A beast with two heads, a forked tongue and eight limbs. Many might think that we are talking about any of the protagonist monsters in the latest Hollywood horror film. But in reality it is the baby of a novice who was born with deformities. Not in the current era, when one could have a certain sensitivity to the subject, but in 1623, during the Viceroyalty of Peru, "when everything that was bad was reduced to saying that it was the devil in person", explains Santiago Roncagliolo (Lima, 1975), which starts from this plot in his new book, El año en que nación el demonio).
"Even today we separate from society those who are different and blame them for all the evils. We may no longer call them monsters, but we continue to treat them as such, even if in reality we are. I'm interested in these characters who feel out of place. I myself have been a foreigner all my life and I have felt that way. Everything I write is a defense of people who are different like me, and over time I have realized that the real monsters are not in the paranormal world, but in the history of countries".
For years, Roncagliolo has been writing about monsters of all kinds, some good and some terrible and embodied in terrorists, abusers and torturers. “This time I wanted to explore the witches and find out how much any woman could be considered there. Witches were created to blame women for men's problems." He does this with the figure of the Rose, a woman who says she is able to speak with both God and Lucifer and who appears just as the novice's child is born. Alonso Morales, a young bailiff of the court of the holy office, will not take long to place her on his list of targets, as he must find out if she is a witch or a saint.
"It was a time when there were very strict rules. It was like a big school that treated society like children. Sex and pleasure were forbidden because they were considered to take you away from God.” However, some convents became "little republics of liberated women", especially those that depended on the congregation, which was in Rome, and, in practice, they belonged to no one. They grouped together every woman who did not plan to be a wife. Lesbians, writers, singers who joined the choirs... The nuns used to be discreet, but some convents ended up being taken over by the military”.
Despite the fact that these are stories that took place centuries ago, the Peruvian writer remarks that "my novel shows what Spain could be again. There are still politicians who believe that a woman's plan is to be a wife and mother. Today people are very polarized. They say things are black or white. They leave the grays aside and this is dangerous because then if someone thinks differently, they call them a bad person. Where has democracy gone? We are living in an era that looks like a revival of the 17th century", he concludes.