Remnants Of Carnival by Clarice Lispector, 1971
The magic trick:
Shrouding a happy story in the sadness of a celebration’s end
I much prefer this story to yesterday’s similar coming-of-age feature, “The First Kiss.” There’s a greater sense of mystery and loss. The narrator begins by describing the aftermath of the Carnival beautifully, the desolate streets, the stray trash left over from a celebration. It casts a somber nostalgia over the story. But then the plot kicks in and we find a woman reminiscing about the Carnival when she began to feel like a woman for the first time. She wears makeup and pretends to be grown up. It is thrilling for her, in many ways. The combination of this coming-of-age memory mixed with the end-of-the-party images that start the story, well, it’s a beautiful thing. Growing up maybe isn’t the start of something, but rather the end of something else. What a story. And that’s quite a trick on Lispector’s part.
No, not this past Carnival, but I don’t know why this one transported me back to my childhood and those Ash Wednesdays on the dead streets where the remains of streamers and confetti fluttered. The occasional devout woman with a veil covering her head would be heading to church, crossing the street left so incredibly empty after Carnival. Until the next year. And when the celebration was fast approaching, what could explain the inner tumult that came over me? As if the budding world were finally opening into a big scarlet rose. As if the streets and squares of Recife were finally explaining why they’d been made. As if human voices were finally singing the capacity for pleasure that was kept secret in me. Carnival was mine, mine.
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