Tag: sadness

The Child, the Animal, Lispector

by on Aug.16, 2010

Existentialist Brazilian TV. 1977. Clarice Lispector refuses to name her unpublished book’s protagonist, whom we now know as Macabea. “It’s a secret,” she says. In this, her last interview, Lispector is asked about her relationship to students who visit her home. Specifically, what this relationship “reveals.”

Lispector: “It reveals something surprising. That they’re in the same boat.”

Reporter: “What does that mean, to be in the same boat?”

Lispector: “It’s that I think, sometimes, I’m isolated. Then I see university students–very young people–who are completely on my side. This shocks me. It’s gratifying.”

A smoker, Lispector is somber throughout the interview, unrecognizably Brazilian. “I’m talking from my tomb.” Yet, again on the topic of youth, the writer rises from her grave: “When I communicate with children, it’s easy because I’m very maternal.” And falls once more: “When I communicate with adults, I’m actually communicating with the most secretive part of me. Then it’s difficult.”

She thinks “the adult is sad and solitary” while “the child has released imagination” (fantasia).


Au hasard Balthazar. A film by Robert Bresson, Sontag’s spiritual stylist. The camera follows a donkey and a girl by making mirrors of their intimacy:

Haystacks, swing sets, a bestial baptism followed by the sharing of salt. Marie and her playmates fail to see a line dividing themselves and the foal. There’s no display of species anxiety. If their behavior suggests fantasy, it’s not that of spectacle, Disney, the crudely anthropomorphic. Marie, later in the film, stages a solemn wedding ceremony for herself and Balthazar. Children, we’re told, are innocent: their humanity is not oppressive to them like it is to us. While Edelman’s desperately reproductive adult thus figures the Child into “an imaginary fantasy of the recognizably human,” here our vision blurs. Children spill into the animal. They even get sick and approach death as fragile animals.

This weird species of space begs a question I could ask in two ways. My attempt to be stupid, if not childlike:

if child and animal coexist boundlessly, of what, if not power, does their relationship consist?

if Romulus and Remus (or, in India, Amala and Kamala) were raised by the she-wolf, what did she see when she first saw them?  Why not eat them?


These are not questions I want to answer.


Reporter:  “At what point, according to you, does the human being become sad and solitary?”

Lispector: “That’s a secret. I’m sorry, I’m not going to answer…”

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