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Paris 13 / 11: Clarice Lispector and Kathy Acker

By Richard Marshall.




The atrocities of Paris remind us that we’re on earth. Culling merciless lines from two of the writers we’re missing most maybe we can find things to pivot off…

Clarice Lispector: Who has not asked himself at some time or other: am I a monster or is this what it means to be a person?

Kathy Acker: There are times when the law jeopardizes those who obey it.

CL: The mystery of human destiny is that we are fated, but that we have the freedom to fulfill or not fulfill our fate: realization of our fated destiny depends on us. While inhuman beings like the cockroach realize the entire cycle without going astray because they make no choices.

KA: We’re still human. Human because we keep on battling against all these horrors, the horrors caused and not caused by us. We battle not in order to stay alive, that would be too materalistic, for we are body and spirit, but in order to love each other.

CL: Life is a kind of madness that death makes. Long live the dead because we live in them. Do not mourn the dead. They know what they are doing.

KA: I will go down into death with you. I must go where I must go to see what I must see in that place where no one knows…. This is where love is taking me.

CL: It is because I dove into the abyss that I am beginning to love the abyss I am made of.

KA: Look. Each person has the possibilities of being simultaneously several beings, having several lives. The good family man doesn’t have a sense of responsibility. Simultaneously, he’s my angel. Simultaneously, his family’s a pack of incontinent dogs. In front of men such as him who believe they’re respectable, I love to talk about who they really are, the people they don’t want to know and socially and politically chastise. Look. I have loved and worshiped a pig. This society hates and locks up its madness because they hate and lock up themselves. I know the system of schizophrenia. Nevertheless I loved a pig and couldn’t stop.

CL: Something broke in me and left me with a nerve split in two. In the beginning the extremities linked to the cut hurt me so badly that I paled in pain and perplexity. However the split places gradually scarred over. Until coldly, I no longer hurt. I changed, without planning to. I used to look at you from my inside outward and from the inside of you, which because of love, I could guess. After the scarring I started to look at you from the outside in. And also to see myself from the outside in: I had transformed myself into a heap of facts and actions whose only root was in the domain of logic. At first I couldn’t associate me with myself. Where am I? I wondered. And the one who answered was a stranger who told me coldly and categorically: you are yourself.

KA: Perhaps if human desire is said out loud, the urban planes, the prisons, the architectual mirrors will take off, as airplanes do. The black planes will take off into the night air and the night winds, sliding past and behind each other, zooming, turning and turning in the redness of the winds, living, never to return.

CL: Reality prior to my language exists as an unthinkable thought. . . . life precedes love, bodily matter precedes the body, and one day in its turn language shall have preceded possession of silence.

KA: If we keep on fucking, I’m not gonna die.

CL: I read what I’d written and thought once again: from what violent chasms is my most intimate intimacy nourished, why does it deny itself so much and flee to the domain of ideas? I feel within me a subterranean violence, a violence that only comes to the surface during the act of writing.

KA: The part of our being (mentality, feeling, physicality) which is free of all control let’s call our ‘unconscious’. Since it’s free of control, it’s our only defense against institutionalized meaning, institutionalized language, control, fixation, judgement, prison. Ten years ago, it seemed possible to destroy language through language: to destroy language that normalizes and controls by cutting that language. Nonsense would attack the empire-making (empirical) empire of language, the prisons of meaning. But this nonsense, since it depended on sense, simply pointed back to the normalizing institutions.

CL: I’m afraid to write. It’s so dangerous. Anyone who’s tried, knows. The danger of stirring up hidden things – and the world is not on the surface, it’s hidden in its roots submerged in the depths of the sea. In order to write I must place myself in the void. In this void is where I exist intuitively. But it’s a terribly dangerous void: it’s where I wring out blood. I’m a writer who fears the snare of words: the words I say hide others – Which? maybe I’ll say them. Writing is a stone cast down a deep well.

KA: All I know is that I’ve been returned to earth violently; I’ve a duty to myself to survive and to see what is. I have to deal with the truth, with nothing else. In such a society as ours the only possible chance for change, for mobility, for political, economic, and moral flow lies in the tactics of guerrilla warfare, in the use of fictions, of language.

CL: Oh, living is so uncomfortable. Everything presses in: the body demands, the spirit never ceases, living is like being weary but being unable to sleep–living is upsetting. You can’t walk around naked, either in body or in spirit. As soon as you discover the truth it’s already gone: the moment passed. I ask: what is it? Reply: it’s not. The terrible duty is that of going all the way to the end. And without relying on anyone. To live oneself.

KA: I’m thirsty. What I’m thirsty for—whom I’m thirsty for—I can’t get so I drink poisons. I’ve got to free myself. From what? Pain? Oh—for more poisons. Maybe more poisons’ll come and I’ll go so far, I’ll emerge. Something is trying to emerge from this mess. I don’t know how.

CL: … everything is so fragile. I feel so lost. I live off secret, radiating, luminous rays that would smother me if I didn’t cover them with a heavy cloak of false certainties. God help me: I have no one to guide me and it’s dark again. When I surprise myself in the depths of the mirror I get a fright. I can hardly believe that I have limits, that I am cut out and defined. I feel scattered in the air, thinking inside other beings, living in things beyond myself. When I surprise myself at the mirror I am not frightened because I think I am ugly or beautiful. It is because I discover I am of a different nature. After not having seen myself for a while I almost forget I am human, I forget my past and I am as free from end and awareness as something merely alive. I am also surprised, eyes open at the pale mirror, that there are so many things in me besides what I know, so many things always silent.

KA: Today I Think my relationship with hell is over. It was hell, the ancient hell. Mental war is constant. Nonetheless, this is the eve before the morning. May I accept the influxes of vigor and whatever real tenderness floats by in these barren waters. And when dawn comes, armed with my patience which burns, I shall see the cities of humans which are splendid. The imagination is nothing unless it is made actual.

CL: I have grown weary of literature: silence alone comforts me. If I continue to write, it’s because I have nothing more to accomplish in this world except to wait for death. Searching for the word in darkness. Any little success invades me and puts me in full view of everyone. I long to wallow in the mud. I can scarcely control my need for self-abasement, my craving for licentiousness and debauchery. Sin tempts me, forbidden pleasures lure me. I want to be both pig and hen, then kill them and drink their blood.
KA: I find waiting unbearable because it makes me passive and negates me. I hate being nothing.

CL: For one has the right to shout. So, I am shouting.

KA: Lesbians are women who prefer their own ways to male ways. Lesbians prefer the convoluting halls of sensuality to direct goal-pursuing mores. Lesbians have made a small world deep within and separated from the world. What has usually been called the world is the male world.

CL: And even sadness was also something for rich people, for people who could afford it, for people who didn’t have anything better to do.

Richard Marshall is still biding his time.

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First published in 3:AM Magazine: Sunday, November 15th, 2015.