Books Readed: The Hour of the Star



The Hour of the Star
by Clarice Lispector
translated by Benjamin Moser
Make no mistake, I only achieve simplicity with enormous effort.
I also know about things because I’m alive. Everyone alive knows, even if they don’t know they know. So you gentlemen know more than you think and are just pretending not to.
So that’s why I’ll try contrary to my normal habits to write a story with a beginning, middle and “grand finale” followed by silence and falling rain.
Yes, but don’t forget that to write anything at all my basic material is the word. So that’s why this story will be made of words that gather in sentences and from these a secret meaning emanates that goes beyond words and sentences.
Forgive me but I’m going to keep talking about me who am unknown to myself, and as I write I’m a bit surprised because I discover I have a destiny. Who hasn’t ever wondered: am I a monster or is this what it means to be a person?
Before this typist turned up in my life, I was a man who was even a bit contented, despite my meager success in literature. Things were somehow so good that they could go very bad because fully mature things rot.
That’s why I don’t know if my story is going to be—be what? I don’t know anything, I still haven’t worked up the nerve to write it. Will things happen? They will. But what things? I don’t know that either.
I also forgot to say that the account that is soon going to have to start—since I can no longer withstand the pressure of the facts—the account that soon is going to have to start is written with the sponsorship of the most popular soft drink in the world even though it’s not paying me a cent, a soft drink distributed in every country. Moreover it’s the same soft drink that sponsored the last earthquake in Guatemala. Even though it tastes like nail polish, Aristolino soap and chewed plastic. None of this keeps everyone from loving it with servility and subservience. Also because—and now I’m going to say something difficult that only I understand—because this drink which contains coca is today. It’s a way for a person to be up-to-date and in the now.
Since life’s like that: you press a button and life lights up. Except she didn’t know which button to press. She didn’t even realize she lived in a technical society in which she was a dispensable cog. But one thing she’d upsettingly discovered: she no longer knew what it was to have a father and mother, she’d forgotten the taste.
I’ve just discovered that for her, besides God, reality too was very little. She could deal better with her daily unreality, living in sloooow motion, hare leeeeaping through the aaaair over hiiiill and daaaale, vagueness was her earthly world, vagueness was the insides of nature.
And she thought it was good to be sad. Not miserable, since she’d never felt that way because she was modest and simple but that indefinable thing as if she were romantic. Of course she was neurotic, that goes without saying. It was a neurosis that kept her going, my God, at least that: crutches.
On Sundays she got up early in order to have more time to do nothing.
And when she woke up? When she woke up she no longer knew who she was. Only later did she think with satisfaction: I’m a typist and a virgin, and I like coca-cola. Only then did she dress herself in herself, she spent the rest of her day obediently playing the role of being.
She knew what desire was—though she didn’t know she knew. It was like this: she was starving but not for food, it was a kind of painful taste that rose from the pit of her stomach and made her nipples quiver and her arms empty without an embrace. She got all dramatic and living hurt.
One thing he wanted to be was a bullfighter. Once he’d gone to the movies and shivered from head to toe when he saw the red cape. He didn’t feel sorry for the bull. What he liked was seeing blood.
No, I lied, now I see it all: he wasn’t innocent in the least, even though he was a general victim of the world. He had, I just discovered, inside of him the hard seed of evil, he liked taking revenge, this was his great pleasuring what gave him strength in life. More life than her, who didn’t have a guardian angel.
Anyway whatever was going to happen, would happen. And for the time being nothing was happening, the two of them didn’t know how to invent happenings.
When she was a girl she’d seen a house painted pink and white with a yard where there was a well and everything. It was good to look inside. So her ideal became this: to have a well just for her. But she didn’t know how and so she asked Olímpico:
—Do you know if you can buy a hole?
—Did you know that on Clock Radio they said a man wrote a book called “Alice in Wonderland” and that he was also a mathematician? They also talked about “elgebra”. What does “elgebra” mean?
—Knowing that stuff is for queers, for men who become women. Sorry I said queer because that’s a bad word for a decent girl.
—On that station they say this thing about “culture” and difficult words, for example: what does “electronic” mean?
—I know but I don’t want to tell you.
—You know what else I learned? They said you should be glad to be alive. So I am. I also heard a pretty song, I even cried.
Besides she increasingly couldn’t explain herself. She transformed herself into organic simplicity. And she’d figured out how to find in simple and honest things the grace of a sin.
—I am alone in the world and I don’t believe in anyone, everyone lies, sometimes even when making love, I don’t think one being speaks to another, the truth only comes to me when I’m alone.
But who can tell if she wasn’t needing to die? Because there are times when a person needs a little bitty death and doesn’t even know it.



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Russell Etchen was born 1979 in Shreveport, Louisiana. Artist, book designer, and curator living and working in Los Angeles.


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