- Gabriel García Márquez (translated from Spanish by Edith Grossman)
WRITTEN BY SNIGDHA DHAMEJA
Symposia : 7/10
Goodreads : 3.98/5
Compressed in 160 pages; yet a two-week read. A book that doesn’t fail to entrance and engorge with its stunning descriptions and vivid characters. ‘Of Love and other Demons’ is a story that tells you a tale of exactly what the title suggests. It is a tale of the cruelty and harshness of love, of the sacrifices and doom that it brings in lives.
The book revolves around Sierva María, a young girl who is bitten by a rabid dog. She is sent by her father to a convent of nuns, who are convinced that her strange behaviour is a telltale sign of possession by the devil. A well-read bishop is tasked with freeing her from the shackles of evil spirits, but soon, falls in love with her.
What I found most intriguing about this book was how powerful the descriptions were, despite being translated from Spanish. The beauty of this novel lies in the plot, but major credit must be given to both Márquez and Edith Grossman for delivering such splendid imagery and visuals that contributed to my experience and enjoyment of this book. The translated work’s force makes me wonder just how compelling it must have been in its original Spanish sanctity.
As I mentioned before, love is not just a crucial emotion, but almost a character in this book. The stunning descriptions give love a shape and form, as it furtively sneaks upon the characters like a shiver in the cold. Faith is another idea that the story encircles. The involvement of the Church in the case of rabies hints towards an evident case of fear when it comes to the unknown, and the utmost respect for God. The morality involving this faith is pushed when the bishop sent to exorcise the young girl, falls hopelessly in love with her. This leads to him questioning his own faith after the unencumbered advancement of love upon his judgement. The exploration of love and its connotation as something evil is a common trope, but the execution of it in this book is something extraordinary.
If you read the introduction to this book, you will come to the understanding that Márquez came across the legend of a twelve-year-old girl who was the catalyst of several miracles along the Caribbean coast. When he went to visit the burial crypts of the convents in Santa Clara, he found proof of this legend, and consequently wrote this book that was centred around this most curious person. The characterisation of Sierva María as a child that grew up neglected by her parents, and was raised primarily by the black slaves employed in her household establishes her as a unique presence in the predictable pace of the tropical Colombian seaport, where this story is set. Raging with spontaneity, she is like a firecracker that fizzles out with the presence of love in her life. Her ability to stupefy those around her with her eccentricity is the highlight of this book; even if it gets repetitive at times.
This exceedingly short book, however, is a chore to read. In some parts where there is negligible description, the text becomes slow, monotonous and blurry. The complexity of ideas, language and description requires constant analysis, and sometimes even re-reading paragraphs. To read this book you need patience, care, a keen eye, as well as several empty hours you are willing to spend with this book.
‘Of Love and other Demons’ is one of Márquez’s most illustrious works, and should definitely be read by people that thoroughly enjoy mesmerising imagery, and a plot that strikes within in the simplest of ways.