Ecstasy

LispectorHere’s a little rumination I had a while back. I noticed an interesting parallel between my readings in Clarice Lispector (specifically The Passion According to G. H.) and a show I watched on HBO where an older Asian gentleman informed me that the orgasm is a bad thing. In the West the orgasm is the pinnacle of ecstasy but in the East, the ecstasy does not end with the orgasm. In the West the man has his orgasm and like a blowout, he goes flat and is useless. Lispector writes:

“… what invokes me and calls me is neutrality. I have no words to express it, and I therefore speak of neutrality and have only then ecstasy that too is no longer what we have been calling ecstasy, for it isn’t culmination. But that culminationless ecstasy the neutrality of which I speak.”

The Passion According to G. H. is a very interesting and important novel and Clarice Lispector is a complex and demanding author. Passion has been called the best novel written about a cockroach by someone other than Kafka. It demands reading and rereading. I have to confess that it took me some time to get into the Lispector groove: I read a few pages, shook my head, and went back to read them again. I could sense the greatness of he writing but had some trouble focusing my brain. Still, the effort was well worth it.

If you haven’t read Lispector you should know that she is a Russian Jew whose family moved to South America where she became one of Brazil’s most famous authors. Ecstasy is a central theme in much of Lispector’s work (I have even seen university classes in just that subject). Sadly Clarice Lispector died too young. Here is her bibliography from Wikipedia:

Novels

  • Perto do Coração Selvagem (1943) – Near to the Wild Heart
  • O Lustre (1946) – The Chandelier
  • A Cidade Sitiada (1949) – The Besieged City
  • A Maçã no Escuro (1961) The Apple in the Dark
  • A Paixão segundo G.H. (1964) – The Passion According to G.H.
  • Uma Aprendizagem ou O Livro dos Prazeres (1969) – An Apprenticeship or The Book of Pleasures
  • Água Viva (1973) – The Stream of Life
  • A hora da Estrela (1977) – The Hour of the Star
  • Um Sopro de Vida (1978) – A Breath of Life

Short story collections

  • Alguns contos (1952) – Some Stories
  • Laços de família (1960) – Family Ties. Includes works previously published in Alguns Contos.
  • A legião estrangeira (1964) – The Foreign Legion
  • Felicidade clandestina (1971) – Covert Joy
  • A imitação da rosa (1973) – The Imitation of the Rose. Includes previously published material.
  • A via crucis do corpo (1974) – The Via Crucis of the Body
  • Onde estivestes de noite (1974) – Where You Were at Night
  • Para não esquecer (1978) – Not to Forget
  • A bela e a fera (1979) – Beauty and the Beast

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