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Last Updated on August 6, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 533

This short story by Carlos Fuentes centers on Felipe Montero, a young historian and teacher, and Consuelo Llorente, an enigmatic widow.

We learn that Felipe first meets Consuelo after he answers an ad asking for the services of a historian. When Felipe heads to 815 Donceles Street (the address given),...

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This short story by Carlos Fuentes centers on Felipe Montero, a young historian and teacher, and Consuelo Llorente, an enigmatic widow.

We learn that Felipe first meets Consuelo after he answers an ad asking for the services of a historian. When Felipe heads to 815 Donceles Street (the address given), he is surprised to find that Consuelo's husband, General Llorente, died sixty years ago and it is his memoirs he must prepare for publishing.

Felipe is even more surprised to find that Consuelo lives with Aura, her beautiful young niece, who appears to be a mysterious blend of an apparition and human being.

As he spends more time at Consuelo's home, Felipe finds himself progressively drawn to Aura. He can't take his eyes off her and even more strangely, begins to feel emotions he has always known to exist but had never before experienced.

As for Consuelo, the old lady appears to be obsessed with strange religious rituals centered around Christ, Mary the Virgin, St. Sebastian, the archangel Michael, and demons.

In due time, Consuelo gives Felipe General Llorente's memoirs. They tell of the former soldier's war exploits and subsequent exile to France. He works on editing the papers and decides that, for four thousand pesos, he's willing to put up with the old lady's idiosyncrasies.

At mealtimes, he notices that Consuelo and Aura's movements mirror that of each other. Privately, Felipe begins to lust after Aura; he develops an unexplained yearning to free her from what he thinks is Consuelo's wicked hold upon her defenseless young niece.

One night, he wakes up after a terrible dream and imagines that Aura is kissing his whole body. They make love, and the surreal experience appears to be strangely real. After their lovemaking, Aura proclaims that Felipe is her husband. He agrees unequivocally.

As time progresses, Felipe concludes that Consuelo must be at at least 109 years old, based on calculations he made from the general's memoirs.

As Felipe proceeds with his work, however, he finds strange happenings occurring. One day, Felipe discovers Aura beheading and skinning a goat. When he enters the old lady's chambers, he finds Consuelo mirroring Aura's movements in killing and skinning the animal.

Later, he discovers that Aura has aged. Previously, she had appeared to be a girl of twenty. At present, she looks as if she has aged twenty years. One day, after another surreal lovemaking experience, Aura demands that Felipe promise to love her forever. For his part, Felipe agrees to do so.

Later, Felipe pores through more of General Llorente's memoirs. In them, he discovers Consuelo's obsession with obscure rituals that promise to preserve her youth and beauty. He also discovers (disturbingly) photos of what looks like Aura and the general. As he continues to stare at the photos, he realizes with horror that his features have now been transposed onto the general's face.

The story ends with Felipe making love to Aura, only to discover that she has transformed into Consuelo and he, into Colonel Llorente. Consuelo admits to Felipe that she has only ever been able to keep Aura around for three days at a time. She promises unequivocally that she will bring Aura back once more.


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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 869

The fantastic nature of this short novel is indicated at its very beginning when Felipe Montero, an indigent young man, reads a newspaper advertisement requesting the services of a historian. The advertisement is so suited to his own experience, needs, and skills that it seems to be addressed to him and to no one else; all that is missing is his name. This sense of Montero’s being especially summoned by the advertisement is further emphasized when he arrives at an ancient mansion in the old section of town where no one lives. As he enters the door, he takes one last look to try to “retain some single image of that indifferent outside world,” before entering a realm of magic and imagination.

Although the incredibly old Consuelo Llorente ostensibly wishes Montero to edit the memoirs of her dead husband for publication, one suspects that she has other, more profound plans for the young historian. Indeed, with the appearance of her beautiful young niece, Aura, who immediately exerts a hypnotic hold on Montero, the reader’s suspicion that this is a sort of modern fairy tale or parable is confirmed. The mysterious, old, witchlike crone, the quietly beautiful young girl, and the summoned young man establish an archetypal fairy-tale situation.

The house itself is typically gothic and always in darkness; the old woman’s room is filled with religious relics and lighted only with votive candles; in private she engages in occult rituals and makes entreaties to Gabriel to sound his trumpet. She continually caresses a pet rabbit, whose name is Saga, and the trunk which contains her dead husband’s papers seems always covered with rats. Montero feels a pleasure in the house that he has never felt before, a feeling that he always knew was a part of him but that has never been set free. He decides that the old woman has some secret power over her niece, and he is obsessed with the desire not only to set her free but also to possess her himself. Consuelo’s witchlike nature is further emphasized when, as Montero studies her husband’s papers, he discovers that she must be at least 109 years old.

The mystery of the relationship between Consuelo and her niece deepens when Montero sees Aura skinning a young goat in the kitchen and then goes to the old woman’s room to find her performing the same skinning action in mime. When he dreams of Aura, he sees the old lady’s image superimposed on the image of Aura. Although Montero believes that Aura is kept in the house to preserve the illusion of youth for the old woman, the truth of the matter is even more occult and mysterious. Aura seems to age each day. One day, she appears to be a girl of twenty, the next, a woman of forty. When Montero makes love to her, the act is prefaced by Aura’s rubbing a wafer against her thighs and offering him half of it to eat. He falls upon her naked arms, which are stretched out on the side of the bed like the crucifix on the wall: “Aura opens up like an altar.” To complete this carnal communion, she makes him promise to love her forever, even if she grows old and dies.

As the actions of Consuelo and Aura become more and more blended, as if one is an echo of the other, Montero realizes that the “sterile conception” of their lovemaking has created another double, his own other half which he now seeks. He finally discovers the secret of the old woman’s relationship to Aura on the last page of old General Llorente’s papers, where he reads of Consuelo’s growing herbs which will perform the magic of creating Aura as an image of her own youth. Moreover, he discovers portraits of the young couple and realizes that the old woman is Aura, and that the old general is himself. Montero fears that the hand of the past will wipe away his own features, “the cardboard features that hid your true face, your real appearance, the appearance you once had but then forgot.” He rejects the human vanity of clock time and accepts what seems fated to happen to him.

In the final scene of the novel, Montero goes to Consuelo’s room and calls for Aura. The voice he hears from the darkness tells him that she is gone and will not come back: “I’m exhausted. She’s already exhausted. I’ve never been able to keep her with me for more than three days.” Montero tears off Aura’s robe and embraces and kisses her. As the moonlight falls on her face, he discovers it to be as brittle and yellowed as the memoirs—to be the body and face of the old Consuelo. He accepts this, however, for he has promised to love Aura even when she is old. He embraces her and waits until the cloud covers the moon, when the “memory of youth, of youth reembodied, rules the darkness.” In the last line of the story, Consuelo promises that Aura will come back again: “We’ll bring her back together.”

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