Água Viva by Clarice Lispector - Book Review - Kristopher Cook

Água Viva by Clarice Lispector

Água Viva by Clarice Lispector Book Cover
A woman sits by the open window of her Brazilian beachfront studio, writing a long letter to someone no more specific than 'you.' She parries with language (which is 'only words which live off sound') and is wholly consumed with problems of epistemology: 'I want to die with life.'
Genre: Contemporary
Available from: | Amazon UK | Amazon US

This is a book that has no real plot, no engaging characters, other than the main narrator, and a use of grammar all on its own.

However, Água Viva is a well-written piece that offers up a spiritual flow that other writers can only dream of.

Taking on the form of a painter, Lispector writes the book in the arrangement of a letter, written to ‘you’.

What I’m writing to you is not for reading— it’s for being.
Clarice Lispector, Água Viva

As we’re taken through Lispector’s thoughts; with subjects ranging from painting, flowers, love, and life after death, the narration stays within the confines of a stream-of-consciousness.

And that’s a style that has little in the way of boundaries.

Fashioning Lispector

Clarice was a fashion journalist and considered to be of Brazilian nationality, where she grew up after fleeing from war-torn Ukraine as an infant.

Portuguese author, Clarice Lispector.

She spent several years working on Água Viva, sending it back-and-forth between friends, the majority of which encouraged her to publish it.

I’m not sure she was ever truly happy with the final product.

Clearly she wanted it to be experimental, but at what cost? And what would the general public think of it?

Structure lacks but substance triumphs

There are no chapters, no plot, and no supporting characters, but this doesn’t stop Lispector’s voice shining through.

Between the webs of conscious are small moments of inspiration, moments of triumph and of failure; the emotions we feel on a day-to-day basis.

This is what makes it so relatable.

Our lives aren’t filled with huge adventures around the world or frantic gunfights in gritty bars; they’re based on the daily routines we must undertake to survive.

Now, I understand it’s fun to read those books, but here is a chance for something different; a book that hits much closer to home.

Often neurotic, the work ponders between things that Clarice may have done to wrong the reader, and the chances created in time to fix these moments. It all reads like an inmate’s dream book, except Lispector, appears to be the one trapped, inside her own head.

Oh, living is so uncomfortable. Everything presses in: the body demands, the spirit never ceases, living is like being weary but being unable to sleep–living is upsetting.

Clarice Lispector, Água Viva

The neurotic fantasy is something that most of us deal with from time to time, especially after a seemingly life-changing event. Losing your job, splitting from your partner or moving away.

It’s easy to think about how life could have been if only you’d made a different decision; the right choice.

This book is a testament to those times and a reminder that the only thing to do is move on with your life, preferably after writing a small book on it. Meditation for the soul!

Closing Thoughts

Clarice Lispector works to create a consistent flow of everyday activities, decisions and emotions to build a novel unlike any other.

The writing is poetic, breezing through light conversational tones then plunging deeper into darker philosophical rumouring.

Give this one a try, it’s experimental, it’s suffocating in its beauty, but most of all, it’s real.

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