Jose Donoso (Chile, 1925)
"Coronacion/ Coronation" (1957) is the fresco of
decaying aristocratic family.
Rosario is the old maid of a very old lady.
She has been a widoe for 15 years after the death of her husband Fructuoso.
A supermarket's delivery boy, Angel, begs her to his superior Segundo who
wants to fire him. The problem is that Angel is good friend with Mario,
and Mario is a thief.
Rosario and Lourdes have been the maids of the wealthy Elisa for decades.
Elisa has not left her room for ten years.
Andres, the only grandson, pays her a weekly visit.
Elisa is a difficult patient: the nurses routinely quit.
Lourdes brings back from the countryside a 17-year-old girl, Estela,
who will be her new nurse.
Andres remembers how Elisa went mad. One day his grandfather, her husband
Ramon, told him that Elisa suspected Rosario and Lourdes of being both
thieves and sluts, of stealing the feathers off her hats, of having all
sorts of love affairs. One day Elisa also claimed to have noble blood,
to be related to kings and queens. In reality, she was the daughter of a wealthy
English businessman; wealthy but not noble. The doctors eventually diagnosed
cerebral arteriosclerosis and now, in her nineties, she was confined to her
Rosario confronts Mario, who tells her that it is actually Angel who stole.
Mario simply covered up for him. Both have been fired. Rosario walks towards
Segundo's store to plea for them, while Mario returns home, a home that he
shares with his brother Rene', Rene's wife Dora and their children.
Dora is unhappy because Rene' wastes all the money he makes, and how he makes
money is also unknown.Dora is getting ugly because she doesn't have money
to fix her teeth.
Andres comes to visit his grandmother and is told that Estela performed a
miracle: the old woman hasn't been so healthy and lucid in a while.
The old woman's birthday is approaching. Her birthday parties used to be
legendary but now only a handful of people show up. Rosario and Lourdes blame
her husband Ramon for her mental and bodily infirmity. Elisa is 94,
Andres 53. Mario is a womanizer and is used to much prettier girls than
Estela. He is even afraid of ruining his reputation by going out on a date
with such a primitive girl, but, after chatting with him about the movies,
Estela, who has never seen a movie in her life, now dreams of going to see
a movie with him. She is not supposed to leave Elisa alone, and certainly
not supposed to go out alone at night, but Mario hints that she is tempted
to just sneak out when everybody is asleep.
On her birthday Elisa goes mad again: she accuses Andres and Estela of having
an affair and calls Estela a whore.
Andres now secretely wishes her dead.
Andres' mother died when he was born and his father died one year later.
He was raised by Ramon and Elisa. He went into law because his father
and grandfather were lawyers, but with no enthusiasm. At the age of 21
he inherited his parents' wealth and decided to enjoy life. He graduated
but never felt the passion to practice law. After reading science,
literature and history, he decided that life was a pointless search for
answers. He lost the motivation to do anything and felt a sort of happiness
in doing nothing. His best friend Carlos, meanwhile, studied medicine,
graduated and started practicing. Andres didn't envy him: instead, he felt
at peace with himself. Carlos is now married to Adriana and has made a lot
of money. Andres' distant cousin Ines gossips at the birthday party that
Andres is bored because he lives in his own apartment and has nothing to do.
Carlos also attends the birthday party and accuses Andres of not having lived
at all. And Carlos is almost jealous of Andres' detachment from life.
Carlos is no longer in life with his wife Adriana but he respects her,
and his extramarital affairs amount to nothing. Carlos reminds Andres that
he will be truly alone once Elisa dies, and Carlos predicts that Elisa
will die soon. Andres is seized by existential panic: he thinks of his
own mortality, of how soon it will be his turn to die, and
nothing will be left of him.
At the end of the party Estela is given the key to the house.
The story of "El Obsceno Pajaro de la Noche/ Obscene Bird of Night" (1970) is told in multiple convolulate manners.
First of all, the narrating voice is unstable.
The protagonist is a different person at different times:
an aspiring writer, an aristocrat's secretary, a deaf-mute beggar, a doll, an old woman, and a horribly disfigured "imbuche".
He is not the only "I" in the book: sometimes the first person voice becomes the voice of one of the people he is talking about, as if the characters fought to overthrow the author.
Paragraphs are fluid because they are joint stream-of-consciousnesses of multiple people: the "I" and the "you can change within the same sentence.
Secondly, the narrative frequently sounds like the delirium of mad people,
whether the protagonist's madness or Ines' madness. Events become supernatural
because they are narrated through the twisting and distorting imagination of
a mad person.
The narrative appears to be fractured and contradictory, but in reality it is
a jigsaw puzzle in which some of the pieces are viewed through distorting lenses.
There is a linear plot but it has so many flashbacks to the past and anticipations of the future that it is difficult even to know what is the present.
The narrative unwinds like a moebius strip with an infinite number of wormholes connecting to the past and the future.
The nun Benita, who runs the convent, informs the old Raquel
that their friend Brigida has died
in her sleep. Raquel cries and rescues her granddaughter Malu's bridal nightgown that Brigida was fixing. Raquel makes sure that Brigida gets buried in her
(Raquel's) family's mausoleum.
The narrator is "Mudito", a mute whose real name is Humberto.
Raquel has no news from Ines, who went to Rome.
The protagonist and narrator, Humberto keeps shrinking until, at the end, is bereft of almost all senses: mute, deaf, and blind. The writer has lost any way to see reality and report it.
The action takes place in two main environments: a
decrepit labyrinthine shelter for old women and orphans,
and an isolated country mansion populated by freaks.
In both places a false reality is created artificially: the old women create
the legend of the virgin conception of one of a mentally retarded orphans,
and Jeronimo creates the legend of a world of freaks for his monstruos son.
There is also an insistent attempt at showing parallel lives, and in a sense
this is also a story of doubles. Jeronimo's mad wife Ines has a double in the
mentally-retarded orphan Iris, both made pregnant by the protagonist, both
worshipped as saints by the old women; Jeronimo's double is Humberto, one rich
and the other poor, each jealous of the other for different reasons, Jeronimo
because Humberto got his wife pregnant and Humberto because Jeronimo has
everything that he always wanted (Jeronimo steals Humberto's heroic act, but then Humberto steals his potency, but then Jeronimo steals Humberto's body...)
There is also an infinitely melancholy, a deep pessimism about the human condition, about all the envy and hatred and gossip and superstitions that is all worthless in the face of our common destiny to eventually be reduced to nothing.
The teenaged orphan Iris is pregnant.
She was left an orphan when her father killed her mother.
The old women call it a "miraculous pregnancy" because they believe
that she is still a virgin.
And the old women need a secret place for her to give birth.
Mudito has the keys to all the rooms of the house and finds a room for their need.
The aristocratic Azcoitias have reserved one of their houses for use by the Catholic church for a century and a half.
It is called Casa de Ejercicios Espirituales de la Encarnacion, and it is both
orphanage, convent and old widows' home.
Each male heir transferred the rights
to the next male heir, but each male heir had a tendency to produce many
daughters and very few males. The current head of the family,
Jeronimo, is the last male heir: he has no boys.
Therefore the Casa will not have a new owner of the family. The
archbishop waits for Jeronimo to gift the Casa to the church so that
the church can build a children's village.
The people of the Casa know that they may have to
vacate the house and that the Casa may be demolished to become
the children's village.
Jeronimo's wife Ines is in Rome to promote the beatification of her ancestor Ines.
Rita is the old woman (still a virgin at her age) who realized that
Iris was pregnant. Rita spoke to Brigida, who had had two stillborn babies
before being left a widow. Brigida was the one who decided that it was a miracle,
but the world didn't believe in miracles anymore, so Brigida decided that
the whole thing must be kept a secret. The baby was going to be raised by
them, the old women of the house, and Iris and the baby would be confined
forever in the house.
Before dying, Brigida has a vision of the "imbuche" that used to
scare her as a child: a horrible doll used by witches that has all orifices
The secret of the pregnancy is shared only by the six women
(Dora, Maria Benitez, Amalia, Rosa Perez, Rita and originally Brigida)
and by the mute and deaf Humberto/Mudito. Only they
know the room where Iris will be kept prisoner, a room full of broken
statues of saints.
Mudito tells how he discovered that Iris was roaming around the house, and how
he helped her get out of the house and explore the neighborhood.
Iris, a mentally retarded teenager, fell in love with a poor man, Romualdo, whose job consists in handing out handbills in the street while wearing a papier-mache costume with a giant head. She was known as Gina and Mudito refers to Romualdo as "the Giant".
Humberto is so obsessed with Iris that he pays Romualdo to wear the costume
and distribute the handbills on his behalf. This way Iris/Gina hangs out with
him and promises to spend a whole night with him.
Once he heard that Iris was pregnant, Mudito stopped paying Romualdo for
the giant head. Romualdo had bought a gold watch on credit and needed more
money, so he started renting out the costume to anybody who wanted to sleep
with Gina/Iris. Soon she became a famous attraction, known all over town.
Diplomats, scientists, lawyers, politicians and so on came to rent the costume
and sleep with her. Eventually, Humberto/Mudito saw that Jeronimo himself came.
He wore the costume and had sex with Iris/Gina. This gave Mudito a new idea:
let Jeronimo think that Iris' baby is his baby, so that the baby (Mudito's baby)
would inherit the house (and the entire dynasty). Jeronimo recognizes Mudito
because Mudito was his servant for a while and used to escort him to brothels
when Ines was pregnant. Mudito is of humble origins, the son of a schoolteacher
and grandson of a locomotive engineer, but now he has his chance to take his
revenge on the rich aristocrat whom he has envied since he first met him as
a child, just returned from Europe to get married to Ines.
Eventually, the greedy Romualdo got into a fight with Gabriel's posse
because Gina refused to have sex with Gabriel's younger brother Tito despite
Tito paying to wear the giant head. The outcome of the fight is that the
giant head got destroyed (The fight is narrated by the giant head itself
while it's being destroyed).
The old women gossip that Iris' father has been sentenced to death a few
months earlier for the murder of his wife, and is probably already dead.
After the death of Brigida (the woman who invented the story of the
miraculous pregnancy), a seventh woman joins the conspiracy: Damiana.
She's a tiny toothless old
woman whom Iris starts treating as a doll. Iris starts treating her like a
baby, and Damiana reciprocates. Their embrace soon becomes a sexual embrace,
with Damiana taking advantage of the retarded Iris to experience an orgasm
The act is described by Iris, while the overall story
is told by Mudito, who considers himself the seventh woman, who is hiding her real sex, whose name Humberto is written 9,300 times in the 100 copies of his books that Jeronimo hides in his library.
Brigida died sometimes after Iris got pregnant and before the current events.
Damiana plots with Iris. Iris told Damiana that the father is Romualdo
and Damiana sneaks out of the convent to look for him so he can take
responsibility for raising the baby. But Iris tells
Mudito that in reality she has no intention of living with Damiana the
lesbian and instead wants to find the real father. Iris is not so
retarded after all: she knows that many men used Romualdo's giant head
to sleep with her. Mudito is scheming too though: he tells Iris that
he knows who the real father is, and that the real father is a rich
gentleman, Jeronimo. Iris blackmails Mudito: she has figured out that
Mudito is neither deaf nor mute.
They are all scheming against each other:
the old women want to steal the baby, Damiana wants
Iris, Iris wants the real father, Mudito wants Jeronimoto raise his child.
And the original scheme was Brigida's idea that Iris is a virgin.
The novel fast forwards to a day when Mudito has stolen one of the 100 copies
of his own book from Jeronimo's library. Jeronimo is dead and the son
(the one they think is his son), a horrible man, is reading it, curious
why a beggar like Mudito would steal it. The book tells the story of
Jeronimo, his wife Ines and himself, Jeronimo's reputed son.
To prove that he wrote it, Mudito (still pretending to be deaf and mute)
writes the prolog, word by word. The prolog tells us that
Ines is dead, the Boy is born and it is a monster that his reputed father
Jeronimo almost kills, Jeronimo became a senator and died a few years later
The second part of the book opens back in time, when Jeronimo has just
returned to his hometown after five years in Europe, due to the start of
World War I. His uncle Clemente, a retired priest, prepares a
career in politics for him, and the young Jeronimo cannot refuse.
Maria Benitez is Clemente's lifelong cook.
Jeronimo marries the beautiful cousin Ines, who insists on keeping
her old maid Peta, who knows the history of the Casa and of the aristocratic
family. Jeronimo is terrified when Ines confesses that Peta is a witch,
who once saved her life by sucking her sickness out of her stomach, but
Jeronimo cannot refuse.
(We wonder if Peta took Ines' fertility when she healed her and therefore
made her incapable of bearing a child to Jeronimo).
Jeronimo and Ines are both descendants of the Ines that Clemente would
like to see declared a saint by the Pope.
The story is told by a sick Mudito to Benita.
During the electoral campaign Jeronimo si assailed by a vicious mob that
wants to lynch him. Jeronimo runs on the roof, or so they think, but it
is actually Mudito/Humberto, his secretary.
Someone shoots him and he falls wounded, but the crowd
thinks they hit Jeronimo. Jeronimo
takes advantage of the situation to present himself a martyr, bandaged
as if he were really wounded.
On election night, as Jeronimo is celebrating his victory, Mudito sleeps
with Ines, as if the wound meant for Jeronimo had made Mudito into Jeronimo.
He thinks that Peta used her supernatural powers to make all of this happen.
Mudito, however, is not sure of what really happened. It could be that
Jeronimo and Ines had sex as usual, while he, Mudito, slept with the old Peta.
In any case, Ines gets pregnant, and Mudito
feels that he and Peta conceived the child that Ines
is carrying in her womb. The child is born and, again, Jeronimo is initially
tempted to kill the boy because the boy is such a monster.
Jeronimo decides to keep the Boy trapped inside his mansion, and orders
Humberto to hire freaks of all kinds to create a town around the mansion
so that the Boy will never feel that he is a monster. In fact, Humberto,
the only normal person allowed inside, will look like the only one who
is not normal.
A Swiss doctor, Cris, who is also a freak, is hired to make sure that the Boy
Humberto meets with Jeronimo once a year, and is entrusted
with writing the history of the Boy.
Soon trouble arises in the community of freaks, due to jealousy and envy,
with Emperatriz (a distant relative of Jeronimo)
plotting to get rid of competitors for the position of preferred monster.
Humberto lives surrounded by the monsters, who make fun of his normality.
Even the Boy is scared of his looks. Being surrounded by all monsters,
the Boy thinks that Humberto is the monster. Humberto is writing the
history of Boy, starting with the sentence (already repeated twice in
the book) that Jeronimo almost killed the Boy when he first saw the newborn.
He has a lacerating pain in the stomach.
Humberto tells this story while he is sick,
shackled to a bed, talking to Benita or to someone
he mistakes for Benita in his fever. He has lost blood and is delirious.
He remembers when he was studying law and first met Jeronimo and told him
that he was a writer.
The freaks have donated blood for the transfusion, or so he thinks.
He mentions that he promised to marry the repellent Emperatriz. But we don't
know whether this is really happening or is just delirium.
Humberto is in a hospital, surrounded by the Swiss doctor Cris and his assistants, and is told
that they found him in a puddle of blood and feces.
In his delirium Humberto remembers how his father told him to study law in
order to advance in life, but he was secretely writing poems. He moved in
with his girlfriend Rosita but they were very poor. He decided to self-publish
his first book but the only way to pay for the expenses was to get some
advance orders. Jeronimo believed in his talent and bought 100 copies of the
book (so now we know why there are 100 copies in Jeronimo's library).
In his delirium Humberto is convinced that the Swiss doctor is about to remove his
organs to graft them onto the bodies of the freaks so the freaks will
become normal people. They think he is asleep but he overhears Jeronimo
talking to the doctor about the double operation that is about to take place.
Jeronimo has found out that Humberto slept with Ines and got her pregnant while
he, Jeronimo, slept with an old woman; Ines thinking that she was sleeping
with her husband and Jeronimo thinking that he was sleeping with his wife.
Humberto realizes that he didn't sleep with Pepita that night, but with Ines.
So he is indeed the father of Boy.
But now Jeronimo wants his genitals.
We now understand that the operation removed 80% of Humberto's organs, leaving
him a freakish cripple and (almost) a deafmute. He then wondered in the rain
until he reached the Casa, where he was cared by the chief nun Benita, to whom
he's been telling the story.
Humberto remembers when Ines came back having failed her mission in Rome and
took a vow of poverty. He remembers overhearing it in a conversation between Benita and Raquel.
Part III returns to the time when Humberto has become Iris' doll, after
Humberto remembers when Brigida died and Benita was going through her will.
Benita told Humberto that Brigida had been her servant for decades. Brigida
saved her money diligently and Benita's husband invested it for her. But soon
the husband realized that Benita was a wizard at investing money. When Benita
asked to sell all her assets and buy gold, the husband did the same, and the
following day the international markets crashed. After Benita's husband died,
Brigida put all her possessions in Benita's name, so that Benita could
administer them, but soon Benita realized that she was becoming Brigida's
servant because Brigida now owned so many homes.
Jeronimo has definitely decided to demolish the Casa. Auctioneers are
cataloging all the items for sale. The old women worship the pregnant Iris
as the Madonna. She has been kept prisoners for months because her pregnancy
is lasting much longer than usual. She treats Mudito like her doll.
Mudito has been reduced to a subhuman after the operation. Iris washes
his derelict penis but it is not his: it is Jeronimo's.
Iris is upset with Mudito because he never found Romualdo, the man whom she believes got her pregnant. Iris is a prisoner of the old women, and Mudito is
prisoner of Iris. Mudito comes up with a plan: he knows the combination
to open Jeronimo's safe, and can steal all his money, and then he could
marry Iris. But she insists that she wants him to find her Romualdo and sends
him out in the rain, threatening to tell the women that he tried to rape her
so they will punish him.
Benita is worried that Mudito is shrinking day by day.
Ines saves the Casa with her vow of poverty: she vows to spend the rest of her
life there, which means that the Casa cannot be destroyed.
Now we finally get to know whom she was trying to have beatified.
At the beginning of the book the old women were discussing a tale, a legend, of a young woman, the daughter of a wealthy widowed landowner, and her nursemaid who were suspected of being witches causing drought, disease and abnormal births. The nursemaid was killed by the girl's nine sons, and the 16-year-old girl was committed by her father to a convent.
Now we hear the rest of the story. The father took the girl to this land but, instead of confining her in a convent, he built the Casa to host both the girl and the local nuns. The girl soon surprised the nuns with all sorts of miracles,
including saving the building from an earthquake that destroys everything else.
The girl died at twenty, worshipped like a saint.
But Mudito has doubts about this story. He thinks that this Ines never became
a nun and was never buried properly because the ecclesiastical authorities knew
that she was a witch. Mudito even suspects that the real story involves a
lovechild, not witchcraft. Maybe the father discovered the daughter giving
birth and, in order to avoid a scandal, decided to kill the only witness (the
nursemaid) and send the daughter to a convent as a virgin saint. Maybe the
bastard was just given to a poor peasant, and Mudito somehow feels that Peta
Ponce is the descendant of that baby.
Ines is back at the Casa, surrounded by the old women. She is informed of Brigida's funeral. She hasn't told her husband Jeronimo yet.
She still hasn't met Mudito either. Mudito is going out every night, kicked out by Iris with the mission to find Romualdo.
Raquel mediates between Ines and Jeronimo, and Mudito overhears both conversations.
Ines tells Raquel that she's 63 years old and that she's scared that Jeronimo
still wants to have sex with her. There was another reason to spend one year
in Europe. The process for the beatification would have taken only a couple of weeks.
Jeronimo tells Raquel that the real reason was a stay in a Swiss sanatorium to recover from a nervous breakdown.
Ines instead tells Raquel that she went to the Swiss hospital to get her uterus
removed, and she did it out of desperation because, even at her old age, Jeronimo still wanted to have sex with her every night.
We now hear the Swiss doctor, Cris, gossip about it with his wife Emperatriz.
They reminisce how they escaped from the mansion of the Boy.
Mudito, however, thinks that she is lying, that Jeronimo was left impotent after
that night and never touched her again ("that night" being the night that Humberto slept with Ines thinking he was sleeping with Peta).
Mudito thinks that Jeronimo lies too to Raquel when he tells her that he suffered a lot because of Ines: in reality Jeronimo neglected her for his political career.
Ines tells Raquel that she wrote to Jeronimo about her operation and Raquel now suspects that the letter was the event that triggered Jeronimo's decision to demolish the Casa.
We hear Raquel and Ines briefly discuss Jeronimo's secretary: they don't remember his name, just that he was a dwarf with a hunchback. They don't seem to know that Mudito is Humberto.
We learn more about Cris and Emperatriz.
Cris was hired by Jeronimo to make sure that Boy would survive, and he spent
years taking car of the freak.
After Humberto left, Emperatriz was placed in charge: Boy was five years old.
Eventually the doctor became useless and started drinking.
Boy was perfectly fine except for his limited ability to walk. He was in fact chasing the women and sleeping with all of them thanks to a giant penis.
Once a year, Emperatriz went to report to Jeronimo on the state of the mansion, lying to him about what was really going on there, making sure that Jeronimo would never visit the mansion.
Humberto, obviously, had not married Emperatriz, but left without her.
Somehow Emperatriz and Cris saved enough money to escape and open a clinic
And that's where they operated on Humberto to turn him into Mudito.
And that's where they operated on Ines to remove her uterus.
Customers come from all over Europe to be operated at Cris' clinic, which is
famous for rejuvinating people.
Mudito observes Ines and realizes that Cris and Emperatriz replaced her young
organs with old organs in order to make her look and be old. Mudito suspects
that those were the organs of Peta, that Peta was vivisected by Cris, that it
was Peta's desire and plan, that in exchange Peta got Ines' young organ and
beautiful body, that Peta's scheming to have sex with the Humberto who slept
with her that famed night. But Mudito is terrified of Peta and wants Peta to
know that it wasn't him, it was Jeronimo who slept with her that night.
He fears that Peta now inhabits Ines and came back to the Casa specifically
to find him, Humberto, not knowing that he's now reduced to the impotent Mudito.
To spend the time in the Casa, Ines comes up with games, initially with the
old women but then also with the orphans, including the very fat Iris
(very fat because the "I" who is narrating the scene is "going to born soon").
One game consists in imitating people. Ines and Iris play this game with
Ines pretending to be Jeronimo and Iris pretending to be Ines.
Jeronimo/Ines tells her that he wants to sell the house and she has become
an impediment to his plans.
Ines/Iris responds that she intends to bequeath all her possessions to Iris.
The orphans applaud, ecstatic that Iris played the part of Ines so well.
(The writing is getting more and more delirious, with sentences stretched out into long paragraphs in which sometimes the narrator switches from one character to another, and it gets difficult to understand who is saying what and doing what).
One morning Iris wakes up and finds that her baby was born during the night.
It is Mudito (presumably shrunk to the size of a tiny baby).
Ines, informed of the miraculous birth, decides that Iris is the
reincarnation of her saintly ancestor Ines and pledges that, when Jeronimo
dies, she'll invest all her fortune into turning the Casa into a sanctuary
Ines has been playing games with the old women and always winning. She gains
some of her poor belongings with every bet that she wins.
Ines and Iris soon become bitter rivals in these games. Ines keeps winning
and eventually Iris runs out of valuables to bet. So she bet her baby,
and Ines wins. The old women spread the news that a miracle happened:
Ines has had a baby without even being pregnant. All the people who didn't know
about Iris' pregnancy come to witness the miracle. At night, however, Mudito
the baby feels that Ines is Peta, who wants to have sex with him. Mudito touches
Ines like a lusty man. Ines wakes up and calls for help. She tells Benita that
a man raped her, just like she's been raped every night of her life.
Benita concludes that Ines has definitely gone mad and needs to be
locked up in a mental asylum. Mudito is happy because he thinks that they
are locking up Peta disguised as Ines, and this will get rid of his two
obsessions at the same time: the fear of Peta and the desire of Ines.
Mudito is proud that he eliminated Ines from the story and now plans to
eliminate Jeronimo, to use the remaining blank pages of his book to write
an "abject ending".
(Now it sounds like the "I" is the writer of this very novel that we are reading).
Boy is now a 17-year-old boy and he escapes.
Emperatriz and Cris, married and rich because
they have been stashing away in Switzerland the salary paid by Jeronimo,
are plotting to flee to Switzerland while enjoying their yearly day of
vacation in the outside world (a curious crowd comes to see the two monsters
sitting at a cafe). They are distracted by a deaf-mute dwarf who is trying
to tell them something.
Boy returns after five days, having learned what the world looks like and
having learned who his father is. Boy also learned that his father is now
toying with the idea of having Boy marry and produce a son, i.e. a grandson.
Emperatriz and Cris are scared that the isolated mansion will be shut down
and they will lose their salaries. Boy has a plan: he hated the outside
world and wants to forget about it, so he wants Cris to perform brain surgery
on him to erase all the memories of those five days and in exchange he will
bequeath all the family's possessions to them once Jeronimo dies.
Finally, for the first time in 17 years, Jeronimo comes to visit the isolated
mansion where his son has been raised by that artificial society of freaks.
He stays in Humbert's old apartment and is amazed how elegant it looks.
Jeronimo mentions that Humberto wanted to write a biography of him, Jeronimo.
Emperatriz tells him that Humberto never wrote anything: Humberto kept
twisting the facts, getting lost in his own imagination, and never managed
to write. Jeronimo is happy with the way his cousin Emperatriz and her
husband Cris are managing the place. He tells them of his plan to get
his son a wife.
It takes a few days before Jeronimo finds the courage to face his son.
Jeronimo is not a freak and therefore all the freaks get scared of him.
So does his son, pretending to have never seen before a normal person.
After a few encounters the son stops being scared and starts laughing at the "monstruosity" of Jeronimo.
Emperatriz stages her yearly masked ball, this time themed as a party in a
ruined convent. But Jeronimo shows up dressed as a monster while the monsters
show up dressed like normal people, and Jeronimo panics and drowns in a
Boy signs all the documents to transfer ownership of his inherited possessions
to Emperatriz and Cris. He also asks Cris to remove another part of his
brain, the one that contains the memory of his father Jeronimo.
(All the time we've been aware that Jeronimo is not his real father).
Back to the Casa, Iris confesses that she's never been pregnant: she's just fat.
Generations of old women have been raising her baby Mudito without exactly
knowing when the baby was born. They just know that it was a miracle and
that the baby will eventually liberate them.
Benita and the others are all gone.
Iris also tells them that Mudito is neither deaf nor mute.
The old women are outraged: they expel her and they keep the baby.
Iris walks out and immediately finds a man who takes her away.
Now the group of old women and orphans are living in a decrepit chapel,
and they are starving and sick. The old women start beginning, and then
shoplifting and then mugging. Soon the neighborhood becomes notorious
for being dangerous.
One day the old women see Iris back in the neighborhood and get scared
that she's coming to steal the baby. So they hide the baby inside a sack
and hide the sack inside another sack and so on. Mudito is dumb and
cannot tell them that they are torturing him. The old women don't want
to lose the baby to Iris because they are convinced that Mudito will
soon perform a miracle that will change their lives.
Instead the day comes that they are forced to move out. There are 37 old
women and four orphans, one having gone missing (Iris). A bus transports
them to the new Casa that Benita built with Brigida's inheritance.
Soon work will start to build the Children's Village.
The women totally forget Mudito. He chews, bites and tears, trying to
free himself of the bundle in which he has been stuffed. But someone
enters the abandoned chapel: an old homeless women. She picks up a
few sacks of things, including Mudito's sack, and takes them to
the bridge under which she camps with other homeless people. They use the
sacks to light a fire. And that's the end of Mudito.
Chronologically organized, this is the story of the poor Humberto, a student of law and aspiring writer, who is hired by the rich landowner Jeronimo to be his
secretary and the family's historian.
Jeronimo is desperate to have a son from his wife Ines, but Ines never gets
pregnant. One night Humberto sleeps with her, thanks to the scheming of her
nursemaid Peta, and Ines becomes pregnant.
Humberto decides to let Jeronimo think this is his son because this way
Humberto's son will grow to be a rich aristocrat. However, the son is a freak.
Jeronimo resists the temptation to kill the newborn but decides that it should
be raised in an isolated mansion, surrounded only by freaks and by Humberto,
who is in charge of writing the story of the family. Jeronimo also hires
Swiss doctor Cris to make sure that Boy survives.
For five years this arrangement works, and Humberto even promises to marry one
of the freaks, Emperatriz, a distant cousin of Jeronimo.
But one day Humberto escapes and Emperatriz takes over the duties of running
the secluded mansion and eventually marries the doctor.
They accumulate money over the years and stash it in Switzerland.
When Boy is 17 years old, he escapes for five days but returns disappointed
by the real world. He finally receives a visit from his father Jeronimo,
but secretely plots with Emperatriz and Cris to have his memories of the
outside world, as well as of his father Jeronimo, removed from his brain.
When Jeronimo dies accidentally during Emperatriz's masked party,
Cris performs the operation on Boy and then
Emperatriz and Cris open a clinic in Switzerland.
Meanwhile, Jeronimo's wife Ines travels to Rome because she wants Jeronimo's
ancestor Ines to be made a saint: legend says that she was capable of miracles,
and the house was built for her. Ines fails and returns just in time to avoid
that the house be sold and demolished. She decides to go and live with the
old women and the orphans. The real story, however, is that she went to the
clinic run by the same Swiss doctor who used to take care of Boy,
and who now runs his own clinic in Switzerland with his wife Emperatriz,
the same couple who operated on Humberto, except that Ines went there to
be turned into an old 63-year-old woman without uterus so that Jeronimo cannot make love to her anymore. Jeronimo instead believes that she had a nervous breakdown and stayed at a Swiss sanatorium.
Ines goes completely insane while at the Casa and is eventually locked up in
a mental asylum.
When Jeronimo finds out that Humberto is the real father of the boy, he
orders the Swiss doctor Cris to perform
a surgery that transplants Humberto's genital into Jeronimo's body and leaves
Humberto horribly mutilated. Humberto finds shelter in the house that Jeronimo's
ancestors built for nuns and orphans. Seven old women take care of him and
call him Mudito because he is almost completely mute. He has sex with the
mentally retarded orphan Iris by pretending to be the man she loves, and she
gets pregnant. The old women want to believe that this is a miracle, that Iris
is still a virgin, and lock her in a room of the house. The shrinking
Mudito is used as a doll for her to play. Eventually Iris confesses that
she was not pregnant and is kicked out. The old women keep the baby Mudito, hoping
that he'll perform a miracle. But they get poorer and poorer, resorting
to begging and stealing, until the authorities come to pick them up and
transport them to a new house built with the money of one of them who
died rich (the very first line of the novel). The deaf and mute
Mudito is left behind in the abandoned house, hidden inside a sack, and a homeless eventually uses the sack to light a fire under a bridge.
(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx) |
Se sei interessato a tradurre questo testo, contattami
El Lugar Sin Limites/ The Place with no Limits/
Il Posto che non ha Confini
La Manuela è un vecchio travestito, capitato per caso in un posto
di confine durante una festa per la vittoria elettorale del potente ed ambizioso
don Alejo, e rimastovi a vivere nel locale bordello: la padrona d’allora fece,
per scommessa, l’amore con lui e ne ebbe la ragazza che tutti chiamano "la
Giapponesina", destinata anch'ella alla carriera di prostituta. Il rissoso
Pancho, figlio di don Alejo, sfoga le sue frustrazioni di fallito prendendosela
con il povero travestito, il quale teme la sua violenza.; anche la ragazza teme
Pancho, che vuole approfittarne. La Giapponesina sogna un futuro migliore, ed
anche la Manuela sogna di vendere la casa (che ricevette in cambio della
scommessa) ed andarsene altrove; ma la Giapponesina rifiuta di vendere a don
Alejo, e condanna suo padre a quella vita umiliante. A sua volta don Alejo
è un cinico speculatore, anche se si camuffa da difensore del progresso:
vuole soltanto far aumentare il valore di quelle terre.
Una sera Pancho viene a prendere ciò che vuole: la Manuela si nasconde
vigliaccamente, sperando che lui s’accontenti della Giapponesina, destinata, in
ogni caso, a diventare puttana: quando poi sente urlare la ragazza, esce dal suo
nascondiglio e va ad offrirsi al martirio; verrà ucciso a pugni dagli
uomini di Pancho, mentre la Giapponesina pensa che sia il solito vizioso che non
ha saputo resistere alla tentazione di far baldoria con Pancho.
Favola truculenta raccontata con grande maestria di linguaggio.
See also Ripstein's movie
If English is your first language and you could translate my old Italian text, please contact me.