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The Hour of the Star (New Directions…
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The Hour of the Star (New Directions Paperbook) (original 1977; edition 1992)

by Clarice Lispector, Giovanni Pontiero (Translator)

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1,493559,165 (3.85)1 / 152
Narrated by the cosmopolitan Rodrigo S.M., this brief, strange, and haunting tale is the story of Macabéa, one of life's unfortunates. Living in the slums of Rio and eking out a poor living as a typist, Macabéa loves movies, Coca-Colas, and her rat of a boyfriend; she would like to be like Marilyn Monroe, but she is ugly, underfed, sickly and unloved. Rodrigo recoils from her wretchedness, and yet he cannot avoid the realization that for all her outward misery, Macabéa is inwardly free/She doesn't seem to know how unhappy she should be. Lispector employs her pathetic heroine against her urbane, empty narrator--edge of despair to edge of despair--and, working them like a pair of scissors, she cuts away the reader's preconceived notions about poverty, identity, love and the art of fiction. In her last book she takes readers close to the true mystery of life and leave us deep in Lispector territory indeed.… (more)
Member:Silverlion
Title:The Hour of the Star (New Directions Paperbook)
Authors:Clarice Lispector
Other authors:Giovanni Pontiero (Translator)
Info:New Directions Publishing Corporation (1992), Paperback, 96 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:None

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The Hour of the Star by Clarice Lispector (1977)

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"Maybe the northeastern girl had already concluded that life is extremely uncomfortable, a soul that doesn't quite fit into the body, even a flimsy soul like hers." pp 23-24

Clarice Lispector was an acclaimed Brazilian novelist who emigrated from Ukraine to Brazil’s rural northeast corner. She eventually moved to the more urban Rio area. The Hour of the Star, written as metafiction, is known as her masterpiece; it was written shortly before her death and published posthumously in 1977. Interestingly, this female author uses a male narrator to talk about a simple female named Macabéa. Macabéa is poor and uneducated. Her parents died when she was young, and an aunt raised her. Like the author, she is from northeastern Brazil and moves to Rio. Unlike the author, she remains naive, sweet, obedient, and seemingly unaware of her poverty and sadness. Macabéa works as a typist and lives with other women in a tenement. However, using Lispector's quotes, we learn in a rich prologue written by Colm Tóibín that this story is really about a crushed innocence and an anonymous misery.

As is typical with metafiction, the narrator continually interrupts the story to remind the reader that this is a made-up story. The narrative's choppiness is probably provided to help us understand the instability of the narrator and his subject. This is a book written to make us feel uncomfortable. There are also many commentaries on the meaning of Macabéa’s life and the narrator’s life. So, it is philosophical, and I wonder whether the musings are also metaphysical. Metaphysics often includes studying the nature of the human mind, the definition and meaning of existence, or the nature of space, time, and its causes. The narrator explores his own identity through his descriptions of Macabéa. Many questions are raised, and assumptions are made. The reader feels empathy toward the plight of the impoverished and meaningless lives of unfortunate beings such as Macabéa.

The narrator makes most observations about Macabéa as asides. We are not certain whether he even knows her. Other negative commentary about Macabéa is generated through some of the unlikeable characters, such as Gloria, the doctor, and Olimpico. Gloria is a woman who worked with Macabéa and acted maternally towards her. She was a better typist, according to the boss, and kept her job when Macabéa was fired. Olimpico is Macabéa’s boyfriend for a while, but he continually insults her and refutes what she says. He enjoys exploiting her ignorance. He eventually leaves her for Gloria, whom he believes is more equipped for childbearing. Macabéa laughs when she finds out that Olimpico prefers Gloria, and it is stated that sadness is reserved for the rich. The doctor tells Macabéa not to diet, as though her malnourishment is caused by purposeful dieting, and see a psychoanalyst. He’s a doctor to the poor, and it doesn’t seem to matter that he is not up-to-date on medical practices.

Some of the comments in the book remind me of a Twitter handle called @menwritewomen. Tweets tagged with this handle call out unusual depictions of women’s thoughts and bodies as characterized by men. The use of so many derogatory comments and descriptions of women in this novel is a masterful conveyance of sexism by this female author and the ultimate irony.

Other themes include the urban attitudes toward those from rural areas and those living in poverty. Members of Brazil's elite social classes often disregard those living in abject poverty, in much the same way that the narrator and other characters ignore Macabéa. Although the narrator doesn’t give her credit for realizing it, Lispector wants the reader to know that Macabéa is searching for an identity. She uses the narrator’s search for identity to represent all humans who seek positive identity and life fulfillment.

https://quipsandquotes.net/?p=495

( )
  LindaLoretz | Mar 15, 2021 |
I'm surprised how long it took me to read this book. The beginning was extremely slow, but then it became more and more interesting. The writing style is definitely 'bold'. Somehow more than the characters in the book, I think about Clarice Lispector herself more after finishing the book. She must have been an awfully interesting woman. She lived in Switzerland and called it a 'cemetery of sensations'. She used this crazy style of sentences, finishing/ not finishing- unbound by punctuation. And of course, her style of narration- this is really, really something.
And at the end of the book- there's an almost very 'reverent' note by the translator- Benjamin Moser.

While I've read some of her poetry translated and its wonderful, something tells me this must be her best book- her prima donna. ( )
  zasmine | Feb 5, 2021 |
This is the story of Macabea, "one of life's unfortunates," a person who is "incompetent at life." She is described as ugly, sickly, stupid, poor and wretched. But she also lacks the self-awareness to know any of this, and accepts what life hands her. The pleasure of this book is the innovative nature of the narration. Macabea's life is described by Rodrigo, with many digressions and asides about where the story will end up and the nature of telling the story of a life. At the beginning, Rodrigo says, "Will things happen? They will. But what things? I don't know that either." Rodrigo also tells us, "I know everything about Macabea because I once caught a glimpse of this girl with the sallow complexion from the northeast. Her expression revealed everything about her."

I'd long heard of Clarice Lispector, but this is the first book by her that I have read. I will be seeking more of her books to read.

Recommended. 4 1/2 stars ( )
1 vote arubabookwoman | Jan 31, 2021 |
Charming. ( )
  mjhunt | Jan 22, 2021 |
Thus ends my attempt to get interested in Clarice Lispector. I can't see it getting any better for me than this book, in which she seems to have discovered self-consciousness (maybe all this writing is a little excessive? A little too pat?) and, thank all that is holy, irony. The meta-narrative works, since the contrast between the narrator/author and the character lets us think something other than "oh my god this shit is genius" or "what a pretentious irritant this is," i.e., lets us consider the relationship between literary existentialism and the conditions of actual suffering and happiness. It's also occasionally funny, which is rather astonishing given my previous attempts to read Lispector have generally made me feel the urge to sit on a whoopy-cushion just to lighten the mood a little.

So, given that this is the best Lispector novel for me, I'm admitting defeat. I see that all of my friends love her, but I can't, I just can't. No more sentences like these for me:

"With her dead, the bells were ringing but without their bronzes giving them sound. Now I understand this story. It is the imminence in those bells that almost-almost ring. The greatness of every one."

No more sentence fragments. No more sentences about bells that sound like meat cleavers (despite the loveliness of 'almost-almost.') Is this Lispector, or her translators? I will never know. Farewell, you heavily marketed ostensible genius. Fare thee well. ( )
  stillatim | Oct 23, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 45 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (54 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lispector, Clariceprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Broder, MelissaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moser, BenjaminTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pontiero, GiovanniTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tóibín, ColmIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Clarice stirs in the greater depths, where the world finds its true meaning, portraying mankind.
('Vision of Clarice Lispector')
Carlos Drummond de Andrade
Dedication
For Olga Borelli
First words
All the world began with a yes.
Quotations
Who has not asked himself at some time or other: am I a monster or is this what it means to be a person?
To probe oneself is to recognize that one is incomplete.
Things were somehow so good that they were close to becoming very bad because what is fully mature is very close to rotting.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Narrated by the cosmopolitan Rodrigo S.M., this brief, strange, and haunting tale is the story of Macabéa, one of life's unfortunates. Living in the slums of Rio and eking out a poor living as a typist, Macabéa loves movies, Coca-Colas, and her rat of a boyfriend; she would like to be like Marilyn Monroe, but she is ugly, underfed, sickly and unloved. Rodrigo recoils from her wretchedness, and yet he cannot avoid the realization that for all her outward misery, Macabéa is inwardly free/She doesn't seem to know how unhappy she should be. Lispector employs her pathetic heroine against her urbane, empty narrator--edge of despair to edge of despair--and, working them like a pair of scissors, she cuts away the reader's preconceived notions about poverty, identity, love and the art of fiction. In her last book she takes readers close to the true mystery of life and leave us deep in Lispector territory indeed.

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Book description
Macabea, a young woman from the backwoods, arrives in bewildering Rio. Homely, ignorant, without skills or experience, she lodges in a shabby tenement in a squalid red-light district. Her transient boyfriend, a strutting lout and sham, soon abandons her.
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