cover image The Hour of the Star

The Hour of the Star

Clarice Lispector. Carcanet Press,, $0 (96pp) ISBN 978-0-85635-626-1

The narrative material of this short, almost weightless tale by the late Brazilian writer (19251977) is reminiscent of old-fashioned naturalism, but the intention is far from that. Macabea, a young woman from the backwoods, arrives in bewildering Rio. Homely, ignorant, without skills or experience, she lodges in a shabby tenement in a squalid red-light district. Her transient boyfriend, a strutting lout and sham, soon abandons her. After a time, Macabea is struck down by a Mercedes and killed: an obscure life, a banal death. The author's presence is continuously feltthe narrator-of-record is a mere front for itand it is here that the work goes awry. The nagging voice attempts to elevate Macabea's little life to nobility and religious significancebut to no avail. And the modish commentary on novelistic method amounts to little more than affectation. (April 10)