Jose Donoso (Chile, 1925)
"Coronacion/ Coronation" (1957) + is the fresco of decaying aristocratic family.
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. She walks out at night and goes to the movies with Mario. They start dating although Mario is ashamed of having a honest girlfriend (instead of the usual sluts) and she is aware that she is sinning. Therefore nobody knows that they see each other.
Mario's brother Rene' asks him to hold some money for him. Rene' is afraid that his wife would demand the money if she knew that he has it. She forced him to take her to a football game. Rene' is revolted by the way Dora looks now that she's aging, and the way her old clothes smell, but this time he couldn't say no. Luckily for him, a friend asks to talk to him. Rene's leaves Dora alone for more than an hour but comes back with good news: the friend offered him a lucrative job that will require him staying out of town for a few weeks. Rene' has the reputation of being a thief but is actually just a con-man. Rene' needs his wife to accept that he will be gone for a few weeks and therefore lets her make love to him, for the first time in one year, despite his revulsion for her.
Mario, who has been promoted at the store, and Estela become lovers. Mario is ashamed of being in love, but he really is in love. Meanwhile, Andres' existential crisis deepens. He toys with the idea of traveling abroad but then realizes that the only experience that could possibly matter to him is death. He visits his friends Donaldo and Tenchita to buy a walking stick that Donaldo found for him (he collects them), but then Tenchita's shawl reminds him of the scene in his grandmother's room where she accused him of being Estela's lover. He wonders if he is indeed in love with the girl, and snaps when Tenchita asks him whether he's in love, leaving the couple shocked by his rude manners. Andres suddenly realizes that he is in love with Estela, and decides that he wants to seduce her with gifts and money, despite the age difference. But right then he sees her with Mario, hugging and kissing. He now becomes even jealous, and vengeful. Estela and Mario walk into the house to have a drink with Lourdes and Rosario, who both know Mario since he was a child. Andres barges in and shouts that they are all neglecting their duties towards his grandmother and accuses Estela and Mario of being lovers, kicks Mario out and promises to send Estela back where she came from. The women are terrified because they think that Andres is going mad like his grandmother.
Mario is already depressed because Rene' left him alone with the petulant Dora. Mario tells Estela that he is penniless. He has even pawned his gold watch. Estela has been accused of being a thief by the mad Elisa and decides that she might as well steal for real: nobody will believe the old woman who accuses all servants of stealing.
Andres sleeps at the house, and then finds that he cannot leave, so he remains there, day after day, as if imprisoned by himself, waiting for his granma to die, alternatively wanting her to die and wanting her not to die. He eventually tells his only friend, Carlos, about his love tragedy. Carlos finds it a ridiculous story: an older man who falls in love with a teenager and is jealous that she's in love with a young man. Carlos tells Andres that this is self-inflicted pain. Andres, resentful, breaks up their friendship for good.
Estela steals the money that Mario needs to buy back his expensive watch. He suspects that she stole the money. Mario receives a letter from Rene' asking him to join him. Mario is afraid that Rene' got himself into some criminal activity, and is reluctant to accept, but then Estela tells him that she is pregnant. Mario gets furious that he has fallen into the old trap that so many young men fell into and decides to dump her and join Rene'.
Andres has been rejuvinated by his love for Estela and has changed the mood in his granma's house. But the maids have noticed a change in Estela's health and ask Carlos to take a look at her, as a doctor. He easily realizes that she is pregnant and she confesses that the father is Mario. Carlos does not hesitate to tell Andres. Andres is devastated. He tells Carlos that his love was the only thing protecting him from his terror of death. Carlos feels pity for the friend whose love is not reciprocated. Carlos responds that he tamed that terror by living a real life, and, back home, feels renewed love for his wife Adriana.
Mario looks for Rene' and finds him in jail. Released, Rene' is penniless and restless. Eventually, the two return home to the pregnant Dora and her children. Rene' keeps dreaming of moving back to his hometown but he needs money. Dora tells him that a gentleman (Andres) came to inquire about Mario because Mario left his maid (Estela) pregnant. Rene' conceives another criminal scheme: Mario will seduce Estela again, Estela will let them in, Rene' will steal all the silver objects of the house.
Elisa's health has improved since Estela confessed her sins, and they now pray together every day. On the other hand, Andres is constantly dejected and the maids (Lourdes and Rosario) suspect that he's going mad like his granma. Andres is, in fact, still lusting after Estela and feels humiliated that she'd choose the filth and poverty of Mario's life rather than his wealth and his mansion.
Mario is reluctant to accept Rene's plan but Rene' reminds him that Mario was left an orphan by their mother and Rene' raised him: he owes him. Mario accepts. Estela is ecstatic when he reappears and only wants to know that he loves her. Mario and Rene' explain their criminal plan to her and promise to take her with them to Rene's hometown, where they can all restart their lives. Estela accepts only when Mario repeats that he loves her.
The following day is Elisa's "onomastico" (her saint's day). The house is being prepared for another party but everything goes wrong: no guest arrives, a drunk Andres insults his granma and wishes her dead, and the equally drunk maids try in vain to cheer up Elisa with an improvised dance, and crowning her as a princess like tradition demands, not realizing that the old lady is dying. Then Estela distracts the lusty Andres while Rene' and Mario enter the house and steal the silver; but then, when Andres tries to kiss her, she cannot go through with the plan and tells Andres what is truly happening. Rene' and Mario drop the silver and flee, taking Estela with them. Rene' beats Estela ferociously, but later Mario takes her with him. Alone in the house, Andres realizes that Estela is repulsed by him, and feels all the horror of an aging man who is destined to die without having lived. In order to escape the terror of death, Andres convinces himself that it was all an hallucination, that there were no thieves and he never touched Estela. He finds solace in the idea that he's going mad like his granma. His friend Carlos finds him in this state of deliberate madness: a jovial Andres pretends to be mad, and pretends so well that Carlos accepts this and seconds him. Elisa wakes up briefly but she's dying.
"El Lugar Sin Limites/ The Place with no Limits" (1966)
See also Ripstein's movie
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 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 sewed up. 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 survives. 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 the operation.
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 in Switzerland. 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 for Iris. 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 pond. 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.