Cockroaches… and Clarice Lispector
As you may already know, one of the most popular novels by internationally acclaimed Brazilian author Clarice Lispector involves the metaphysical confrontation between an upper-middle-class woman and a cockroach in the confined interior of the maid’s room of a Rio de Janeiro penthouse. The stunning novel, The Passion According to GH, narrates an internal journey, in which the main character examines issues such as the essence of the human nature, the concept of God, and, on a smaller scale, the social inequalities and injustices of Brazil.
Well, this blog post won’t expose curious readers to any spoilers, except for a huge one at the very end (you can skip it if you like), which is displayed on the back of any Brazilian edition of the novel anyway. Our goal here is to pass on some facts and figures about the second most important character in Clarice Lispector’s famous novel: the cockroach she finds in the warped and rotting wardrobe kept in the maid’s room.
1. They are insects. There are some 30 different species of cockroaches (or roaches, as they are usually called). Some prefer to live inside houses, infesting damp areas such as bathrooms and kitchens, while some prefer the outdoors. They are usually considered pests.
2. Cockroaches first appeared about 120 million years before the dinosaurs. They are ancient.
3. They can survive freezing temperatures and live for a month without food. Experiments have proved that, if raised in space, they get even stronger than if raised on Earth.
4. Their eyes contain over 2000 lenses each, unlike human eyes, which have only one lens each. They have 360-degree vision.
5. They carry all kinds of bacteria and worms, spreading disease through their saliva and droppings. Stay away!
6. They shed their skin on a regular basis to allow for growth.
7. According to Clarice Lispector herself, as written in one of the columns she used to publish for a couple of Brazilian newspapers, you can get rid of them by spraying fabric softener (dissolved in warm water) in places where you spot roach activity. The strong fragrance kills them. Sprinkling coffee grounds around the infested area is also effective, as they are attracted by the smell, but intoxicated by the caffeine, eventually dying.
8. Cockroaches are social insects; they seem to make decisions together and studies have indicated that they have distinct personalities.
9. They use their antennae to locate food, water and predators.
10. Cockroaches are good mothers, and use protective sacs to incubate their eggs and some of them carry them around until they hatch. Motherhood is an important theme in Clarice Lispector’s stories.
Warning: In light of the above, please do your best to avoid tasting the white matter that oozes out of roaches when you crush them, as GH does in the novel! However, it is true that in some Asian countries these insects are served fried to eat!
The Passion According to GH is a monumental work of art, laden with nuance and allegory. To read a review of the book, please refer to the post below: