The Hour of the Star by Clarice Lispector

★★★★☆ (4/5)

A selection of my favourite passages from the book

Everything in the world began with a yes. One molecule said yes to another molecule and life was born. But before prehistory there was the prehistory of prehistory and there was the never and there was the yes. It was ever so. I do not know why, but I do know that the universe never began.

  • I only achieve simplicity with enormous effort.
  • The truth is always some inner power without explanation.
  • Besides, I know about certain things simply by living. Anyone who lives, knows, even without knowing that he or she knows.
  • One way of obtaining is not to search, one way of possessing is not to ask; simply to believe that my inner silence is the solution to my — to my mystery.
  • To probe oneself is to recognize that one is incomplete.
  • Things were somehow so good that they were in danger of becoming very bad because what is fully mature is very close to rotting.
  • My strength undoubtedly resides in solitude. I am not afraid of tempestuous storms or violent gales for I am also the night’s darkness.
  • To be frank, I am holding her destiny in my hands and yet I am powerless to invent with any freedom: I follow a secret, fatal line.
  • I should also mention that I read nothing these days for fear that I might adulterate the simplicity of my language with useless refinements. For as I explained, the word is my instrument and must resemble the word. Or am I not a writer? More actor than writer, for with only one system of punctuation at my disposal, I juggle with intonation and force another’s breathing to accompany my text.

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.

  • The girl did not know that she existed, just as a dog doesn’t know that it’s a dog. Therefore she wasn’t aware of her own unhappiness. The only thing she desired was to live. She could not explain, for she didn’t probe her situation. Perhaps she felt there was some glory in living. She thought that a person was obliged to be happy. So she was happy.
  • No sooner do I succeed in persuading her to speak, than she slips through my fingers.
  • If the reader is financially secure and enjoys the comforts of life, he must step out of himself and see how others live. If he is poor, he will not be reading this story because what I have to say is superfluous for anyone who often feels the pangs of hunger.
  • Her laughter was terrifying because it belonged to the past and it was only revived by a malign imagination, a yearning for what might have been but never was.
  • To return to the girl: the one luxury she permitted herself was a few sips of cold coffee before going to bed. She paid for this luxury by waking up with heartburn.
  • Her life was so monotonous that by the end of the day she could no longer remember what had happened that same morning. She mused in silence and the thought came to her: since I am, the solution is to be. The cockerel I mentioned earlier heralded yet another day. It sang of weariness. Speaking of poultry, the girl sometimes ate a hard-boiled egg in a snackbar. Her aunt had always insisted that eggs were bad for the liver. That being so, she obediently became ill and suffered pains on the left side opposite the liver. For the girl was most impressionable. She believed in everything that existed and in everything non-existent as well. But she didn’t know how to embellish reality. For her, reality was too enormous to grasp. Besides, the word reality meant nothing to her. Nor to me, dear God.

I cannot stand repetition: routine divides me from potential novelties within my reach.

  • After all, was he not destined to become a politician one day? (An event this story does not cover.) And when that day comes, he will expect to be treated with some respect.
  • In the end, what had to happen would happen. Meantime nothing whatsoever happened, for neither of them knew how to invent happenings.
  • I also believe she was weeping because the music helped her to perceive that there were other ways of feeling; that there were more delicate forms of existence and certain spiritual refinements. She perceived lots of things that she could not understand.
  • They eventually bumped into each other again. For quite different reasons they had wandered into a butcher’s shop. Macabéa only had to smell raw meat in order to convince herself that she had eaten. What attracted Olímpico, on the other hand, was the sight of a butcher at work with his sharp knife. He envied the butcher and would dearly have liked to be in the trade himself. To cut into raw meat with a sharp knife never failed to get him excited. Both of them walked out of the butcher’s shop feeling deeply satisfied.
  • Even so, Macabéa couldn’t help wondering what the taste of meat was like. And Olímpico pondered: how does one train to be a butcher?
  • She would never forget their first meeting when he addressed her as ‘missy’, and made her feel that she was somebody. Once she became somebody, she even felt justified in buying herself a pink lipstick.
  • She had learned from her favourite radio programme that there were seven billion inhabitants in the world. She felt completely lost. But it was in her nature to be happy so she soon resigned herself: there were seven billion inhabitants to keep her company.
  • And even sadness was the privilege of the rich, of those who could afford it, of those who had nothing better to do. Sadness was a luxury.

More and more, she was finding it difficult to explain. She had transformed herself into organic simplicity. She had contrived a way of finding grace in simple, authentic things. She liked to feel the passage of time. She did not possess a watch, and perhaps for that very reason, she relished the infinity of time. Her life was supersonic. Yet no one noticed that she had crossed the sound barrier with her existence. For other people, she didn’t exist.

  • His dream was to earn enough money to do exactly what he pleased: nothing.
  • At this very moment Macabéa felt nausea well up in the pit of her stomach and almost vomited. She felt like vomiting something that was not matter but luminous. Star with a thousand pointed rays.
  • Should God descend on earth one day there would be a great silence. The silence is such, that thought no longer thinks.

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