Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Review: Memories of My Melancholy Whores by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Title: Memories of My Melancholy Whores
Author: Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Genre: Literary
Publisher: Vintage
First published: 2004 (as Memoria de mis putas tristes)
Pages: 128

A friend gave me this book as a gift while we were sitting in a cafe. He encouraged me to just read the first few pages, and so I did. "Memories of My Melancholy Whores" is a sparsely written, simplistically poetic little book. The presence of the narrator and the evocative voice of the story can be sensed from the very first paragraph.

I'm glad that I read a few pages into this book before I even knew what it was about. From reading the back cover, I got quite a different impression. A ninety year old man, who is apparently an avid supporter of the local brothel, decides to have a "night of wild love with an adolescent virgin." What?
However, Marquez writes the story skillfully and tastefully, focusing on the characters rather than whatever sexual encounters they may have. Despite the description, I just couldn't feel anything but good things about the main character, whose name is never given.

A curious side note that I have to include is that I kept finding odd little similarities between myself and the Narrator peppered through out the plot. He is obsessed with age, rises early for no particular reason and drinks coffee, keeps detailed lists, doesn't like movies, and "has always written."

That sentence, for some reason, very much stuck in my mind. The Narrator tells the reader "I have always written."
Though it was such a small sentence, the context and the simplicity of it struck me. It seemed that for a moment, the reader catches of glimpse of Marquez himself in the old man.

It is the spare, quick peeks at something deeper that makes this book so enchanting. The author does not need to write a long, drawn out novel here because his soulful writing adeptly fits everything into a few words.
Another sentence that I really loved was when the Narrator said that dead souls go to New York (pg. 15, Vintage Books 2005). Interesting.

I enjoyed the story line as well, which was meticulously stitched together without having too much structure. There is more to this book than just the plot, and it does wander a bit, but somehow, in a good way.

(There may be some spoilers in the following paragraphs).

I love books that allow you to ponder and consider the characters after you read them. This one is one of those.
Why does the Narrator not take his chances to make love to the girl in the brothel? He instead spends hours and hours sitting on her bedside as she sleeps, imagining what she is like, even going so far as to convince himself that he has guessed her name, Delgadina. He develops a "connection" with her, a relationship, that does not actually exist.
Rather than the author portraying him as a perverted, twisted old man, he becomes a beloved old soul who has never had a chance to find love, and is forced to simply invent it for himself.

I was a bit sad that nothing ended up happening with his housekeeper. She tells him, close to the beginning, that she "cried for twenty years over him."
This is a book that does not take long to read, but will not be easily forgotten. Another great Marquez book.