Transformative Witnessing: Clarice Lispector’s Dark Ties

  • Benigno Trigo
Part of the New Directions in Latino American Cultures book series (NDLAC)


Pleading, desperate, and angry, characters from Clarice Lispector’s fiction not only ask for an eyewitness to something beyond sight, they ask for someone to bear witness to a limit-event: the unseen in vision and the unspoken in speech, a dark crime and a secret life.1 The math-ematics professor and Vitória are both victims and perpetrators of a symbolic matricide that leaves one with an insatiable appetite and the other with an intolerable nausea. It leaves both of them asking for a witness to what they have done and to what has been done to them. A witness, however, never arrives to see or hear the testimony of these characters. Moreover, the works themselves suggest the impossibility of bearing witness to a limit-event. Indeed, the collapse of witnessing (in the double sense of seeing with one’s own eyes as well as bearing witness to something beyond sight) is a crucial theme in Lispector’s popular book of short stories Family Ties, and in her novel The Apple in the Dark.2 But if it is true that these works are about the collapse of witnessing, it is also true that Vitória’s angry desperation in the Apple, and the professor’s pleading tone in Family Ties suggest Lispector’s urgency to make witnessing possible again.


Mother Tongue Short Story Maternal Body Happy Birthday Secret Life 
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© Benigno Trigo 2006

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  • Benigno Trigo

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