Thursday, March 3, 2011

Of Love and Other Demons - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

of love and other demons
gabriel garcia marquez
c. 1994
147 pages
original language: spanish
completed 2/17/2011

read for: i want more challenge, what's in a name challenge, historical fiction challenge

*may contain spoilers*

An ash-gray dog with a white blaze on its forehead burst onto the rough terrain of the market on the first Sunday of December, knocked down tables of fried food, overturned Indians' stalls and lottery kiosks, and bit four people who happened t cross its path.

Don Ygnacio de Alfaro y DueƱas is a marquis in Spanish ruled South America (what is now Colombia), fading into obscurity with a wife who has been drugged into a state of near constant delirium. The daughter neither of them wanted has been pushed out of the house to be raised in the slave quarters, growing up speaking the Yoruban language of the slaves better than her own family's Spanish. It is only after she is bit by a rabid dog that Sierva Maria really comes to the attention of her father. Though she shows no signs of having contracted rabies herself, her bizarre behavior and mannerisms lead her father to conclude she is possessed by demons. Sierva Maria is sent to a convent to by exorcised. There, she develops a close relationship with Father Cayetano Delaura, the priest sent to oversee her ordeal, who may come to be possessed by an even more powerful demon: love.

Gariel Garcia Marquez is a beautiful writer. Beautiful. The emotional aspect of the detail is amazing. I always feel (I say always, yet this is only the second work of his I've read) that he is able to incorporate so much mundane life into his prose that in less capable hands would seem both irrelevant and kinda gross (in both this and Love in the Time of Cholera there is a passage or two that goes into some detail regarding specific characters' bodily functions). Instead, Marquez is able to make passages like those seem like such natural inclusions and ones that are vital to the integrity of the story. I don't often notice an author's prose style too much unless it bothers me, but Marquez stands out.

The novel (novella really) is very short, so there's not too much room for character development, but for those characters who needed it (Sierva Maria, Father Delaura, the Marquis) it was there in spades. Sierva Maria was quite the enigma. It's never really explained what her demon possession really is. For my part, I think her possession was nothing more than a cultural clash. She had been raised in the slave quarters, completely neglected by her family, so she was raised with different values, cultural norms, beliefs, and language. While differences like these would be expected from the African slaves, these perceived peculiarities were incomprehensible in their own daughter. Plus, she was basically tortured with "cures" for rabies, and that will really mess a person up.

I enjoy books that look into the historical practice of exorcism. It's often pretty terrifying and horrific, but fascinating at the same time. There were some extremely brutal processes to get rid of demons, and it's no wonder so many of them were fatal. My sister the literature scholar and I were discussing exorcist horror movies briefly last night, and I really think sometimes they should go the other way, with the horror part not being the person who's being possessed but the exorcism itself instead. Well, maybe they already do. I'm not so much into the horror movies...Scary stuff.


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