The War Of The End Of The World

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Authors: Mario Vargas Llosa
his curly red mane. “We’ll leave inside of a week or ten days at most. One thing is certain: we must be very cautious.”
    Rufino the guide looks at him without blinking an eye, without asking a single question.
    “Because of what happened in Uauá Galileo Gall adds, running his tongue over his lips. “No one must know that we’re going to Canudos.”
    Rufino points to the lone hut, made of mud and palings, half dissolved in the light at the top of the rise. “Come to my house and we’ll talk the matter over,” he says.
    They start walking, followed by the mule, which Galileo is leading along by the reins. The two men are of nearly the same height, but the outsider is stockier and his stride almost exaggeratedly vigorous, whereas the guide seems to be floating above the ground. It is midday and a few off-white clouds have appeared in the sky.
    The tracker’s voice fades away in the air as they walk off: “Who told you about me? And if I’m not prying, why is it you want to go such a long way? What is it you’ve lost up there in Canudos?”

    She appeared at daybreak one rainless morning, at the top of a hill on the road from Quijingue, carrying a wooden cross on her back. She was twenty years old but had suffered so much that she looked ancient. She was a woman with a broad face, bruised feet, a shapeless body, and mouse-colored skin.
    Her name was Maria Quadrado and she was making her way from Salvador to Monte Santo, on foot. She had been dragging the cross along on her back for three months and a day now. On the road that went through rocky gorges, scrub forests bristling with cactus, deserts where the wind raised howling dust devils, settlements that consisted of a single muddy street and three palm trees, and pestilential swamps in which cattle immersed themselves to escape the bats, Maria Quadrado had slept in the open, except for the very few times that some backwoodsman or shepherd who looked upon her as a saint offered to share his shelter with her. She had kept herself alive on pieces of raw brown sugar that charitable souls gave her and wild fruit plucked off trees and bushes when, after going without food for so long, her stomach growled. As she left Bahia, determined to make the pilgrimage to the miraculous Calvary of the Serra de Piquaraca, where two kilometers dug out of the sides of the mountain and dotted with chapels in memory of the Via Crucis of Our Lord led to the Church of the Holy Cross of Monte Santo, which she had vowed to journey to on foot as atonement for her sins, Maria Quadrado’s hair was done up in braids with a ribbon tied around them and she was wearing two skirts, a blue blouse, and rope-soled shoes. But along the way she had given her clothes to beggars, and in Palmeira dos Indios her shoes had been stolen from her, so that when she set eyes on Monte Santo that dawn she was barefoot and her only garment was an esparto-cloth sack with holes for her arms. Her head, with its clumsily lopped-off locks of hair and bare skull, called to mind the heads of the lunatics in the asylum in Salvador. She had cut all her hair off herself after being raped for the fourth time.
    For she had been raped four times since beginning her journey: by a constable, by a cowboy, by two deer hunters together, and by a goatherd who had given her shelter in his cave. The first three times, as they defiled her she had felt only repugnance for those beasts trembling on top of her as though attacked by Saint Vitus’s dance and had endured her trial praying to God that they would not leave her pregnant. But the fourth time she had felt a rush of pity for the youngster lying on top of her, who, after having beaten her to make her submit to him, was now stammering tender words in her ear. To punish herself for this compassion she had cropped her hair off and transformed herself into as grotesque a monster as the ones exhibited by the Gypsy’s Circus in the towns of the sertão .
    On reaching the top of the

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