Baltasar Espinosa, a medical student in Buenos Aires, is invited by his cousin Daniel to vacation at a ranch in the district of Junin in the final days of March, 1928. Gutre, who is the overseer of the premises, lives there with his son and a girl of questionable paternity. All three are notably primitive in appearance and in their ability to express themselves verbally. In that environment, Baltasar is to learn lessons about life that he has never before suspected.
A few days after arriving, Daniel must leave for the capital, but Baltasar chooses to stay behind with his textbooks. No sooner is Daniel gone than the stifling heat gives way to a cold rain and the river overflows its banks. Many animals are drowned, and when the overseer’s quarters are threatened, Baltasar lodges him and his family in the main house. It is thus that the four come into close contact with one another. They eat together, but because communication is strained, Baltasar reads to them, first from Ricardo Guiraldes’s work Don Segundo Sombra (1926; Don Segundo Sombra: Shadows on the Pampas, 1935) and the document of the Gutre family history, both of which they receive rather unenthusiastically, and later from the Bible, specifically the Gospel of Mark, which conversely sparks an unexplained interest.
In the meantime, Baltasar has become cognizant of certain changes in his own physiognomy and attitude that have taken place during his stay at the...
(The entire section is 450 words.)