Rodrigo S. M., the self-declared narrator of the novel, is the voice of self-consciousness, in counterpoint to Macabéa’s almost total lack of self-consciousness. He observes the oblivion of his protagonist, and by writing her story goads her into a kind of self-knowledge. The question of the narrative voice in this novel is complex, for Clarice Lispector’s own voice is also heard. At times, the reader hears her directly; at times, she can be detected behind or through Rodrigo’s words; at times, she seems to be speaking through Macabéa; and at times, her silence is as expressive as her voice.
In the naming of Macabéa and Olímpico, Lispector reveals her ironic playfulness. The Maccabees were a family of Jewish patriots and rulers in the second and first centuries b.c.e. who led the Jewish people in their struggle for freedom against Syrian rule. Their recapture of the Temple in Jerusalem is marked by the Jewish festival of Hanukkah. The triumphs, power, and fame of the Maccabees are in direct contrast to their namesake’s poverty, vulnerability, and obscurity. Olímpico, of course, suggests Mount Olympus and the Olympic Games—the classical spirit of Greek competition. Olímpico competes, but he does it furtively and criminally. He is an accomplished petty thief and is proud of his secret murder of a rival.
Lispector seems to have created Macabéa as a primitive alter-ego. Like Lispector, Macabéa comes...
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