Letters: Clarice Lispector To Her Sister Tania

24 March 2018


Don’t think that a person has the strength to lead any kind of life and stay the same… I don’t know how to explain my soul to you. But what I mean is that we are very precious, and that there’s only so much you can give up of yourself for the sake of other people and circumstances. All I planned to do was tell you about my new character, or lack of character… Darling, almost four years have greatly transformed me. From the moment I resigned myself, I lost all my vivacity and all my interest in things. Have you seen the way a castrated bull turns into an ox? That is what happened to me… despite the hard comparison… To adapt to something I can’t adapt to, to get over my dislikes and my dreams, I had to cut off my fetters—I cut off inside me the way I could hurt others and myself. And at the same time I cut off my strength. I hope you never see me resigned like this, because it’s almost repugnant… One day, a friend filled herself with courage, as she said, and asked me: “You were really different, weren’t you?” She said she thought I had been passionate and lively, and that when she met me here she thought: either this excessive calm is a pose or she’s changed so much that she’s almost unrecognizable. Someone else told me that I move with the lassitude of a fifty-year-old woman… which can happen with someone who has made a pact with everyone, and who forgot that the vital center of a person has to be respected.
Listen: respect even the bad parts of yourself—respect above all the bad parts of yourself—for the love of God, don’t try to make yourself perfect—don’t copy an ideal, copy yourself—that is the only way to live.
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Clarice Lispector in a letter to her sister Tania, as quoted in Why This World: A Biography of Clarice Lispector, by Benjamin Moser
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