on 11 August 2013
I came across Memories Of My Melancholy Whores in the library and given that it is relatively slight, just over 100 pages thought I'd give this a crack at finally losing my Marquez virginity.
The novel concerns an elderly journalist, unnamed throughout the novel who has only ever had sex with whores. On his 90th birthday he decides that what he most wants, as a gift to himself, is to deflower an adolescent virgin.
At the beginning of this novel, I thought I was about to read an extremely distasteful tale of a dirty old man, engaging in a vile abuse that was tantamount to rape. I was fully prepared to throw the book aside in disgust.
But then, when he meets his again unnamed whore, whom he christens Delgadina, she has taken valerian out of fear, and has fallen into a deep sleep, and the two do not have intercourse.
What follows as a result of this failure to fulfill his plans turns into a love story of incredibly unusual parameters and is on occasion very touching and fable-like.
I don't think I've read a story like this before, and I really admired and enjoyed it.
Odd and unique, I think I would recommend this to people who enjoy reading stories that are a bit different from the norm and the mainstream.
I hope that in the rest of this year, I can finally read one of his larger novels
Memories of my Melancholy Whores is the tenth novel by Colombian author, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The narrator is a second-rate journalist who decides to treat himself to a virgin on the eve of his ninetieth birthday. As he is a very frequent customer of his local brothels, the madam duly arranges a fourteen-year-old virgin for him. But he finds himself and, in fact, his whole attitude to life changed by the sight of the young, naked, sleeping girl. He is apparently in love for the first time in his life, but whilst he leaves her virginity intact, his descriptions of her do bring to mind the word paedophile. And the discussion he has with one of his previous whores about the relationship with the young virgin is no less disturbing. Into the story at various times come art and music, a bicycle, an angora cat, a housekeeper and a birthday party. Marquez’s lack of punctuation for dialogue requires careful reading to ascertain just who is speaking. While fans of this lauded author may enjoy this compact offering, many other readers may well wonder what the fuss is about.
on 26 August 2011
I couldn't initially decide if I was going to find `Memories of My Melancholy Whores' a mildly titillating read from its title (if I am being totally honest, especially after my failed attempts at Garcia Marquez before, I will admit that I thought that if it was it might help) and whilst there is some innuendo, bragging of the 514 women that he has slept with, a few very funny scenes of failed seduction and indeed of utter advantage taking, there is so much more going on in this novella.
As the novel opens we are introduced to our narrator on his ninetieth birthday where he has decided that he will give himself `the gift of a night of wild love with an adolescent virgin'. In fact no sooner have we met him than he is in contact with Rosa Cabarcas, the town's most infamous madam, who after a struggle finds him Delgadina a young girl of about fourteen. I will admit that when I read the `fourteen' I wasn't sure if I should read on, I was enthralled by the prose thus far but did I really want to read about a ninety year old man and a girl so young? Well, in the end I decided I should and thank goodness I did because what develops as the tale goes on is a touching story not only about love but also about age and a man who has never really had love in his life.
It was really this nameless man who makes this book a really special read. Not only as he goes from being this quite cold man who is very aware that he is difficult, `I pass myself off as prudent because I am so evil minded', to a man in the rather belated first flushes of youth. I also really liked him because of his humour, from tales of taking his maid Damiana by surprise (quite literally), which made me laugh out loud, to his sardonic wit in statements like `Movies are not my genre. The obscene cult of Shirley Temple was the final straw.' I found myself starting to really like this grumpy old so-and-so and really hoping that love might not escape him this time.
Of course I cannot tell you what happens, there was a murderous twist somewhere along the line that gave the novel another dimension of trickery which I really liked, as I wouldn't want to spoil the reading, and I do recommend you give `Memories of My Melancholy Whores' a read. Don't be put of by the title, it's apt but the contents aren't as salacious as you might think. I would definitely suggest this to anyone who, if you are like me, might think Garcia Marquez's writing is impenetrable; you will be pleasantly surprised and probably quite moved. I can't say I am rushing to read `One Hundred Years of Solitude' or `Love in a Time of Cholera' just yet, but I will be trying more of his work and then giving one of those epics a go.
Memoria de mis putas tristes is a gorgeous novella written in a way that makes life, despite its hardships, uncertainties and inherent unfairness, beautiful. Marquez's protagonist is a 90-year-old man who is rather ugly but has the "instrument" of a "burro" (to paraphrase a woman who knows), a man who has found his only love among prostitutes. He has a certain timeless eminence about him that inspires people to call him "Don Scholar." He is something of a miracle, still active and full of energy, still writing a weekly column for the local newspaper, cynical yet sentimental, a man who loves women and sees their beauty regardless of age or station in life.
Now suddenly as his tenth decade of life is upon him he is seized with the desire to know an adolescent virgin once before he dies. He contacts his old friend and madam Rosa Cabarcas and demands that she come up with exactly that bill of fare and--time being of the essence in more ways than one when you're ninety--that she do it today, now.
Amazingly enough, Rosa Cabarcas, being the excellent business woman that she is, finds just such a girl. She is illiterate, from the country. She is 14-years-old and works in a button factory all day long to help support her younger brothers and crippled mother. Naturally she is tired when the old man arrives at the bordello. In fact she is asleep. And perhaps that is for the best, all things considered.
The old man does not wake her. He barely touches her. He admires her, feels vitalized by her youth, the feel of her skin, her scent, and the soft rise and fall of her breath. Just this and this alone he experiences before he falls sweetly, languidly, hopelessly in love with her. He becomes a man refueled with the fire of life. His column in the newspaper becomes the love letters he would write to her that instead go out to all who read the newspaper, and, because they are true and deeply felt, they inspire.
Gabo got his inspiration for this little masterpiece from the Japanese writer Yasunari Kawabata, who wrote a novella entitled "House of the Sleeping Beauties." Marquez quotes the opening lines of that novella as a keynote for his own novella: "He was not to do anything in bad taste, the women of the inn warned old Eguchi. He was not to put his finger into the mouth of the sleeping girl, or try anything else of that sort."
As the story progresses we learn bit by bit more and more about the old man's life and loves. We meet eventually the woman he jilted on her wedding day; we meet his maid who still comes in once a week and learn that he has had some fleeting "knowledge" of her; and we learn of his mother who through a clever subterfuge got him his first writing gig with El Diario de La Paz. All the while the story progresses as the old Don becomes "mad with love" for the first time in his life.
Ah, to fall in love with a sleeping beauty for the first time at the age of 90! And to feel it with such passion! Only a gifted artist and virtuoso craftsman like Gabriel Garcia Marquez could make this so sweet, so filled with the zest of life and so real. His prose is like fresh rose petals still on the tree in the spring, delicate, gorgeous, overwhelming in their vibrant color and strong like the tree itself from which they come.
Part of the power of the novella's prose is no doubt in the translation by Edith Grossman. The words race across the pages, delighting the eye and the ear as they sing of life and love and a very distant death in a way that makes the living magical.
If you have never read Columbian-born, Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, this is an excellent place to begin.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez's short novel, "Memories of my Melancholy Whores" is a deeply moving yet ironic parable about how emotional transformation and a newly-found ability to love are possible, even at an advanced age.
The main character in the story is an unnamed narrator who, to celebrate his ninetieth birthday, contacts a madam of his longstanding acquaintance, Rosa, to procure a young virgin with whom to spend the night and to demonstrate his continued virility. The narrator tells us that in his long life he never had sex for which he had not paid and that he had engaged the services of over 500 women before he stopped counting. He had planned to use his experiences as the basis for writing his memoirs.
Rosa procures for the narrator a 14 year old girl from a poor family who works during the day sewing buttons at a garment factory. She drugs the girl and takes the narrator to the sleeping girl's bed. There is no sexual consummation; instead the narrator gazes at the body of the young girl and departs at early morning. At the madam's instigation, he continues to see the girl, chastely, reads to her, tries modestly to teach her, but largely watches her while she peacefully sleeps. His attractions are strongest when the girl is asleep. Gradually he finds himself in love with the girl and his life is transformed. He brings her presents and candy, thinks of her obsessively, becomes protective, and jealous. He writes of love in a column he has prepared for 50 years for a local newspaper and becomes famed for his eloquence. He adopts an aged cat, learns to take care of it, and steps in to prevent the cat from being put to sleep. He comes to believe, with some reason, that he has learned of love for the first time at the age of 90, without the thought of payment for sex and, indeed, without sex. The narrator's life takes on a meaning and a purpose it hadn't had before.
Marquez tells his story with a great deal of irony and distancing. While the narrator shows some growth in character and in understanding a love that had for his long prior life been closed to him, it is at the expense of a poor, exploited, and underage girl. The girl is far more apppealing, the story suggests, asleep than awake, both physically and in terms of her disposition and character. The narrator gives her a pet name, Delgadina, and never learns her true name. The madam, an unreliable source, plays a key role at many points in the story in whetting the narrator's interest in the girl, and we frequently see the course of events through her highly interested eyes. All of this and more suggests that our aged protagonist remains more in love with an ideal than with an actual woman.
For all its ambiguities, the story seems to me inspiring, if bittersweet. I was left with the feeling that wisdom and love can come to people, even if they come late and come imperfectly.
on 22 June 2013
I liked the title - provocative and edgy. I read the teaser and was intrigued. A 90 year old man who wants a young virgin for his birthday. I had mixed thoughts when I read she was only 14 and underage even in Columbia, but this is a story of fiction. It's a sad tale of a man who never gave himself the opportunity to love, only to indulge himself in brief sexual gratification found in brothels.
When he wanted sex, he paid for it. He spent his days writing a newspaper column and paid for sex when he wanted it. Love fluttered into his life when he was younger, but he swatted it away like an annoying mosquito. As his 90th birthday approaches, he realises he has missed out on emotional love and in a desperate last bid, sets out to find it in the only place he knows - the bordello. I felt sorry for him and wanted him to find love.
Beautifully written discovery of love in the latter years.
on 21 January 2006
A reviewer mentions that sex is a consolation for not having love, which could be applied to the conclusion of this book, if weren't for the fact that the protagonist never receives love from his muse, as she is never awake and consequently never has sex with her either. There is always a possibility when one reads a book that has been translated, that some of the subtlety of the writing is lost in translation, however, in the light of Love in a Time of Cholera, News of a Kidnapping, One Hundred Years of Solitude et al, this is undoubtedly second rate Garcia Marquez. As with Love in a Time of Cholera, it focusses on a man whose life appears to have been wasted by virtue of the fact that it has been spent paying for 'love' as opposed to having a fulfilling relationship. Perversely, when he finds love, he still has to pay for it, and it remains unconsummated. I suppose this is part of the irony, that a man who has been satisfied to whatever degree, by paying for sex, is now paying for emotion - and in the process his relationship with the girl is completely in his mind. Surely what it shows is that in old age, one attempts to correct the mistakes in ones life and make up for lost time, and in this instance appears rather depressingly to be missing the point. Ultimately, like sleeping with prostitutes, the supposed innocence of the situation is fractured by the fact that it is still all about him and all in his mind. The books feels like a rather contrived attempt to be shocking, but ultimately is neither romantic nor interesting and doesn't really shock either.
on 18 January 2014
Dirty old man decides to sleep with under-age prostitute to liven up his ninetieth birthday only to discover his own pettiness that is then redeemed by late discovery of obsessive transcendent love.
If this all sound a bit dodgy - be reassured that it has been read on Radio 4 and therefore has a seal of middle-class respectability.
A pleasant enough read but not wildly inspiring or enlightening. Brilliant title.
on 20 August 2013
A novella with all the typical themes from Garcia Marquez: it stirred you, moved you and struck you with unimaginable grief and sadness whilst uplifting he reader, leaving you wondering if you've ever loved before.
on 4 October 2013
Marquez with his unique art of story telling captures the readers attention in his full grip. 'Memories of my Melancholy Whores' is the most daring of its type, narrated with sublime dignity of Marquez.