One day, Marķa de las Nieves Moran, the heroine of Francisco Goldman's The Divine Husband, unexpectedly receives a letter from a woman who had, many years earlier, been her fellow novice in a convent. This is Guatemala (though it is never named) in the 1870s. The country's convents have been closed by the government; the nuns have long since fled or gone into hiding. So how strange that Marķa, pregnant, sacked from her job at the British legation, abandoned by her lover, should receive this message of consolation ('God sends misfortune to those he most loves') from out of the blue. Someone is watching over her. Marķa is an enthusiast for Middlemarch but now realises that life outdoes fiction. The unexpected, intimate voice from the past makes her think that 'one of the ways life was superior to novels was its way of sending you totally unforeseen surprises without it seeming in bad artistic taste, or a pitiably strenuous way of resolving a narrative into a moral or sentimental lesson, or at least into a credible ending.' It is one of several occasions in The Divine Husband when the author includes some explanation of his own ambition. This is a novel of connections and coincidences, of people and themes continually re-encountered, but it refuses the strenuous shapeliness of most novels. It is determined not to be inferior to life.
LRB 17 February 2005 | PDF Download