Between reality and form

Image: Antonio Lizarraga


The insubordinate writing in "star hour"

“What is fiction? it is, in short, I suppose, the creation of beings and events that did not really exist but could exist in such a way that they become alive” (Clarice Lispector)

Rodrigo SM, the author/narrator or narrator/author of star hour, right in the opening moments of the story about Macabéa, presents his concerns about the creation process and the position of the writer in society: “I write at this moment with some previous embarrassment for invading you with such an external and explicit narrative [...]. If there is truth in it – and it is clear that the story is true even though it is invented – let each one recognize it in himself because we are all one […]” (LISPECTOR, 1999b, p. 12 ).

And he still says: “What I write is more than an invention, it is my obligation to tell about this girl among thousands of them. It is my duty, even if it is of little art, to reveal his life” (LISPECTOR, 1999, p. 13). The way she begins to delineate her character's physical characteristics and universe of experiences to tell the story ends up revealing her own personal experiences and frustrations. The relationship with writing is problematic, as there is no mention of an inspiring atmosphere and easy characterization of the protagonist. And this “true story, albeit invented”, written for us, who “make ourselves sound”, takes shape at the same time that it is also narrated through the author's reflections, which predominate in the plot about Macabéa's misadventures.

In addition, there is a mismatch of a conventional narrative order, with the presence of an author/narrator, narrator/author, who also says Clarice Lispector, in the dedication that opens the novel. It is worth highlighting the irony present in the story, as the figure she narrates emphasizes the need to be prominently masculine. Rodrigo SM says that this story could be told by anyone, but it has to be a man, otherwise, being a woman, the story could sound corny. In this way, the literary form assumes several nuances, that of the woman writer who writes pretending to be a man, a man who thinks of another man to write the story of a woman, who, in many moments, does not even recognize herself as a human being.

There is a kind of fiction leveraged by the search for the best way to represent reality, but without doing it in a conventional way, because even though the story has a beginning, middle and end, as the author rightly says – without ceasing to be ironic –, the interferences , fears, changes in direction, which are present throughout Macabéa's trajectory, end up approaching a more realistic experience of the human condition, full of conflicts and sudden interruptions, such as death itself, announced as soon as the story begins.

These questions can be approximated by what Mikhail Bakhtin in his text “The spatial form of the character”, in Aesthetics of verbal creation, calls the “surplus of aesthetic vision”, which, from an “outside look” at the other and also at himself, is capable of building, shaping the character and exerting any interference in his composition. For Bakhtin, the author is interested in the character as a whole, his traits, his experiences, thoughts and what he is capable of feeling. In human relations in society, however, the whole subject is not interested, but “some of his acts with which we operate in practice and which interest us in one way or another” (BAKHTIN, 2011, p. 4).

The difficulties and possible paths for the elaboration and development of the whole of Macabéa in the narrative are exposed, and, together with this problem, the use of appropriate words to describe the story is also discussed, as well as ethical reflections on how far point, he, Rodrigo SM, the author, “actually Clarice Lispector”, and who also positions himself as a character, knows the reality he intends to present to readers.

Once again, the speech is also ironic in relation to a real experience of suffering and resignation to reach Macabéa’s existence: “Now it is not comfortable: to talk about the girl I have to not shave for days and acquire dark circles under my eyes from sleeping little, just dozing off from sheer exhaustion, I'm a handyman. Besides dressing myself in old and torn clothes. All this to put me on the same level as a northeastern woman. Knowing, however, that maybe I had to present myself more convincingly to societies that complain a lot about those who are right now hitting the typewriter” (LISPECTOR, 1999b, p. 19).

Rodrigo SM's considerations throughout the narrative lend a non-judgmental character to the work. Could this have been Clarice Lispector's response to those who criticized her for not writing in such a way as to emphasize more immediate aspects of reality? Another point worth mentioning is the position of the author, who, as has already been said, places himself as a character right at the beginning of the narrative: “The story – I determine with false free will – will have about seven characters and I am one of the most important of them, of course” (p. 13).

The owner of the story does not attach much importance to himself, revealing, on several occasions, a position of fragility in the face of the direction of his writing. And, at times, he puts himself on the same level as Macabéa: “Oh, I'm afraid to start and I still don't even know the girl's name. Not to mention that the story despairs me for being too simple” (p. 19). “She is a virgin and innocuous, she is not needed by anyone. As a matter of fact – I find out now – I don't miss it at all, and even what I write someone else would write” (p. 14).

In this process, the discussion about writing and its ability to represent the world, the mode of narration, the destiny of the character and the life of the author are interspersed, both in relation to personal and biographical aspects, as well as in his role as creator. of a work of art. Rodrigo SM says that “the action of this story will result in my transfiguration into someone else and my materialization finally into an object” (LISPECTOR, 1999, p. 20). This object we find in the form of a book, with the social, historical and cultural impressions that are immanent to it as an aesthetic achievement.

Bakhtin points out – it is worth mentioning – that one should not establish immediate connections between the author's life and the elaboration of his characters, as if there were only an autobiographical transfer to the universe of artistic creation, but he points out that the author's experiences can also be perceived in his works: “What we have just said does not aim, absolutely, to deny the possibility of comparing in a scientifically productive way the biographies of the author and the character and their visions of the world, an efficient comparison both for the history of literature and for the analysis aesthetic” (BAKHTIN, 2011, p. 9).

With regard to writing, the delimitation of the space occupied by words is always commented on, whether in terms of their capacity or the impossibility of apprehending the world around us through them, in a totalizing way, or in relation to Macabéa and her dazzle before them. The character is delighted to type the words, to hear their different meanings on Rádio Relógio, to copy them at work at Raimundo’s behest, but is incapable of using them as a claiming instrument, which gives a realistic character to Clarice’s text . Macabéa can't do anything, she's not capable of changing anything, she's stuck in a mass that molds those who try to survive in the big Brazilian urban centers.

This novel, written more than 40 years ago, is not very far from the current anonymous existence of other Macabéas and the four Marias, clerks at Lojas Americanas, their roommates. Rio de Janeiro exposed in star hour it is the opposite of the wonderful city. It is enclosed in peripheral areas, in the suburbs, on the port quays and in other marginal landscapes. The most tenuous atmosphere is only presented through the imagination of the character, her simplicity when observing what others despise, such as the rooster's crowing, the thin grass, the plastic flowers, the book humiliated and offended, although I do not understand its dimension. There is no “right to scream” in Macabéa's existence: “Like the northeastern woman, there are thousands of girls scattered throughout the tenements, vacant beds in a room, behind counters working until exhaustion. They do not even notice that they are easily replaceable and that they either exist or do not exist” (LISPECTOR, 1999b, p. 14).

In a chronicle entitled “Fiction or not”, Clarice Lispector comments on the reception to the novel The passion according to GH and the questionings by the critics about the work having or not the form of a novel. What calls her attention is the fact that the critics have difficulties to accept the fiction format elaborated by her, and at the same time the protagonist of the story is analyzed as a character, including her trajectory in the plot. What she emphasizes is not wanting the framework of the classical conception and “dispensing with everything that can be dispensed with” (LISPECTOR, 1999a, p. 271).

This situation, commented by Clarice about her way of writing, can be related to the way in which the author/narrator positions himself in star hour, depicted as a man of letters and wide experience in the intellectual universe, whose claim to account for history does not hide his insecurity in the face of his creation and the “creation of a whole person who is probably as alive as I am” (LISPECTOR , 1999b, p. 19): “Of course, like every writer, I am tempted to use juicy terms: I know splendorous adjectives, fleshy nouns and verbs so slender that they sharply pierce the air in action […] But I won’t adorn the word, because if I touch the bread of the girl, that bread will turn into gold – and the girl (she is nineteen years old) and the girl will not be able to bite it, dying of hunger” (LISPECTOR, 1999b, p. 14) .

In his text “Clarice's response”, Benedito Nunes discusses the act of narrating in the universe of creation. He points out that there is no “effective” situation of literary consciousness and, about the author of star hour and other modern fiction writers, adds: “The feeling of trusting adherence to the act of writing, to surrendering to the rite of creation, was followed by an attitude of critical reserve that obliges the writer to question at each step about the reason for being, about the objective and the end of his art” (NUNES, 2007, p. 54).

This hesitation pointed out by the critic permeates the narrative about Macabéa from the beginning to the end of the story, and this aspect reinforces the dramatic quality of the text, as the way of narrating also becomes a plot. The author's insecurity about his competence to tell is also transformed into a literary form: “Why do I write? First of all because I captured the spirit of the language and so sometimes the form determines the content (LISPECTOR, 1999b, p. 18); “There are few facts to narrate and I myself still don't know what I'm denouncing” (p. 28).

When talking about the character, the author opposes her, manifesting in many moments the disparity between the two. He is situated in his privileged condition, of observing people and what surrounds them, remediated in a layer of society that neither has too much nor too little. Macabéa is shown from her origins, balancing herself on the line of survival, without realizing the sad spaces she occupies and her relationships: her miserable childhood, her adolescence oppressed by her blessed aunt, her exploited and anonymous youth, her brutalized love. in the figure of Olímpico, the disloyalty of Glória and the frustrated predictions of the charlatan madam Carlota.

The author gives life to those who don't know they have the right to live. Macabéa's passivity and the “absence she had of herself” will become material for Rodrigo SM's work as a writer: “The world is a horizon of my acting consciousness” (BAKHTIN, 2011, p. 89). It is this nuance that makes it possible to elaborate Macabéa's consciousness based on the act of creation and the author's personal experiences, but above all, due to the fact that she puts herself in the place of the other, an aspect that is so important for the theory of the aesthetics of verbal creation. , because, unlike what happens in reality, in literature it is possible to shape life, in relationships and in the observation of others we find meaning for our existence: “The way I experience the other's self differs entirely from the way I experience mine. self; this enters the category of the other as an integral element, and this difference is of fundamental importance for both aesthetics and ethics” (BAKHTIN, 2011, p. 35).

This observation by Bakhtin emphasizes the possibility of experiencing the author's creative capacity and his wealth of representations through the characters. Regarding this experience in the place of the other, says Rodrigo SM: “As for the girl, she lives in an impersonal limbo, without reaching the worst or the best. It just lives, breathing in and out. In fact – what more for than that? Her living is thin. Yes. But why am I feeling guilty? And trying to relieve myself of the weight of having done nothing concrete for the girl's benefit. This girl – and I see that I'm almost in the story – this girl who slept in a denim combination with very suspicious stains of pale blood” (LISPECTOR, 1999b, p. 23).

As Carlos Alberto Faraco (2011) observes, in his text “Aspects of Bakhtin's aesthetic thought and his peers”, since his initial studies, Bakhtin has always been critical of biographical and sociological analyzes of art, as they do not understand the importance of the fundamental creative principle of the author's relationship with the character. In this case, it is about the author-creator, who shapes the aesthetic object and sustains the architectural unit, and who differs from the author-person, who is the writer, the individual in which he is inserted in the complex relationships in society. It is through the author-creator that the social, historical and cultural become intrinsic elements of the aesthetic object. Thus, for Faraco, the word is the basis of expression, it is the mechanism for creating a world that reveals much more than the impressions and experiences of the author-person.

Still in Aesthetics of verbal creation, in the chapter “The author and the character”, Bakhtin says that “the author's conscience is the conscience of the conscience” (p. 11), that is, the conscience that involves the conscience and the world of the character. It is necessary to see the other beyond the superficial look, put yourself in the other's shoes to go further than your own individual conceptions and beliefs. In this way, the structure of the text, its architecture, is consolidated with the following elements analyzed by Bakhtin: the vision and its surplus, the character and events' completion, the concrete volitional-emotional guideline, that is, the conscience , the character's feeling, and, finally, the axiological center, the whole of the character and the event, which are conditioned to the ethical and cognitive values ​​of the narrative.

In Clarice Lispector's terms: “My background in writing? I'm a man who has more money than the hungry, which makes me somewhat dishonest. And I only lie at the exact time of lying. But when I write I don't lie. What else? Yes, I have no social class, marginalized that I am. The upper class sees me as a weird monster, the middle class suspects that I might unbalance them, the lower class never sees me” (LISPECTOR, 1999b, p. 18).

Returning to the “surplus of the aesthetic vision”, let us remember that Bakhtin gives a very interesting definition about it: “it is the bud on which form rests and from which it blossoms like a flower” (p. 23). But for this transformation to occur effectively, it is necessary to complete the horizon of the other individual without losing his or her originality. This is one of Rodrigo SM's manifestations: how to deal with the northeastern girl so far from her reality? He says: “How do I know everything that will follow and that I still do not know, since I have never lived it?” (p. 12).

And, further on: “The fact is that I have a destiny in my hands and yet I don't feel I have the power to freely invent: I follow a hidden fatal line. I am forced to look for a truth that surpasses me. Why am I writing about a young woman who doesn't even have poverty adorned? Perhaps because there is recollection in it and also because in the poverty of body and spirit I touch holiness, I who want to feel the breath of my beyond. To be more than me, because I am so little” (LISPECTOR, 1999b, p. 21).

Macabéa's incompetence for life extends to the author, as Rodrigo SM cannot solve anything, he is hesitant and manifests the fragility of the word in the face of the brutality of the world, approaching the same condition as Macabéa at the time of her death, who sees “among the stones of the sewer, the thin grass of a green of the most tender human hope” (p. 80). Thus, star hour, in his writing that “does not accumulate, but lays bare”, reveals an innovative aesthetic in the history of Brazilian literature and also a look of broad awareness of the human condition.

* Lisa Bezerra Teixeira PhD in Literary Theory and Comparative Literature from the University of São Paulo (USP)

Originally published in the Annals of Brazilian Association of Comparative Literature (Abralic).


BAKHTIN, Mikhail. Aesthetics of verbal creation. Trans. Paul Bezerra. São Paulo: Martins Fontes, 2011.

FARACO, Carlos Alberto. Aspects of the aesthetic thought of Bakhtin and his peers.

Today's Letters Magazine, Porto Alegre, v. 46, no. 1, p. 21-26, Jan./Mar. 2011.

LISPECTOR, Clarice. The discovery of the world. Rio de Janeiro: Rocco, 1999a.

LISPECTOR, Clarice. star hour. Rio de Janeiro: Rocco, 1999b.

NUNES, Benedict. Clarice's response. In: Clarice Lispector. Star time. Catalog of the Museum of the Portuguese Language. São Paulo: Museum of the Portuguese Language, 2007.

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