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Louis de Bernières: The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman

Cochadebajo de los Gatos, a city in the Colombian Andes, is the setting for de Bernières’ magic realism eccentricities. Dionisio Vivo, on one side, father of thirty children and respected columnist, and, on the side, is the redoubtable but tormented, eponymous Cardinal Guzmán, who is determined to lead a new inquisition against Cochadebajo de los Gatos a new Albigensian Crusade as he calls it. The two forces inevitably collide and the villagers, the prostitutes (what would a Latin American magic realism novel be without its army of prostitutes), the People’s Vanguard, Dionisio and the Mexican musicologist who is the narrator, well, you can guess what happens. But this is not the point of the novel. Like real Latin American magic realism novels – think García Marquéz or Vargas Llosa – the point is as much to show the absurdity of life in contemporary Latin American and de Bernières paints a pretty convincing and highly amusing picture of the oddball village and the mad priests. But I still prefer the real thing.

Publishing history

First published 1992 by Secker and Warburg