Translated from the Spanish by Edith Grossman
First published 1994
Set in 1700s Colombia, it’s a story of a little girl born into a family of nobles whose landholdings are disappearing and family name is fading.
The twelve-year-old daughter of the Marquis is a miracle child which the saints have given to her parents.
She is bitten by a dog and the fear is that she has contracted rabies, which was common at that time and was a cause of many untimely deaths. Half-doctors, quacks and local medicine-women begin strange and tortuous treatments on her to cure her real or imagined disease.
When traditional medicines fail to treat her festering wound the word goes out to the leader of the Church who forces the father to entrust the girl to a convent of nuns, party to treat her, partly to quarantine her.
There at the convent, living in delusions of solitary life, they come to believe that the girl is possessed and must be exorcised. Then starts a macabre story of blind faith taking over reason.
The novel is a rich depiction of colonial Colombia, its society, faith, and its politics. The twelve-year-old girl has a magical aura to her character; and her fascination relationship with her mother who absolutely hates her, hates anything to do with her, and later, the power of her beauty, the influence of her presence, on the emissary of the Church official, who falls in love with her during her days of confinement at the convent, and wants to rescue her.
And as always, Marquez’s unique narrative style, magical and dreamy, – with an echo of One Hundred Years of Solitude – frankly sensual, and inconspicuously violent, takes you into a world of possibilities – It’s a very engrossing read. Full marks.