On Clarice Lispector and breath. (Article)

“I am so mysterious that even I don’t understand myself.” CL

I am currently reading Agua Viva by the great Clarice Lispector, translated by Stefan Tobler. There are lamentably few of Lispectors works translated into English – hopefully this will change as her popularity here increases as in her native Brazil.


Image taken from NYTimes review piece.

I’ll review Auga Viva soon.  I’m on my second reading. Her work is always uncompromising   I am reading a translation of it, which is its own miracle.

I wanted to single this passage out, because the idea is touching.

From Agua Viva by Clarice Lispector:

I’ve spoken a lot about death. But I’m going to speak to you about the breath of life. When  a person is already no longer breathing, you give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation: you place your mouth upon the other person’s and breathe. And the other starts to breathe again. This exchange of breath is one of the most beautiful things that I ‘ve ever heard about in life. In fact the beauty of this mouth to mouth is dazzling to me.

The way she identifies so much power, so much beauty and so much raw human honesty in what seems to be a simple act brought this alive for me. Who are you if you engage with the world remembering you can perform this function? To be in the world aware that if someone needed it, you could breathe life into their body, is surely a notion that changes our relationship with those around us. To know if your heart stopped, for whatever reason, those around you would leap at the opportunity to breathe for you frees you to live an expression of joy in the ugliness of mundane human relationship.

And even beyond the me and the you.  The act obliterates my circular anxieties and my nervous reaching for the world. For the length of its time, I am a function of life – both in the giving and the receiving.

It is an exciting, wild and terrifying thought.