Review: The Hour of the Star / A Hora da Estrela by Clarice Lispector, edition in Portuguese [EN/PT]

a hora da estrela clarice lispectorI haven’t done bilingual reviews in a while, but since I read this very popular Brazilian classic, I thought it would be worth the effort writing a double review. The Hour of the Star is one of the few translated books from Brazil that English-speakers have access to more or less easily, so I am reviewing here the edition I read in Portuguese. I’ve heard that the translated work isn’t very good, and I completely believe it – Clarice has a writing style that is probably really hard to translate in the first place. I would be curious to see how the translation was done, but honestly, I’ve had quite enough of this book and would prefer moving on to her other stories.

[English]

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Categories: Literary Fiction, Classic Fiction

Goodreads

I recently re-read Felicidade Clandestina and was impressed by how much I loved Clarice Lispector’s short stories, so I might have come into The Hour of the Star with high expectations, but I was sorely disappointed. The Hour of the Star tells the story of Macabéa, a girl from Northeast Brazil who lives in poverty in Rio de Janeiro. The entire story is told by a male narrator that insists he is in love with Macabéa (although she’s fictional) and must tell her story; which is quite interesting, since he spends most of the book talking about himself instead. Macabéa, put into the background of her own story, is left with a collective of stereotypes and tragedy. She is the kind of character that is hard to root for, because we never really get to know her. After the entire book, I still felt like I barely knew her at all. In terms of literary accomplishment, this philosophical and introspective voice of the narrator is surely new, fresh and interesting, but it did not translate into a good book overall, for me.

There are beautiful passages and Clarice’s lovely writing, which does not shine through nearly as much as in other stories I loved much more in Felicidade Clandestina. Instead, the language in the book feels presumptuous and unnecessarily frilly. There is so much useless stuff inserted into the text that seems to come merely as a “oh I like the sound of this sentence” decision. There was not enough plot in the book, which to me is normally okay, but neither did the characters bring enough to the table to take this book to the next level. There is hints of brilliancy that never quite shine on the text quite like her other works, for me.

It feels to me that this should have been a short story instead of a novel. I do look forward to reading her other works, I believe Água Viva, Passion According to G.H. and Near the Wild Heart are also more or less easily available in English; I own Água Viva so I look forward to reading that and hopefully recommending it!

[Português]

Nota: ★★☆☆☆

Categorias: Romance literário, clássico

Skoob

A Hora da Estrela é um desses livros que sempre se ouve falar, mas eu ao menos até hoje não tinha lido – eu adorei Felicidade Clandestina e estava bem animada para ler um romance em vez de contos, dessa vez. Infelizmente me desapontei no fim das contas – A Hora da Estrela é um romance literário interessante porque Clarice Lispector traz o narrador para frente da história, tão personagem quanto a personagem principal; mas como história, não me cativou nem um pouco.

Clarice certamente toma liberdades literárias ousadas, com o narrador tomando conta da história mais do que a própria personagem principal e descrevendo o processo de criar a história enquanto a conta; isso ocorre de forma intencional, mas eu simplesmente não consegui me conectar com a história ou a personagem, e depois de alguns capítulos me cansei das contantes interrupções (desinteressantes) do narrador. Sua voz, certamente filosófica e inovadora no sentido de que normalmente tem-se um narrador onipresente e invisível, me irritou profundamente. O narrador passa metade da história falando dele mesmo e se dizendo apaixonado por Macabéa e por isso precisa contar a história dela, e isso é martelado na cabeca do leitor até que o livro curtinho pareça ter 200 páginas a mais. O argumento não convence e o narrador nao acrescenta nada na história, alem de tirar o foco de Macabéa. Mesmo que essa tenha sido a intenção, não foi um artificio literário que funcionou para mim. Imagino que para a época o argumento de que um narrador masculine tinha que contar a história de Macabéa (???) fizesse algum sentido, mas para mim pareceu vazio.

Em termos de o que o romance faz no âmbito literário, certamente A Hora da Estrela é interessante e digno de nota. O aspect metalinguístico é realmente diferente. Mas esse livro deixou bastante a desejar para mim. Ainda assim, estou bem animada para ler Água Viva (que já tenho) e outros livros de Clarice Lispector!

2 thoughts on “Review: The Hour of the Star / A Hora da Estrela by Clarice Lispector, edition in Portuguese [EN/PT]

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