Colorful characterizations and haunting anthropomorphic imagery are the distinguishing features of this enticing 1973 novel from one of Venezuela’s best-known writers. In an initially disturbing inversion of Christ’s temptation on the mountaintop by Satan, a sheltered little boy named Salvador (who is, transparently, the author) is taken in tow by a crippled goatherd, Marinferinfero (!), who shows him the complex topography and human variety of the town (fictional Altagracia) whose raucous plenitude quickly ensnares the boy’s imagination. It’s undoubtedly an allegory of the artist’s need to comprehend, then move beyond, his origins. But Garmendia fills the story with such a volatile mix of comic eccentricity (a trio of mad spinsters and a bicycle-riding “spiritualist” are typical) and intimations of sexual and other dangers that Salvador’s “education” becomes a stunning Dantesque journey from innocence through experience. Here’s hoping more of Garmendia’s fiction makes its way into English translation soon.