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am 19. März 1998
Book Review Of Love and Other Demons by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, edited by Edith Grossman As usual, Marquez weaves a fantastic tale, one filled with magic and miracles. And, as usual, I am captivated, putting aside my scientific beliefs, my rational analysis for a tale that sweeps me up in the history of the times by bathing the tragic illness and death of the child Sierva Maria De Todos Los Angeles in love, mysticism and seduction. This tale hinges on very usual circumstances for the times: in 1949 the author worked for a newspaper in Columbia and, on a slow news day, the editor asked him to take a trip to the Convent of Santa Clara to watch the emptying of tombs in an effort to scare up some news. Upon his arrival, Marquez was dumbfounded to find a small crypt above the altar filed to overflowing with red hair which, when stretched out on the floor, measured 22 meters, eleven centimeters. This hair, the remnants of Sierva Maria De Todos, was the mark of her beauty when the twelve year old child was alive and the mark of her sainthood after she died from rabies soon after her twelfth birthday. Many came to pray to the niche, hoping for blessings from the young saint and from this tale Marquez constructed his story of her life. We meet Marquez's Sierva Maria on her twelfth birthday when she is roaming the market with her servant and, upon roaming too far, gets bitten by a dog above her ankle. Later, when that dog is found dead, Sierva Maria's downfall begins as every unusual trait of hers is attributed at first to the illness and later to demonic possession when she does not actually fall ill from the bite. Added to this central drama is the negligence of her parents, Bernarda Cabera and the Marquis de Casalduero, due to her mother's drug addiction and her father's apathy. Sierva Maria, however, is not totally without guidance, for her servant has taken her in, raising her in the slave quarters amongst the African slaves. It is to this family that Sierva feels a kinship, a bond which makes her want to sleep on her surrogate mother's floor rather than in the sumptuous quarters laid out for her in the mansion. It is behavior gleaned form these surroundings--stealth, silence and 'invisibility'--that cause those in the town to believe in her possession. Once Sierva Maria is believed to be possessed the rest of the story unfolds in the Convent to which she is taken to determine her spiritual state. She is entrusted to the ministrations of a priest, haunted with his own phantoms, who ceases to reason when he is struck with her beauty. Through his humanity, and her otherworldliness, tragedy strikes. Although this story is about a young girl accused of possession, I really see it as a story of the 'other' in society. Since Sierva Maria is raised by the slaves of the mansion she is different, appearing wholly other. With her father's fear of being murdered in his sleep by the slaves, and her mother's deep obsession for a slave man she bought for her sexual pleasure and lost in a brawl, Sierva Maria is a bridge between the worlds of black and white, captive and master, earth and God. She functions as the reader's direct line outside the system of her society which included the possibility of demonic possession, the acceptability of owning slaves, the chastity of priests and the cruelty of nuns. I found this book to be a window into passions and fears that still haunt me as I write about it. Of course, I am an avid Marquez fan, having read almost all of his novels, but this most recent one strikes me as the most mythic, blending fact and fantasy seamlessly into one believable reality. And I, for one, am convinced.
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am 16. Oktober 1997
Even if you are like me and do not tolerate most love stories, you will savor this one. The author coaxes the reader into the book with a preface describing the excavation of an ancient nunnery during which is found the skull of a young girl whose copper hair continues to grow. The novel itself concerns the somewhat sickly, neglected child, Sierva Maria who is considered to be possessed by demons after having been bitten by a rabid dog. At her birth, her father, the Marquis, makes a deal with the Virgin Mary that if the child lives, her hair will not be cut until she is married. Her demonic possession, however, makes it unlikely that her hair will ever be cut. [The book's preface creates a curiosity within the reader to discover what happens to Sierva Maria.] As a result of her dog-bite/demonic possession, she is sent to a convent that is to prepare her for exorcism. Here, she falls in love with the priest who is to perform the task, and he with her. The story is touching and humorous, especially when dealing with interchurch squabbles. But the plot is somewhat incidental when compared with the magic of the words themselves. Even in translation, Marquez' writing is sublime and velvety, a treat for the sweet-tooth of the mind. It is the writing itself, rather than the action of the story, that propels the reader to the novel's conclusion. And it is only at the novel's end that the reader realizes that she/he does care about the fate of the characters; which makes the outcome moving and emotional, even for the least sentimental among us. Find out what happens to Sierva Maria and her flowing copper hair, and enjoy rich, sweet language that drips down your mind's chin like the juice of a fat ripe mango. mmm.
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am 3. Mai 2000
This is one of those books that you don't want to put down, I think most people who read it did so in one sitting. I don't really know how to describe it, there isn't some evident charm in the writing, actually it is quite direct. But while you read it you realise that it is captivating and enchanting, the words draw you in like a magic spell and you don't discover how much you like it until when you put it down for good with much sadness.
This is a story of a Columbian girl of noble backround. We learn early on that her parents are actually unworthy of their nobility, for they are emotionless and hateful, married out of obligation instead of love. And instead of seeing their daughter Sievra Maria as a token of love, they see her as the shackle that forces them together. They abandon her to be raised by slaves.On an occasion, Sievra Maria is bitten by a rabid dog, and in a desperate attempt to make up for his neglect, her father sends her off to be healed by a group of nuns. They quickly interpret her odd behavior as a sign of Satanic possesion, when in fact most of it is a result of her upbringing among slaves. Her healer, a librarian turned priest quickly falls in love with her despite the odds, and the book turns into a love story that breaks the heart.
Nice plot, nice writing, very very nice piece of literature.
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am 4. November 1998
Márquez is best at those moments when he writes about the intimacy between a man and a woman. Somehow he mystifies love, gives it a pagan aura, yet he does not debase it nor idealistically exalt it, nor does he place any kind of moral judgment on it. He celebrates love for the simple yet mysterious natural thing that it is. This book, like Love in the Time of Cholera, had moments of sublime literary beauty when Márquez describes the communion of two people, in this case it is all-consuming bond between the unruly Sierva Mariá, the neglected viceroy's daughter who grew up among slaves, and Father Cayetano Delaura, a bookish priest with a passion for romantic poetry. Father Delaura falls in love with Mariá, whose fiery copper hair trails past her feet, when he is assigned to oversee her exorcism, for she is thought to be possessed by the devil after being bitten by a rabid dog. Their illicit affair is doomed from the start, but with those nights of passion in Mariá's cell where she is inhumanely kept like a heretic, they manage to transcend physical as well as spiritual confinements. I like the quick pace of the book, which does not digress as in his other "love" novel, but the characters where not as fully developed.
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am 15. März 1997
Wow, this was a great book. This is the one which has completely transformed me into a Garcia Marquez fan. I'd read an English translation of his short story "The Handsomest Drowned Man" in my English class this year, but it went straight over my head. Then a little while ago I changed my opinion of his work, when I read another of his short stories, this time in Spanish, called "Un Dia de Estos," and was fascinated by his theme about civil difficulties. However, "Of Love and Other Demons" is one of the best novels I've ever read, and would love to read it again, this time in Spanish. I'm completely sold on his magical realism genre and can't wait until I am able to read "Love in the Time of Cholera," which my friend just finished and loved. However, concentrating solely on this particular work, I was fascinated by the symbolism and the moral Garcia Marquez has weaved into the tragic story of Sierva Maria and those lives she touched
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am 22. Juni 2000
Marquez gives us a story of miracles and strange love, full of Latin drama and earthy passion. Read the synopsis in the editorial reviews if you want to see the full plot.
As always, Marquez offers a unique and haunting plot with a cast of intriguing characters. He always seems to invent somewhat gothic situations but paint them with the radiant touch of an Impressionist. This book is a fine example of his skillful storytelling. As in most of his works, a bizarre series of events take place in a rotting but fascinating South American coastal province. Here, all events contribute to the tragic demise of the beautiful and cursed Sierva Maria.
In any other writer's hands, the story would be heavy and overwrought. Somehow, Marzquez makes it sparkle and shine like a treasure. If you don't know Marquez, start with the flawless Love in the Time of Cholera or this beautiful, short novel.
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am 29. Juni 1997
It's love in the time of rabies when a disenchanted
aristocrat's enchanting 12-year-old daughter is
bitten by a mad dog during a visit to a slave-port
market. Medical logic having little sway in a
cauldron of Catholic cruelty and Colombian magic,
she is confined to a convent where her supposedly
demonic fever can be safely exorcised. One look at
the copper-haired beauty, however, and the zealous
priest performing the ritual finds his own heart
bedevilled by secular passion. Ruined families,
forbidden desires, otherworldly heroines and
assorted chimerical incidents ­ the furniture that
decorates Marquez's palatial One Hundred Years of
Solitude ­ settle neatly into the short novel's
immaculately designed, self-contained space. His
poignant fable, dripping with melancholy and
bathed in poetic light, is mandatory reading.
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am 29. November 1998
To all those who will read this novel for the first or even the second time, do not think or assume this is a love story! "Of love" is an extremely interesting tale about myths, customs, and how individuals are singled out by the society that fosters these beliefs. In this story love is an outcome of the situation that the two main characters are forced to be in by society. Dear readers, when reading this story do not forget that every society has its own myths and beliefs. Marquez is exploring those beliefs of a latin american country during colonial era. Myths and customs still plays an important role in the thinking of many latin american countries. In order to understand its central theme, read this novel many times and, if you are able, read it in Spanish. And please do not assume this is plainly a love story!
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am 24. Juni 1997
The animals live in a "state of nature" but the
people live in a state of anxiety, fear and panic
because of their myriad "demons." A 12 yr old girl who may or may not be possessed,
sends her town into an uproar, and becomes the object (at the same time) of blind, uncontrollable love, and blind, uncontrollable fear. It sounds bleak perhaps, yet it is a funny and
tongue-in-cheek book, with much wicked humor
derived from the pronouncements and actions of the local officials of the Catholic Church, medical wisdom, parental "love", married love, lust in the dust, superstition, and book-learning. For me it did not have the impact of 100 yrs of Solitude, but GGM is older and slowing down a bit, but still
a book that is finely written (even reading
in translation).
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am 23. August 1998
A tropicalized Abelarde-et-Heloise-like story, in which a rabies epidemic is confused with diabolic possession. A beauty of Spanish + African ancestry, already incubating rabies, is pursued by a monk who was in his way to become a saint. Both the young woman and the monk fall for each other with a passion that challenges State and Church, the latter intent in destroying them through its instrument of terror, the Inquisition. They cannot win, of course, but they shake both structures. Her hair does not stop growing even after death. The description of the estate of the decrepit Marquis and his love/hate relationship with his un-titled spouse of mixed origin are only surpassed by GABO himself in his Autumn of the Patriarch.
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