The Hour of the Star
by Clarice Lispector
We've got your back. With the Tough-O-Meter, you'll know whether to bring extra layers or Swiss army knives as you summit the literary mountain. (10 = Toughest)
(7-8) Snow Line
Sure, The Hour of the Star is short. Hey, you could probably even read through it in one afternoon with a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos. But that doesn't make it easy, because the book is actually interested in one of the biggest questions of all time: "What's the meaning of life?"
Yeah. Perfect accompaniment to a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos.
The narrator doesn't make it easy on us, either. Right from the first page, he drops us in the middle of complex and abstract concepts. Check out this early sentence: "before prehistory there was the prehistory of prehistory and there was the never and there was the yes" (1.1). Whaa? Well, what we think is going on here is that the narrator is struggling with the idea of using language to tell a story. Prehistory, you see, usually refers to a time before written language, when people couldn't record what happened to them and so couldn't write history. But, like we said, he's not making it easy.
Still, it's not all heady intellectualizing. Macabéa's story is clear, engaging, brutally sad, and sometimes even funny. And the writing—wow. It may be hard, but, like the "star with a thousand point rays" that Macabéa feels inside her as she dies, it's also luminous.