Of love and other demons

by Gabriel García Márquez

Paper Book, 1995





Toronto : Knopf Canada, c1995.


In colonial South America, the doomed love of a 12-year-old girl and a priest thrice her age sent to exorcise her. She is a nobleman's daughter who has been bitten by a rabid dog. The authorities decide she is possessed by the devil and lock her up in a convent. By the author of Love in the Time of Cholera.

Media reviews

What is body and what survives? What is flesh and what is spirit and what is demonic? Mr. Garcia Marquez's answer is an almost didactic, yet brilliantly moving, tour de force.

User reviews

LibraryThing member rocketjk
It took me just about a day of "shelter in place" reading to enjoy this short, charming novel. It had been a while since I read any Marquez and was happy to return to his world, if only for the day. The story takes place in coastal city of an unnamed South American country during colonial days. The beautiful, young Sierva Maria, the only daughter of a dissolute nobleman, is bitten by a rabid dog on her 12th birthday. Are the subsequent manifestations of her wild, unruly spirit manifestations of the disease or of demonic possession? Marquez skillfully weaves themes of the passions of love, the ills and absurdities of a repressive culture, especially when it comes to powerless young women, and the inevitable dissolution of a bankrupt colonial system ruled from a distance of thousands of miles into 147 pages of floating, lyrical fable.… (more)
LibraryThing member jpporter
An excellent book. Marquez -apparently in his work, in general - gives us a story focused not on the main character so much as coming from the perspective of those individuals whose lives revolve around the main character.

Although Marquez may seem to be writing in an extremely accessible style, I think the cautious reader would do well to look between the lines - GGM is a masterful creator of personalities, and produces characters who deserve every bit of reflection one can give them.… (more)
LibraryThing member santhony
I recently read the author’s acclaimed work “Love in the Time of Cholera” and enjoyed it very much. It spurred me to seek out more work by Marquez, hence this and several others that I recently purchased. My second foray into Marquez was “One Hundred Years of Solitude”. I was very disappointed in that novel and concerned that I’d perhaps already seen the best he had to offer. Luckily, I found this novella to be every bit as enjoyable as LitToC.

Marquez’s writing is certainly unique in its earthiness. He deals with such subjects as sex, bodily functions and graphic illness as if they are parts of everyday life … because they are. It is refreshing.

Marquez is also known as one of the leading practitioners of the literary device of “magical realism” in which events are introduced into the story which are quite fantastic (for example, a character being swept away into the sky as though taken to heaven, a rain event that lasts over four years followed by an absolute drought of ten years). This was a major device used in One Hundred Years of Solitude and perhaps contributed to my dissatisfaction with that work. In any event, both LitToC and Love and Other Demons use this literary device sparingly if at all.

This relatively short work (readable in one or two sittings) focuses on a young woman born to feckless and irresponsible aristocrats. Neither parent cares for the child and she is raised in the slave quarters. Her unorthodox upbringing gives rise to behavior that lead many to suspect her of possession by demons. A local churchman is tasked with performing an exorcism, but instead falls madly and hopelessly in love with her, a love that is never consummated. For those familiar with Marquez, it should be no surprise that a happy ending is not to be expected.

The author’s writing is indisputably beautiful and at times mesmerizing. Much like LitToC, this is a haunting and compelling story, filled with sadness and regret. I can highly recommend this short work as a precursor to the much longer and complex LitToC. If you enjoy this, you’ll almost certainly enjoy the latter.
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LibraryThing member MissTeacher
I first read this when I was about fifteen, and I remember how much I fancied myself to be like Maria. She is calm yet raging, angelic yet devoid of religion, innocent yet vengeful. She has harnessed a world which exists outside what everyone in her reality can phathom, and is condemned for it, just as Cayetano is condemned for daring to love her. The spirituality unleashed by her very existance in these pages will live on and grow, much like her fiery mane.… (more)
LibraryThing member novelcommentary
The narrator explains that this story was inspired by an uncovered tomb where the hair of the corpse continued to grow 200 years after her death. Only Marquez could make believable the tale of a 13 year old girl who is shunned by her parents until she is bitten by a rabid dog. Her father then tries to make sure she does not get rabies and seeks the counsel of a bishop. The bishop decides that an exorcism is in order and sends his protégé to care for the girl. The two wind up falling in love in what must be one of the all time doomed relationships. The writing makes it all worth while with sentences that make the magical realism come to life.

The Amazon summary:
Of Love and Other Demons is set in a South American seaport in the colonial era, a time of viceroys and bishops, enlightened men and Inquisitors, saints and lepers and pirates. Sierva Maria, only child of a decaying noble family, has been raised in the slaves' courtyard of her father's cobwebbed mansion while her mother succumbs to fermented honey and cacao on a faraway plantation. On her twelfth birthday the girl is bitten by a rabid dog, and even as the wound is healing she is made to endure therapies indistinguishable from tortures. Believed, finally, to be possessed, she is brought to a convent for observation. And into her cell stumbles Father Cayetano Delaura, the Bishop's protege, who has already dreamed about a girl with hair trailing after her like a bridal train; who is already moved by this kicking, spitting, emaciated creature strapped to a stone bed. As he tends to her with holy water and sacramental oils, Delaura feels "something immense and irreparable" happening to him. It is love, "the most terrible demon of all." And it is not long before Sierra Maria joins him in his fevered misery.
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LibraryThing member nmhale
Since it has been a while since I read a book by Marquez, who happens to be one of my favorite authors, I was disappointed that I chose this one. [Of Love and Other Demons] ended up being my least favorite story from a fantastic writer.

The novel centers around Sierva Maria, a young aristocrat girl, and Father Cayetano Delaura, the priest who is sent to exorcise her. Whether the girl really is possessed is not as clear. She is bitten by a dog later proven to have rabies, and though she exhibits none of the symptoms, her father, in an excess of selfless love that is coming far too late, decides that he will do anything to save the child. Sierva never does contract rabies, but her marquise father overcompensates for his total neglect of her until that point, and brings in a myriad of doctors, quacks, and soothsayers, who perform various 'cures' on Sierva that amount to torture of the poor 12 year old. As her mental stability begins to shift with the tumultuous physical pain, the local Bishop decides she must be possessed and sends her to isolation in a convent.

Actually, this first half of the novel I enjoyed (thus the three stars). Not because the content is happy - clearly not - but because Marquez's writing style is so evident and masterful. The characters are all intriguing creatures, and the roundabout way Marquez delivers family history and the strange relational interactions between them all keeps the reader in suspense. The book is very matter of fact about all the strange and wonderful occurrences in its pages.

After Sierva Maria enters the convent, though, I began to enjoy it less. First of all, Father Cayetano falls in love with her, despite the fact that she's a preteen and he's in his thirties. I know that at the time in which this book is set, that was not so unusual, but it was hard for me to read. Second, I have an even harder time reading about demons and possession, because of my faith and because I think they can be real and that they are very frightening. Actually, I just don't read about that subject matter. At first, I thought she wasn't actually possessed, just misunderstood (which I'm okay with), but in the second half she does things that suggest she really could have demons inside. That's not too surprising, since this is magical realism, a genre where the fantastic and the mundane are mixed and it's never clear where one ends and the other begins. In this case, since the story deals with possession, the fantastic elements that Marquez weaves into the fabric of every day life happen to deal with demons. The writing was still excellent, but the subject matter became uncomfortable for me.

In short, for extremely personal reasons, I could not enjoy the second half of this novel. The ending, the very last paragraph, was actually phenomenal, and I still didn't like it. Well written, full of great magical realism that I love, intriguing characters, yet because of my own discomfort with the subject matter, not the book for me.
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LibraryThing member Pretear
Sadness. I wish I had been able to read this book in a shorter span of time. Reading it the way I did, short spurts over long periods of time, made it less meaningful. Either way, great book... the story of forbidden love between a priest and a young (too young) girl, believed to be possessed by the populace of a small town, is nothing short of beautiful in a way only Marquez can portray. Anyone who liked Love in the Time of Cholera would like this one too.… (more)
LibraryThing member msrsquared
Start with the world's most disfunctional family, add distorted idea that being bit by a rabid dog results in demon possession, and the scene is set for this troubling and tragic story.
LibraryThing member mssbluejay
In the tradition of Nobel Laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the details of the story are captivating, original, and fantastic. The novel tells of a priest who is charged with the exorcism of a "possessed" 12-year-old girl. As he gets to know her, he instead falls in love with her. A scandalous illicit affair which is pure of heart is not safe from the Catholic church when there is demonic possession involved.… (more)
LibraryThing member Sean191
Of Love and Other Demons tells the story of a forbidden love, doomed loves and love that never existed at all. The story also reads a bit like a religious mystery - is there a possession or isn't there? Interesting and perplexing. Full attention is required when reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I don't know if I had built-up expectations for this book (a college professor years ago told the class that we really should read it sometime), but I felt it wasn't an amazing book. It was good - written by a talented writer, but it seemed like a little bit of a rip-off of Nabokov.… (more)
LibraryThing member ed.pendragon
I don't regret having delayed completing Of Love and Other Demons for several years as I don't think I would have appreciated this novella half of much when I first started. My impression then was that this was a slow-moving story with much description but little happening. How wrong I was!

The title is so apt as this is an exploration of how obsessions can take precedence over basic humanity. The enigma that is Sierva Maria is the catalyst for upheaval in a coastal Colombian town (a fictionalised Cartagena) of a couple of centuries ago: bitten by a rabid dog but surviving against the odds, her very existence seems to infect all she comes into contact with. Many of these individuals then exhibit a rabidity that has nothing to do with a physical ailment and everything to do with diseases of the mind: irrational superstition, jealousy, inhumanity and, yes, love, but obsessive love akin to that of a stalker.

Young Sierva Maria gets taken by her father to the convent of the Santa Clara nuns where she is imprisoned before her exorcism, an exorcism that is deemed necessary because she speaks various African languages and appears different, from her long unshorn hair to her unconventional behaviours. Marquez exposes several human frailties in the local populace, from xenophobia to snobbery and from drug addiction to political expediency. After her incarceration and the witnessing of the eclipse of the sun the downfall of Sierva Maria is sealed by the reverberations her mere existence has occasioned: the unexplained deaths of the innocent and not-so-innocent, the collapse of the interrogating bishop, the leading astray of the studious young priest.

In amongst it all are the magical events that one can almost accept as real, epitomised by the belief that hair continues to grow after death when the young girl's tomb is opened in the mid-twentieth century. Such examples of so-called magical realism are of course metaphors, for Marquez is indicating that stories and rumours also grow even and especially after death. In all of this the one truly rational voice is that of the atheist Spanish Jew who, though he has escaped to the colonies, is still the subject of suspicion and hatred. In this scholarly and gruff medical man we can dimly make out an authorial figure, an outsider whose observations point out the absurdities of conventional thinking and living.

My first Marquez tale, Of Love and Other Demons is beautifully narrated, certainly in this translation by Edith Grossman, with memorable characters and profound questioning of the status quo. As the tragedy moves towards its inevitable conclusion, with a shocking short burst of violence, Marquez still manages to infuse the tale with a sense of optimism despite its critique of human nature. If he manages to avoid any real suggestion of paedophilia (one of the charges levelled recently by the Russian Orthodox Church against his writings) it is done with enough subtlety and ambiguity to escape the notice of all but a few suspicious minds and certainly with no suggestion of approval. The real tragedy is that so few people visit Sierva Maria with the love that all humans need and want, and that those who do, like her father, are often too late.

The original convent which inspired the news story which inspired the novella is still standing and still functioning as a hotel, and Gabo readers make literary pilgrimages to stay there and marvel at the crypt where Sierva Maria de Todos Los Angeles was buried in a niche. For me her real memorial is this beautifully crafted fable.
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LibraryThing member DekeDastardly
It seems this is one you either love or are indifferent to. I found myself leaning toward the indifferent. The underlying story of a young girl being removed from the comforts of wealth based upon misdiagnosis and ignorance is of itself fascinating, the scene setting fabulous. To overlay that with a doomed romance between a handsome priest and a prepubescent girl is heady stuff, then further layered with themes of the demonic and the insane, and yet it simply failed to enliven my senses. Maybe presenting such powerful melodrama in such a bland and tame manner is the book's triumph but it left me wanting to feel more, especially of the priest's multifarious challenges. It's a gentle, passive work, with a dangerous, explosive plot which completely fails to ignite. It may well be lost in translation but even if the author craftily intends for the reader to feel disturbed almost subliminally by the extreme physcology at work, then he doesn't do enough to provoke a reaction from this reader. I have seen this book given as a gift to represent an improbable, impossible love, so I hope the giver and receiver are on the same wavelength as I remember the book more for its interesting story and scenes than for any emotions aroused or intellectual confrontation.… (more)
LibraryThing member goneal
Interesting observations of multiple cultures- ethnic, religious and gender.
LibraryThing member Malum
Of Love and Other Demons is one of the few books in which the use of super-realism, or magical realism, is not only profoundly believable, it is also eerie. Like the bump in the night you turn the lights on for in spite of your own assured logic, this book tests emotions and realism in all the best ways.

What makes it so worth reading is that is an underrated, superb display of all of the things that make Marquez an amazing author. It has romance, and not the sex-teaser, swooning teens or professions of undying love based on nothing kind, but true romance. Romance in spite of logic, and itself, and even belief in such a thing. This book spells romance with all of it's complications, triumphs, irrationality, and cynicism. It also reads like a how-to guide for social and personal damnation.… (more)
LibraryThing member mssbluejay
The translation of this story was beautifully done. I enjoyed reading the English version as much as I enjoyed reading the Spanish.
LibraryThing member heidilove
perfectly charming, insightful, and gripping at the same time.
LibraryThing member bennbell
Just finished reading Of Love and Other Demons by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (the last and possibly best book I read in 2011). It is a wondrous tale of demonic possession and exorcism of a beautiful young girl in a decaying 18th century South American seaport. “Love is an emotion contra natura that condemns two strangers to base and unhealthy dependencies, and the more intense it is, the more ephemeral.”… (more)
LibraryThing member FPdC
Inspired by an episode that occurred at the beginning of the author's life as journalist, and on a legend his grandmother used to tell him, this is the story of a young girl (with the improbable name of Sierva Maria de Todos los Angeles) raised by the slaves of her father, the marquis of Castelduero, and the dramatic end of her life after being bitten by a mad dog. Even if the bite didn't produce any health problem, her strange ways and her father's fears result in her internement in a convent as a possessed by Satan, where the compassion and love felt by the priest in charge of exorcising her is not enough to change her fate.… (more)
LibraryThing member SumisBooks
English translation was a bit rough to read. The story tended to beat around the bush. Very light but difficult read.
LibraryThing member LisaMorr
Loved this book! Beautiful, lyrical writing and an interesting story about a young woman bitten by a rabid dog who does not get rabies and is eventually thought to be possessed by demons. Maybe she is, maybe she isn't, that's how Marquez's fiction goes.
LibraryThing member kambrogi
This slim volume tells the tale of Sierva María de Todos Los Ángeles, a Colombian girl of twelve who lived in the mid 18th century. She is believed to be is either a saint or a demon, depending on the point of view of those who observe her, those who love or hate her, understand or fear her. Rejected by her parents, the wealthy Marquis and his embittered wife, Sierva María is raised by African slaves who live in huts behind the elegant grounds of her home. Her peculiar use of language, her jewelry, and her pagan faith – not to mention her glorious uncut masses of red hair -- all strike the pious Catholic community as heretical, and the girl and her few supporters are ill-equipped to prove otherwise. This tragic tale of magic and faith, love and lust, suggests that religious authority challenged may be the greatest demon of all.… (more)
LibraryThing member Salsabrarian
My first time reading a Garcia Marquez work, and this after watching the movie version. The characters are all memorably and discomfortingly eclectic and have odd motivations. Things that make you go hmmmm...
LibraryThing member LeticiaToraci
This book is a masterpiece, with the special voice and style of Gabriel García Marquez. It isn't always an easy read. In my opinion, it talks about the ignorance and mysticism of the past and how it made everybody's life difficult. The main character, a twelve-year old girl faces all kinds of difficulties due to being an unconventional child. A book that leaves you thinking about the past and its injustices and shakes your way of viewing mankind, so in any case a book worth reading.… (more)
LibraryThing member leslie.98
My rating may change as this short novel dealt with themes that I don't gravitate towards (religion & faith) but contain much matter to mull over.

This story is about a girl of ~12 years old who may be suffering from rabies or might be possessed by the devil or might just be poorly socialized, depending on whose point of view you take. Marquez set this sometime during the 1700s in some coastal city (presumably Cartagena). I found the lack of specific setting and time irritating as it distracted me -- I was constantly looking for some clue to anchor the story in time and space. I hoped to use the arrival of the new viceroy Don Rodrigo de Buen Lozano to set the time but unfortunately this is not a true historical figure. Therefore, all I could tell was it was after 1717 when Colombia as part of New Granada got its own viceroy based in Bogota and before 1810 when Colombia gained its independence from Spain.… (more)
LibraryThing member bookworm_naida
Ninety three days after being bitten by a rabid dog and still not showing any signs of rabies, twelve year old Sierva Maria de Todos los Angeles is put in a convent for observation. Sierva Maria has been put through a series of painful and uncomfortable remedies in order to try and fight the infection that might take her young life.

Her mother and father dislike each other immensely and have allowed the girl to be raised in the slave quarters near their home. This has led Sierva Maria to speak in an African tongue, adopt African traditions and not be close to either of her parents.
Bernarda Cabrera, Sierva Maria's mother, is addicted to sex, cacao and fermented honey. Bernarda slowly deteriorates due to her way of living. Her father, Don Ygnacio, lives a quiet life and although his daughter has been left to live with the slaves, he tries to amend this wrongdoing and bring her home.

Once inside the convent, thirty six year old Father Cayetano Delaura is assigned Sierva Maria's case and is put in charge of performing her exorcism. Delaura is a quiet intellectual and a lover of books.
He becomes smitten by the young girl and makes it his mission to prove that she is not possessed. By doing so he will improve her living conditions and save her from the grueling ordeal of an exorcism.

My Thoughts:
I have a love hate relationship with Marquez. He pisses me off but I can't seem to break up with him. This time around, he didn't make me too angry, he mostly mesmerized me with this beautifully written, yet strange tale.

Both love and demons play a part in this surreal story. I found Sierva Maria to behave as I'd expect a young spoiled girl abandoned by her parents would. Her behavior as a result of this poor parenting leads her to lie constantly and she even goes along pretending she is possessed.
Sierva Maria's beautiful red hair has been promised to the Virgin Mary, it must not be cut until the day she marries. When loose, it trails down to her feet.

I found Father Delaura's character to be passionate and interesting, this lover of books encloses himself in his room and read for hours every day.

Bernarda, Sierva Maria's mother was another character that had me shocked with her behavior and some truths that she reveals towards the end of the story.
Sierva's father, Don Ygnacio is a strange and complicated man. He seems not to care about his daughter, but then again he seems like he might love her after all.

Exorcisms and being possessed by demons was considered a legitimate danger during the setting of this book and Márquez brings this aspect of the story out divinely. He weaves in magic and realism perfectly and left me wondering what was real and what was imaginary.

I was both shocked and enthralled as I read this sad story about pain, heartache and faith. Highly recommended if you are a fan of Marquez or to those looking for a piece of fiction that will leave them a bit unsettled by its storyline yet mesmerized by its prose.
The final paragraph in Of Love and Other Demons gave me chills. I can't remember a book ever having that effect on me before.

"He had no room in his heart for anything but Sierva Maria, and even so it was not large enough to hold her. He was convinced that no oceans or mountains, no laws of earth or heaven, no powers of hell could keep them apart."
p.122, Of Love and Other Demons
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