K.'s Reviews > Of Love and Other Demons

Of Love and Other Demons by Gabriel García Márquez
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Marquez begins his story with a note. In this note, he describes arriving at a convent in the process of being emptied and turned into a luxury hotel. Laborers unearthed "three generations of bishops and abbesses and other eminent personages" until, at last, they came to a niche of the high altar where they found the tomb of a twelve-year old girl called Sierva Maria de Todos Los Angeles. She had hair the color of copper and it flowed out of her head twenty-two metres long.

And so a story is born. Marquez imagines a life for a two hundred year old corpse. He replenishes her flesh and restores her bones and puts her through a time that can only be received with a heavy heart: Sierva Maria is born and neglected, then bitten by a dog, thought to have caught rabies, put through tumultuous medical examinations (which include drinking her own urine), then thought to be possessed, locked up in a convent presided over by a stern and irrational abbess, is then introduced to a priest, falls in love, and...well, this is the part when you read the story yourself.

Love, here, is equated to illness...demonic possession to be exact. Marquez is an author of magic realism and the lines between the realms are effectively fogged. Is Sierva Maria possessed or she not? The complexities of this question is impressively elicited in readers. Church and science are reflected in two astute and interesting characters.

But that is not truly the epitome of this story. For it is about love and the turmoil of it that surrounds these characters.

Sierva Maria is a young girl born to the Marquis. She is dismissed as a baby and left to fend for herself. It is a slave, the housekeeper of slaves, named Dominga de Adviento who takes the child into her care. Waking, sleeping and everything in between, Sierva does with the slaves; she learns their languages, their dance, their songs and traditions, rituals and beliefs. She is a feral child who slits the throats of goats and eats their organs. And it is the cruelest of actions to take her away from it all, only to be abused, misunderstood, rejected, and perceived as a demonic being. But she is a child, with an altered imagination because she was not raised with her people. She does not conform to general etiquette, she does not act, think, or speak like her color. She is different because she was orphaned by her living parents. And when one of them decides to extend his heart, it is much too late. Sierva represents the abandoned in all of us; the part left alone for so long it's forgotten to wish. She has no concept of love or truth, and when she finally does receive it, it is from a source forbidden with no future.

Perhaps, however, the storyline I found most gripping, with an almost all-consuming fear, was that of the Marquis. He grows up just as discarded as Sierva, with the exception that he had social, familial, and political obligations to fulfill. Having grown up in disappointment and inadequacy, he is turned numb by the sudden loss of his wife; numb just as he was learning to feel. He becomes a widower and this defines him for much too long of his life. He grows complacent, laxed and forgets to live. He lets life and its glory slip through his fingers without a single taste. Near the end, when he searches for his estranged second wife, if only "so they might at least each have someone to die with" -- the absolute desperation and loneliness of the image and the words and the intent and the deeply-rooted truth behind it was enough to make my heart constrict in sympathy, empathy, and panic. It made me hesitate in turning the page, made my eyes linger on the period, wanting but scared to read the coming passage. Would this bend my heart anymore than it already has? I was in a battle...afraid to consume the story that had me oppressively, yet tenderly, facing a mirror.
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Reading Progress

May 12, 2012 – Shelved
July 2, 2012 – Started Reading
July 2, 2012 –
page 40
July 5, 2012 –
page 111
69.38% "This was when she asked him whether it was true that love conquered all, as the songs said. \n "It is true," he replied, "but you would do well not to believe it.""
July 8, 2012 – Shelved as: 20th-cent
July 8, 2012 – Shelved as: historical
July 8, 2012 – Shelved as: hit-me-in-the-heart
July 8, 2012 – Shelved as: identity-and-psychology
July 8, 2012 – Shelved as: own
July 8, 2012 – Shelved as: poetry
July 8, 2012 – Shelved as: shorts
July 8, 2012 – Shelved as: society-culture-and-politics
July 8, 2012 – Shelved as: rest-of-the-world-lit
July 8, 2012 – Finished Reading

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