If you were to read one Clarice Lispector book, which should it be?
Review: three books by a writer Colm Tóibín calls ‘one of the hidden geniuses of 20th-century literature’
Again Beckett is recalled: “It is exactly through the failure of the voice that one comes to hear for the first time one’s own muteness and that of others and of things and accepts it as a possible language.”
Lispector tries to connect with a way of being that achieves the “deheroisation” of the individual. She attempts to access the essence which is “matter” – shedding all the “accretions” of humanity (as expressed in ideas of beauty, justice and goodness) – to move back to the root, the beginning: that our fundamental being is “matter” and that by accessing the “neutral” matter in ourselves, we can find God, who is “whatever exists”. Here are echoes of the Jewish philospher Spinoza.
In The Hour of the Star, published shortly before her death in 1977, the narrator is a man, Rodrigo SM. He tells the story of a girl, Macabea, a poor young woman who displays little self reflection.
It is also the story of the writing of the story. Although postmodern in that element, it suffers none of the sterile academic tone often associated with such exercises. It’s strangely humanistic and heartfelt. The fictional male narrator becomes a strangely transparent character (in The Passion According to GH Lispector talks of women being more in tune with the “matter” of the world), leaving the book to develop into a type of dialogue between the author and the girl; Macabea becomes a conflation of the maid in GH, Lispector herself, and the main character of GH after her communion with “reality”.
The usual obliqueness of Lispector’s novels is is here harnassed to produce an exploration of the nature of writing, and of creating characters, a contemplation of class inequality and on into an existential/ spiritual denouement. If you are to read one Clarice Lispector book, make it this truly brilliant novel.