The Hour of the Star

Introduction

The Hour of the Star (A hora da estrela) is a novel by Clarice Lispector published in 1977, shortly after the author's death. In 1985, the novel was adapted by Suzana Amaral into a film of the same name, which won the Silver Bear for Best Actress in the 36th Berlin International Film Festival of 1986.[1] It has been translated into English twice by New Directions Publishing with Giovanni Pontiero's 1992 translation followed by Benjamin Moser's version in 2011.[2]

Themes

The Hour of the Star deals with the problems of the rural Northeast versus the urban Southeast, poverty and the dream of a better life, and, of an uneducated woman's struggle to survive in a sexist society.[3] Another prevalent theme is that of the narrator's powerful position in delivering the plot, including a form of intrusive narration in which the narrator speaks directly to the reader. In February 1977, Lispector gave her only televised interview, with Júlio Lerner of TV Cultura in São Paulo. In it, she mentioned a book she had just completed with "thirteen names, thirteen titles", though she refused to name them. According to her, the book is "the story of a girl who was so poor that all she ate was hot dogs. That's not the story, though. The story is about a crushed innocence, about an anonymous misery."[4][5]

Alienation—Throughout the novel, Macabea is alienated from her family, her boyfriend, and those outside of her social class, ultimately leading her to die alone. This is shown in a variety of ways, most notably in her boyfriend's work on a conveyor belt, in what Marx would call a textbook example of alienation.

Characters
  1. Rodrigo S.M.: the narrator, writer
  2. Macabea: regular girl from the Northeast that gets hit with a car
  3. Olimpico: metal worker that puts metal rods on conveyor belts, dates Macabea and cheats on her with Gloria
  4. Gloria: works with Macabea, dates Olimpico, suggests Macabea should go to fortune teller
  5. Madame Carlota: Fortune teller Macabea goes to preceding her death
  6. Doctor: indifferent towards his patients, does not care about his job, money oriented
  7. Guy in Mercedes: Murderer
Background and publication

Clarice used her own childhood in the Northeast region of Brazil as reference to build the protagonist Macabéa. She also mentioned a gathering of people from this region in the São Cristóvão neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro, where she first captured the "disoriented look" of the Northeasterns in the city.[4] Clarice was also inspired by a fortune teller she visited, an event upon which she bases the final part of the plot. When she was leaving the fortune teller's house, she found it amusing to imagine herself being hit by a yellow Mercedes and dying immediately after hearing all the good projections the fortune teller foresaw for her future.[4]

The novel was composed from short fragments that Lispector and her secretary, Olga Borelli, pieced together.[6] Lispector was not aware that she was dying at the time she wrote it, though the work is full of premonitions of her upcoming death.

Plot

The novel starts with the narrator, Rodrigo S.M., discussing what it means to write a story. He adresses the reader directly and spends a lot of time talking about his philosophical beliefs. After some time, he begins the story, which centers on Macabéa, an impoverished 19 year old living in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She leads a difficult life, but seems to be oblivious to this fact. She starts dating a boy named Olímpico, who mistreats her and eventually leaves her for her coworker, Gloria. Gloria, who feels bad about the whole thing, recommends that Macabéa visit a fortune teller named Madame Carlota. She predicts that Macabéa's life will turn around soon, saying that she will be rich, happy, and marry Olímpico. However, none of this comes true as Macabéa's life comes to an abrupt end when a yellow Mercedes runs her over.

Style

While the narrator in The Hour of the Star reveals to the audience his wish to ensure the novel's simplicity (in terms of writing) and stray from philosophical tangents, in reality the story is marked by complicated existentialist notions of identity. The author often reflects on his conscious effort to do so:

"Like every writer, I am clearly tempted to use succulent terms: I have at my command magnificent adjectives, robust nouns, and verbs so agile that they glide through the atmosphere as they move into action. For surely words are actions? Yet I have no intention of adorning the word, for were I to touch the girl's bread, that bread would turn to gold—and the girl … would be unable to bite into it, and consequently die of hunger."[7]

As the novel unfolds, it becomes apparent that this quest for identity is as much about Macabea's search for self as it is the narrator's own. Notions of being, who we are and who we aren't, and the struggle to finding meaning are all touched upon.

Reception

Peter Bricklebank in his review for Library Journal described the novel as "both introspection and fiction" and that it was a "compassionate meditation with a fine afterward, this slim volume will attract lovers of philosophical fiction".[8] Barbara Mujica in her review for Americas described the novel as "the last and perhaps greatest novel of the Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector" and that "The Hour of the Star is also a meditation on writing. Through Rodrigo, Lispector brings into question the notion of authorial supremacy. Rodrigo is not the omnipotent, invisible creator, but a thinker who doubts, vacillates, and questions his own work. In The Hour of the Star and other novels, Lispector throws into doubt the ability of fiction to capture the truth."[9]

Notes
  1. ^ "Berlinale: 1986 Prize Winners". berlinale.de. Retrieved 2011-01-14. 
  2. ^ Benjamin Moser (Translator), Colm Tóibín (Introduction). The Hour of the Star (Second Edition), New Directions; Second Edition (November 9, 2011). ISBN 978-0-8112-1949-5
  3. ^ Magill, Frank Northen; Rollyson, Carl E. (2000). Critical survey of long fiction. Pasadena, Calif: Salem Press. ISBN 0-89356-882-1. 
  4. ^ a b c Lerner, Júlio. Interview with Clarice Lispector, produced by TV Cultura, filmed in February 1977, first aired in December 1977.
  5. ^ This interview is widely available on the Internet, from YouTube and other sources.
  6. ^ Cadernos de Literatura Brasileira : Clarice Lispector. Rio de Janeiro: Instituto Moreira Salles. 2004. 
  7. ^ Lispector, Clarice (1977). The Hour of the Star. Jose Olympico Editora. p. 15. 
  8. ^ Bricklebank, Peter (April 15, 1986). "The Hour of the Star (Book)". Library Journal. 111 (7): 96. ISSN 0363-0277. 
  9. ^ Mujica, Barbara (1992). Americas. 44 (1): 61. ISSN 0379-0940.  Missing or empty |title= (help)

This content is from Wikipedia. GradeSaver is providing this content as a courtesy until we can offer a professionally written study guide by one of our staff editors. We do not consider this content professional or citable. Please use your discretion when relying on it.