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  • Clarice Lispector's Invisible Archive of the Quotidian:A Political Monologue with Life1
  • Patricia López-Gay

I. In search of the living instant

Estou querendo captar o instante-já que de tão fugitivo não é maisporque agora tornou-se um novo instante-já. Este será meu propósito: Quero capturar o presente que nos é por sua própria natureza interdito: a atualidade nos escapa.

–Clarice Lispector, Objeto gritante

These lines appear within the initial pages of the first complete version of Clarice Lispector's personal diary, Objeto gritante: Monólogo com a vida (Loud Object: A Monologue with Life) (1971). Lispector intermittently interrupts the daily archive of heterogeneous thoughts, fantasies, and memories in an attempt to capture the present moment of life that coincides with the present of writing. The result is a markedly mysterious text that traces the passage from the presence of the absolute present of writing to the record of its inevitable absence. This manuscript, available for consultation at the Archives of Casa de Rui Barbosa in Rio de Janeiro, has remained unpublished to date.

On the cover page of Objeto gritante, the author includes a hand-written declaration in large letters: "Este é um anti-livro" (title page). From the many possibilities of autobiographical writing, Lispector chooses to undertake that of the diary, a writing mode that scholars consider to be marginal, or even non-literary.2 Objeto gritante arranges a combination of seemingly unrelated [End Page 497] fragments that destabilize the conventional literary narrative, including autobiographical narrative. The diarist is seized by an uncontrollable desire to seize the instante-já (3), as mentioned earlier, whereby the Portuguese adverb "já"–equivalent to the English expressions "already" and "now"-refers to the immediate present in the past, present or future. Upon first glance, one could argue that Lispector's archive of the quotidian is symptomatic of the modern shared urge to freeze time whose ultimate illusion was realized with the advent of photography.3 Indeed, as Michel Foucault has emphasized, modern archivization has to do with a widely shared desire to arrest time:

la idea de acumularlo todo, la idea de constituir una suerte de archivo general, la voluntad de encerrar en [. . .] un lugar con todos los tiempos que esté él mismo fuera del tiempo y de su alcance, el proyecto de organizar así una especie de acumulación perpetua e indefinida del tiempo en un lugar inmóvil, pues bien, todo eso pertenece a nuestra modernidad

(1984: 48-49)4

In this context, Foucault refers to libraries and museums of our epoch. His observation is reminiscent of the old dream on which lies the modern paradigm of the archive: analogue photography. More generally, it speaks of cultural practices of archivization which aspire to totality. Distinguishing itself from other contemporary archives that seek to accomplish totality, Lispector's project of life-writing longs for the incomplete, as suggested here: "Sei que este livro não terá fim. Irei continuando até parar por morte ou por ato de vontade. Dizendo apenas: continua" (30). Significantly, Objeto gritante openly discourages the reader to think that finitude by death could be behind the diarist's urge to archive life. In other words, Lispector's invisible diary does not present itself as the result of the anxiety of radical finitude that tends to mark archival practices, as proposed by Jacques Derrida in his seminal work, Mal d'archivé (1995: 38). For instance, Lispector tells herself "Deve ser bom morrer. Deve ter gosto de comida quando se está com muita fome" (49); "quero morrer com vida. Juro que morrerei lucrando o último instante [End Page 498] de vida" (15).5 In fact, this sui generis project of life-writing aspires to extend time, elasticize the living instant that includes the moment of death. My understanding is that Lispector persistently pursues the instante-já, not with the purpose of inhabiting a distinct space outside of time, but rather to "be" inside time, "ser-se no tempo."

As mentioned above, Lispector never published this original, intriguing piece of life narrative, which undoubtedly deserves further scholarly attention, and yet, evidence exists that suggests plans to bring the work to the public. In...


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