Berne, 6th January 1948


My little flower,


I received your letter from that strange Bucksy, dated December 30th. How happy I was, my little sister, with certain sentences you wrote. But please don’t say: I discovered there is still a large part of me that is alive. No, my darling! You are entirely alive. It’s just that you’ve lived an irrational life, a life that doesn’t resemble you. Tania, don’t think we are so strong that we can lead any type of life and stay the same. Even eliminating one’s own faults can be dangerous—you never know which is the fault that sustains our entire edifice. I don’t even know how to explain it to you, dear sister, my soul. But what I wanted to say is that we are very precious, and that it is only up to a certain point that we can give up on ourselves and give ourselves to others and to circumstance. After a person loses respect for herself and the respect for her own needs—after that you end up rather like a rag. I would like so, so much to be by your side and talk, and tell you of my own and others’ experiences. You would see there are certain times when the first duty to undertake is to yourself. I myself didn’t want to tell you how I am now, because it seemed useless. I only intended to tell you about my new disposition, or lack of disposition, one month before we went to Brazil, so you would be warned. But I live in so much hope that on the ship or airplane that takes us back I will transform instantly into the old me, that perhaps there wouldn’t even have been a need to tell you. Darling, nearly four years have very much changed me. From the moment I accepted my lot, I lost all vivacity and all interest in things. You’ve seen how a castrated bull is transformed into a bullock? that’s what’s happened to me…, though the harsh comparison weighs heavily… In order to adapt to what was un-adaptable, to overcome my revulsions and my dreams, I had to shed my spikes—I cut the strength within me that could harm others and myself. And with that I cut my own strength too. I hope you never see me passive like this, because it’s almost repugnant. I hope that on the ship that takes us back, just the idea of seeing you and recovering a little of my life—which wasn’t wonderful but was a life—makes me transform entirely. The other day Mariazinha, Milton’s wife, screwed up her courage, those were her words, and asked me: you used to be very different, didn’t you? She said that she had thought me ardent and vibrant, and that when she saw me now she said: this excessive calm is either an act or she has changed practically beyond recognition. Another person told me that I move with the lassitude of a fifty-year-old woman. You will see nor feel any of this, God willing. There shouldn’t even be a need to tell you, then… But I couldn’t stop myself from wanting to show you what can happen to a person who made a pact with everyone, and who forgot that the vital knot of a person needs to be respected. My little sister, listen to my advice, listen to my request: respect yourself more than others, respect your needs, respect even what is bad in you—respect especially what you imagine to be bad in you—for the love of God, don’t try to make yourself into somebody perfect—don’t copy an ideal person, copy yourself—that is the one way to live. I am so scared that what happened to me will happen to you, because we are similar. I swear to God that if there were a heaven, a person who sacrifices themselves out of cowardice—will be punished and go to any old hell. That’s if a tepid life isn’t punished by that same tepidness. Take for yourself what belongs to you, and what belongs to you is all that your life demands. It seems like an amoral moral. But what is truly amoral is having given up on yourself. I hope to God you believe me. I would even like for you to come and watch my life without my knowing—because just knowing about your presence would transform me and give me life and happiness. It would be a lesson for you. To see what can happen when you make a pact with complacency in your soul. Have the courage to transform yourself, my darling, to do what you desire—be that going out at the weekends, be that what it may. Write to me without worrying that you need to speak of neutral things—because how can we be good to one another without this smallest degree of sincerity?

May the new year bring you every happiness, my darling. Here is an embrace filled with saudade, with enormous saudade, from your sister,




Translated from the Portuguese by Ana Fletcher

To read the entire portfolio of Lispector letters, purchase your copy of Music & Literature no. 4 . . .