From: Clarice Lispector
To: Elisa Lispector

Naples, January 12, 1945

Elisa, darling:

I have received magnificent letters from you all, and as I said to Tania, in the long letters it’s true that I’m inclined to provoke to also receive a reprimand. So then I won’t go during the war, not even every six months, precisely, if you all think it’s absurd. But, darling, don’t think I like you because I’m far away and add stuff. It’s just that when we’re together we don’t write letters and it seems that certain things can only be said in writing. You’re right, with the idea of the provisional nothing can be done. And that’s why letters are good for me, by giving me a lesson. Don’t tell me you don’t wish to have ascendancy over me, which is silly, my dear. And speaking of silly, here’s another one coming from the same source, which is you: you say that although it seems incredible, you’ve also chased mirages. How stupid you are! If there is somebody who demonstrates this, it’s you! And you not only have chased, but chase – which counts as not having changed and being true. This girl even raises little birds in the bathroom, a place where in general only towels hang! I’d like to know how they’re fed. One of the magnificent things about this is that it’s great to have birds but sometimes the cage is an issue: in your case the birds own you and you all live as equals, one complains about the other, and you may even stop talking to each other for a few hours. You have explained little about them; have you seen them yet? How many are there? Do they go out sometimes? Do they provide for their own food or does the contract they signed include room and board? And speaking of room and board, you also need to eat, not only the birds. Don’t forget to tell me where you eat lunch and dinner.                  

You’ll see how I’m going to get better and live a nice life. But I’m going to Rio, I’m not sure when, after the war is over, one day and in good conditions. I’d like to help here a little, but it’s impossible. To ask people for money for other people is really difficult because whom would I ask? Matarazzo? He would begin by saying that he has household demands, etc. He’s not in need, but everyone needs a little or more. Because I’ve already offered to do something, I’m now working on typescripts with Colonel Julio de Moraes. I go there every morning and save humanity by copying some things in beautiful typewriting. I also intend to visit the wounded. We help in person and in each case as well as we can and that’s nothing. The cases here are countless and every family has a story to tell. It’s true that the war is blamed for many things that have always existed here. Prostitution, for example, has always been a big livelihood here. They tell us that now the boys on the street offer their sisters, the husband who says there’s a very beautiful girl and in the end one finds out it’s his wife, etc.; but everyone says it’s always been like this. What happens here is that the Neapolitan people are the most shameless in the world. Italians say that Naples is the shame of Italy. They steal as much as they can, and I’m not the one pointing the finger. Actually, when I was in Lisbon which is not at war, I was shocked. You can’t take one step without someone asking for spare change. And they told me prostitution there is terribly abundant, and begins at the age of 13-14 years old. The war is maybe good in the sense of calling attention to certain problems. Maybe they’ll include them in the resolution of other specifically war-related problems.          

In Rome it’s snowing a little; I haven’t seen it. But here Vesuvius (Vesuvius – the only active volcano on the European continent, situated above the Gulf of Naples, on the west coast of Italy. Its summit, although variable, rises to a height of 1,277 meters) is covered and yesterday and today there were a few flurries here. I didn’t see it, but Maury left this morning and brought back, wrapped in a piece of paper (!) a few pieces of snow that seemed like ice, certainly once icy, already melting, and not very white. Tomorrow morning we’re going to a neighborhood where there may be snow. He said that in the neighborhood where he was today there was an inch or two of snow on the ground (tell Tania that). 

As for singing lessons, I’ll look into it. As for interesting courses, ever since I arrived I’ve tried to get some information but you know how these courses are, most of them terribly didactic, causing suffering and creating obligations instead of being really interesting and giving pleasure. But I’m still more or less looking. And also looking for a radio to rent, if possible, since it’s so hard to find one.

I just now remembered something funny. A friend of ours in Algeria thought the girl from the restaurant was very cute and asked her if she wanted to go to the movies with him. She answered somewhat offended and very dignified: Pas moi, je suis vierge!  

Isn’t that so funny? He said he felt like answering: C’est pas ma faute…

– All is well and I like you all very much. Be happy, darling, without fail. And don’t drink cold water. Hugs from your