Memories of my melancholy whores (Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 2004)

Memories of My Melancholy Whores by Gabriel García Márquez, Edith Grossman (Translator)
Memories of My Melancholy Whores
by Gabriel García Márquez, Edith Grossman (Translator)

Gabriel Garcia Márquez ‘novel “Memories of my melancholy whores”

“Sex is the only a comfort when love is not enough,” is one of the key words in the new novel by Gabriel Garcia Márquez. This slim work by the 77-year-old Nobel Prize winner from 1982 is all about love, unfulfilled yearnings, disappointments and newly discovered great emotions. That would not be exciting if the author had not made a 90-year-old journalist the protagonist of his work.

Thus, we experience how an elderly man as an narrator turns his innermost outward, looks back on his life and is inspired by the desire to give himself a night with a maiden on his 90th birthday. Never was the loner, who comes from a privileged Latin American family, never married (except to his mother) a strong emotional attachment to women, but having sex with over 500 whores. “I have never slept with a woman without paying for it.”

A friendly brothel owner communicates to the protagonist a beautiful 14-year-old girl who, while not reading and writing, works as a button seamstress in a large textile factory. But the desires of the amazingly vital protagonist after a wild night of love abruptly turn into an almost reverent, subaltern attitude. The elderly man looks at the sleeper like a work of art, scanning it with his eyes in admiration, inching in and out, captivated by the sight alone, and later reads out to the sleeper the “little prince”. Eros and intellect converge to a symphony of late happiness.

Inspired by the late work “The Sleeping Beauty” by the Japanese Nobel laureate Yasunari Kawabata, Márquez has presented a glaring, pathetic word painting about the discovery of love in old age. Although this may seem badly constructed, it is enchantingly colorful and sensually narrated, so that you, as a reader, move completely detached to the side of the enamored seniors and walk with him numbly on the paths you just discovered the desire to love.

However, the great emotions and ambience described are almost antagonistic to each other. Corruption flourishes, political conditions are unstable, an all-powerful censor watches over the press, settles down, poverty and everyday violence elude the central European imagination as well as the torrential rain showers.

In the midst of this chaos, the main character discovers new facets of her inner life. The Sunday columns, which he still writes in a flourishing handwriting with the pen, read from now on like camouflaged love letters, and as the adored teenager disappears for a few days, arouse feelings of jealousy and revenge (“a satanic charm that she exerted on me” ) with the protagonist. He blindly destroys a brothel because he suspects a plot and is later appalled by the consequences of his devastation.

Garcia Márquez, the author of the great novels Chronicle of a Heralded Death, Love in the Time of Cholera, and Hundred Years of Solitude, deliberately left the end of this enchanting story (a novel rather than a novel) in the balance. From an acquaintance, the protagonist in the end only gets the advice to fight the young girl. The “real life”, we learn on the last page, he has discovered after his 90th Birthday and derived so much energy that he is already looking forward to his hundredths.

Gabriel Garcia Márquez has presented a contemporary fairy tale, emotionally vibrating and musically down to the last line – a material from which a great opera could be made.

The author seems to live and work as energetically as his main character. In addition to the second volume of his memoirs (“Life to tell about it”) are also new stories under the title “en agosto nos vemos” (Eng. “We’ll see each other in August”) announced.

Memories of My Melancholy Whores
by Gabriel García Márquez, Edith Grossman (Translator)
Mass Market Paperback, First Vintage International Open-Market Edition, 115 pages Published November 2006 by Vintage International (first published October 19th 2004)

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