Critical Context

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

The Hour of the Star was the last book that Clarice Lispector published during her lifetime. She wrote it at the same time as she was writing Um Sopra de Vida (1978; a breath of life), a confessional novel bordering on lyrical poetry. The Hour of the Star is unique among Lispector’s novels in that it deals with contemporary social and political problems in Brazil.

Lispector is best known for moving Brazilian fiction away from regional preoccupations. Like her Argentine contemporary Jorge Luis Borges, she was more concerned as a writer with such major twentieth century literary preoccupations as existentialism, the nouveau roman, and linguistic experimentation. Her prose is highly imagistic, and her protagonists develop more through their interaction with everyday objects than through the action of the plot. In rhythmically developed epiphanies reminiscent of James Joyce and Virginia Woolf, her characters gradually come to an awareness of the isolation and ephemerality of their individual existences. Lispector is one of the early voices of female consciousness in Latin American literature; her protagonists are generally middle-class urban women attempting to find a place in the contemporary world.

The Hour of the Star shares many of these themes and stylistic qualities with such earlier works as Lacos de Família (1960; Family Ties, 1972) and Maçã no Escuro (1961; The Apple in the Dark, 1967), but Lispector’s focus on the devastating effects of poverty in contemporary Brazil marked the first time that her very real social concerns (as revealed in her newspaper columns and elsewhere) were addressed in her fiction. Lispector’s early death, a day before her fifty-second birthday, silenced one of Latin America’s most experimental and original voices.