Book Review: The Final Mist by María Luisa Bombal

13 Aug

I already wrote a book review about the wonderful novel “The Shrouded Woman” by María Luisa Bombal, and now I feel that I must also mention her other novel “The Final Mist” (La última niebla) first published in 1934 when Bombal was only twenty-four years old.

Just like Bombal’s already mentioned novel “The Shrouded Woman”, the story is told in the first person by a young woman called Regina who had just gotten married to Daniel. The newlyweds are arriving to Daniel’s country house. From the beginning the atmosphere is mysterious and eerie, maybe slightly sinister too because his first deceased wife is mentioned:

“The previous night’s storm had removed the shingles from the roof of the old country house. When we arrived the rain was dripping into all of the rooms. (…)
As a matter of fact, ever since the car had crossed the boundary of the farm Daniel had become nervous, and almost hostile. It was to be expected. Hardly a year ago, he had made the same journey with his first wife; that sullen, weak girl he adored, who would die unexpectedly hardly three months later. But now there is something like apprehension in the way he examines me from head to foot. It is the same hostile expression with which he always looks at any stranger.
“What are you doing?” I ask him.
“I am looking at you,” he answers. “I am looking at you, because I know you too well…”

The narrator is clear that their marriage isn’t one of love and adoration but one of practicality; she was afraid of becoming an old spinster and she wanted a better life. They start living together in that unkempt sad country house, but they mostly spend time apart and rarely make love. The shadow of his first wife’s death is hanging over them and the enveloping fog is sucking their souls and energy. The motif of the first wife and the film noir atmosphere kind of reminded me of Daphne du Maurier’s novel and film “Rebecca”. The strange atmosphere is kind of similar. Also, just like Flaubert’s provincial heroine Emma Bovary, the narrator is bored, disillusioned and unloved, yet still romantic and prone to dreaming. In dreary autumnal weather she is silently and slowly sinking in the countryside boredom. She is constantly making remarks about her youth, beauty and joy fading forever. But, one night she goes for a walk and meets a stranger who takes her by the hand and leads her into a grand old house where they make love passionately. This adventure makes her feel alive and its memory helps her to endure all the other disillusionment of life.

The central point of the novel is the struggle between dreams and reality; the narrator, just like Anais Nin in her diaries, tries to escape her trivial loveless existence through dreams, fantasies, make beliefs and her cold and distant husband is the first one to shove truth into her face. Did she really get lost in the mist that night and met that man, or was it all just another dream that she uses as a defense against reality’s blows that she cannot bear. The element of fog isn’t here simply to indicate the state of weather, as if perhaps might be in some English novel where people are keen to discuss the weather, no here it sort of stands as a symbol for the portal to the world of dreams. The heroine escapes into fog and the reality ceases to exist. There is also an erotic element that lingers throughout the novel which is also present in “The Shrouded Woman” but here the sensuality is even more emphasised, and it sadly belongs to the world of dreams and not reality for the narrator. Bombal’s writing is full of beautiful imagery, sights, sounds, emotions, acute perceptions and it’s very feminine in a way that Regina’s longing and desperation and boredom are very feminine, I think only a woman can experience them in that particular way… Here are some beautiful quotes:

Every day the fog gets thicker and thicker around the house. It has now covered the trees whose branches brush against the edge of the terrace. Last night I dreamed that, through the cracks of the doors and windows, the fog was slowly leaking into my room, diminishing the color of the walls and the furniture, filtering into my hair, and sticking to my body, as it dissipates everything, absolutely everything…

The years pass by. I look at myself in the mirror, and I see myself with clearly noticeable little wrinkles that only showed when I laugh before. My breasts are losing their roundness and the consistency of a ripe fruit. My flesh is stuck to my bones, and I no longer look slim, but angular. But, what does it matter? What does it matter that my body withers, if it has known love? What does it matter that the years go by, all the same? I had a beautiful adventure, once… With just one memory one can tolerate a long life of tedium. One can even repeat day by day, without boredom, the same small, everyday tasks.

There is a person who I could not meet without trembling. I might find him today, or tomorrow, or ten years from now. I might find him at the end of the street, or in the city when I go around the corner. Perhaps I will never find him. It doesn’t matter; the world seems full of possibilities, and for me in every moment there is hope, so that each minute has its emotion.

There are mornings when I am overrun by an absurd contentment. I have the feeling that a great happiness is going to come to me within the space of the next twenty four hours. I spend the day feeling a kind of exaltation. And I wait. For a letter, or an unexpected meeting? In truth, I don’t know.

My body and my kisses never make him tremble but, like they used to do, they made him think about another body, and other lips. Like years ago, I saw him trying again furiously to caress and desire my body, and always with the memory of his dead wife between the two of us. As he surrendered himself to my breast, his face unconsciously tried to find the smoothness and the contour of another breast. He kissed my hands, and other places, searching for some familiar passions, odors, and shapes. And he wept bitterly, calling for her, shouting absurd things to me, that were directed at her.

Daniel takes me by the arm and starts walking as if nothing had happened. (…) I follow him in order to carry out an enormous number of little jobs; to perform an enormous number of frivolous tasks; to cry as usual, and to smile out of obligation. I follow him to live correctly, and to die correctly, someday. Around us the fog gives things the quality of endless immobility.

And now I will just take a moment to tackle the issue of the title. Bombal’s novel originally called “La última niebla” was published in 1934 and it is translated in English as either “The Final Moment of Fog” or “The Final Mist”. But in 1947 Bombal wrote and published a longer and much altered version of this earlier work and named it “The House of Mist”.

10 Responses to “Book Review: The Final Mist by María Luisa Bombal”

  1. Tânia 15th Aug 2019 at 10:16 am #

    I think I’ll read both of these novellas, I read some of the quotes first and then your reviews and they seem really interesting. I too love this kind of very feminine writing style, self-assured yet very emotional, filled with dreams, perceptions, longings. No one writes like that anymore, you have to find that quality in older books.

    By the way, I love the bits and pieces of Anaïs Nin’s diaries that I’ve read, but I’ve never been able to find her diaries anywhere, either online or in physical form to buy (actually, there are a few editions available in English, but they’re very old and expensive). Where did you read them/find them?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Byron's Muse 16th Aug 2019 at 1:46 pm #

      I’m so glad you might read the novellas! I hope you enjoy them, and I have no doubt that you will. Yes, those are exactly the same qualities that I loved about her writing. I love Anais Nin as well, and I got her diaries from my university library. The version I saw for sale online were also old and expensive, but I would love to own my own books.

      Like

      • Tânia 16th Aug 2019 at 2:51 pm #

        Oh, you’re so fortunate that your university library has the diaries! I wish there was some way of finding them, but it seems that I can’t go beyond reading random quotes online. I can’t even find the diaries translated into other languages. I hope some publisher, in some country, some day decides to re-edit all of them.

        Like

        • Byron's Muse 16th Aug 2019 at 6:01 pm #

          I know I am! I cherish that, although I had to wait weeks at a time to finally get my hands on the book he he. I hope your quest for the books ends successfully 🙂

          Like

          • Tânia 18th Aug 2019 at 12:29 pm #

            Thanks! Though I will probably be old if that ever happens. 😛

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Lautreamont 16th Aug 2019 at 8:40 pm #

    You read Clarice Lipsector?

    Like

  3. Lautreamont was 16th Aug 2019 at 8:44 pm #

    Lispector that is. Spelling mistake.

    Like

    • Byron's Muse 16th Aug 2019 at 10:17 pm #

      I only read Agua Viva a month ago, it was interesting.

      Like

      • Lautreamont 17th Aug 2019 at 3:17 pm #

        “Interesting “ Euphemism for “crap” when applied to a novel. They say Close to the Wild Heart is the best one . Moi,I’ll stick to Proust.

        Like

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