She was already addicted to fermented honey, which she had consumed with her school friends before she was married, and still consumed, not only by mouth but through all five senses in the sultry air of the sugar plantation. With Judas she learned to chew tobacco and coca leaves mixed with ashes of the yarumo tree, like the Indians in the Sierra Nevada. In the taverns she experimented with cannabis from India, turpentine from Cyprus, peyote from Real de Catorce, and at least once, opium from the Nao of China brought by Filipino traffickers. But she did not turn a deaf ear to Judas's proclamation in favor of cacao. After trying all the rest, she recognized its virtues and preferred it to everything else. Judas became a thief, a pimp, an occasional sodomite, all out of sheer depravity because he lacked for nothing. One ill-fated night, in front of Bernarda, with only his bare hands, he fought three galley slaves in a dispute over cards and was beaten to death with a chair…The fermented honey would be the mead of classic antiquity. Tobacco, coca, cannabis, peyote, opium are self-evident. But turpentine? I found little on a quick search, but didn't have time to be exhaustive. One supposes that as a complex hydrocarbon, it might be inhaled to produce euphoria, somewhat after the fashion of glue-sniffing (note the later reference to "lethal gases"), but that is just speculation on my part. There also could be subtleties lost in the translation - any clues in the Spanish, Paulo?
He pushed her door open without knocking and tried to see Bernarda in the darkened room, but she was not in the bed. He called her by name, and she did not answer. Then he opened the window, and the metallic light of four o'clock revealed her, naked and sprawled in a cross on the floor, enveloped in the glow of her lethal gases. Her skin had the pale gray color of full-blown dyspepsia. She raised her head, blinded by the sudden brilliance streaming in the open window, and could not recognize the doctor with the light behind him. One glance was all he needed to know her destiny.
"The piper is demanding to be paid, my dear," he said.
He explained that there was still time to save her, but only if she submitted to an emergency treatment to purify her blood. Then Bernarda recognized him, struggled into a sitting position, and let loose a string of obscenities. An impassive Abrenuncio endured them as he closed the window again. He left the room, stopped beside the Marquis's hammock, and made a more specific prognosis:
"The Señora Marquise will die on the fifteenth of September at the latest, if she does not hang herself from the rafters first."
Unmoved, the Marquis said: "The only problem is that the fifteenth of September is so far away."
28 April 2014
Is turpentine an intoxicant ?
I raise the question because of a passage I encountered this week in chapter two of Gabriel Garcia Marquez' Of Love and Other Demons (translated from Spanish by Edith Grossman):