Poor, fragile Macabéa

‘Everything in the world began with a yes. One molecule said yes to another molecule and life was born. But before prehistory there was the prehistory of prehistory and there was the never and there was the yes. It was ever so. I do not know why, but I do know that the universe never began.’ p.11

‘The more genuine part of my life is unrecognisable, extremely intimate and impossible to define.’ p.12

‘Who has not asked himself at some time or other: am I a monster or is this what it means to be a person?’ p.15

‘Why do I write? First of all because I have captured the spirit of the language and at times it is the form that constitutes the content.’ p.17

‘Of one thing I am certain: this narrative will combine with something delicate: the creation of an entire human being who is as much alive as I am.’ p.19

‘I have grown weary of literature: silence alone comforts me. If I continue to write, it’s because I have nothing more to accomplish in this world except to wait for death. Searching for the word in darkness.’ p. 70

Clarice Lispector, The Hour of the Star (t. Giovanni Pontiero)

This earlier translation by Giovanni Pontiero (Carcanet, 1986) is more fulfilling as a work of art than the later New Directions edition. I can’t comment on the success of the translation, but think Pontiero’s version a better piece of writing.

6 thoughts on “Poor, fragile Macabéa

  1. Oh, that’s interesting Anthony. I read the New Directions version and at times didn’t find it an easy read. It was my first Lispector and expected to maybe be challenged, but the short stories I’ve read since then were not a challenge in the same way. So maybe it was the translation after all…


    • The ND version, for all I know, may be a better translation, and Benjamin Moser makes some interesting points in the his afterword in the ND version. But Pontiero seems to me the better writer. Either way, it is such an intelligent and fragile work of fiction, barely a story at all.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I could not agree more about the Pontiero translation. This is one of my favorite books of all time, dare I say my favorite Lispector (Agua Viva maybe a close second) – …this is the season for strawberries. Yes. – and I’ve read both versions, and intuitively or aesthetically prefer the Pontieri version.


    • Near to the Wild Heart is gripping me at the moment. I had quite forgotten how profound and beautiful it is. I’m so pleased you agree with my choice of translation. I read both in parallel-to some extent-and far prefer the Pontiero.


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