Fitz LISPECTOR

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    Point of View in Clarice Lispector's "A Hora da Estrela"Author(s): Earl E. FitzSource: Luso-Brazilian Review, Vol. 19, No. 2 (Winter, 1982), pp. 195-208Published by: University of Wisconsin PressStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3513128 .

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    P o i n t o f V i e w i nC l a r i c e Lispector's A H o r a d a E s t r e l aEarl E. Fitz

    Eduardo Portella has asked if, in A Hora da Estrela (1977),we are seeing a new or different Clarice Lispector.1 Portella,himself a critic intimately aware of Lispector's steady develop-ment as an artist, answers his own question with both a "yes" anda "no." What he means is, that, "yes," there are certain new ele-ments present in this final novel, but that, "no," Clarice has notreally changed all that much. But while Portella, a long-timefriend of Clarice Lispector, does take note of the three differentlevels of meaning, or significance, that bind this work together,he does not elaborate on what turns out to be the most salientfeature of the entire novel, its sustained and carefully orches-trated experimentation with the issue of point of view. The emi-nent Brazilian critic is quite correct in observing that themanner in which a story is told, the way it moves from thecreativity of the author, through the actions of the characters,and into the mind of the reader, has always been of concern toClarice Lispector, a writer widely renowned for her style andtechnical brilliance. But given the truth of this, there remainsthe need for a more detailed examination of exactly how this lastwork, published just a little more than a month before theauthor's death from cancer, deals with the workings of the com-plex, multi-faceted system of structural inter-relationships thatwe know as point of view.Long and justly famous throughout Latin America for her sensi-tive, penetrating explorations of human consciousness, ClariceLispector created a series of stylistically rigorous, hermetic,and often enigmatic novels and short stories that dealt, charac-teristically, with the workings of the mind. Physical objects,such as those encountered in 0 Lustre (1946), or the presence ofan external milieu, such as that depicted in A Cidade Sitiada(1949) or A Maca no Escuro (1961), function within her fictiveuniverse in a way that reminds us of T. S. Eliot's understandingof the "objective correlative," that is, an object, situation, oraction that, visibly and concretely, conveys the mood or state ofmind that the author wishes to evoke in the reader. For Eliot,

    Luso-Brazilian Review XIX, 2 0024-7413/82/0195 $1.50? 1982 by the Board of Regentsof the University of Wisconsin System

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    Luso-Brazilian Review 19:2as for Lispector, the "objective correlative" is the vehicle bymeans of which emotion can be expressed in the objectivity of theart form, the only way the author can conjure up and express theproper emotional response in the reader without having to resortto a direct statement of that response. In this sense, a numberof Clarice's characters, including the protagonist of A Hora daEstreZa, show themselves to be rather like J. Alfred Prufrock orRilke's Malte Laurids Brigge, hypersensitive beings in whose mindsthe outer world of objects and actions sets off a series of os-tensibly uncontrolled flashes of silent, anxious speculation aboutthe twin problems of identity and being. However, we should notforget, in view of the author's well-known ontological concerns,that Clarice Lispector never ignored the three dimensional world.To the contrary, she made use of it in a constant and unique way,one that would link together objects, our perceptions of them, andthe impressions they make on our conscious and unconscious minds.This, as Lispector understood it, was at the heart of the processby which a human identity is formed, and it represents the all im-portant bridge between much of what is "new" in A Hora da EstreZaand that which we have grown accustomed to seeing in her earlierwork. Her fascination with the always changing relationship be-tween the inner and outer world also explains, in part, why we arereminded so strongly, at times, of the French "nouveau roman,"especially as practiced by Robbe-Grillet and Nathalie Sarraute,the latter being especially close to Lispector in terms of hermanner of characterization.But Clarice's abiding interest in the objects of the externalworld and the effect they have upon our sentient minds also re-calls for us the nature and function of phenomenology in Lispec-tor's fictional world. Her distinctly phenomenological orienta-tion towards life and literature involves a synthesis of objectand one's awareness of it, a process in which a single human mind,usually that of her protagonist, becomes both the subject and theobject of the act of cognition, of understanding. But while thiskind of preoccupation has always been a vital element in her work,it must be noted that the novel in question here, A Hora daEstreZa, focuses on some overt social issues as well, specifical-ly, on the chronic plight of a certain type of Brazilian north-easterner who undertakes a journey to the great cities of thesouth in search of a better life. But in this particular novel,and in typical Lispectorian fashion, we are led, additionally,into the mind of a realistically described young "nordestina," awoman who represents for us and for the author the continuedpresence of the "two Brazils," one rich and healthy, the otherpoor and sickly. In this double role, that of protagonist andsymbol, Clarice's main character in this novel reminds us of theinnumerable ways the harsh, tragic realities of the Northeastblight not only the land but the people as well. The image of thewasteland, geographically and psychologically, is thus constantlyexpressed, becoming, finally, the central or controlling image ofthe entire work. We can see, then, that, in a certain sense, AHora da Estrela shows itself to be more of a shift of emphasis for

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    Clarice Lispector, a different approach to get at an old concern,the tenuous relationship between language, existence, and con-sciousness, than it is any radically new tack or development.And yet, as we shall see, the openly ironic function of the nar-rator, and his dual relationship with the protagonist and thereader, adds a startlingly new element of narrative complexity tothis work. Clarice elects here to deal directly with one of themost singular features of modern narrative: the unreliable, orfallible, narrator. In looking at how well she succeeded with herpoint of view experiments, we are able to get a better perspectiveon how she was growing, and maturing, as an artist, somethingwhich is crucial to our appreciation of this last work.The style of A Hora de EstreZa is less unabashedly lyrical thanits immediate predecessor, Agua Viva (1973), but it does continuewith Clarice's penchant for extracting every bit of connotativeand denotative meaning out of apparently simple verbal icons.Lispector, a writer who, like Guimaraes Rosa, always understoodboth the mystery of language and its pivotal importance for liter-ature, especially the novel form, creates in this work a kind ofallegorical regionalism, a mimetic tale of a certain place andtime but one that turns in on itself. But in addition to thisfascinating literary hybridism, Lispector links the structure ofthe entire novel to an ongoing discussion of what the creative actmeans to the artist, this being a theme first discussed at lengthby the author in Agua VivaA Hora da EstreZa is, therefore, on one level the story of thewriting, the creation, of a novel. As with Machado de Assis'Dom Casmurro (1900), or Graciliano Ramos' Sao Berardo (1934), thedevelopment of the text itself becomes, to a large extent, whatthe narrative is about, its most compelling aspect. One is re-minded, in fact, of both Bento Santiago and Paulo Honorio in read-ing A Hora da Estrela, although in the latter work the theme ofthe expiation of guilt, personal and national, through the writingof a book is not the primary concern so much as a discussion ofwhat it means for a literary artist to create a character who ex-presses particular attitudes and concerns, many of which may ormay not coincide with those of the implied author or the realauthor. Keeping in mind Wayne Booth's observations about thenature of the unreliable narrator, we meet the person who tellsthe story in our novel, a man whose presence in the story is cen-tral to its structuring and, consequently, to its meaning. As hehimself tells us:

    Proponho-me a que nao seja complexo o que escreverei, emboraobrigado a usar as palavras que vos sustentam. A hist6ria-determino com falso livre arb'trio-vai ter uns sete personagense eu so