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38 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A lyrical little masterpiece, 17 Mar 2007
This review is from: Memories Of My Melancholy Whores (Hardcover)
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.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 12 Mar 2008 08:42:16 GMT
Gabriel would object to be called a Columbian (sic) when in fact he is a Colombian.

Tony Booth

In reply to an earlier post on 1 Aug 2008 22:31:02 BDT
To Mr. A. G. Booth: Thanks for the correction. My apologies for any inconvenience.

Posted on 28 Feb 2010 17:44:47 GMT
My sincere compliments : you wrote one of the most beautiful reviews. I just adore Garcia Marquez and very much appreciate your words .
Thank you.

In reply to an earlier post on 1 Mar 2010 07:31:55 GMT
Thanks Nora. Garcia Marquez has a great gift for understanding and for love that I wish we all had. Dennis
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