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Reflections of a working writer and reader

 

 

The Hour of the Star – a novel

In this short novel, Clarice Lispector narrates the life of Macabéa, a girl from the North East of Brazil, recently arrived in the red light district of Rio de Janeiro. The novel, a writers’ novel if ever there was one, is a compassionate feminist study of an alienated and marginalized girl who has no imperative to change.

The pond in my garden, now, in September, is swarming with tadpoles which should have transformed themselves into tiny frogs in the spring or early summer, but which, for some reason, were unable to make the leap. Macabéa is a tadpole. She will never be anything else. She loves Coca Cola and Marilyn Munroe and lives on hotdogs, she believes that good manners are the best thing that one can inherit, and she was born with a legacy of misfortune, a creature from nowhere with the expression of someone who apologizes for occupying too much space.

In less than a hundred pages, Lispector delves inside the heart and brain of her character, ostensibly through the eyes of a male narrator, and finds little more than a series of negatives and absences. Macabéa becomes, for the author, a kind of mirror, and the two of them teeter on the edge of a merging. We are never allowed to forget that Macabéa is the creation of Lispector and we are prompted to ask ourselves who is Clarice Lispector, the writer, and who is this other ‘I’, I the reader.

In The Hour of the Star, which is Lispector’s last novel, the author is concerned with the emotional and intellectual fragmentation of our time. Without some degree of self-knowledge or at least the questions that would lead to it, we are imprisoned within an entropy of our own making. Like Macabéa, we prove unable to change and are confined to a vegetative state, unable to transmute our own limitations.

3 Responses to “The Hour of the Star – a novel”

  1. tom l says:

    There is a Brazilian movie of the same name based on the novel, which is maybe the best movie I have ever seen. It removes the writerly narration and gives us Macabea directly. There is something about her innermost desires, which all of us share, no matter how impossible they are to attain or how dire our circumstances, that is heartbreaking and illuminating. The ending, where Macabea’s future is foretold and comes to pass, is devastating. The movie can be found on VHS (if fairly expensive) but is well worth it.

  2. Eric says:

    I read the excerpt of the novel and I’m really into it. Do you have an amazon link?

    jb says: Great novel, Eric. I’m sure you’ll find it on Amazon, or any of the other outlets. Got my copy from Abebooks.co.uk

  3. Kim says:

    What page of the novel is that excerpt from please?

    jb says: Sorry, Kim. I can’t put my hand on the novel just now. But it’s in there somewhere.