Benjamin Moser, author of a great biography of Clarice Lispector (Why This World) has gotten New Directions to re-release five Lispector novels in new translations. First up is The Hour of the Star, translated by Moser himself and intro’d by Colm Tóibín. Here’s the deal:
New Directions has been steadily reissuing titles from its storied backlist over the past few years, commissioning new introductions from contemporary writers and hip new covers. When Moser heard that New Directions was preparing to reissue Lispector’s last novel, The Hour of the Star in its original English translation by Giovanni Pontiero with a new introduction by Colm Toibin, he contacted Epler and insisted they do a new translation: “You can’t say no to that guy,” said Epler. “He finally just put a bag over my head and clubbed me and said he’d do the translation himself in two or three weeks.”
Moser had resisted the idea of translating Lispector himself, but finally decided to do it so as not to miss the chance to offer English readers a translation he felt worthy of Lispector’s legacy. According to Epler, the original translation “also has its qualities. Ben’s version is very different. It’s much more smooth in the Pontiero.” Moser insists Lispector is “incredibly difficult to translate, and to read at times. But she has this extremely distinctive voice. She’s inimitable. A translation is at some degree an imitation. You have to find out how to do that,” said Moser.
The resulting book is filled with jagged, jerky odd, and utterly compelling prose, which is how it should be according to Moser. . . .
For more on this book and Lispector, have a look at Leora Skolkin-Smith’s essay on Hour of the Star in The Quarterly Conversation.
As someone who has read–and loved–Lispector’s work in the available translations, I can say that this is great news. And have a look at the cover design for the 4 remaining books: