Book Review: The Hour of the Star by Clarice Lispector

“All the world began with a yes”

What a book to close this roller-coaster of a year, a stunning and tragic view inside the life of our girl Macabéa, who never knew what it was like to feel an ounce of whatever was good. May that be a thought, an emotion, and even if she did, she would question if it was alright to feel that way.

“She had been born with a legacy of misfortune, a creature from nowhere with the expression of someone who apologizes for occupying too much space,”

An orphaned child from the poverty-ridden area of northeastern Brazil, Macabéa thrives as a typist. But, she is unwell, impoverished that she could barely even afford pads during her period. She never knew a parent’s love, or much less her mother and father’s name to tell her of her worth in this world and their lives. So, at that, you will instantly realize that she’s slipping into a world where luck is never going to knock on her door. So, the gist of the story is, that despite her predestined doom, Macabéa to me, is hauntingly infectious with her will to survive and how she carries on believing that another day will be in her favor. “She slept with her mouth open because of her stuffed nose, she slept exhausted, she slept dead to the world,”

I’m not saying that she’s indifferent, she just doesn’t know how unhappy she should be. And to tell Macabéa’s unfortunate story, Lispector employs our narrator, the ambiguous Rodrigo S.M. He is sympathetic towards her, but being the unreliable narrator, he usually trails off into amusing asides. We see everything about her through him, her unloveliness, her ugliness and the way he talks about her plight to doom with such passion. Through Macabéa and Rodrigo, we are asked to ponder the question of our existence. Who are we and what is happiness? This is because Rodrigo’s rhetoric for most of the time deals with subjects so philosophical meanwhile Macabéa somehow possesses the privilege of inward freedom to come to terms with harsh realities through simple pleasures, and fantasies.

Sure, there are times where I grit my teeth as she merely accepts blow after blow of emotional attack from her conceited and denial-ridden of a boyfriend who wants to be “somebody”. But that’s just how she lives, accepts life with all its cruelties she doesn’t think, which is what she’s good at. Shocking thing is, I kinda love that about her. Now, the fact that she didn’t bother questioning her existence reminds us of the petty problems that we let take over our lives. “Who do I want to be when I grow up?” is the last thing on her mind, and it seems to be the question that rich people only think about. Remember, our girl sometimes had to chew paper to ease her hunger, but her stomach hurts from eating a burger because she’s never used to eating like the rest of us.

“The girl did knot know that she existed, just as a dog doesn’t know that it’s a dog,”

”I am a typist and a virgin, and I like coca-cola,”

“…she lives in an impersonal limbo, without reaching the worst or the best. She just lives, in haling, and exhaling, inhaling and exhaling,”

Overall, this book blew my brains out because it discusses the very complexity of human nature and the human conditions. Identity, the psychological and physical consequences of poverty. And Macabéa, she is no less of a woman to me by the way she survives in sweet nature. She has so little through her misfortune, but she doesn’t want or covet because that’s all there is. With The Hour of the Star, I wasn’t moved to pick up a fight. Rather, I gave way in understanding Macabéa’s misery and I felt like it would be pointless to shake her by the shoulders and tell her she deserved better. She just knew what she has always known to be true.