18 February 2009

Review: Del amor y otros demonios

Del amor y otros demonios is the story of Sierva Maria de todos los Santos, whom GGM introduces as based on a macabre story and an old legend. The macabre story is the opening of an old crypt, which reveals a skeleton of a young girl wrapped in her long, red hair. The legend is one told by his grandmother of a young girl with long hair who performed miracles but died while still young.

Sierva Maria is a young woman born of a loveless marriage in colonial-era Colombia. Neglected by her parents, she is raised by the family slaves and grows up more comfortable with their language and food than with that of her own purported social class. One day at the market with the woman who raised her, a rabid dog bites her on the ankle. So begins the worst of her troubles. Shortly, she is declared demonically possessed and taken to a nunnery to have the demons exorcized.

The question of demonic possession is left intriguingly ambiguous. While it seems quite likely that the church elders are overreacting, strange things do seem to happen around Sierva Maria. Sierva Maria begins to have an unexpected effect on the scholar priest who's come to help her, which of course only emphasizes the question of what sort of demon is possessing her.

Though a quite moving novel, I have to admit I didn’t enjoy it as much as some of GGM’s other works. The family history is somewhat less captivating than in Cien aƱos de soledad, where it took on an epic, almost mythological, feeling. Nor does it have the intense focus of Cronica de una muerte anunciada, with its sudden and shocking act of violence around which the rest of the plot turns. Even falling below the level of those two works, it is still a captivating and lyrical work, and I would certainly recommend it.

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