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María Luisa Bombal: La Ultima niebla (House of Mist)

This book isn’t vaguely a novel. In the Spanish version, it is only 55 pages long. However, it is such a wonderful story – and has become a Chilean classic – that I couldn’t leave it out. It is really a simple love story, telling the story of a woman who marries hastily and quickly gets bored with her marriage (at least sexually). There is nothing wrong with Daniel, her husband. Indeed, she stays married to him. It is just that he does not excite her. One night she is out walking when she meets a man. He takes her back to a house and they make passionate love. We drift through her marriage but she still has her lover who is her sole preoccupation. Daniel is there but it is though he is a radio playing quietly in the background, there but not there. But then, she mentions in passing to Daniel her meeting with the man and he questions whether they could have actually met. This raises questions both for her and for us. Has she actually ever met this man? Did they make love? Are they lovers? Or is it all in her mind? The ending is sad and not particularly predictable.

What makes this story so effective, besides the passion of the heroine and our doubts as to whether it is real or fantasy, is the atmosphere that Bombal conjures up. From the opening scene, when the young couple arrives just after a rain storm to the fog of the meeting with the lover (which reappears at the end giving, as Bombal puts it, the appearance of definitive immobility), Bombal skillfully conveys an atmosphere which makes us feel as though we were there but which is also tightly linked to the situation the characters are in. It’s only fifty-five pages, so read it.

Publishing history

First published in Spanish 1935 by Sur
First published in English 1947 by Farrar, Straus