An invented apartment

Edward Hopper. Bedroom in New York, 1932


“Passion turns inert stones into a drama” (Le Corbusier).


The property deed states the date:



The apartment lacked much originality.

The Cascolac varnish on the floorboards in the living room spreads throughout the corridors and bedrooms. In the side bedrooms and in the back room, adjacent to the service area, the olive green shutters with restored locks and hinges stand out. All windows, without exception, frame Leme beach.

As we won't even have a day laborer, at most a professional who helps with the cleaning every week, the tiny maid's room will have the exclusive function of housing the sewing machine inherited from my mother-in-law, the ironing board and iron, the books that don't fit on the shelves allocated in the hall input and living, in addition to a few other objects.

The broker repeatedly said that the former owner, who passed away six months ago, worked as an artist and lived in significant comfort (in addition to having the company and services of a former maid, she was assisted by two nurses). On the sales document, above the street identification, her name appears: Gloria Hernandez. Single. Born in 1932 in the state of Rio de Janeiro.

Both my wife and son considered that we should paint the apartment white; I agreed: snow white. But I made this reservation: the little room, yolk yellow. I imagined the intensity of the color as the midday sun spread across the area, creating diagonal shadows, so that, as I passed by, I would appreciate casual cuts of light,

gold and lead gray marking the floor, and

fixing itself in the masonry,



or inaccurate shapes.

The walls, of course, were never sanded; Nor did they receive spackle. The texture is rough, rough. In one of them, under the thick, whitewashed plaster, black spots can be seen: contours mimicking indefinite silhouettes, similar to cave paintings. Uncomfortable, I fixed a blackboard measuring 1 wide and 20 high.

Add to this eccentricity the unique geometry of the room, architecturally chaotic, imposing itself as a tortuous measure in the structuring of a quadrilateral. “Not being entirely regular in its angles gave it an impression of base fragility as if the fourth minaret were not embedded in the apartment or the building.”[I] Fiat lux.


The guy at the reception said a lot. He was betting that my family would soon adapt to the city and the building... the property is 60 years old, inevitably requires some renovation or other, but it is too spacious. Rio's violence is not all that you hear about in São Paulo, and if you were ever interested in installing a hot tub on the roof, you would recommend a friend's company. Meanwhile, the daughter – a girl of 7 or 8 years old – remained sitting on the low wooden chair that I had improvised in this maid's room. For her convenience, I left the two cardboard boxes with books on the floor.

The young man (his name is Daniel) reported that every now and then he would go up to the apartment to carry out some work – sometimes changing the resistance of a shower or adjusting a leaky tap, sometimes repairing a socket or a switch. And during his breaks (he works as an Uber driver) he also took the old resident and her companions to doctors' offices; rarely, to a restaurant and a spiritist center in Copacabana.

During the conversation, I asked permission to add him to my cell phone contacts. I looked at the girl and joked, stating that her father would literally be lost, I wouldn't leave him alone, because I can barely change a light bulb or hammer a nail.

I asked if they would prefer water or Coca-Cola. They didn't want anything. The girl didn't even accept bullets. I praised her beauty and her Rastafarian hair, whose braids with red synthetic threads were stunning. As she became closer, to the point of getting her name and a smile, I pointed out to her father the corner of the wall where I wanted the three shelves to be.


I asked for help to carry a carry-on suitcase to my room that took up space from the washing machine. I mentioned to Daniel that I would spray cotrim under the tank. On Saturday I had come across a huge red-haired cockroach. And all full of eyelashes. The cilia would perhaps be the multiple legs.”[ii] I faced her. His “eyes were radiant and black. Bridal eyes. Each eye itself looked like a cockroach. The fringed, dark, lively and dustless eye.”[iii]. It emerged from the drain and leaked through the crack in the window.

He lifted the suitcase alone and left it in the center of the room. He assured that due to the heat there are many cockroaches in the building. He suggested a homemade poison: sugar with baking soda... That I spread it especially in the corners of the kitchen.

When I realized, the child had taken the books out of the boxes. The fiction titles would stay there, but the theoretical and critical works I would put on the bookshelf in the hallway, next to the dining room. eviction room it was in the box (edition of the extinct Francisco Alves from 1960). Daniel's daughter thought the name was funny The tiger's back, by Benedito Nunes. He then began to slide his finger across the cover design of the first edition of Clarice: a life that counts, by Nádia Battella Gotlib, 1995 by Ática – the portrait, dated 1947, in pen and ink, is by Alfredo Ceschiatti.

Naturally, our attention is diverted to the large leather bag that had just entered the room. It was personalized – it had the GH consonants decal. For some reason, the suitcase remained at the residence even after the woman's death.

I opened it. I immediately came across a plastic folder with period newspaper clippings (at a glance, the photo of former president Castello Branco) and postcards...

bag of clay

package with plaster

(all expired)

brushes dry paints riga pine blades

bunch of white candles

tube with dried glue.


I heard the doorbell. It was the janitor; He didn't want to go in. He lent me his drill machine and accessories. I returned to the room with the tool and, to my surprise, Daniel and the girl were drawing on the board – father and daughter engaged. It reproduced Ceschiatti's drawing (the stylized outline of Lispector's face) in a generous size; Daniel duplicated the Erechtheion, one of the ruined monuments that make up the Acropolis of Athens. He carefully copied the iconography of the postcard in the folder displayed inside the suitcase.

Side by side on blackboard

the writer's face in white chalk and

the career of six female pilasters

with entablature on the head:

the caryatids.

I praised them. The young man assured him that he would screw up the shelves after lunch; he would return without his daughter – in the afternoon, he would stay with his mother. He promised not to make a mess, that I wouldn't worry, he would sweep the area and return the drill to the janitor.

Before we left the cubicle, I joked, claiming his signatures on the drawings. And more than quickly she wrote, at the bottom of the board, in simple handwriting


When I passed the key into the classroom door and walked down the corridor, I remembered that I had promised a student the Palimpsests, by Gérard Genette. In fact, in one of the Figures, the critic wisely recorded: “Literature is really that plastic field, that curved space where the most unexpected relationships and the most paradoxical encounters are, at every moment, possible.”[iv]

Through the window, I gazed at the indigo sky.

*Ricardo Iannace He is a professor of communication and semiotics at the Faculty of Technology of the State of São Paulo and of the Postgraduate Program in Comparative Studies of Portuguese Language Literatures at FFLCH-USP. Author, among other books, of Reader Clarice Lispector (edusp).


[I] Clarice Lispector, The passion according to GH, Rio de Janeiro: Editora do Autor, 1964, p. 38.

[ii] Ditto, p. 56.

[iii] Idem, ibidem, p. 56.

[iv] Gérard Genette, “Literary utopia”, Figures, Translation Ivonne Floripes Mantoanelli, São Paulo: Perspectiva, 1972, p. 129.

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