Recommended: The Hour of the Star by Clarice Lispector

I’ve recommended it before and will do so again, either the book, which is (in a word) great and has just been newly re-translated, or the movie based on it, which still rates as my all-time favorite film.

Some notes from an earlier translator (Giovanni Pontiero) still resonate for me:

“Both writer and character find themselves on the margin of society, for both of them respond to an inner law that means nothing to the world”

The story concerns a young woman – Macabea, an orphan peasant from the country – who comes to the big city (Rio de Janeiro). Not only are all odds against her but in truth ALL the odds in the world are against her. She is ignorant, illiterate, poor, sick (TB) and utterly hopeless. She has nothing and no one to help her. Even the ‘friends’ that she makes conspire against her whenever they can. And yet, her instinct, her drive, her sheer will to live reveal what’s essentially human, essentially animal, ¬†essentially life in all of its glory and shameless impulse of survival.

Lispector was a tremendously interesting writer and The Hour of the Star was her last book before dying of cancer at only fifty six. It’s a short book, less than 90 pages, and some of it is partially suffocated by the narrator, but the heart of the book is as brilliant and touching as anything I’ve ever read.

From the new translator’s preface:

“Lispector had, in common with Borges in his fiction, the ability to write as if no one had ever written before, so the work’s originality and freshness arrived in the world quite unexpected.”


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