Last Updated on May 10, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 711
Return to Region is not a traditional novel with a conventional plot. It consists of integrated situations that are referred to throughout the work but that are never completely developed. The book is divided into four parts. In the first, the author describes in detail the landscape of Region and introduces Numa, the mythical guardian of the town, whom no one has ever seen and who does not actually appear in the novel. Numa’s presence dominates Region, although the townspeople are not certain who he is. Numa “protects” the town by killing anyone who ventures into the forest which borders it, thereby maintaining a state of order by keeping out intruders. Yet during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), a period of national disorder, an intruder does appear. He is a gambler who plays with a gold piece that miraculously wins for him every time. Gamallo, a Nationalist officer, becomes obsessed with winning the gold piece and loses Maria Timoner, his girlfriend or fiancee (the relationship is not clearly defined), to the gambler, who runs off with the woman and stabs Gamallo in the hand. The gambler’s intrusion into the town sows disorder and the decline of Region is attributed to his presence. Independent of this incident, the town’s liberals attempt to organize around Mr. Rombal or Rubal (the spelling of his name varies throughout). Also early in the novel, the mother of the boy (whose name is never stated) abandons her son for undisclosed reasons.
The second, third, and fourth parts of Return to Region consist of exchanges between Marre Gamallo, the daughter of the dishonored soldier,and Dr. Daniel Sebastian, who runs a clinic in the town. Events mentioned in the first part are partially described but never completely clarified. As a child, Marre received an upper-middle-class convent education but then rebelled against authority. Now in her forties, she has come to Region in search of Maria’s son and Dr. Sebastian’s godson, Luis I. Timoner, who is a Republican captain. Luis and Marre were lovers until, during the war, Luis fled into the mountains. Afterward, Marre spent time in a brothel, had a series of sexual encounters, and eventually wed (although her marriage was marred by an overbearing mother-in-law). Dr. Sebastian’s childhood was dominated by a pretentious, tyrannical mother and a father who was obsessed with the mystical powers of the telegraph wheel which he used to read the future. After becoming a doctor at the insistence of his mother, he went to work in a clinic and married a woman whom he left alone for twenty years and with whom he never had sexual relations. At the time of his meeting with Marre, he runs a clinic with only one patient: the boy, now a man, whose mother abandoned him at the beginning of the novel.
Rather than “conversations” in the conventional sense, the exchanges in Return to Region are long soliloquies that are loosely tied together without constituting a coherent dialogue. Often it is not clear which character is speaking, to whom a character is speaking, or whether a character is speaking aloud or to himself. Occasionally, a character seems to be responding to a question that has not been asked or speaks with no obvious reference to what has been said before. Two other voices that intervene are that of the narrator, who is unidentified and does not participate in the action, and that of the editor, who, by means of footnotes, relates a version of Dr. Sebastian’s marriage which is different from the one that the doctor himself relates. From these descriptions, ramblings, and notes, certain facts emerge, but these hardly constitute a story in the conventional sense, especially since the various voices often contradict one another, and the reader is never certain of the truth.
At the end of the “conversations,” Dr. Sebastian’s patient, refusing to believe that Marre is not his mother who has returned to fetch him, murders the doctor by smashing his head against the wall. Marre presumably leaves the clinic to search for Luis. The author does not describe her departure, but the book closes with the sound of Numa’s shot, the punishment that awaits anyone who ventures into the wooded hills.
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