• Novels
  • 1969

An Apprenticeship or the Book of Delights

In the book An Apprenticeship or the Book of Delights, the character Loreley, called Lori by her friends, leaves the city of Campos to live and work as an elementary school teacher in Rio de Janeiro. The only female daughter with four brothers, born to a wealthy family that helps her every month with an allowance. The book tells of her love story with Ulysses, a philosophy professor she meets by chance when he offers her a ride. From then on begins an amorous experience that deviates from the norms. It is a learning process, stimulated by Ulysses, but experienced by both: the goal is to mature the relationship and wait for the right – complete – moment to make love. The narrative follows the slow and savory waiting process, when at last they can delight in a solid and free affective exchange. She especially, who has already had boyfriends and sexual relations, will have to face her own shadow: to overcome the fears that prevent her from living fully her surrender. There is an entire preparation to complete for Ulysses’ proposal: “I wish you, without a word, would just come.” According to the French writer Georges Bataille, the erotic experience brings with it the desire to know and open up to the world, including to what escapes rational understanding. And that is what happens: “Her soul was boundless, for she encompassed the World. And yet she lived so little. This constituted one of her sources of humility and resigned acceptance and also weakened her for any possible action.”

From a formal point of view, the text starts with a comma, immediately warning the reader about what awaits: while Lori makes her journey towards genuine love and pleasure, overcoming internal obstacles, the text also proposes a provocation for the reader. As if to say: “don’t come to the book only in search of a good plot; I have much more to offer.”

The experimentation immediately reveals that life is a permanent transformation and that it takes place inside, and not outside of language. So much so that it ends without ending, by using the colon: “Here is the end of the book:”. The author uses a similar feature in other works, such as The Passion According to G.H., which begins and ends with dashes, and in The Hour of the Star, which ends with the word “yes.” May the colon, dashes and yes be written by the imagination of each reader. And perhaps this is a necessary boldness, as the author suggests in the preliminary note: “This book required such great liberty that I was afraid to give it. It is far beyond me. I tried to write it with humility. The person in me is stronger than the author.”

ByClarisse Fukelman