(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

In The Shrouded Woman María Luisa Bombal skillfully juxtaposes the unknown and supernatural realm of Death with concrete reality. At the beginning of the novel, Ana María lies dead and is surrounded by those who once had a relationship with her. Although she is dead, Ana María can still hear and see those who are mourning her. Simultaneously, while she lies in her casket, the protagonist is led into the past as she recalls events significant to her life, and she enters the supernatural space of Death inhabited by mysterious voices, uncanny landscapes, and strange insects and flowers. The juxtaposition of Life and Death is created in the novel through the cinematic technique of a montage presented in counterpoint. Such a montage captures the coexistence of elements of reality traditionally conceived as separate entities: The past binds to the present, both merging into a single instant; consciousness survives beyond death; and the concrete objective reality fuses with the mysterious zone of Death. Besides the basic omniscient narrator, there are several other narrators who give their own testimony on Ana María, in this way adding conflicting views and interpretations to the story of her life. Thus, Ana María becomes a multifaceted character: a passionate lover, a selfish woman, a naïve girl, a strict mother, and an intuitive human being with mystical doubts about God. In the same manner that the shrouded woman acquires a new understanding of her life through the fragmented memories of the past, the reader adds these different perspectives about Ana María to realize finally that a human being is what he thinks of himself as well as the different images he projects on others. The protagonist’s journey into Death is the ultimate act of Life, not only because she now comprehends the real meaning of her existence but also because Death has allowed her to annul the worries of everyday life, penetrating thereby into the mysteries of people and nature. Ironically, then, the burial of Ana María at the end of the novel becomes a symbol of what true Life should be: the profound and wise experiences of the Self as part of a wider cosmic order.

The Shrouded Woman Bibliography

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Adams, Michael I. Three Authors of Alienation: Bombal, Onetti, Carpentier. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1975. Adams presents a sociopsychological critical interpretation of three Latin American authors whose works share similar themes.

Alegría, Fernando. “María Luisa Bombal.” In Latin American Writers, edited by Carlos A. Solé and Maria I. Abreau. Vol 3. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1989. An essay on the life and career of Bombal. Includes analysis of her works and a bibliography.

Guerra-Cunningham, Lucía. “Mariá Luisa Bombal.” In Spanish American Authors: The Twentieth Century, edited by Angel Flores. New York: H. W. Wilson, 1992. Profiles Bombal and includes an extensive bibliography of works by and about the author.

Mujica, Barbara. “The Shrouded Woman.” Americas 48 (January/February, 1996): 61-62. A review of Bombal’s novels. Mujica sees Bombal as a precursor of the Magical Realists and part of a literary elite that sought to integrate fantastic elements and social criticism into her work. A brief analysis and synopsis of The Final Mist and The Shrouded Woman are included.

Ryan, Bryan, ed. Hispanic Writers: A Selection of Sketches from “Contemporary Authors.” Detroit: Gale Research, 1991. Entry on Bombal gives an overview of her life, writing, and critical reaction to her work.