“Mineirinho” – Clarice Lispector

Cabaret Wittgenstein was created to publish contemporary work by living authors. But on these days of civil liberties being removed for the sake of security; when suspects of crimes can be killed by robots, without trial, from drones in the air to guided bombs in parking lots, this text by Clarice Lispector kept coming to mind. With kind permission by Lispector’s English language translators/editors, Katrina Dodson, Benjamin Moser and New Directions Publishing Corp., Dodson’s English translation of this much needed text will be available here for the coming two weeks.

Note from the editor

 

lispector_collected_stories_for_web

 

Mineirinho

Yes, I suppose it is in myself, as one of the representatives of us, that I should seek the reasons why the death of a thug is hurting. And why it does me more good to count the thirteen gunshots that killed Mineirinho rather than his crimes. I asked my cook what she thought about it. I saw in her face the slight convulsion of a conflict, the distress of not understanding what one feels, of having to betray contradictory feelings because one cannot reconcile them. Indisputable facts, but indisputable revolt as well, the violent compassion of revolt. Feeling divided by one’s own confusion about being unable to forget that Mineirinho was dangerous and had already killed too many; and still we wanted him to live. The cook grew slightly guarded, seeing me perhaps as an avenging justice. Somewhat angry at me, who was prying into her soul, she answered coldly: “It’s no use saying what I feel. Who doesn’t know Mineirinho was a criminal? But I’m sure he was saved and is already in heaven.” I answered, “more than lots of people who haven’t killed anyone.”

Why? For the first law, the one that protects the irreplaceable body and life, is thou shalt not kill. It is my greatest assurance: that way they won’t kill me, because I don’t want to die, and that way they won’t let me kill, because having killed would be darkness for me.

This is the law. But there is something that, if it makes me hear the first and the second gunshots with the relief of safety, at the third puts me on the alert, at the fourth unsettles me, the fifth and the sixth cover me in shame, the seventh and eighth I hear with my heart pounding in horror, at the ninth and tenth my mouth is quivering, at the eleventh I say God’s name in fright, at the twelfth I call my brother. The thirteenth shot murders me — because I am the other. Because I want to be the other.

That justice that watches over my sleep, I repudiate it, humiliated that I need it. Meanwhile I sleep and falsely save myself. We, the essential phonies. For my house to function, I demand as my primary duty that I be a phony, that I not exercise my revolt and my love, both set aside. If I am not a phony, my house trembles. I must have forgotten that beneath the house is the land, the ground upon which a new house might be erected. Meanwhile we sleep and falsely save ourselves. Until thirteen gunshots wake us up, and in horror I plead too late — twenty-eight years after Mineirinho was born — that in killing this cornered man, they do not kill him in us. Because I know that he is my error. And out of a whole lifetime, by God, sometimes the only thing that saves a person is error, and I know that we shall not be saved so long as our error is not precious to us. My error is my mirror, where I see what in silence I made of a man. My error is the way I saw life opening up in his flesh and I was aghast, and I saw the substance of life, placenta and blood, the living mud. In Mineirinho my way of living burst. How could I not love him, if he lived up till the thirteenth gunshot the very thing that I had been sleeping? His frightened violence. His innocent violence — not in its consequences, but innocent in itself as that of a son whose father neglected him. Everything that was violence in him is furtive in us, and we avoid each other’s gaze so as not to run the risk of understanding each other. So that the house won’t tremble. The violence bursting in Mineirinho that only another man’s hand, the hand of hope, resting on his stunned and wounded head, could appease and make his startled eyes lift and at last fill with tears. Only after a man is found inert on the ground, without his cap or shoes, do I see that I forgot to tell him: me too.

I don’t want this house. I want a justice that would have given a chance to something pure and full of helplessness in Mineirinho — that thing that moves mountains and is the same as what made him love a woman “like a madman,” and the same that led him through a doorway so narrow that it slashes into nakedness; it is a thing in us as intense and transparent as a dangerous gram of radium, that thing is a grain of life that if trampled is transformed into something threatening — into trampled love; that thing, which in Mineirinho became a knife, it is the same thing in me that makes me offer another man water, not because I have water, but because, I too, know what thirst is; and I too, who have not lost my way, have experienced perdition. Prior justice, that would not make me ashamed. It was past time for us, with or without irony, to be more divine; if we can guess what God’s benevolence might be it is because we guess at benevolence in ourselves, whatever sees the man before he succumbs to the sickness of crime. I go on, nevertheless, waiting for God to be the father, when I know that one man can be father to another. And I go on living in my weak house. That house, whose protective door I lock so tightly, that house won’t withstand the first gale that will send a locked door flying through the air. But it is standing, and Mineirinho lived rage on my behalf, while I was calm. He was gunned down in his disoriented strength, while a god fabricated at the last second hastily blesses my composed wrongdoing and my stupefied justice: what upholds the walls of my house is the certainty that I shall always vindicate myself, my friends won’t vindicate me, but my enemies who are my accomplices, they will greet me; what upholds me is knowing that I shall always fabricate a god in the image of whatever I need in order to sleep peacefully, and that others will furtively pretend that we are all in the right and that there is nothing to be done.

All this, yes, for we are the essential phonies, bastions of some thing. And above all trying not to understand. Because the one who understands disrupts. There is something in us that would disrupt everything — a thing that understands. That thing that stays silent before the man without his cap or shoes, and to get them he robbed and killed; and stays silent before Saint George of gold and diamonds. That very serious thing in me grows more serious still when faced with the man felled by machine guns. Is that thing the killer inside me? No, it is the despair inside us. Like madmen, we know him, that dead man in whom the gram of radium caught fire. But only like madmen, and not phonies, do we know him. It is as a madman that I enter a life that so often has no doorway, and as a madman that I comprehend things dangerous to comprehend, and only as a madman do I feel deep love, that is confirmed when I see that the radium will radiate regardless, if not through trust, hope and love, then miserably through the sick courage of destruction. If I weren’t mad, I’d be eight hundred policemen with eight hundred machine guns, and this would be my honorableness.

Until a slightly madder justice came along. One that would take into account that we all must speak for a man driven to despair because in him human speech has already failed, he is already so mute that only a brute incoherent cry serves as signal. A prior justice that would recall how our great struggle is that of fear, and that a man who kills many does so because he was very much afraid. Above all a justice that would examine itself, and see that all of us, living mud, are dark, and that is why not even one man’s wrongdoing can be surrendered to another man’s wrongdoing: so that this other man cannot commit, freely and with approbation, the crime of gunning someone down. A justice that does not forget that we are all dangerous, and that the moment that the deliverer of justice kills, he is no longer protecting us or trying to eliminate a criminal, he is committing his own personal crime, one long held inside him. At the moment he kills a criminal — in that instant an innocent is killed. No, it’s not that I want the sublime, nor for things to turn into words to make me sleep peacefully, a combination of forgiveness, of vague charity, we who seek shelter in the abstract.

What I want is much rougher and more difficult: I want the land.

§

‘Mineirinho” By Clarice Lispector, translation by Katrina Dodson, from COMPLETE STORIES, copyright ©1951, 1955, 1960, 1965, 1978, 2010, 2015 by the Heirs of Clarice Lispector, translation copyright © 2015 by Katrina Dodson. Use by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.

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“Funerary Monument to Gerónimo Calbo” – Luis Felipe Fabre

Funerary Monument to Gerónimo Calbo
trimmed with allegorical flowers and presided over by verbal statues
of Apollo and Hyacinth

1

O Hyacinth, beautiful Spartan of Apollo
the favorite: be careful!

a hand of wind
is lifting your tunic

O Zephyr, winged youth, the west winds
behold: the wind being yours
it’s not yours

the air
that Hyacinth
exhales with sweet sighs of love

“Ay Apollo, ay Phoebus, ay my little sun.”

2

Jealous breath of breath: the wind
Zephyr of invisible eyes
spies the lovers: they are practicing track and field!

Apollo
hurls the disc, yet its path
blows a sudden Zephyr and cruelly throws it off course

careful, Hyacinth, careful!

Ay, before carefulness,
in this olympics of the split-second
the disc reaches
the finish line: laurel wreaths for revenge

Ay, the disc
that split open the young man’s forehead
atrocious red lips for the kiss of death

3

Marble of dread
and marble of pain:

Apollo
by himself
an impromptu statue

At his feet,
Hyacinth: a beautiful fountain streaming blood

In the background,
as props, three or four centaurs,
complete the pause

4

The blood of Hyacinth and the tears of Apollo
are wed in liquid nuptials

tears of semen
then tears that impregnate and suddenly: flowers: flowers!

Flowers are born from the blood of Hyacinth!

Flowers that die once summer arrives:
mortals, like Hyacinth.

Flowers that are reborn once spring arrives:
immortals like Apollo.

Flowers that struggle between father and father,
yet, in the end, flowers that settle
as vegetal monuments

to the memory of Hyacinth: dead in the flower of his youth

5

All that is lost
returns as something else in drag
For example: beneath the silhouette of a flowering hyacinth

Hyacinth: spring-flowering bulbous plant
belonging to the lilac family.

Hyacinth:
from the Latin hyacinthus; the Greek
υάκινθος (hyákinzos) which means flower of ay.

Ay: everything returns
but translated into another language: unrecognizable.

6

Hyacinth:
the morning of Tuesday
November 6, 1658
Gerónimo Calbo was driven into the bonfire

Hyacinth:
Gerónimo Calbo
mestizo, 23 years old, a tailor
accused of the abominable sin of sodomy

Hyacinths: this has nothing to do with the hyacinths
Gerónimo Calbo, if anything
it has to do with the weeds
if anything

with nothing. And with the dry herbs
that fed the fire in which he burned.

But we are in spring
and once again the hyacinths bloom.

For Gerónimo Calbo
this wreath of hyacinths, hyacinths, hyacinths.

Gerónimo Calbo
All they did for him was transform him into ash
and he has no more of a tomb than the wind of Mexico City.

 

(translated from the Spanish by Daniel Borzutzky. Originally published in Flores para los muertos / Flowers for the dead. Juan de la Cosa, 2016).

Picture 16

§

Luis Felipe Fabre is a Mexican poet and essayist, born in Mexico City in 1974. He has published Leyendo agujeros. Ensayos sobre (des)escritura, antiescritura y no escritura (2005), Cabaret Provenza (2007), La sodomía en la Nueva España (2010) and Poemas de terror y de misterio (2013). He lives and works in Mexico City.

“Lapse” (excerpts) – Mia You

Lapse is a response to public discussions in the United States on abortion, women’s rights regarding their own bodies, the conditions of motherhood, and legal “personhood” (which corporations are granted in some cases, and women not in others). It pursues the question: What does it mean to be a truly “good” mother under these conditions? What if one sees the choice not as “Do I keep the pregnancy or not?” but as “Do I keep myself viable or not?”

– Note from the author

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Mia You was born in South Korea, raised in the United States, and currently lives in the Netherlands. She is the author of I, Too, Dislike It (1913 Press, 2016) and Objective Practice (Achiote Press, 2007). With Chloe Garcia-Roberts, she is the co-founder/editor of A. BRADSTREET. She is also on the editorial board of Perdu, an experimental literary podium in Amsterdam, and a contributing editor at The Critical Flame.

“Tróiades” [fragments] – Guilherme Gontijo Flores

Cabaret Wittgenstein presents a few fragments from Brazilian poet and translator Guilherme Gontijo Flores’ project Tróiades.

Tróiades
Guilherme Gontijo Flores

this poem-website is entirely a collage between voices of the defeated, even if they can only arise through the voice of the victors, mixed with and partly indissociate from the victors, like a possibility of history, when the defeated speaks, who speaks for her, who speaks through him, who could in reality occupy this space? every encounter of fragmentary cuttings suggests discourse, not a clear voice, not a from whom, or a for whom—without just a dichotomy between the hangman and the victim, but even then like a monument to the unterminated massacre of history: from Troy, archetype of the defeated, to Canudos, this mother of today’s favelas, where the defeated remain to see out their days; from slavery, immemorial and ubiquitous, to the indigenous, still silenced in our discourse, the names would never end, unless perhaps for some eventual tikkun for the rags of this pain.

The texts were cut, freely translated, reworked and rearranged from three ancient tragedies:
Hecuba, by Euripides (424 BC) [referenced as H];
Troiades, by Euripides (415 BC) [T];
Troades, by Seneca (c. 54-64 AD) [S];
and the aphorism 9 taken from “Über den Begriff der Geschichte” (1940), by Walter Benjamin [W].

We proceed here to present a few fragments from the composition. The English edition of Tróiades was translated by Rob Packer in June and July 2016.

at 3200 years from the burning of Troy;
2160 years from the obliteration of Carthage;
807 years from the siege of Béziers;
524 years of the extermination of Native America;
371 years from the butchery of Yangzhou;
119 years from the war of Canudos;
101 years from the Armenian genocide;
84 years from the holodomor in Ukraine;
78 years from the rape of Nanking;
76 years from the foundation of Auschwitz-Birkenau;
71 years from Hiroshima & Nagasaki;
34 years from the massacre of Hama;
22 years from the Rwanda genocide;
13 years from the Darfur conflict;
the inestimable time of the enslavement of man by man.

 

Fragments from Tróiades

Umbral

But what limbs does the cliff face leave us?
Bones unpieced
undid themselves in the fall
his body’s illustrious marks
the face the features of a noble father
everything the thud on the deep
earth confused
in the tumble his neck snapped
his open head exhaled
his brain
a body
lying there
shapeless
In this too
just like his father

[S 1110]

§

Sapiens

In this service as herald it would be better
to be a man without compassion
more used to shamelessness
unlike me

The closeness of death
fells the best words

[T 786. S 575]

§

Terror/Tremor

Shaking shaking
legs
Spread this trail of blood
to the grim
last days of life

[T 1330]

§

The good soldier

At least I saved you the trouble
of crossing the scamander’s flow
washed the corpse
cleaned the wounds

Now let me dig his grave
and it’s over for us
job done
catch the boat home soon

[T 1155]

§

Puerilia

No law spares the conquered
or overrules his punishment

and now you say it’d be inauspicious
to sacrifice the virgins?

[S 333, 331]

§

The good soldier

When they invaded our shores
they died without missing
the earth and hearth of the fatherland

Whoever war annihilated
never saw his children
never received last rites from the hands
of his wife
and now lies exposed on foreign land
fed on by birds of prey

The great strategist
for what he hates most
kills what he loves most

At home woe does not change
for those who stay
wife without husband
another orphaned of her son
at home
gave birth for nothing
in the grave no one
to sacrifice their blood for this land

[T 370]

§

The most beautiful thing

Why bother calling the gods
if they never listen?
Let’s run under the snipers
today the most beautiful thing
is dying in a napalmed country

The blacked-out sun in the smog
and no flame can singe
victory’s thieving fingers

Hobble on your stumps
salute your barrel-bombed city
as best you can

[T 1280, 1275. S 17]

§

Crypt

There is no trench for these tears

[S 812]

§

Puerilia

Bury the body
in a tomb
for he has won
his funeral garlands

For the dead I think
it doesn’t matter much
if he received funeral rites

It’s all vanity of vanities
ostentation for the living

[T 1245]

§

The good soldier

These ones think death makes up for the ships’ delay Those are glad to see an enemy fall The fickle majority detests all crime and looks on

[S 1126]

§

VISIT THE POEM-WEBSITE TRÓIADES FOR MORE.

About the composition:

The music “Genocide — Symphonic Holocaust” is from the album Blut und Nebel (2005), by Maurizio Bianchi, taken from Wikicommons.

the photographs, also cut and altered, were chosen from Wikicommons:
1. Genius of grief, carving, 2nd century AD, by anonymous;
2. Will Brown lynched and burnt, 1919, by anonymous;
3. Porušena, Borovnica, 1944, by anonymous;
4. Slave girl bound in Tunisia, c. 1900, by Lehnert & Landrock;
5. Jews murdered in Kiev, 1942, by anonymous;
6. Dead Confederate soldier, 1864, by anonymous;
7. German soldiers killed in the Battle of Bastogne, 1944, by anonymous;
8. Russian soldiers in the Russo-Japanese War, 1905, by Victor Bulla;
9. Children hanged in a tree, Italy, 1923, by anonymous;
10. Cannibals, during the famine in Russia, 1921, by anonymous;
11. Enslaved Native Americans, 19th century, by anonymou;
12. Young German girl in front of 800 slaves murdered by the SS, 1945, by anonymous;
13. Tomb of Inês de Castro (1360), by André Luís;
14. Poland, 1939, by Julien Bryan;
15. American Civil War, 1865, by Thomas Roche;
16. Lynching of Laura Nelson, 1911, by G. H. Farnum, postcard;
17. Operation Barbarossa, dead Russian soldier, 1941, by anonymous;
18. Russian soldiers in an open grave, 1905, by Underwood & Underwood;
19. A long geographic shadow, 2008, by Evelyn Simak;
20. Slave in Mississippi, 1863, by MacPherson & Oliver;
21. Dead Crow Indians, 1874, by anonymous;
22. Delia, slave in Columbia, 1850, by J. T. Zealy;
23. Dresden bombed, Germany, 1945, by Richard Peter;
24. Survivors from Canudos, 1897, by Flávio de Barros; and
25. Tombs of Palmyra, Syria, 1935, by Pierre Antoine Berrurier, aerial photo.

 

Guilherme Gontijo Flores is a Brazilian poet and translator, born in Brasília in 1984. He published brasa enganosa (2013), and ranslated, among others, Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy (1621) and Roman poet Sextus Propertius. Guilherme Gontijo Flores lives in the outskurts of Curitiba, in a farm house designed by himself, with his wife and two children.

“Emergency Dove Call Center Protocol” – Uljana Wolf

Emergency Dove Call Center Protocol

ardon my englisjh sir. how may i help you.
i have no type to type this. meant to write time
wrote trip. did you know the chinese ward for
pigeon is business sir. did you want to sleep with
paintin your hear. i eerie in your city they spray
the messenger. dead not for real deal, only for
art deal. really rad. did you want to take this bird
to bed sir. i also hurt the german weird for business
is shit. did you want to wear your head in your
tales sir. all writing dropping from roof, kleckse auf
headse. meant to write headset wrote little bird
sir. all walking around with white on hat, a train
of sorts, quills. did you want to paint this on a
bill. the trip word for pigeon is messenger. meant
to write mess angel wrote all dropping, a business
word. the sir whirr for messenger is i’m sorry i have
no hand to write this. meant to write road trip.
wrote no monkey no takt. only two thumbs, the well-
trained type. did you want to tread this sir. tape this.
the philosopher word for pigeon is dove. on this topic
i have the following verses: feathers on my eyelids /
i know a pair of real people / fastened to their wings
are my eyelids / they are read.

— Uljana Wolf. First published in Julian Charrière / Julius von Bismarck / Eric Ellingsen: SOME PIGEONS ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS (Lars Mueller, 2015). She has described this particular piece as a “translingual (corrupt-lingual) poem”, based on her work in translation-as-composition.

Uljana Wolf is a German poet, born in Berlin in 1979. Her books include Kochanie ich habe Brot gekauft (2005),  Falsche Freunde (2009), and Meine schönste Lengevitch (2013). She lives and works between Berlin and New York.

“A Man Was Lynched By Police Yesterday” – Dread Scott

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“A Man Was Lynched By Police Yesterday” (2015) was part of American artist Dread Scott’s exhibition of the same name, now waving outside the Jack Shainman Gallery in New York following the murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. As Katherine Brooks reports for the Huffington Post, the flag brings back the banner that hung outside the headquarters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) between 1936 and 1938, which read “A Man Was Lynched Yesterday”. More of the work of Dread Scott on his website. Dread Scott’s name itself brings back to memory-history that of Dred Scott (1799 – 1858), the African American man who unsuccessfully sued for his freedom and that of his wife and two daughters in the Dred Scott v. Sandford case of 1857.

This is a statement on the piece by Dread Scott: “The flag is an update on a banner that the NAACP used to hang outside of their national headquarters in N.Y. on 5th Ave. the day after someone was lynched. They used it during their anti-lynching campaign. During the Jim Crow era, Black people were terrorized by lynching ― often public and publicized extra legal torture and murder of Black people. It was a threat that hung over all Black people who knew that for any reason or no reason whatsoever you could be killed and the killers would never be brought to justice.

Now the police are playing the same role of terror that lynch mobs did at the turn of the century. It is threat that hangs over all Black people, that we can be killed by the police for no reason whatsoever ― for a traffic stop, for selling CDs, for selling cigarettes. Shot to death, choked to death, tased to death, driven to death. Standing still, fleeing. Shot in the chest, shot in the back. Hands up, hands down. Point blank range or at a distance. And the police never face justice for their crimes. It is a vivid concentration of the complete illegitimacy of this whole system is. Legal armed enforcers of relations of exploitation and oppression murder with impunity.

I made ‘A Man Was Lynched by Police Yesterday’ in response to the police murder of Walter Scott in South Carolina last year. It was an unfortunately necessary update to the NAACP sign then and it continues its relevance in this moment. It is a real testament to the moment and courage of galleries like Jack Shainman that are shifting gears quickly to display work like this. It is a trend that needs to spread if we are going to stop the police from continuing their epidemic of killing people, over 566 people this year so far.”

“to those who were born before our wake
” – Max Czollek

to those who were born before our wake

Max Czollek

I.

i came into the cities in a time of
elation when joy
reigned among men

i danced with them

slept among the dumb
without language mouths filled
stuffed with bridges

my arms’ power
left in suitcases
i carried anxieties

II

truly, i dived into
the great ocean
lost my hair

carried by happiness
when that ended
i went on my way

hope as thin as a
leaf in the woods (i speak of trees
i speak…)

and can’t find the way
to the houses of air

III.

truly, i live in times
in which the unhappy don’t
cry any longer and we
simply keep on writing – anywhere
finger on the trigger who
can stay friendly what use and
what for have we become at the end
of the seas of ice

whereto the streets lead
in my times

(translated by Johannes CS Frank)

:

an einen vorgeborenen
Max Czollek

I.

in die städte kam ich zur stunde
der hochzeiten als da
freude herrschte
unter den menschen

ich tanzte mit ihnen

schlief unter den stummen
ohne sprache den mund voll
gestopft mit brücken

die kraft meiner arme
ging in koffern
trug ich die angst

II.

es ist wahr
ich tauchte im großen meer
verlor mein haar dabei

getragen von glück
als das aussetzte
war ich unterwegs

die hoffnung dünn wie ein blatt
im wald (ich rede von bäumen
rede ich)

und kann den weg nicht finden
zu den häusern aus luft

III.

wirklich ich lebe in zeiten
wo die unglücklichen nicht
mehr weinen wir einfach
weiterschreiben – überall
die finger am abzug wer
kann da noch freundlich
bleiben was hilft es wozu
sind wir geworden am ende
der eismeere

wohin die straßen führten
zu meiner zeit

 

§

 

Max Czollek is a German poet, born in Berlin in 1987. He has published Druckkammern (2012), Jubeljahre (2015) and A.H.A.S.V.E.R (2016), all with Verlagshaus Berlin. Max Czollek lives and works in his hometown.