With Asturias's masterpiece Mulata, Guatemalan folklore is finally exposed to the world. This spectacular novel ventures into uncharted rural hamlets, leading one man through trials that oscillate between myth and life to discover his conflict with evil.
Celestino Yumi is subjected to the wrath of the corn devil, Tazol. Yumi embodies so many people when he yearns to have riches and makes a deal with Tazol. In the process, he destroys his relationship with his wife because he gives her to Tazol in exchange for gold bones. He undergoes name changes and physical transformations. For example, he dubs himself Hayumihaha for his friend, the savage, and morphs into a dwarf and then a giant.
He endures many adventures across the jungle and mountainous terrain from the Caribbean shores to the Baja Verapaz lands in the interior. From Quiavicus to Tierrapaulita, he battles nymphomaniacs, witches, wizards and demon earth-devils. In addition to Tazol, these apparitions and freak shows tempt him into all sorts of situations.
Despite the seemingly science fiction/mythological theme, Mulata harbors the very truth and nature of the human race at its core. It delicately handles the universal conflict of magnanimity versus malevolence, but Asturias adds twists for flavor. The theme transcends generations, cultures and gender, and this is what makes it unique. The novel is a marvelous work by a very talented and underrated author.
Although this novel is amazing, it is not for everyone. There is a substantial amount of Spanish, French, Latin, Achi and Quiche which might create problems for the reader or detract from the message. In addition, the novel is extremely erratic and difficult to follow at times. There is so much happening at one time, which might discourage the reader. All in all, though, I believe this novel must be given a chance and be explored by teen readers.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.