Jul 1, 2007

Memories of My Melancholy Whores by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

This story opens with a sentence that is likely to raise more than a few eyebrows: In my ninetieth year, I decided to give myself the gift of a night of love with a young virgin.

The narrator, a writer of chronicles for a local newspaper who has just turned ninety, decides to hire a fourteen-year-old virgin for a night. If there is a writer who can handle a story based on this premise extremely well, that writer is Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

The story does not develop like one would expect – without wanting to give too much away, I’ll just say it’s more about old age and loneliness than about sex or love. In some ways, this book reminded me of Love in the Time of Cholera. The narrator is a little reminiscent of Florentino Ariza, and some of the themes this story deals with are the same. Here we have a ninety year old man who struggles to be alive, to do more with his remaining time than just wait for death. The way he chooses to do this may be questionable, but this is part of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s magic – he puts us beyond judging his characters morally.

While I cannot say I liked this book as much as the rest of his work, I would still recommend it as an introduction to Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It’s a very small book, only 105 pages long, and even though in some ways the story felt a little underdeveloped, it gives readers a very accurate idea of what his style is like, and of some of the themes his work deals with.

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  1. I am a bit torn with this author. I didn't really enjoy One Hundred Years of Solitude, but am going to give Love in the Time of Cholera a go and see how I feel then. If I like it I will give this book a go as the story does sound interesting.

  2. My initial experience with him was terrible too - it was with "Chronicle of a Death Foretold", which I hated. But then again, I was 16 at the time, so maybe my taste has changed.

    "Love in the Time of Cholera" is very different, story-wise, but the writing style is pretty much the same, so if you didn't like that about "One Hundred Years", it's likely that the same will happen. Still, it's worth a try, I'd say.

  3. From the blurb and the opening line, it certainly reminds me of Florentino and 'Love in the Time of Cholera'. :P

  4. I hadn't heard of this one, but 105 pages seems like a breeze after One Hundred Years of Solitude (which I read a few months ago). Interesting review!

  5. tanabata, yeah, it does :P I wouldn't recommend this one to you, considering how you felt about "Love in the Times of Cholera".

    Trish: This is his most recent work of fiction, and the first in 10 years!

  6. hmm... this sounds interesting... i haven't read any marquez and this could be a useful starting point.

    what are the themes of his books then?

  7. I didn't realize that! I have another book of his (don't know the title off the top of my head and can't find it on Amazon) that I think was published in the 90s. When my Great Aunt passed, my grandma gave me a stack of her books and it was included in it. Hmmm...

    I just read Robin's review for Love in the Time of Cholera, and I think I might go for that one before any of his others.

  8. It reminded me of "Love in the Time of Cholera" and his autobiography actually. He wrote the latter about his parents, the nostalgic tone of this short novel and his autobio are very similar. It's a small book compared to the others. I love One Hundred Years. I read it when I was 15/16, but of course, I like the magical realism style even if it takes a long time to read through.

  9. Jean Pierre: I have only read 4 of his books so I'm by no means an expert, but I think he writes a lot about old age - more than age in specific, about the passing of time and its effects on memory, on people, on places. There is also a lot about love and the things that often get intertwined with love - obsession, desire, despair. I think this would be a good starting point, yes, because if nothing else it'd give you a good idea of what his style is like.

    Trish: He published "Of Love and Other Demons", which I have not yet read, in 1994, and then only non-fiction until this one. I also recommend "Love in the Time of Cholera". It's not a book that everyone will love, but I think those who love it will love it a LOT. Both Robin and I completely fell in love with it.

    Athena: I have to read his autobiography. I would like to learn more about his life.

  10. Hi, Nymeth!

    I read this book a while back and when I saw your post I hurried back to my blog to read my thoughts on the book...this is how I had summarized it:

    To summerize: I loved the prose, I loved the reminisces, I loved the silent courtship between the two; I am overjoyed to think that you can live well into your nineties and still experience love like an adolescent...this was magic realism in all its glory and it appealed to my senses.

    Like you suggested, I think this a great Marquez novel to start off with ( I haven't read any of his other work). I now want to read "Love in the Time of Cholera".

    Thanks for the excellent post!

  11. Hi Lotus! Considering that you liked this one, I think you're going to like "Love in the Time of Cholera" too! I look forward to reading your thoughts on it.

  12. I reviewed this book too. My review is here:


    I'm sorry that I don't know how to make a highlighted text link without a gadget that does it for me. Thank you.


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