Spanish vs. English Book Review: “Of Love and Other Demons”

The cover of Garcia Marquez's "Of Love and Other Demons" in Spanish

The cover of Garcia Marquez’s “Of Love and Other Demons” in Spanish

Whenever I heard of the name Gabriel Garcia Marquez, I always imagined an old man who wrote novels with unreal plots, different literary figures, and exceedingly descriptive paragraphs. I feared not being able to understand his use of literary figures, but after reading “Of Love and Other Demons”, this feeling disappeared and I realized that the author’s style makes reading easier, in one way or another.

Winner of the 1982 Nobel Prize for Literature, Garcia Marquez is best known for his long novel “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” but also for the great magic that he transmits in his shorter novels.

“Of Love and Other Demons” (1994) is set in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, at the end of the colonial era. It tells the story of Sierva Maria, the child of a decaying noble family, that, on her twelfth birthday, is bitten by a rabid dog. Believed to be possessed, she is brought to a convent where she will be exorcised by Father Cayetano Delaura. As he passes more time with her, Delaura starts to feel something happening to him: love,“the most terrible demon of all.”

I have to admit that while reading the novel, the feeling of anguish over the events in it was quite prevalent. I also have to recognize how the author inserts the reader into a completely fantastic world which was created by his dreams and imagination.

You need to know that this is a love story – that’s the main thing in the novel. Although at first it seems like an average plot, he surprises the reader with his handling of moral conflicts, like adultery and domestic violence, and transforms it into themes of romance.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez. (Photo via Wikimedia)

Gabriel Garcia Marquez. (Photo via Wikimedia)

The characters, as always, are described very well and something that I can see from the novel is that the author doesn’t label them as good or bad; the reader is the one that draws their conclusions.

This book is a little different from his other novels. I have read two other books by this author and I have always admired his ability to create and describe the environment of each novel- in this case, cruel and violent. I found it incredible how Garcia Marquez added to the novel by being present in the story for the discovery of the girl’s grave with extremely long hair, as he said in the foreword.

I decided to read this book because Garcia Marquez has always had a worldwide influence and his novels never get old; they are always relevant and entertaining to read. Also, it’s never a bad idea to read from a popular author with extremely good ratings and a long literary trajectory.

I read this book before in Spanish, its original language, and I was motivated to reread it in English to see if the translation affected the content or if the perspective I had beforehand would change.

As a native Spanish speaker, I could recognize that it is more difficult to understand Garcia Marquez’s metaphors in English. He uses a variety of figures of speech, such as hyperbole, anaphora, epithet and simile that aren’t as popular in English writing.

The difference between the use of adjectives is quite remarkable too. In Spanish, they are given more importance and a great variety of them are used. Instead, in English, they tend to be reduced to just one, mostly because Spanish has a wider and more difficult vocabulary than English. In fact, there are words in Spanish that don’t exist in English or that don’t have exactly the same meaning. In the book we can find examples like “fiesta,” “señora,” etc.

Of Love and Other Demons is not an easy book to read; the fact that it is set up in a “viceroyalty” means the author uses dense vocabulary and in some moments it might become boring and tedious for some, but at the end of the day, the novel remains alive and catching.

Even so, the author doesn’t lose his essence in any of the books. His imagination enriches the reader, and he writes about a different history, which is a path that is worth walking on.

 

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