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The Hour of the Star

The Hour of the Star


by Clarice Lispector

Analysis: Writing Style

So, the narrator claims that he wants to keep his writing style simple:

Like every writer, I am clearly tempted to use succulent terms: I have at my command magnificent adjectives, robust nouns, and verbs so agile that they glide through the atmosphere as they move into action. For surely words are actions? Yet I have no intention of adorning the word, for were I to touch the girl's bread, that bread would turn to gold—and the girl … would be unable to bite into it, and consequently die of hunger. (1.16)

Well, as you can see, he doesn't always succeed. Even this passage is complex. Sure, none of the words are going to send you to the dictionary, but that complex metaphor about changing the girl's bread into gold? Yeah, clear as mud.

(BTW: what's going on there is he's saying that fancying up the girl's life—turning it into "gold"—will end up doing her a disservice, because it would make her life into something that she didn't understand.)

And for a real look at the way this narrator works, check out this passage:

The words are sounds transfused with shadows that intersect unevenly, stalactites, woven lace transposed organ music. I can scarcely invoke the words to describe this pattern, vibrant and rich, morbid and obscure, its counterpoint the deep bass of sorrow. Allegro con brio. I shall attempt to extract gold from charcoal. I know that I am holding up the narrative and playing at ball without a ball. Is the fact an act? I swear that this book is composed without words: like a mute photograph. This book is a silence: an interrogation. (1.23)

First, we just have to say: this is amazing writing. It's just beautiful. The musical imagery, the glorious words, the playful treatment of the act of writing—it's spectacular.

Second, we admit that it's not something you can just skim over. But why would you want to, when you can revel in the complex, suggestive images he's creating?

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