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16 October 2010

Of Love and Other Demons- Gabriel García Márquez

Review: Of Love and Other Demons- Gabriel García Márquez

by Sanchita Chatterjee

translated from Spanish by Edith Grossman

‘In her lap she held a cluster of golden grapes that grew back as soon as she ate them’. The story revolves around a little girl- a 12 year old marquise in a Columbian seaport is suspected of being possessed by demons. The fact that the girl Sierva Maria- ignored by her parents all her life- had different attributes from many others helped reinforce the superstition: ‘…she wouldn’t tell the truth even by mistake’. It all began when Sierva Maria was bitten by a rabid dog, while others who were bitten by the dog died, she did not. A vagabond Indian woman appeared at the doorstep of the Marquis- Sierva Maria’s father- and predicted that there will be a plague of rabies. Since Sierva Maria did not show any signs of contracting rabies, the Marquis and others in the town were soon convinced that she was possessed by demons. The local bishop convinced the Marquis to commit Sierva Maria to the Convent of Santa Clara where it will be ascertained whether she was possessed by demons or not and exorcised accordingly. Father Cayetano Delaura- a young priest was put in charge of the case. Delaura recognised the true nature of Sierve Maria and wished to save her from the superstitious belief, which has engulfed all the inhabitants of the Convent of Santa Clara. Soomn Delaura found himself irrevocably drawn towards Sierva Maria and his fate intermingled with hers: ‘When I stand and contemplate my fate and see the path along which you have led me’.

Márquez has a unique style, which blends facts with magic realism quite effectively, to the point that it is sometimes hard to figure out where the reality ends and fantasy begins. At the same time the picture he paints with his words is complete and beautiful. A lot has been written about his writing style so I will not spend more time dwelling on this topic. Of Love and Other Demons is one of his later books and represents everything that is extraordinary about Márquez’s storytelling. It is lyrical, fantastic, moving and tragic. The description of the love Delaura felt for Sierva Maria is so heart rending but magical at the same time that one almost forgets the actual context. One wishes that the lovers attain their happy ending. The alteration between logic and superstitious arguments is captivating- one almost hopes that Sierva Maria’s destiny is not to be drowned by false notions whereas everything in the plot points to that direction. With this book Márquez narrates a myth he heard as a child from his grandmother with his characteristic panache and hidden satire.