Monday, February 12, 2007

The Hour of the Star - Clarice Lispector

'Death is an encounter with self' says Clarice Lispector in her last novel published in the same year of her death in 1977.

A very abstract and experimental novel mostly told in a 3rd Person narrative about a north-east Brazilian girl living in Rio de Janeiro slums. Macabea, the girl from the north-east living in poverty and misfortunes. There are many like her in this world whose life does not matter to the world, their existence is a mere biological fact and nothing more. They have nothing to look forward to it and just pushes their life until death. As Macabea puts it , she should be happy that she is alive. They also have hopes and despair , to be a movie star like Marylin Monroe as she says.

Macabea lives with the small income she gets as a typist and we mishaps after mishaps affect her until her sad end under a Mercedes. Soon after her birth her parents dies and she was brought up under a bad auntie (as in case of all the stories) . She comes to Rio as every one in search of job and food and lives in the slums of the red-district area of Rio. She is ugly and virgin and share a room with few others, about whom we have no information.

She represents the lower section of the Brazilian ( for that matter all the 3rd world countries) society. She is alien to the brash metropolis and what it has to offer and become more and more away from the mainstream. Her only contact to the external world has been her short term boy-friend ( whom she looses to her workmate) and her workmate who represent the new hopes and new world.

A very sad and disturbing existential book written when Claris Lispector was diagnosed with cancer. This book written during her time of serious illness would definitely have provided her with enough personal difficulties. The 3rd person narrative ( The novel is as told by Rodrigo S M ) is her other self and it possibly is her attempt to detach herself from the story.
The beauty of this novel is that you can have multiple interpretation of each character and incidents. Some of the prominent critics call this as "existentialism of the masses".

The hour of the star
Clarice Lispector ( Brazil)
Translated by Giovanni Pontiero ( with a beautifully written 'after word'")
96 pages
USD 9.95

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