my duration when I questioned what I was reading and why. Is it enough to accept a work as brilliant just because some suit or crazy professor says it is? I think not, and for that very reason I question what I read in this light even more intensely than when reading a book that has been, for the most part, unrecognized and still buried beneath the growing pile of paper refuse and cloth boards now thankfully these days being electrolyzed.

But do note there is plenty in my life I have somehow eaten and already imbibed. And there is not much I haven't tried and nothing I am in need of tasting for the very first time. Even though the cockroach and its pus was something real and an actual noun we could get our heads around, I would have preferred additional hard nouns to be present in this book. Yes, G.H. tasted of her mother's milk and found it unsalted and dead. I did not. I suckled the bulging plump tit of my youngest son's mother in order to know for my true self what a mother's milk should taste like, seeing as though my own mother kept me on a strict diet of baby formula and powdered milk products from the fifties. My own desire to taste my wife's milk, now as her husband and a new father, I am proof-positive that there was something more than a sexual impulse although that was my intended purpose for this brief and awful drink. Her breast milk had more taste than I was accustomed to. Her milk rich beyond any prior experience, and nothing I would want another taste of, ever.

Even as a young child of seven I remember all too vividly admiring my baby brother Timothy after a bath and naked on his back in the bassinet when he spontaneously let loose a stream of urine that bulls-eyed straight into my mouth. That swift-flowing stream was extremely salty and something G.H. should have considered trying if she were looking for something with a bit more bang. I continue on these present days to salt my food, but not without the constant reminder of that fateful day as a kid in a room with my mother's baby. Too add more to the palate brought on here by Lispector herself, my friend and poetry editor, Gordon Lish, wrote a brilliant short piece of his own regarding his eating of a piece of shit, a story that I could not recommend more to anyone wanting even more pizazz or have the virtual, and thus safe, experience of doing something we all probably thought of and rejected at one time or another. It is certainly something not yet evolved of our natural world out there, as I have seen pet dogs devour stray turds from time to time. Lish's story is called Wouldn't A Title Just Make It Worse? and can be found in at least three of his books.

It is documented already in many reviews regarding this book that Lispector's work was stream of consciousness. When I think of this popular handle that too many readers want to connect writers to I see Jack Kerouac feverishly typing away at his machine with that constant roll of paper piling up on the floor. Apologies perhaps may come to order here, but my personal perception of Jack Kerouac is one of a blabbering misogynist, a woeful drunk, and an extremely confused sexual being living alone with his mother. And because of my very limited exposure to Clarice Lispector I visualize a woman of beauty like Marlene Dietrich writing like Virginia Woolf, and that is just plain sexy as hell to me. Rather than terming her work as stream of consciousness I see it more as digression, but a digression vacant of the necessary nouns to make it more real and moving and something I can get my teeth around. The book was entirely too cerebral for my tastes and the few instances of actual things present in it were not enough, and made the book for me lacking. That is not to say she doesn't have a brilliant mind or that she was not beautiful in every way described by her many admirers. This being the first book of Lispector's I have been subjected to I am looking forward to reading more by this gifted writer as well as the biography so praised as the definitive work we all must read. The fact that Lispector got me to read to the bottom of the very last page is testament to her skill as a writer. I wanted to finish the book even though my head was spinning much of the time and I was curious where she might be going with it. Seems even she didn't know where the end might be, but she certainly wasn't going to stop in that room, but instead, be taken outside to dance with the band and have a welcome spin with her friends beyond that door.

I recall a section in the book towards the end about the importance of giving up. I immediately thought of my wife's entire body now suffering for eighteen months due to an injury to her hand that has affected all her nerves coming from her neck as a result of her hard fall. She suffers in ways beyond my understanding, and for her it seems often enough so pointless for her to go on living in the state she finds herself in most days. But this morning I noticed on the CBS morning news program that the spire was permanently installed on the new World Trade Center. It struck me immediately at how pointless it is for terrorists to think they can affect a change in the human condition and our need to thrive and go on. Even Samuel Beckett has written extensively of how, I Can't Go On, I'll Go On. Even in the face of these terrible hurricanes of late and all their destruction, the human will is to rebuild and pick up the pieces and go on. Of course, the many deaths counted in and by these horrendous catastrophes are so painful and unnecessary, but death being a finality we all must face in one way or another ourselves eventually. So I found myself delightfully coming full circle in my understanding of this book I had just finished a few short hours before and realized it is pointless, really, to do much of anything. But still we do. And sometimes manage to have a good time. ( )
2 vote MSarki | Jun 5, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (34 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lispector, Clariceprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Härkönen, TarjaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Novey, IdraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I keep looking, looking. Trying to understand.
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