The Divine Husband

Written by Francisco Goldman
Review by Adelaida Lower

Akin to Ernesto Sabato’s On Heroes and Tombs, this novel is enormous in scope. But if Sabato paints the portrait of a country, The Divine Husband gleefully tackles a continent, weaving a tale that travels back and forth from Central to North America. Francisco Goldman’s third novel is also about love, secrets, spirituality, and about a beautiful poem. Its wide-ranging landscape encompasses all aspects of 19th century thought. Goldman’s characters—indigenous and emigrants—come from all walks of life: clergymen, shopkeepers, entrepreneurs… Foremost amongst them are Maria de las Nieves, an ex-nun who loves books, and José Martí, the Cuban patriot and poet—who in real life worked towards a better understanding among the American nations. Martí’s ideals animate the novel.

It took Goldman eight years to write this book, eight years well spent. His narrative voice teases the readers, unveiling aspects of the story and then questioning them; it meanders, jumping back and forth in time, constantly wondering about the boundaries between myth and history, poetry and truth. Is it or isn’t it? Did it really happen that way? Goldman, like Robert Graves, doesn’t worry about contradictions between “fact and fact”; he revels in those contradictions. His is a rich language with exuberant descriptions and keen insight. Take for instance the scene between an outraged British diplomat and the tyrant, Rufino the Just, whom Goldman shows brazenly displaying his whip “fashioned from the member of a once prized bull.” In contrast, only the tautness in the facial expression of the British minister suggests his “perceptible repugnance.” Goldman leaves no doubt that these two men hate each other, and everything the other represents.

The Divine Husband is an unforgettable journey, an exploration of heritage, and a passionate song of love for the land, the nations, and the spirit of the Americas.