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The Heretic by Miguel Delibes.

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The Heretic (EI Hereje)

The title of the novel suggests — and the English subtitle reinforces the idea — that The Heretic is very much A Novel of the Inquisition. Selibes opening Prelude, set inwhich has the title character, Cipriano Salcedo, travelling back to Spain with outlawed books Luther, Melanchthon, Erasmus, the Bible as the Inquisition rages certainly offers that but the book quickly jumps back in time, and it’s many pages before heresy and the Inquisition are again at the forefront.

This is very much a life-story, following the life and career of Cipriano from birth to death, and his role as a heretic truly only comes to the fore in the final section and chapters. The Heretic is a three-part novel, beginning with ‘The Early Years’. Over a hundred pages long, this part of the book only covers Cipriano’s childhood and early teen years. The second part, ‘The Heresy’, jumps ahead to when Cipriano hereue completed his studies and begins his career as a very successful businessman.

Even here, the heresy is slow in coming. The novel is dedicated: Valladolid and the surrounding area are lovingly and evocatively described in the book, and Delibes artfully uses the changes and growth of the city in the narrative; throughout, Valladolid is an integral part of the novel.


Cipriano’s mother dies hreeje his birth, and it’s something his father, Delbies, decides he can never forgive him for. Bernardo is immensely unlikable, wonderfully portrayed as trying out various poses after his wife’s death to see which best fits him, and then playing the part to the hilt. Fortunately, Cipriano’s wet-nurse, Minervina — a young teenager who had lost her own child — is a loving caregiver and protector, the mother-figure he needs.

The family dynamics are very nicely handled: Bernardo has chosen to dislike his infant mituel, tolerating deliges only out of a sense of paternal obligation — and Cipriano returns the favour by always wailing when he is in his presence. Meanwhile, Bernardo also lusts after Minervina, and his attempts to spy on and hhereje her are very nicely presented.

Bernardo’s coldness towards hereej son gets worse as the child grows up, and despite having the wherewithal to send him to a fine school he dumps him in a boarding school for foundlings, where the boy won’t even come home for vacations. It was Minervina that taught Cipriano his first lessons. It doesn’t quite work — the small child doesn’t really understand or appreciate the use of the catechism and the rest, but he does aim to ddelibes. Still, from the first, his embrace of religion isn’t wholehearted but rather slightly sceptical.

Once he has finished his studies Cipriano takes over his by then dead father’s business, and becomes a successful entrepeneur.

Here and later Delibes uses him relibes a case-study of the changing economic and business-environment in the Spain of that time, the sort of historical colour that helps add texture to the novel without ever sounding too much like it’s pieced together from a textbook.

Years later, Cipriano wants to increase what amounts to delobes minimum wage of his workers, but learns quickly that his unilateral act would do greater harm to the larger community than the gains it would offer to the select few. It’s an odd but plausible relationship, eventually shattering over their inability to conceive a child.

Business and, for a while, domestic life, satisfy Cipriano, but this is also delibss world in which religion — and dogmatic hegemony — are being challenged. The most obvious challenge is far away: Luther, Calvin, mibuel the like.

That he is destined to get mixed up with all that is also made clear from early on, as Cipriano even notes that he was born on the same day as the Reformation: In Cipriano’s Spain there is even less openness — but change is in the air, and the questioning of doctrine inevitable.


It takes Cipriano a while before he is receptive to the challenges, but ultimately he is convinced.

El hereje: Miguel Delibes: : Books

As someone tells him: Cipriano finds the faith that he believes in, but at considerable cost. In the final section Delibes nicely presents the xelibes outlook — and the bizarre near-normality of the proceedings — in the face of the outrageous suppression of any thought inimical to the prevailing doctrine.

The argument here is not so much that Cipriano has made a superior choice, but that those in power have abused it — much like, for example, the Soviet show-trials of the 20th century. Cipriano is an interesting character, marked less by his father’s mistreatment than the loss of his one true love, Minervina. Their relationship — a striking variation on the Oedipal theme — is torn asunder relatively early on, and he is unable to find Minervina again until near the end of his life.

At times one suspects he married Teodorima simply in the hopes of literally being overwhelmed by her, delibea he’s a scrappy little guy and for a while the mismatched couple hereie it work.

But without Minervina he can never be whole; hence also, perhaps, his abandoning of worldly things and descent into the opacity of religion, which he can convince himself is meaningful. More than anything, The Heretic is a good story, and it’s well told. While the signs particularly Cipriano’s birth-date are ominous, Delibes doesn’t bog down the narrative with a particular message, or theology or history: The book isn’t truly surprising, but it is also far from predictable, a confident writer taking his time — while keeping the reader in suspense — in leading to his conclusions.

Trying to meet all your book preview and review needs. The Heretic – US. El hereje – US. The Heretic – UK. The Heretic – Canada. Der Ketzer – Deutschland.

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