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Clarice Lispector: A hora da estrela (The Hour of the Star)

A strange little novel, this is the story of poor Macabéa, as narrated by the cosmopolitan Rodrigo S. M. Macabéa was as appetizing as cold coffee. The girl did not know that she existed, just as a dog doesn’t know that it’s a dog. She comes from a poor family in the North-East of Brazil and, as her parents die when she is young, she is brought up by a cruel aunt. She seemingly drifts through life. She has a job as a typist but is not very good at it and nearly gets sacked more than once. She has a sort of a boyfriend but he is not very nice to her and eventually dumps her for her colleague, Gloria. She is unwell (apparently with tuberculosis). Nothing seems to work for her, yet she seems to drift through her life without complaining or wanting anything better. Her one achievement is to go to a fortune-teller who forecasts she will meet and marry a well-to-do man but even that does not work out as she is knocked down and killed by a car as she leaves the fortune-teller. Lispector’s technique is mildly detached irony as Rodrigo pops in with a sympathetic comment (Yes, I adore Macabéa, my darling Maca. I adore her ugliness and her total anonymity for she belongs to no one.) Poor Maca and poor Rodrigo but you feel that Maca, in her blissful ignorance, might have had the better deal.

Publishing history

First published 1977 by J. Olympio
First published in English 1986 by Carcanet