Of Love and Other Demons by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Vertigo

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How can a book be so beautiful and yet so disturbing at the same time? This is something that Marquez seems to excel at; he uses prose that is lyrical and poetic to describe situations and characters that are deeply unsettling, even horrific. He presents both the best and the worst of human nature with the same exquisite charm that makes the best more beautiful and worst more shocking. Of Love and Other Demons is classic Marquez.

It tells the tragic story of Sierva Maria, the daughter of a Spanish colonial Marquis, her upbringing in a bizarrely dysfunctional family and her eventual end at the hands of the Catholic church. It is never stated exactly when it is set or where, but I assume it is Columbia in the 18th Century during the decline of the Spanish Inquisition. At the start of the book Sierva Maria is bitten by a rabid dog and, whilst others who have been bitten by the same dog suffer and die, Sierva does not and yet the Church take an interest deciding she must be possessed and should be exorcised, but the priest assigned to perform the exorcism falls in love with her.

The juxtaposition of the title is reflected throughout this short book. The sweet and innocent twelve-year-old Sierva Maria is also an inveterate liar. Her jailor nuns are deeply religious and yet have a long running feud with the Bishop. The Church is intensely superstitious and the local doctor who lis consulted is an atheist. Caught in the middle, in love and beset by his own demons, is the priest charged with the exorcism. And those contrasts keep the reader off balance throughout as the chain of events moves inexorably towards its inevitable tragedy.

How better to tell such a grim and beautiful story but with the language of magical realism? An extraordinary book that cannot help but leave the reader deeply disturbed.

5 stars
 
And once more we disagree on a book, save perhaps for the "disturbed" bit! I read this back in 2016 and my verdict then:

[after some witterings about an alleged modern classic which I couldn't finish] As a change of pace, I tried a genuine acknowledged modern classic, of Love and Other Demons by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but I had no better a time with this, though as it's considerable shorter I did manage to make it through to the end. Grotesque characters, a narrative that jumped about in time with digressions into everyone's history whether relevant or not, and what would now be seen as child abuse, sexual and otherwise. I'm pretty sure I'm missing something, no doubt allegorical, but this wasn't one for me.​

I've actually forgotten pretty much everything about it now, but I thought I recalled her father had a big role in the novel, or am I getting him mixed up with the priest (ie "Father" in another sense)? Isn't there incest, or at least hints of it?? As for the beauty, I definitely saw nothing of the kind, not even in the prose, though it reminds me of how I react to images of some places abroad -- everyone else talks about vibrancy, life, colour which sounds so wonderful, and all I see is dirt and squalor!
 
And once more we disagree on a book, save perhaps for the "disturbed" bit! I read this back in 2016 and my verdict then:

[after some witterings about an alleged modern classic which I couldn't finish] As a change of pace, I tried a genuine acknowledged modern classic, of Love and Other Demons by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but I had no better a time with this, though as it's considerable shorter I did manage to make it through to the end. Grotesque characters, a narrative that jumped about in time with digressions into everyone's history whether relevant or not, and what would now be seen as child abuse, sexual and otherwise. I'm pretty sure I'm missing something, no doubt allegorical, but this wasn't one for me.​

I've actually forgotten pretty much everything about it now, but I thought I recalled her father had a big role in the novel, or am I getting him mixed up with the priest (ie "Father" in another sense)? Isn't there incest, or at least hints of it?? As for the beauty, I definitely saw nothing of the kind, not even in the prose, though it reminds me of how I react to images of some places abroad -- everyone else talks about vibrancy, life, colour which sounds so wonderful, and all I see is dirt and squalor!
No incest but hints of paedophilia, though never actually enacted. It's the priest not the father that falls in love with the girl but it is for the most part shown as chaste; kisses and lots of words! But certainly very disturbing. The Priest and the girl are the main characters throughout, the father is mostly seen in the first part only which looks at her earliest years.

There certainly was dirt and squalor and there is very little beauty in the subject matter. For me the beauty was in the prose but I can certainly see how that view would be very subjective. The intriguing thing for me was the juxtaposition of the beautiful (to me) prose used to describe the deeply disturbing and very much not beautiful subject matter. This is something Marquez seems to do quite a lot in, for example, Love in the Time of Cholera and Chronicle of a Death Foretold, both of which are disturbing and often very ugly in their subject but, again, beautiful in the prose. The same might be said of Carlos Ruiz Zafon who also addresses some very deeply ugly subject matter with beautiful prose.

[I'll be getting to Station Eleven in three or four more books!!! :D]
 

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