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Thread: Clarice Lispector: The Hour Of The Star

  1. #1
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    Brazil Clarice Lispector: The Hour Of The Star

    Following on from a recent blog post, I spotted a copy of Clarice Lispector?s The Hour Of The Star (1977) in Waterstones, knew I recognised the name from somewhere, and picked it up. Of course, The Hour Of The Star isn?t its only name, indeed there are a further twelve suggested titles, including I Can Do Nothing, .As For The Future., and The Blame Is Mine. Take your pick.

    In this novel, written in the year of her death, Lispector uses the guise of a male writer - Rodrigo - to tell a story that ?could be written by another?but it would have to be a man for a woman would weep her heart out.? Said story involves the sad life of Macab?a, a character borne from a face spotted one day by the narrator. From this glimpse arises an interesting novel of contrasts and the need for Rodrigo to put down in writing the story of this imagined girl, a story so immediate he even declares, ?I am writing at the same time as I?m being read.?

    From the off, Rodrigo addresses the reader of The Hour Of The Star with his concerns about writing. In a philosophical tone he discusses how his novel can never truly have a beginning, using a grander scale to illustrate his point:
    Everything in the world began with a yes. One molecule said yes to another molecule and life was born. But before prehistory there was the prehistory of prehistory and there was the never and there was the yes. It was ever so. I do not know why, but I do know that the universe never began.
    Things soon settle - in an unsettled way - as he agonises over the story to tell, supplementing concerns with apologies (?Even as I write this I feel ashamed at pouncing on you with a narrative that is so open and explicit.?), and all done in an engaging, urgent style.

    Macab?a, the girl, is the main character in Rodrigo?s novel?s. Her introduction is repetitive, or at least his mentions of her, and the cyclical nature of this erratic mind - the opium-drunk narrator of Sadegh Hedayat?s The Blind Owl came to mind - tells us perhaps one time too many about Macab?a?s mental make-up. About how she lives in the here and now. About how she has little ambition beyond being, despite her frailty and ugliness, Marilyn Monroe. And about how, such is the emptiness of her existence, she doesn?t know what it is to be happy or sad:
    As the author, I alone love her. I suffer on her account. And I alone may say to her: ?What do you ask of me weeping, that I would not give you singing?? The girl did not know that she existed, just as a dog does not know it?s a dog. Therefore she wasn?t aware of her own unhappiness.
    But her life is not wholly without incident. She has a job as a typist (?she was so backward that when she typed she was obliged to copy out ever word slowly, letter by letter?) and acquires a bizarre butcher-loving boyfriend along the way. One by one the novel?s tiny cast flits in and out of her life, each experience leading on to an unexpected conclusion that proves to be more shocking to narrator than his creation

    The Hour Of The Star?s joy is in reading the parallel threads as we learn of the narrator and watch him create his character with each page turned. Macab?a, our uneducated lead lead, blunders through life without a care having limited conversations and understanding. She can?t help being who she is, for it?s outwith her control. The blame can rest easily with both her upbringing and Rodrigo. On the other hand, our tortured narrator is educated and knows that he can intervene in Macab?a?s tale but, as the alternative titles allude, doesn?t. For this, he takes to defense:
    As for the girl, she exists in an impersonal limbo, untouched by what is worst or best. She merely exists, inhaling and exhaling, inhaling and exhaling. Why should there be anything more? Her existence is sparse. Certainly. But why should I feel guilty? Why should I try to relieve myself of the burden of not having done anything concrete to help the girl?
    Make no mistake, The Hour Of The Star, is a novella in which very little happens and while it may, at first, feel repetitive, hypnotic is more apt. A second sitting, with knowledge of later events, certainly rewards, and credit is certainly due to Giovanni Pontiero, for his vibrant translation. And such brilliance gives a taste of life in a Brazilian slum, only to remind us that tragedy is everywhere, especially ahead of us.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Clarice Lispector: The Hour Of The Star

    Although it was her last novel - released while she was alive - "The Hour of Star" is the only novel that tells a story with usual end. Well, all Lispector's writings are full of stream of consciousness but in this one Clarice wrote using a moderate level of stream of consciousness. At her last interview to tv - broadcasted only after Lispector's death - she told that "the novel I'm writing is more usual than the ones I did".
    Macab?ia is a easy reference to Shakespeare's Macabeth, but in the process of making this book, Clarice was really influencied for classical music. "I dedicated myself to Beethoven's storm"(1) she said into the book. Wow, it's important to say, she wrote this book singning as Rodrigo S.M.

    1. this translation is made by me taking the line "Dedico-me a tempestade de Beethoven" from my Portuguese edition.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Clarice Lispector: The Hour Of The Star

    Quote Originally Posted by Raphael Lambach View Post
    Wow, it's important to say, she wrote this book singning as Rodrigo S.M.
    ". . . what I am writing could be written by another. Another writer, of course, but it would have to be a man for a woman would weep her heart out."

    I'm not so sure, and it's hard to think of Lispector weeping for this girl. But I admire this novella very much and wil say more in the Clarice Lispector thread.

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    Default Re: Clarice Lispector: The Hour Of The Star

    In case someone is interested, an extraordinary movie was made from this book - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0089297/ - by Suzana Amaral. In some ways the film gets into the heart of the character even more than the book, because we don't have the intervening distance of the tortured and guilty narrator. The story of Macabea aligns with the ancient tale of the country bumpkin, the peasant in the city, the innocent abroad. She's not only uneducated, but completely ignorant of the modern world when she arrives and yet, she makes her way, she goes about her business, she finds a most unsuitable boyfriend (the amazingly ill-named Olimpico de Jesus, a welder who dreams of becoming a Senator) and gets all her information from Radio Reloj, a radio station that tells the time and in between the minutes relates an unlimited supply of useless and often simply wrong 'facts'. (She might as well be listening to Fox News). The ending of this story is one of the greatest ones I've ever encountered, and illuminates the whole story in precisely the way you'd want any ending to do.

  5. #5

    Brazil Re: Clarice Lispector: The Hour Of The Star

    She's a gem. A gem of words and emotions. TTT
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    In writing this story, I shall yield to emotion and I know perfectly well that every day is one more day stolen from death. In no sense an intellectual, I write with my body. And what I write is like a dank haze. The words are sounds transfused with shadows that intersect unevenly, stalactites, woven lace, transposed organ music. I can scarcely invoke the words to describe this pattern, vibrant and rich, morbid and obscure, its counterpoint the deep bass of sorrow.Allegro com brio.

    Clarice Lispector/translated by Giovanni Pontiero

    The Hour of the Star
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I don't know Portuguese, alas. Video interview (1977):



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Clarice was Brazilian and it was by sheer luck that she was born in a small village in the Ukraine. She knew English and French well, but she wrote only in Portuguese, her native language. And as far as we know, she never spoke Yiddish or Hebrew. Once she learned how to read and write, she became an avid reader.

    "When I learned to read and write, I devoured books! I thought books were like trees, like animals: a thing that was born! I could not find out what an author was! Then, at a certain point, I found out what an author was! So I said: I want that too.” (Interview)

    "My first language was Portuguese. Do I speak Russian? No, absolutely not. … My tongue is tied. … some people used to ask me if I was French, because of the way I pronounce the r’s." (Interview)
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Clarice
    came from a mystery.
    And left for another.
    We remain in ignorance
    of the essence of the mystery.
    Or the mystery was not essential,
    it was Clarice traveling in it.


    Carlos Drummond de Andrade
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

  6. #6

    Default Re: Clarice Lispector: The Hour Of The Star

    I'll be grateful if someone can put an accurate English transcript of the interview above? TTT.
    There are some things in it I suspect that may throw light on this extraordinary personality. Thank you.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Clarice Lispector: The Hour Of The Star

    Clarice Lispector
    "How near we are in sense and remote in time." Threetrees. 2012.
    (Graphical Perfection)

    Quotations
    __________________________________________________ ____________________________
    "When you win and the other fellow loses, what do you see? A losing face. There is great joy in losing and making the other person win and have a happy face. Who will be the happiest person? The one who brings happiness to others."
    __________________________________________________ ____________________________

    *What do you think?
    Last edited by Threetrees; 04-Apr-2012 at 22:12. Reason: asterisks - everything ought to be perfect

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    Default Re: Clarice Lispector: The Hour Of The Star

    I think I'd prefer to read the words all in the same-sized type. I'm not a Dadaist.

    As far as I know, Lispector spoke Yiddish at home. I'd have to check the biography.

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    Brazil Re: Clarice Lispector: The Hour Of The Star

    Looking at the Wikipedia, never 100% reliable but a good guide, I found this sentence:

    Clarice parlava molte lingue, fra cui francese, inglese e italiano, ma crebbe nell’ambiente familiare parlando yiddish, l’idioma materno.
    Her mother died when she was 10, but I think "l'idioma materno" here means either "mother-tongue" or "mother's language". Either way, she did, no doubt, speak Yiddish with her mother, during those short years of Clarice's childhood that the mother was still alive.

    But elsewhere it does state that Clarice felt she had no bonds with the Ukraine. Brazil was her homeland. If it hadn't have been for the pogroms, she would have been a Ukrainian author, or a Yiddish one, at least. Yet, by a quirk of fate, she was brought up in an emigrant Jewish family in Brazil.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Clarice Lispector: The Hour Of The Star

    Ok, Eric - again this dispute. I know what you are driving at. I'll drive my way and put some fragments in chunks.

    Though she (Clarice) and her two older sisters were raised as Jews, she identified herself as a Brazilian, and called Portuguese the language of her soul.

    1. "She was an incorrigible liar," said Professor Fitz (Note: it's the personal view of him: Clarice probably didn't reveal her thoughts to people she didn't trust. TTT), a former student of Mr. Rabassa, who says he has been obsessed with the writer and her work since he read her novel "The Apple in the Dark" in the spring of 1971. He has devoted much of his academic career to Lispector, having written two books about her.*

    "She wanted to be thought of as a writer though she pretended she wasn't a professional," he said. "She told different people different things about what town she lived in and when she was born. She wore a lot of masks, and when she would take one off you'd think she was revealing something, but all she was revealing was another mask."

    2. "When mothers of Russian descent start to kiss their children, instead of being content with one kiss they want to give them 40," she wrote. "I tried to explain this to one of my sons but he told me I was just looking for an excuse to justify all those kisses."


    3. "She didn't deny her Jewishness, but she didn't push it," said Moacyr Scliar, the Brazilian-Jewish novelist whose work has dealt explicitly with the Jewish Diaspora. "The reason why this happened is still a subject of discussion here in Brazil." (So why? TTT)

    4. Speaking by telephone from his home in Porto Alegre, Brazil, Mr. Scliar speculated on possible reasons for the absence of Jewish characters and themes from Lispector's work. (another why. TTT)

    5. Yet Mr. Scliar recalled a conversation he had had with Lispector just before she went to a television station for an interview. "I was much younger than she, but she knew my work and asked about my literature, my Jewishness," he said. "I told her I like to write about Jewish subjects and that I didn't feel humiliated or inferior because of this. She said, 'I wish I could write about those subjects.' But she didn't explain what she meant by that."*(another why. TTT)

    6. In her final book, a novella called "The Hour of the Star," Lispector named her main character Macabéa, which many scholars believe refers to the Maccabees, the fierce Jewish warriors celebrated for defeating the Hellenizing Syrians. Lispector's Macabéa is hardly heroic by Bible-story standards. (Who told that? TTT). She is a poor young woman from the backwoods of Brazil, who comes to the slums of Rio with big dreams but can't avoid the kind of grim fate Lispector writes for so many of her characters.

    7. And (the most relevant fact to my mind)... when she died of cancer in December 1977, one day before her 57th birthday, her stated wish was to be buried at the Cemiterio São João Batista (Saint John the Baptist). Rejected because of her Jewishness, she was instead interred at the Cemiterio Israelita do Caju.
    __________________________________________________ _________________________________
    She was much criticized by Jewish community, because of one reason: she didn't identify herself with it. Threetrees.

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    Brazil Re: Clarice Lispector: The Hour Of The Star

    Threetrees, there is no dispute, only debate. I am taking you more seriously now that you have toned down your mixed typeface postings. What you have written here is very pertinent and analytical. I hope you continue to post like this, rather than like a Dadaist.

    Try to answer my fundamental question on another thread as to what constitutes a Jewish writer. It appears to be a conundrum to many.

    But to return to Clarice Lispector, I imagine that she indeed used a lot of chameleon tactics and camouflage to avoid having to answer potentially dangerous questions. Yet it is rather a pity that people who also hide their identity here on the WLF cannot reveal their real self, for fear of censure. It is difficult to have an open debate with people who hide themselves behind an arras.

  12. #12

    Default Re: Clarice Lispector: The Hour Of The Star

    Anyhow I don't like your presumptuous way of naming it*"chameleon tactics and camouflage". Don't* disguise yourself, Eric. There are dangerous answers, there are no dangerous questions. There are constructors and there are destroyers. Clarice Lispector is a sample of the former type. She was lucky enough not be the victim. She could protect herself. How many of them could and are able?

  13. #13

    Default Re: Clarice Lispector: The Hour Of The Star

    I don't know if you know... but brazilian Facebook users always make Clarice's quotations...

    But.. sometimes the words don't belong to her.

  14. #14

    Default Re: Clarice Lispector: The Hour Of The Star

    Hi, Raphael. Are you from Brazil? I don't know Portuguese, alas. Can you transcribe the interview above? I suspected that people may mix or give wrong translations. Thank you. TTT

    P. S. And I watched the thread about*Erico Verissimo. I like the title. I haven't read him.
    Last edited by Threetrees; 09-Apr-2012 at 21:09. Reason: P.S.

  15. #15

    Default Re: Clarice Lispector: The Hour Of The Star

    Hi TTT, how's it going?
    Yeah, I am Brazilian.
    Of course I do. I will transcribe it ASAP.

    Have a nice day

  16. #16

    Brazil Claire Lispector: The Hour Of The Star

    There is an independent book store in my neighbourhood that I am quite fortunate to have, in my mind. It bolsters its minimal sales of used books by bringing in recently reissued classic works that are uncommon in the large book store chains that now control the Canadian book market.

    I make many great finds at this branch and its main location, which is only another two kilometers away. Books I've never heard of and books by many of the authors that pop up over and over again on this forum (thank goodness for that!). This is where I found Calvino and Transtrommer.

    This is also where I found Lispector. After one book I am prepared to say she was a major talent.

    The Hour of the Star is a story of a young woman's life and death - a life barely lived and a death never anticipated. And the narrator, whose role is doubled as a character telling the story if not himself in it, is quite a brilliant creation. This is a marvel of a book. A true marvel. It has jolted my brain and challenged my sense of mortality. And society and purpose and happiness and sadness. Quite an accomplishment in only 77 pages, to be honest. Perhaps I am falling in love with the Novella and the Short Story. I am open to that possibility. I am also open to reading more of Lispector - I have another of her works waiting on my TBR pile at home, and I may go back to that shop and collect what other works they have of hers. Beautiful, brilliant stuff.

    Lispector's prose is stunning in a way that is rare. A mix of realism and that hint of abstract impossibility and unknowability. It is in her sentences and fragments and punctuation and word choices. Thankfully the translator, Benjamin Moser, has provided a note about his work translating Lispector's work. He has also written a biography about Lispector and so, to my mind and his, understands what she was attempting to do with her sentences and word choice and punctuation. It certainly was precise. Exactly as Lispector wanted - and not to be changed by ill-equiped translators, it would seem. The translation, though, seems to be quite well done.

    In this story I saw hints of Beckett (Company) and Dostoyevsky (Notes from the Underground), but captured in something that was altogether original. Beautiful and challenging and brave writing.

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    Default Re: Claire Lispector: The Hour Of The Star

    Excellent post, OverTheMountain, but I added it to a pre-existing thread (we already had one on this particular book), .

  18. #18

    Default Re: Claire Lispector: The Hour Of The Star

    Thanks Liam! I see my search was fruitless because I was looking for Claire Lispector, rather than Clarice Lispector. Simple things that can be solved by looking at book covers.

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    Default Re: Claire Lispector: The Hour Of The Star

    Here's the above-mentioned interview with English subtitles:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w1zw...Kjwjs2&index=1

  20. #20

    Default Re: Claire Lispector: The Hour Of The Star

    Quote Originally Posted by DouglasM View Post
    Here's the above-mentioned interview with English subtitles:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w1zw...Kjwjs2&index=1
    I had promissed to transcribe that but I was so absent.
    I'm sorry TTT...

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