Over the last few months, one genre has attracted me a lot- Magical Realism. Magical Realism integrates a naturalistic and realistic narrative with surrealistic elements. It is a genre where the fantastic never looses track of reality, it is the supernatural within the bounds of the natural.
Subsequently I proceeded to acquire books by noted authors of the genre- Haruki Murakami, Gabriel García Márquez and (to some extent) Jostein Gaarder. Latin American authors are noted for being the front-runners of the genre- Jorge Luis Borges, Isabel Allende to name a few- but the one author that caught my eye was Gabriel García Márquez.
Of Love and Other Demons is set in a Spanish colonial seaport, a town of clerics, beggars, lepers, witch doctors and a decaying noble family. Sierva Maria is the daughter of the second Marquis de Casualdero, a girl intently ignored by her parents and left to sustain herself in the slave quarters. She is an awkward girl with a flowing mane of copper colored hair who understands the way of the slaves better than that of their white masters. On her twelfth birthday she is bitten by a rabid dog but is quite unaffected. The superstitious townsfolk attribute this to a demonic possession. The Bishop orders her to be confined in the Clarissan convent and appoints a young priest, Cayetano Delaura to oversee her case. Delaura recognizes the sanity of the child, but is at his wits end when he is possessed by the greatest demon of all- Love.
I rather overestimated the book based on the blurb on the back cover which in my opinion fails to explain what the story is actually about ( At least in the edition I read. Penguin ISBN: 9780141032542). As the blurb writer would have it this book is about the superstition of the townsfolk and one man (Delaura) who tries to stand against it. In reality, although superstition is one of the main themes, this book is about unrequited love between a middle aged man and a 12 year old girl (Creepy!).
It is a short book with just 160 pages but is reasonably paced, neither too fast nor too slow, which maintains a comprehensible flow throughout. For a short book , the characterization is immaculate. For every major character there is a substantial part devoted to character building and explaining the character background which amplified my interest in the characters.
The most striking feature about this book is the narration style and the language which is indeed the focal feature of the magical realism genre- a lucid narrative alternating between the ethereal and the real providing a dual vision of reality. I found the language intensely gripping and filled with vivid imagery. I could draw a few similarities between Márquez and Murakami- Firstly the imagery, secondly the lucid narration style and thirdly the employment of ethereal elements- despite the difference in their styles being quite pronounced.
Overall its a riveting read which kept me interested till the very end (I took my own sweet time finishing it). The book being as short as it is can be finished in one sitting but I would suggest taking your time with it. Recommended for anybody and everybody, a definite ‘must read’. Based on my opinion of the book I would dub it as being a “tragedy of Shakespearean proportions”. (What would you dub it as? Comment!)
Verdict- Must Read! Beg. Borrow or Steal!
“This was when she asked him whether it was true that love conquered all, as the songs said. ‘It is true’, he replied, ‘but you would do well not to believe it.”
― Gabriel García Márquez,