Casa de Ejercicios Espirituales de la Encarnación
Casa de Ejercicios Espirituales de la Encarnación. Home for elderly women in the fictional Chilean city of La Chimba. A large, rambling structure, the Casa has over the years become a labyrinth through two different but complementary processes of growth. Externally, additions of varying sizes and architectural styles have proliferated to the point that no one remembers what the original building looked like; internally, rooms have been divided and subdivided until even Humberto Peñaloza, the Casa’s caretaker, no longer comprehends its overall layout.
The Casa is variously depicted as a magic kingdom, a beehive, a prison, and a place to which both people and things go when they have outlived their usefulness. Clearly, it is a world of its own that is nonetheless intended to have some metaphorical relationship to the world as a whole. Its complex and labyrinthine character is further emphasized by the narrative’s frequent references to its many nooks and crannies, and to secret recesses in which witchcraft and other mysterious rites are practiced by its residents. Although it is supposed to be an institution that benevolently looks after those who live within, it is the inmates who have in fact taken control of the asylum, as the novel continues to develop its theme of the unpredictable and often irrational outcomes of human action.
(The entire section is 574 words.)